Driving in Tokyo (Rules, Regulations & Experiences)

Welcome to Tokyo, a bustling metropolis known for its vibrant culture, stunning architecture, and efficient transportation system. While public transportation is the primary mode of getting around the city, driving in Tokyo can offer a unique and convenient way to explore the sights and sounds of this dynamic city and its surrounding areas. However, before you hit the road, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the driving rules and regulations to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Driving in Tokyo (Rules & Regulations, Experiences)

Key Takeaways:

  • Understand and abide by Tokyo’s traffic laws and regulations.
  • Learn to navigate Tokyo’s roads and highways, including understanding road signs.
  • Adapt to driving on the left side and following the flow of traffic.
  • Know the speed limits in Tokyo and adhere to them for your safety.
  • Familiarize yourself with emergency procedures and contact information.

Familiarize yourself with Japanese road signs

Before hitting the road in Tokyo, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with Japanese road signs. While many signs are written in both Japanese and English, there may be some with unique meanings that you need to know. Understanding these signs will help you navigate Tokyo’s roads with ease.

Here are some common road signs in Japan:

  • Slow Down: This sign indicates that you should reduce your speed.
  • Road Closed to Vehicles: This sign means that the road is not accessible for vehicles.
  • No Entry: This sign indicates that entry is prohibited.
  • Motor Vehicles Only: This sign means that the road is only for motor vehicles, and pedestrians and bicycles are not allowed.

These signs, along with many others, play a crucial role in ensuring the safety and smooth flow of traffic in Tokyo. By understanding the meanings of these signs, you’ll be better equipped to navigate the city’s roads and follow the rules of the road.

Being aware of the various road signs will enhance your driving experience in Tokyo and help prevent any confusion or potential accidents on the road. It’s always recommended to educate yourself on the local road signs before embarking on your journey.

Driving on the left side in Japan

In Japan, vehicles drive on the left side of the road, which means that the steering wheel is on the right side of the car. If you’re accustomed to driving on the right side in your home country, adjusting to left-hand driving in Japan may take some getting used to. However, with a little practice, you’ll quickly adapt to Tokyo’s driving rules and etiquette.

When navigating Tokyo’s roads, it’s essential to remember to stay on the left side of the road and follow the flow of traffic. This ensures a smooth and safe driving experience for everyone on the road. Be mindful of pedestrians, cyclists, and other vehicles and maintain a courteous and cooperative attitude while driving in Tokyo.

Here are some key tips for driving on the left side in Japan:

  • Position yourself in the right-hand side of the driver’s seat.
  • Use the left lane for driving and overtaking, and the right lane for slower traffic.
  • Keep an eye on road signs, traffic signals, and markings to stay on the correct side of the road.
  • Be cautious when making turns, especially at intersections, to ensure you’re entering the appropriate lane.
  • Use your side mirrors effectively to monitor your surroundings and anticipate the movements of other vehicles.
  • Follow the speed limit and adjust your driving speed based on the road conditions and prevailing traffic.
  • Take your time and remain calm if you feel uncertain or encounter challenging driving situations. It’s always better to prioritize safety over speed.

By embracing the left-hand driving culture in Japan, you’ll be able to confidently navigate Tokyo’s roads and fully experience the city’s vibrant atmosphere and stunning landscapes.

Embarking on a road trip in Tokyo provides an excellent opportunity to explore the city and its neighboring regions. Whether you plan to visit historical landmarks, picturesque mountains, or serene coastal areas, driving allows for flexibility and convenience during your journey.

“Driving on the left side of the road in Japan may seem unfamiliar at first, but it becomes second nature with practice. Embrace the adventure and enjoy exploring Tokyo’s hidden gems!”

Driving on the Left Side in Japan vs. Driving on the Right Side

Driving on the Left Side in Japan Driving on the Right Side
Steering wheel on the right side of the car Steering wheel on the left side of the car
Drive on the left side of the road Drive on the right side of the road
Overtake on the right Overtake on the left
Roundabouts: Enter and turn clockwise Roundabouts: Enter and turn counterclockwise

Remember, adapting to left-hand driving in Japan may take time, but it’s an exciting opportunity to experience a different driving culture. Embrace the challenge, stay focused, and enjoy the road as you embark on your Tokyo adventure!

Understanding speed limits in Tokyo

Tokyo, like any other city, has specific speed limits in place to ensure the safety of drivers, pedestrians, and other road users. It’s important to understand and adhere to these speed limits to avoid accidents, penalties, and fines.

In urban areas of Tokyo, the speed limit typically ranges from 30 to 50 km/h (18 to 31 mph). This lower speed limit allows for safer navigation through the city’s bustling streets, which often have a high volume of traffic and pedestrians. It’s essential to drive at a moderate speed to accommodate the constant flow of people and vehicles.

