A guide to Japanese traffic rules
and how to drive in Japan
~Drive safely during your travels in Japan~

Tabirai Rental Car tells you about how to collect your car on the first day, the Japanese traffic rules, how to drive safely, and to deal with an accident if it occurs. Read this page and you will know how to drive in Japan! After learning about the Japanese traffic rules, you can enjoy your travels with secure and safe driving ♪

Tabirai explains all of car rental completely from requirements when rent a car in Japan to payment method of fee on that day.

STEP1Simulate the car travel on the first day of the travel!

Simulate the car travel on the first day of the travel!

"Are the traffic rules and Japanese way of driving the same as my country?"
Some people, who rent a car in Japan, are worried about the way of driving in Japan.
If you understand how to use a rental car, you do not have to worry about your travel.

Collection of your rental car - preparing for travel.

10:00 You just arrive at Japan! You collect your rental car.

If you reserved your rental car in an office near an airport,

in most cases, you can get on a shuttle bus to the office. After that, you check in and leave the office with your rental car. If you know the shuttle bus stop position at the airport, before you arrive, you get on the bus as soon as possible.

Arrival at the airport → Get on the shuttle bus → Check in the office → Leave the office with your rental car!

!If an office is near an airport, you can go directly to the office. In some cases you can leave the airport directly from the airport parking lot. There are some differences in collecting a car from airports and rental car companies so make sure you understand how to collect your rental car which you reserved.

If you reserved your rental car in an office near an station or others,

If you are collecting your car from an office, whether by shuttle bus or directly, make sure you know where the office is in advance to avoid getting lost.

Get on the shuttle bus → walk to the office → Check in an office  → Leave the office!
If your airplane is delayed,

you need to contact the rental car office as soon as you know about the delay. If you do not contact the rental car office, you may not be able to rent a car, as they may cancel the booking thinking you are not coming. For these reasons, you need to know the office telephone number in advance.

If you do not contact the office,the car will be rented by another person.the office will close and you will ot be able to rent a car.

10:15 what you need to know before leaving the rental car office.

How to start an engine

There are two types of ignition push-button ignition start and key ignition start. Nowadays, many rental cars have push-button ignition start. For key ignition start, insert the key into ignition on the right bottom of the steering wheel. But for push-button ignition start, the buttons are placed differently in different cars so you need to ask the rental car staff where the buttons is. Also, be aware that if you only push the button, the engine will not start because you also need to step on the brake.

push-button ignition start, key ignition
Know the car interior facilities

After getting in the car, you need to know the car interior facilities, such as the position of indicators and windscreen wipers, and how to adjust the rear view mirror and wing mirrors before departing.

Difference of handle position Japan is right-hand drive → Korea is left-hand drive

Car interior facilities, such as the position of handle, indicators and windscreen wipers levers, are different in other countries. Left and right are reversed, and facilities, which you take it for granted, are not there. Therefore, if you operate them as you always do so, you may have an accident. Before departing, you need to know where they are.

Which side is the gas cap? How do I open the gas cap?
Triangular arrow ▶

If you use a rental car, you need to put in gasoline. You need to know the gas cap position. The triangular arrow "▶" in a fuel indicator points at the side of the gas cap.

Also, there is a cover on the gas cap. If you want to open the cover, pull a lever under the driver's seat in many cases.

For example, the lever under the driver's seat ①Under a steering wheel ②Near a driver's door

!Make sure you know the type of gasoline, such as regular gasoline, high-octane gasoline, and diesel fuel this time. You put regular gasoline in a rental car.

About a child seat

If a child under 6 years old gets in a car in Japan, the child is required to be in a child seat. There are three types of child seats, so get the right size for the child.

baby seat, child seat, junior seat

Driving your rental car on Japanese roads

10:30 Let's start driving!

Before getting accustomed Japanese roads, you drive deliberately.
Let's enjoy safe driving.

In Japan, there are many traffic rules, such as left-hand traffic and priority to pedestrians, to which you may not be used to. Therefore, before getting accustomed Japanese roads, drive slowly and very carefully. There are differences in car interior facilities, so you may be worried about the indicators as well as left-hand traffic. Please drive car slowly and safely.

Traffic signs

Follow the traffic signs for the safe driving in Japan. Most importantly, you need to check the maximum speed sign. If you enjoy travelling in Japan, you may drive faster than usual. Please be aware of the maximum speed.

maximum speed and minimum speed

12:00 Take a highway

The highway entrance has two types, a general lane and an ETC dedicated lane.

