When you think about Japan, what springs to mind? Maybe it’s schoolgirls watching anime and Hello Kitty, geishas in traditional gardens, suit-wearing businessmen being polite or sumo wrestlers overpowering their opponents. If transport crossed your mind, you probably thought about the punctual and fast bullet trains or Japan being the home of Subaru. Based on what you (think you) know about Japan, would a road trip cross your mind? If not, it’s time to broaden your horizons.
A hyper-modern bullet train in Tokyo.
First things first, what are your options for travelling around Japan?
You could join the millions of people who use the ultra-reliable and extensive public transport network daily. Bullet trains, buses, ferries and planes all seamlessly interconnect for a smooth and easy experience as you speed towards your destination.
The scenic Bandai-Azuma Skyline roadway, in Fukushima prefecture.
Or, you could take the road less travelled – literally – and enjoy the freedom of a road trip. Freedom to leave the well-trodden trail behind. Freedom to go where you want, when you want. Freedom to find your own way.
We’ll be the first to admit that a road trip in Japan isn’t as well-known as driving America’s Route 66, Australia’s Great Ocean Road or Namibia’s Skeleton Coast (and doesn’t have the great names either). But, take the plunge and be a trendsetter. Do something new, something exciting, something adventurous. Go on a road trip around Japan! You won’t regret it.
So, where do you want to go? That’s easy: just let your imagination take over. Snow-topped mountains, sub-tropical beaches, high-tech city roads or unbridled nature. All within easy driving distance of each other. What more could you want? Let’s go!
Japanese Alps (Kanazawa, Shirakawa-go, Takayama, Kamikochi, Matsumoto)
Windy roads, stunning scenery, traditional farmhouses – all in a forested national park. A must see!
From huge volcanoes to vast lakes, from deep valleys to natural hot springs: you’ll drive past it all in the northernmost of Japan’s main islands.
Step out of your car and enjoy the destination. Warm weather (year round), white sand beaches and coral reefs make this the perfect place to spend a few days.
If you want to try city driving, there’s no place like the most populous metropolitan area in the world: Tokyo!
Relax and get away from it all in Hakone. Soak away the miles in one of the many hot springs (onsens) in the area while gazing on Mount Fuji.
Learn more about Subaru, its history and its philosophy at the Subaru Visitors Centre, just 90-minutes’ drive from Tokyo.
Take the road less travelled – and enjoy the freedom of a road trip.
Road trip in Japan
chopsticks per year
highest peak - Mount Fuji
Before you head to Japan, there are some important Dos and Don’ts to know…
• Get an international driving licence from your home country.
• Check your travel insurance covers your road trip and planned experiences.
• Drive on the left.
• Rent the Subaru of your dreams – why waste the opportunity to test drive your next new car?
• Watch out for pedestrians, not just when you turn left or right, but also on narrow streets without pavements.
• Flash your hazard warning lights as a thank you or a warning.
• Stop at all train tracks. It might sound odd, but police regularly enforce this law to ensure all drivers come to a complete stop and look both ways before crossing railway tracks.
• Spend a night at a Ryokan hotel, a traditional Japanese inn.
• Check out the ETC card system if you’re planning to use expressways. The ETC card system is used for smoother flows through motorway entry gates.
• Be bold and try something new. Subaru has your back.
Snow-topped mountains, sub-tropical beaches, high-tech city roads or unbridled nature. What more could you want?
• Don’t get impatient. Other road users are polite and give you space, so there’s no reason to get stressed driving around.
• Don’t always take the expressway. While speed limits are faster (80-100km/h compared to 60km/h on main roads), getting to your next adventure is part of the fun (plus, it’s cheaper as you don’t have to pay tolls).
• Don’t drink and drive. Japan has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to drinking and driving.
• Don’t park in an unauthorised space in a major city. Avoid the large fines this can incur and try out an automated car park instead. Your car is picked up from a revolving disk and stored vertically while you stretch your legs for a while. It’s cool to watch too.
• Don’t be afraid to follow the path less travelled. Subaru will get you there in style and comfort.
Don’t be surprised when you see Japanese drivers sneaking through amber traffic lights (and sometimes even running through the first few seconds of a red light if they think they can get away with it). So, be careful when lights turn green – just in case someone is sneaking through…