Life on the Road (Japan vs US)


The other day, I went on a little trip with a Japanese friend of mine. We went to a place outside of Tokyo that you can’t really get to by train. It was at that point that I began to think to myself, “Wow, driving here is very different from the US. ” So, today I want to talk a little bit about that.

The first thing here that you immediately notice is the layout of the road. You know how in the US you drive on the right side and have the driver’s seat on the left side of the car? Well, in Japan it is flipped. Even walking here, you can get a bit confused about which direction cars are coming from. I imagine it is so much more jarring when you are actually driving.

The second thing is the cars that are used here. In the US, we have all sorts of cars: SUVs, Sedans, Sports cars, and Trucks. They also exist in Japan; however, cars here tend to be a lot smaller. I don’t really know how to explain it. I guess the best way to put it is to imagine a car from the US being crushed like a can. When I asked my Japanese friend why the cars are so different here, he told me that it is for two reasons. First, the roads tend to be a lot more narrow than the roads in the US. Second, there is a tax here that increases as the size of the engine increases. I don’t think such a tax exists in most of the US.

Third, the highway is not a freeway. Let me explain. In the US, many highways are accessible to drivers at no additional cost. There are things like fast lanes and private routes that can cost but usually, they are optional or rare. In Japan, the highways are not free to use. You have to pay based on where you entered and where you exited. This can make driving a car very expensive in Japan.

Most people here in Tokyo do not own a car as it is too costly and inconvenient. Aside from what I already mentioned, in Tokyo, you are required to have proof of parking space for the car so that it is not on the road. So, most people commute via public transportation.