On the other hand, in rural areas of Tokyo, the speed limit can be higher, reaching up to 80 km/h (50 mph). These higher limits are set to account for the open roads and fewer obstructions found outside the city. However, it is still crucial to exercise caution and drive responsibly, especially on narrow or winding roads.

When it comes to Tokyo’s highways, the speed limit is generally set at 100 km/h (62 mph). This higher limit allows for efficient travel between different parts of the city and surrounding areas. However, it’s important to note that the speed limit on certain sections of the highways may be lower due to construction zones or specific road conditions. It’s essential to obey these posted limits for the safety of yourself and others on the road.

Remember, speed limits are not suggestions but legally enforced regulations. By driving within the designated speed limits, you’ll not only protect yourself and your passengers but also contribute to a smoother and safer traffic flow in Tokyo.

Road Type Speed Limit
Urban Areas 30-50 km/h (18-31 mph)
Rural Areas Up to 80 km/h (50 mph)
Highways 100 km/h (62 mph)

Navigating Tokyo’s Highways

When exploring Tokyo and its surrounding areas by car, the city’s well-developed highway system provides convenient connectivity. Tokyo’s highways play a crucial role in getting around, offering efficient routes to various destinations within the city and beyond.

While many roads in Japan are toll-free, it’s important to note that some highways in Tokyo require a toll fee. These toll roads help maintain the infrastructure and ensure smooth and well-maintained driving experiences. When entering a toll road, you’ll need to collect a ticket, which tracks your distance traveled. Upon exiting, you’ll be required to pay the fare based on the distance covered.

If you’re renting a car, some vehicles are equipped with an Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) card. This card is linked to your rental agreement and allows for seamless access to toll roads without the need to stop and collect a ticket. The toll amount is automatically deducted from the card, making the process more efficient.

On your journey along Tokyo’s highways, you’ll also come across rest stops and gas stations. These convenient amenities provide opportunities to take a break, stretch your legs, and sample local products. Take advantage of these rest stops to refuel, refresh, and make your driving experience even more enjoyable.

Exploring Tokyo and its surrounding areas by road allows you to uncover hidden gems and experience the city’s unique charm at your own pace. Navigating the city’s highways is an essential part of this journey, providing seamless connectivity and access to various destinations. Enjoy the convenience and efficiency of Tokyo’s highway system as you explore everything this vibrant city has to offer.

Emergency procedures and contact information

In case of an emergency while driving in Tokyo, it’s crucial to know the proper procedures and contact information. Whether you encounter a medical emergency or need to report an accident, staying calm and knowing who to contact can make all the difference.

Emergency procedures

If you find yourself in an emergency situation while on the road, follow these steps:

  1. Ensure your safety and the safety of others by pulling over to a safe location, if possible.
  2. Turn on your hazard lights to alert other drivers.
  3. If necessary, call the appropriate emergency number depending on the nature of the emergency:
Emergency Contact Number
Medical Assistance 119
Police 110
Road Services Available through rental car insurance or emergency stations along highways and expressways

If you are involved in an accident, it’s important to exchange information with the other party, including names, contact details, and insurance information. Take photos of the accident scene and any damage for documentation purposes.

Contacting road services

If you have rented a car, it is likely that it comes with a 24/7 emergency number. Keep this number handy in case you need to report a breakdown, flat tire, or any other issue with your rental vehicle.

Additionally, Tokyo’s highways and expressways are equipped with “emergency stations” where you can communicate your location and request assistance. Look out for the signs along the roads that indicate these stations. They are marked with an orange phone symbol, and you can make a call to the dedicated helpline for immediate assistance.

Remember, when facing an emergency on the road, it’s crucial to stay calm and follow the appropriate procedures. Knowing the emergency numbers and having access to road services can provide you with the necessary support and assistance during challenging situations.

Refueling in Tokyo

When driving in Tokyo, it’s essential to know how to refuel your vehicle. Tokyo offers a variety of gas stations where you can fill up your tank. Here’s everything you need to know about refueling in Tokyo and the types of gas available.

Types of Gas

In Tokyo, you’ll find three main types of gas:

  1. Diesel: Suitable for diesel-powered vehicles, which are commonly used for larger cars and trucks.
  2. Regular: Designed for most standard gasoline-powered vehicles.
  3. High Octane: Recommended for high-performance or luxury vehicles that require higher-octane fuel for optimal performance.

It’s important to choose the correct type of gas for your vehicle to ensure optimal fuel efficiency and engine performance.

Tokyo Gas Stations

When it comes to locating a gas station in Tokyo, they are conveniently scattered throughout the city and along major roads. Look for recognizable gas station chains such as ENEOS, Shell, or ExxonMobil. These stations offer self-service options, allowing you to refuel your vehicle at your own pace.

