Driving Experience in Japan

The last weekend my husband and I got to lent the company car from where he works, so we could make a trip to IKEA (I thought it would beneficial to have more than two chairs if we were to invite someone over…). On Friday I was in Tokyo and on my way back in the evening I met with my husband at the station and we went to the company together to get the car. Unfortunately this evening two things came together that make it (for me) harder to see/drive: night (darkness) and heavy rain.

So I have to confess that although I have been driving for over 12 years now, that I was a little nervous. I have never driven in left-handed traffic and the company car is one of those Keijidousha, which I am not used to, either. For all those who don’t know what a Keijidousha is, it’s a quite small, light, cube-like car with a very slim hood. They are pretty popular here in Japan (and I really haven’t seen them anywhere else) though I think they are not that save. If you hit another car with your front there will be virtually nothing left/the engine will be right on your lap.

Keijidousha

Ā© Sakura_Fujiko

Though speed limitations are good to get a slow start, here in the city the limit is 30-40 km/h. Another thing I’m not used to is that most of the cars here are automatic. I really like driving a manual, but I think in this instance it was good I didn’t have to try to change gears with my left hand while concentrating on cutting no one of in traffic (or worse).

In Germany I am used to stop in front of a traffic light, here in Japan the traffic lights that apply to you are across the intersection and I think I stopped more than once way beyond the stop line. But all in all it went quite well and after a day of driving I think I got somewhat used to it. That doesn’t mean I wont be sweating the next times we drive somewhere, but I think if we get a car I might get used to driving in the left lane šŸ™‚

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10 thoughts on “Driving Experience in Japan

  1. I think it is great that the stop lights are on the other side. In Finland the lights are on both your side and on the other side so you can decide for yourself which one can be viewed better from your postion. I Germany I had it too often that I have to get into some weird position in order to somehow see the traffic light when being directly under it

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  2. It’s sounds like a fun experience! I love the small Keijidousha cars but I can see what you mean if you had an accident. I can imagine it looking like a smart car from the inside. I have to say, I am so glad ikea exists in Japan. At least I know I can buy furniture if needed when we go! šŸ™‚

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    • (^_^) Actually what I find most disturbing about those cars is that they are so so spacious on the inside. The ceiling is so high! Absolutely nothing like the Toyota I drove before ^^

      IKEA has about the same prices as they have in Germany (my only point of comparison) and there are also quite some other large furniture stores, Nitori is the japanese version of IKEA (though one has to compare, some things are quite cheap, others surprisingly expensive)

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      • haha definitely throws your perspective out of balance.
        I will have to remember Nitori then without a doubt! I will probably need it. Ikea is very reasonable in the UK. I can’t say I’m surprised with the prices though elsewhere

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  3. One of my coworkers in the U.S. had a car with that similar style, but it was safer. From what I understand, those “crumple in an accident” cars aren’t allowed in the U.S. Also, U.S. traffic lights are also on the other side of the street. When I first started driving it would confuse me when I made a turn, because even though it was my turn to go, I was driving under a red light! The nice thing is, Japanese drivers are very courteous (I think…I didn’t notice when crossing streets in Tokyo) so even if you make a few mistakes, they won’t get angry.

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  4. I’m not a very confident driver, even back in NZ ā€“ as I didn’t own a car and hardly ever had to drive one, and here in Korea I can’t even IMAGINE having to try and drive! It’s insane! Even when Jun is driving I’m sure we’re going to get sideswiped by a bus :/

    So seriously I’m impressed you can even drive at all!

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    • I heard that the traffic in Korea, particularly in Seoul, is really bad, is that true?
      So far I’ve only driven in the countryside (so to speak) and I think I won’t be driving into Tokyo until I feel confident enough in my driving.
      I hated driving in large cities in France when we were on a roadtrip. Bordeaux was pure Chaos! So I can understand why you don’t want to drive ^^

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      • Well it’s pretty bad in Busan, I’ve no personal experience of Seoul though. It’s not so much that it’s gridlocked (though I’m sure it is at rush hour), it’s more that it feels like everyone for themselves out there! Taxis ignoring red lights and buses just pulling out in front of cars.. not to mention some of the narrow streets with cars still parked on them, or the cars lined up and double parked behind other cars so the ones at the front can’t even get out >.<
        At least now I understand why people have little signs with their phone numbers on their car windows though lol.

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