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Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Driving the narrow roads of Japan requires a different way of thinking compared to driving in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. Some of the Japan country roads are narrow…very narrow. It’s not that unusual to find a mountain road that has only one narrow lane. Ever wonder why the cars are so tiny in Japan? Answer: so they can fit on these narrow roads. I get nervous whenever I drive on them. I’m assuming that the person who reaches the narrow road first has priority. I have found that this isn’t always the case. The person that is the most aggressive has the right of way. I’m amazed that there aren’t more accidents.

Another thing that requires a different way of thinking is the white dotted lines that separate lanes. The line is there more as a suggestion rather than a rule. I find that drivers don’t hesitate driving across the dotted lines to find the straightest way through a blind curve. That fact is alarming especially when I’m driving into a curve and someone is heading in my direction across the lane divider. EEK! I guess it’s not a big deal as everyone seems to do it. Okay…so most of the blind corners (there are a lot of them) have curved mirrors strategically posted. This is supposed to make you feel more at ease as someone is heading directly at you at *warp speed*. There are two reasons why this doesn’t work for me. First: the cars are too tiny to see in a mirror that’s posted in the far corner of each hairpin turn. Second: the Japanese do not like to use their headlights. I haven’t figured out why this is the case. It could be foggy, rainy, snowy, or dark outside and for some strange reason; Japanese drivers refuse to turn on their lights. Maybe it has something to do with sticking out from the crowd. All I know is that when I turn on my headlights I’m driving in the mountains.

A note about *warp speed*…the speed limit is 40 to 50 kph. From my limited experience with driving in the Japan countryside, the speed limit is rarely obeyed except by the elderly or someone who enjoys leading a parade of cars. I’ve seen a line of 30 cars with the parade leader completely oblivious to the fact that they are slowing the Japanese economy down because of their obligation to follow the speed limit.  New drivers and the elderly have to have a magnetic placard posted on their cars so that the world knows who they are. The placards are easy to see because tailgating is the norm here. In my next post, I’ll discuss the wacky world of car insurance.   


  1. LOL

    the worst road i ever drove on was in shimane-ken. it just kept getting narrower and narrower until i couldn't fit any more! and i was driving a smaller car (honda civic, two door car!) i had to back up until i could turn around, even more of a nightmare!! lol

  2. I've experienced several of those "point of no return" roads. Good grief! Sometimes I feel like an explorer when I take one of those side trips. In the U.S., a sign is posted on those type of roads which reads, "Dead End". George