Andy Outside the Travel Van

What I Learned Today About: Driving in Japan (With Andy Stern)

New country, new rules, new language; and everyone drives on the left side of the road. We’ve had a car rental (and now a van rental) for most of our trip so far in Japan. There are a lot of things that come along with driving on the other side of the road (and the other side of the car) in a forgein country. I got Andy to lay down how it’s been going for him so far. This is what he had to say.

“You gotta do everything opposite, think about it opposite. That’s how I’ve done it. Staying on the left side of the road isn’t really a problem, the hardest things are the stop signs and the stop lights. Some of them look pretty different than those in the U.S.; the stop signs are triangular and only have japanese characters on them while the stop lights are really small making them harder to see.

Turning out of driveways is pretty sketchy all the time because of how huge snowbanks get here in Hokkaido. Also, we got caught in a huge white-out while driving to town one day. You couldn’t see at all, we had to stop the van and just flash our hazards hoping nobody came around the corner while we were waiting for the visibility to return haha.

There isn’t one spot on the roads that doesn’t have snow on it, so you have to be a pretty decent driver if you’re driving in that all of the time. Some people around here drive like f***ing maniacs though. Last night on the way home we were getting followed through a blizzard; we were going like 40 or 50kmh uphill and this dude was straight tailgating us the whole way. People are good drivers for the most part though, from what I’ve seen. We’ve got these US stereotypes [of drivers from Japan not being good] but they’re pretty dang solid up here.”

Andy the Van Man

Andy the Van Man


And there you have it- a true-life recount of what it’s like to drive in a whole new country, several thousands of miles away from home. Oh, and a traveler’s tip; if you plan on renting a car while in Japan, make sure you get your international driver’s license.

Otherwise, just remember- you need to be on the left side of the road. 


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