In Japan, you can pay highway charges by cash, credit card, and ETC card. The entrance differs depending on the method of payment. Please be aware of this.

a general lane and an ETC dedicated lane.

①Paying by ETC card

If you have or rent an ETC card and insert it into an ETC device in a car, you can go through purple "ETC専用" lane. When you go through the lane, you must not drive over 20km/h.

You must not drive over 20km/h → the bar in the lane goes up → you can pass through

②If you pay by cash or credit card,

you can go through green "一般" lane.When you pass through a traffic ticket is issued. Make sure you don’t lose it!

Stop → Take a traffic pass → Pass a lane
A lane, in which you can pay by cash, credit card or ETC card,

Except for 「ETC専用」and「一般」lane, there is an 「ETC/一般」 lane in some cases. If that is the case, you can pass it regardless of your payment type. If you pay by ETC card, you do not have to stop. But you have to take a traffic pass, if you pay by cash or credit card.

!It is dangerous to change lanes rapidly and to cut in front of or behind other cars aggressively if you make a mistake of lanes. If you go into a lane, please be aware of your circumstances.


You need an ETC card and ETC device, in which the ETC card is inserted if you use the ETC card. Recently, rental cars have equipped ETC devices. However, you may rent an ETC card in a few of rental car companies. There are cases that you may rent an ETC card, but you rent an ETC device only. If you want to use an ETC card, you have to confirm whether you can rent both ETC card and device or not.

Highway driving lanes

There are driving lanes and passing lanes. Make sure you follow the rule. The left end of the road is a driving lane the other is a passing lanes.If you pass in front of a car, you can change into the passing lane and then pass the car. After doing so, change into the driving lane as soon as possible. If you do not change into the driving lane, you may be fined.

For example, there are three lanes,Driving lanes : Driving lane : Passing lane

15:00 Park in a parking lot.

Use a coin parking lot.

Many shops have parking lots, but there may not be any parking lots in the center of the city in many cases. In this situation, use a coin parking lot. In Japan, on-street parking is prohibited on many roads and police strictly control it. If there are the traffic signs below, please do not park on the road.

No parking, No-stopping/parking
In Japan, it is usual to back the car into the parking spot.
The car backs into the parking spot.

If you park the car, many drivers back the car into the parking spot. For this reason, if there is a car in front of you in a parking lot, please be aware of the distance between your cars. In some cases, the car in front of you suddenly stops and then backs. This may lead to a car accident, so please be aware of this.

!If you back the car into the parking spot, there are many blind spots. So ask a passenger for help to park smoothly.

16:00 Continue to enjoy driving!

Please be aware of traffic signs as "No Entry for Vehicles" and "Follow the Directions"

While you drive a car, you often see the traffic signs below. Please remember these. If you enter the road having the traffic sign, "No Entry for Vehicles", it is very dangerous and you may possibly hit a car coming towards you. Also if the traffic sign, "Follow the Directions", stands on a road, you must follow the direction.

No Entry for Vehicles, Follow the Directions
Drive very carefully on a road if it is snowing and raining.
If it is poor visibility due to snowing and raining, turn on headlights!

If it is snowing and raining, your vision and road conditions may be impaired. You should leave a long distance from the car in front of you. Also if you look in the rearview mirror and you have difficulty seeing behind the car, turn on headlights.

How to put gas in the rental car - Returning the car

19:15 Put gas in rental car at a gas station.

You need to put a full tank of gas when you return your car. For this reason, use a gas station near the rental car office. With some rental car companies you have to go to dedicated gas stations. If that is the case, put gas in at the gas station.

Full service type and self service type

There are two types of Japanese gas stations, full service type and self service type.Full service type gas station is where staff put gas in your car.Self service type gas station is where you put gas in your car by yourself.

"Full service type" and "Self service type"

!If you do not have confidence to put gas in Japan, go to Full service type gas station. You do not have to do anything at the gas station.

Please be aware of gasoline types.

At the gas station, there are regular gasoline and high-octane gasoline. Many rental cars use regular gasoline, but sometimes they do not. So please confirm gasoline type when you collect your rental car.

Gas station, Diesel fuel, Regular gasoline, High-octane gasoline

If you return your rental car, you need a receipt as a certificate of putting gas fully in some cases. Do not throw it away and have it.