Gas stations in Tokyo usually display prices per liter. However, it’s important to note that some prices may be exclusive to customers with member cards. If you don’t have a member card, add a few yen per liter to the displayed price.

Refueling Process

At the gas station, you’ll follow a standardized refueling process. Although the instructions are usually in Japanese, the process is relatively straightforward. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Pull up to an available pump.
  2. Turn off your engine and remove your ignition key.
  3. Open your fuel tank cap.
  4. Select the desired type of gas and insert your payment method.
  5. Refuel your vehicle by inserting the pump nozzle into your fuel tank.
  6. Once refueling is complete, return the nozzle to its holder and close your fuel tank cap.
  7. Obtain your receipt if necessary.

Remember to follow any additional instructions or safety guidelines provided at the gas station.

Gas Station Chains in Tokyo

Gas Station Chain Website Services
ENEOS Visit Fuel, convenience store, car wash
Shell Visit Fuel, convenience store, car wash
ExxonMobil Visit Fuel, convenience store

These popular gas station chains offer reliable services, ensuring a smooth refueling experience during your time in Tokyo.

“Refueling your vehicle in Tokyo is a straightforward process. Whether you need diesel, regular, or high-octane gas, Tokyo’s gas stations have you covered.”

Unique Driving Rules in Tokyo

Tokyo has its own set of driving rules that differ from those in other countries. It’s important to be aware of these regulations to avoid fines and legal consequences while driving in the city.

No Turns on Red Traffic Lights

In Japan, it is illegal to make a right or left turn on a red traffic light. Unlike in some other countries, where right turns on red are allowed under certain conditions, Tokyo strictly prohibits any turns on red lights. It is crucial to come to a complete stop and wait for the light to turn green before proceeding.

Complete Stop at Railroad Crossings

When approaching a railroad crossing in Tokyo, it is required by law to come to a complete stop, even if there are no trains approaching. This rule ensures the safety of all road users and prevents accidents. Failure to comply with this regulation can result in fines or penalties.

Valid Permit and License Required

It’s essential to note that driving in Japan is only permitted for individuals with a valid permit and license. Visitors to Tokyo must have an International Driving Permit (IDP) or a valid driver’s license from their home country with a legal translation. Long-term residents may need to obtain a Japanese Driver’s License. It is important to carry the necessary documents to comply with the driving regulations in Tokyo.

Strict Prohibition of Drinking and Driving

Drinking and driving is strictly prohibited in Tokyo and throughout Japan. The legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is 0.03%. It is important to always refrain from consuming alcohol before driving to ensure your safety, the safety of others on the road, and to avoid severe legal consequences.

In summary, Tokyo’s unique driving rules include no turns on red traffic lights, the requirement to come to a complete stop at railroad crossings, the necessity of a valid permit and license, and strict prohibition of drinking and driving. By familiarizing yourself with these regulations and adhering to them, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable driving experience in Tokyo.

Planning and preparing for a road trip in Tokyo

If you’re planning a road trip in Tokyo, proper planning and preparation are key. Here are some essential tips to ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey:

1. Check your rental car

Before embarking on your road trip, make sure your rental car is in good condition and equipped with a navigation system that you can understand. Familiarize yourself with its features and ensure that it’s set up to guide you accurately throughout your journey.

2. Book your accommodations in advance

As Tokyo is a bustling metropolis, it’s advisable to book your accommodations in advance. This will help you secure a comfortable place to stay, especially during peak travel seasons. Consider your preferred locations and proximity to attractions or landmarks you plan to visit along the way.

3. Plan your itinerary wisely

When creating your itinerary, take into account the time needed for travel and rest. Research the attractions and sights along your planned route and allocate sufficient time for exploration. Be flexible and allow for unexpected discoveries or detours along the road.

4. Take advantage of attractions and sights

Tokyo offers a plethora of attractions and sights that are worth exploring during your road trip. From historic landmarks to vibrant neighborhoods and scenic spots, there’s something for everyone. Research and include these points of interest in your itinerary to make the most of your road trip experience.

“A road trip in Tokyo is an opportunity to uncover hidden gems and experience the city’s diverse culture firsthand.” – Travel enthusiast

5. Prepare for the journey

Prior to setting off on your road trip, ensure that you have essential items such as a valid driver’s license, IDP (if required), necessary documents, and insurance. Pack snacks, water, and any personal items you may need during the journey. It’s also a good idea to have a physical map as a backup in case of any navigation system malfunctions.

6. Follow driving etiquette

While driving in Tokyo, it’s important to adhere to driving etiquette and respect local traffic rules. Maintain a courteous and patient attitude toward other drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. Remember to drive responsibly and prioritize safety for yourself and others on the road.

