Belting Up to Drive… in Japan!

In a previous post, I talked about how important driving is to me; how it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Which is why, even a few days ago, I would have scoffed at the idea of driving on our trip to Japan. But with three weeks to go (!!!), a few things conspired to change my mind…

Firstly, a friend of Caitlin’s mentioned just how bad the public transit in Okinawa is, and how driving there was actually approachable for foreigners. Rather than stressing out about infrequent or unreliable buses on one of our first stops, it started to seem like it might actually make sense to rent a car for a day or two.

Secondly, I did some research of my own – it all panned out. Apparently drivers tend to be patient and forgiving, unlike a lot of other places in Asia. Secondly, the road signs are comprehensible! Speed limits are shown in Roman numerals, and all the others are pretty similar in visual style. The biggest one to look out for will be stop signs – they’re triangular instead of octagonal… but still red with white writing, fortunately!

Availability of English GPS’s in rental cars helps, too.

Also, I found out it was pretty easy to get the required documentation to drive overseas. A ten-minute stop and less than $45 (including photos) is all you need to get your international driving permit from CAA.


Quick, easy, and valid darn near everywhere. It probably helps that while Japan has pretty comprehensive licencing standards, many countries the permit is valid in set the bar alarmingly low.

Driving on the “wrong” side of the road will be a big adjustment, but having traveled to England it’s not a completely alien experience… at least from the passenger seat. Probably more confusing is the fact that Japanese cars have the indicator stalk on the opposite side of the steering column.

And lastly… it’s an experience! The whole point of this trip is to get an out-of-this-world time to see and do everything we can in Japan, so why not add driving on the other side of the road, on the other side of the world, to the list?


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