19:30 Returning your rental car

You should leave enough time to return your rental car as there may be road congestion. Also in many cases the office closes so you cannot return your car. Please be aware of the opening times.

You want to return your car earlier than planned

If want to return your car earlier than planned, it is recommended that you contact the rental car office as soon as possible. If you return your car earlier, a rental car company will refund you. The amount of money depends on rental car companies, so follow their guidelines.

If you return your car later than planned,
You cannot return your rental car.

please contact with your rental car office as soon as you know you will be late. If you forget to contact the office, you may be unable to return your car due to its business hours.

!If you extend the time of renting your car, please contact your rental car office. This is extremely troubling for the next customer. In some cases, you have to pay as a penalty. Please be aware of this.

Be aware of lost properties

Many people leave their belongings in rental cars. Be aware of small things, because they fall into places which are hard to see. When you return your rental car, please check your belongings carefully.

A list of lost propertiessunglasses, baby products, usb cables, digital cameras, and so on

!If you leave your property in a rental car, please confirm "■If you lose your properties in the rental car"

STEP2Knowledge of driving safely for the travel

Knowledge of driving safely for the travel

As the number of foreign visitors who rent a car increases in Japan, the number of car accidents also increase.
To drive a rental car safely in Japan, you should understand the cause of accidents and how to drive.

Explaining the cause of rental car accidents and how to drive safely

This time, Budget Rent a Car, major rental car company cooperated with us,
so we gathered data to analyze the cause of accidents through rental cars.

The cause of accidents when driving a rental car.

The data from Budget Rent a Car, 60% of accidents is when driving cars, 30% is when at parking lots, 10% is others. Considering the danger, there are many accidents at the parking lots regardless of slow speed. There is a cause when the accident occurs. We will tell you about points below. Please understand deeply and enjoy safe driving in Japan.

About 60% of accidents is when driving. About 30% of accidents is when at parking lots. About 10% of accidents is others
How do accidents occur?

There are 2 patterns of the causes of accidents when analyzing the accidents.

①An accident occurred because of traffic rule differences between Japan and visitor's country.

An accident occurred because of traffic rule differences between Japan and the visitor's country. The interior facilities such as driving lane, left-hand drive, and so on, are reverse. So visitors who are not accustomed to driving have a higher risk of causing accidents.

②An accident occurred by lack of care

An accident occurred by lack of care. This survey tells us that the percentage of lack of care is relatively higher than others. The percentage of collisions and accidents at parking lots is at a high.

In case of ①, drivers make mistakes of entry road, so accidents happen. In case of ②,drivers collide towards a car, which stops or accidents are at the parking lots.

This time, we focus on ②, because the percentage of accident ② is higher. Also if we understand the important point, we can prevent these accidents.

In case of parking lots

It is thought that few of accident occurs at parking lots due to slow driving. However, 30% of foreign visitors to Japan cause car accidents at parking lots. This is because there are a lot of cars, people, and blind spots at parking lots, so drivers pay less attention than usual. Be aware of this regardless of slow driving.

Case ①

Cause: When a driver backs the car, he or she hits a parked car

Hit the car on right and left rear side.

Solution: When you back the car, the area within your view is narrow. In a right-hand drive car, the blind area is on your left rear side, so be aware of this. If there is a passenger, please ask him or her to get off the car and lead the car properly. Also, when you back the car, you drive very slowly and carefully.

Ask a passenger to lead the car.
Case ②

Cause: After parking a car and opening its door, hit the door next to a car or person.

Hit the car body next to a car or person.

Solution: When you get out the car, please be careful for your surrounding and opening its door. Also many passengers cause this accident rather than drivers. Please ask a passenger to be careful in case the door opens for pulling and carrying baggage or the door opens more widely due to strong wind.

Be aware of your surroundings when opening a door.

While driving

40% of accidents occur while driving and more than half of accidents occur when a driver hits or collides with the car in front of his or her car with lack of care. While driving, please drive safely with care regardless of a lot of distractions, such as other cars, surrounding people and things.

Case ①

Cause: A driver could not stop the car at intersection when signal is red. The driver collided with the car in front.

A driver could not stop the car and collide with the car stopping at intersection when signal is red.

Solution: In Japan, when the signal turns yellow, many cars slow down. If you cross the intersection in hurry, you are not aware of car slowing down in front of you and collide with the car. Please be aware of your speed and the distance between cars. You should take the distance as many as your speed. For example, if you drive at 40km/h, you should take the distance as many as 40km/h.