By following these tips, you’ll be well-prepared for an unforgettable road trip adventure in the vibrant city of Tokyo.

Planning and Preparing for a Road Trip in Tokyo
Rental Car Check
Book Accommodations
Plan Itinerary
Take Advantage of Attractions
Prepare for the Journey
Follow Driving Etiquette

Required Documents for Driving in Tokyo

When driving in Tokyo, it’s important to ensure that you have the necessary documents to comply with the regulations. The specific documents you need may vary depending on whether you are a short-term visitor or a long-term resident. Here are the essential documents you should have:

Short-Term Visitors:

  • International Driving Permit (IDP) – If you’re visiting Tokyo for a short period, you may need an IDP. This permit translates your home country’s driver’s license into multiple languages, making it easier for local authorities to understand.
  • Valid Driver’s License with Legal Translation – In the absence of an IDP, you can use your valid driver’s license from your home country. However, it’s essential to have a legal translation of the license in Japanese to ensure smooth communication with law enforcement if needed.

Long-Term Residents:

  • Japanese Driver’s License – If you plan to reside in Tokyo for an extended period, you may need to acquire a Japanese Driver’s License. The process for obtaining a Japanese Driver’s License may involve taking a written and practical exam, providing necessary documentation, and meeting other requirements set by the local authorities.

Regardless of whether you’re a short-term visitor or a long-term resident, there are other essential documents you should carry while driving in Tokyo:

  • Original Driver’s License – Carry your original driver’s license from your home country or your Japanese Driver’s License.
  • Passport – Always carry your passport as proof of identification.
  • Translation (if required) – If you’re using a driver’s license from your home country, make sure to have a legal translation of the license in Japanese.
  • Residency Certificate – Long-term residents should keep their residency certificate handy while driving in Tokyo.

Having these documents readily available will help ensure a hassle-free driving experience in Tokyo and ensure that you’re well-prepared to comply with the regulations. Remember to check the requirements specific to your situation, as they may vary based on your country of origin and the duration of your stay in Tokyo.


After exploring the ins and outs of driving in Tokyo, we can confidently say that it offers a unique and rewarding experience for both residents and visitors. By familiarizing yourself with the rules and regulations, understanding road signs, and following safe driving practices, you can navigate Tokyo’s roads with ease and peace of mind.

Driving in Tokyo allows you the freedom and flexibility to explore the city and its surrounding areas at your own pace. You’ll have the opportunity to discover hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path destinations that might not be easily accessible by public transportation. Whether you’re planning a short visit or residing in Tokyo, driving can add an extra layer of excitement to your journey.

As you embark on your driving adventure in Tokyo, remember to embrace the local driving etiquette and respect the rules of the road. Stay vigilant, be patient, and enjoy the sights and sounds of this bustling metropolis. Our final thought on driving in Tokyo? Embrace the experience, navigate with confidence, and make unforgettable memories along the way.


What are some common Japanese road signs?

Common Japanese road signs include “slow down,” “road closed to vehicles,” “no entry,” and “motor vehicles only.”

Which side of the road do cars drive on in Tokyo?

Cars drive on the left side of the road in Tokyo.

What are the speed limits in Tokyo?

The speed limit is typically around 30-50 km/h in urban areas, up to 80 km/h in rural areas, and 100 km/h on highways.

Are there tolls on Tokyo’s highways?

Some highways in Tokyo may require a toll fee to use. There are rest and gas stops available along the highways.

What are the emergency procedures and contact information while driving in Tokyo?

In case of an emergency, dial 119 for medical assistance and 110 for the police in Japan. Emergency stations are also available along highways and expressways.

What types of gas are available at Tokyo’s gas stations?

Tokyo’s gas stations offer diesel, regular, and high octane gas. Make sure to choose the correct type for your vehicle.

Are there any unique driving rules in Tokyo?

In Tokyo, you cannot make a right or left turn on a red traffic light, and you must come to a complete stop at railroad crossings. Only those with a valid permit and license can drive, and drinking and driving is strictly prohibited.

What should I consider when planning a road trip in Tokyo?

When planning a road trip in Tokyo, consider booking accommodations in advance, planning your itinerary to allow for travel time and rest, and taking advantage of attractions along the way.

What documents do I need for driving in Tokyo?

Short-term visitors may need an International Driving Permit (IDP) or a valid driver’s license from their home country with a legal translation. Long-term residents may need to acquire a Japanese Driver’s License.

How can I make my driving experience in Tokyo safer and more enjoyable?

Familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations, understand road signs, and follow safe driving practices to ensure a safe and enjoyable driving experience in Tokyo.

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