Taking the distance.
Case ②

Cause: The car slipped and hit a guardrail due to snowing or icy roads.

The car slipped and hit a guardrail.

Solution: Please drive with studless tires when the winter season and areas are with snow. Roads get slippery due to snow, so you have to grip your steering and drive more slowly than usual. Also visibility gets worse when it is snowing. You have to take the long distance between cars, care for surroundings, and drive with safety.

Drive the car equipping studless tires on snowy road.
Case ③

Cause: After a driver made the mistake with a right turn lane, he or she changes the right lane then his car hit the following car.

After changing from right turn lane, a driver hits a following car.

Solution: Going straight from a right turn lane is prohibited as a traffic law violation. If you enter a right turn lane, please turn right or make a U‐turn without going straight. Then you go back to the original road. What is more, a driving lane is reverse in your county. Drive very carefully unless you are accustomed to driving.

If you enter a right turn lane, turn right or make U-turn to the original roads.

!Making U-turn is sometimes prohibited in a right turn lane. Please be aware of this.


There are other accidents occurring other than in the parking lots and driving. Accidents occur by a lack of care, so you can prevent accidents if you take care.

Case ①

Cause: A driver made the mistake of putting diesel fuel into his car, not regular gasoline. Its engine does not start.

Putting diesel fuel mistakenly → The car does not move.

Solution: Before leaving the office with the rental car, please ask an office staff member which type of gasoline you have to put in. Also, the display method of gasoline and the nozzle color may be different from your country. If you are worried about this, use a full service gas station or ask a staff.

Before putting gasoline, confirm the gasoline type.
Case ②

Cause: Because Interior light turns on during parking, the battery gets dead.

Due to interior light being turned when parked, the battery dies.

Solution: If you pick up your baggage at night, you sometimes turn on the interior light. After doing so, please turn off the light or check that the light is off. What is more, in some case, interior light automatically turns off. Please use this.

After you pick up the baggage, please check the light off. Set to the light to turn off automatically if you lock the door.

!Another cause of dead battery is by turning on head lights. Please be aware of this if you use light.

Graphs showing basic data of accidents

We summarize data with graph about time and day on which accidents happen. Please refer to them.

Time on which accidents happen

Time on which accidents happen

☆In the morning, the highest number of accidents are at 11 o'clock, while at night, at 20 o'clock.
From 10am -11am, visitors to Japan often rent a rental car after arriving at airport. For this, the number of car accidents increases due to drivers getting used to driving. Also, many accidents at 20 o'clock are supposed to be caused by rental car offices closing from 20 -21 o'clock. Do not return your rental car in hurry, because this may lead to accidents.

The month in which accidents easily happen

The month in which accidents easily happen

☆Top1: January, Top2: November, Top3: February
There are a lot of visitors to Japan in January and February especially from Asia, such as Taiwanese Spring Festival and Korean Lunar New Year. As a result, accidents increase.

The day on which accidents easily happen

The day on which accidents easily happen

☆Top1: Friday, Top2: Saturday, Top3:Sunday
Because the number Foreign visitors renting a car in Japan increases in 3 consecutive days, from Friday to Sunday, the number of accidents increases. Also there is more road congestion during these three days increasing number of cars. Please be careful to avoid collisions.

STEP3Reviewing the Japanese traffic rules
and how to deal with an accident if it occurs.

Reviewing the Japanese traffic rules and how to deal with an accident if it occurs.

Can you image driving a rental car in Japan? Including STEP1 and STEP 2, please review the Japanese traffic rules.

Knowledge of the Japanese traffic rules

There are many different traffic rules in Japan. If you make only one mistake, you may cause an accident.
Please drive very carefully before getting used to driving.

Cars keep to the left in Japan

In Japan, cars keep to the left. For this, from parking lots and when turning right or left, please drive on the road after checking the right lane.

Cars keep to the left

For example, in Korea, turning left is prohibited, but in Japan, turning right like turning left in Korea is not prohibited. Therefore, if you stop at the intersection, a following car uses the horn. Please be aware of this.

Pedestrian priority in Japan!

In Japanese traffic rules, pedestrians have priority. For example, if there are not any signals at an intersection, the pedestrian has priority. If you meet the situation, please stop the car.

There are intersections without any signals.

Except for Japan, cars are priority on roadways in some countries, but in Japan, pedestrians are the priority. If you do not know about this, you may cause an accident. Please drive carefully and be aware of this.

Please drive carefully on snowy road!

If you drive a rental car in areas where it snows, you should reserve a car with tire studs. The snowy road is very slippery so you cannot drive a car with normal tires. Even though the car has suitable tires, sometimes you cannot control the steering and the brake. Please grip the steering tightly. Also, if it snows and rains, visibility gets poor.

The snowy road is slippery.

People living in snowy areas are accustomed to driving on snowy roads. However, many visitors are not used to the conditions. It may snow in more than half of Japan. Especially, Hokkaido Region and Tohoku Region, it may snow a lot. Please be aware of this if you are not accustomed with driving on a snowy road.

Traffic signs

There are many traffic signs in Japan. Sometimes you may make nothing of their signs.

Japanese traffic signs

Drive and follow the traffic signs.

!There are some examples above. If you want to know more, please check it in advance.


In Japan, there are three colors at a signal. If a signal turns blue, you can go. If a signal turns yellow and red, you have to stop. Yellow and red are the same meaning but yellow also tells that, please go, if you cannot stop safely. Red tells that you must stop. Please be aware of your speed.

Blue signal means you can go. Yellow signal means you should stop. Red signal means you must stop.
As exceptions below

You can go even if a signal turns yellow and red.

Red signal with Direction signal, Yellow signal, Red blinking signal

Many cars in Japan try to slow down and stop at an intersection if a signal turns yellow. If you go through the intersection in hurry as a signal turns yellow, you may collide with a car in front of you. When you see the signal turning yellow, please prepare to stop. When a signal turns red, you must stop and turning left is also prohibited.

Sings are improved for foreigners

Some traffic signs are improved for foreigners in Japan.

Stop and Slow Down

Stop sign is written with "STOP" under Japanese, while Slow Down sign with "SLOW".

Stop, Slow Down

!Since July of 2017, the sings have been replaced to new ones. Since there are 170 Stop signs (please, still red characters) in Japan, it takes about more than 10 years to finish replacing. Please remember the former sign.

Numbering highways and toll roads

The road numbers, which do not depend on local places, are introduced. For this, even if foreign visitors to Japan do not understand Japanese, the Japanese guide them by the numbers to proper roads.

Current road guide ⇒ Road guide with numbers

How to deal with an accident if it occurs.

Some accidents, including breakdown, happen even if you drive carefully.
For these cases, please check how to deal with them in advance.

If an accident occurs,

please be calm and deal with it.

①Help a person who is injured.

If there is an injured person, please first help him or her. Please stop your car at a safe place, such as a road shoulder, call an ambulance on 119 if necessary, and give him or her first aid as much as possible.

Help an injured person, Call an ambulance on 119
②Call a police on 110 at the accident place

After helping an injured person, call the police on 110 and tell them about the car accident. Sometimes police cannot understand foreign language, please remember the simple Japanese. Recently, as the number of foreign visitors to Japan has increased, the number of police stations managing foreign languages has increases. However, you do not have to be worried in emergency if you confirm these police stations.

Call a police on 110
③Call the rental car office, where you left.

After calling the police station, call the rental car office, where you left, or a designated helpdesk or insurance company.

How about an accident?

Some people imagine a large accident when they hear the word accident. However, if a car is slightly scratched or dented by guardrails, this small event is also an accident. If you do not call a police station or insurance company, the insurance does not apply for car repair cost. You have to pay for it. Also calling a police station is mandatory, so you may be fined if you do not do so. Please call a police station and rental car company even about the accident to prevent from any other troubles.

Cases, drivers do not call them
  • ①The car is scratched slightly

    ①The car is scratched slightly

  • ②When a door opens, the door hits and damages a next car.

    ②When a door opens, the door hits and damages a next car.

  • ③Even though your car hits another car, there is not any damage.

    ③Even though your car hits another car, there is not any damage.

!Even if the case above happens, please call them.

How to deal with the car trouble, such as breakdown

Call the rental car company

While you feel the car fault during driving and defect, call the rental car company as soon as possible. If you forcibly drive, it may lead to be a breakdown or accident. Please tell the rental car company about your situation in detail, and follow their guide.

Car breakdown, Call the rental car company

How to deal with others

If you lose your properties in the rental car,

please call the rental car company after returning your car.Sometimes rental car companies do not sent them by post. Please confirm whether there is anything left in the car when you return it.

Please drive carefully and enjoy your travelling
with relief and safety in Japan!