Now Reports

Driving me Crazy

For many, driving in Japan is an absolute nightmare, from the process of getting a Japanese driving licence to the terrifying driving experience itself. This kind of stress often leads to serious health problems, so a radical change of approach towards driving is necessary. After all, driving should be fun. One way of avoiding the stress is to think of it as a game. The idea is pretty simple. Your goal is to get to your destination on time. On the way, you have to overcome many obstacles.

You can choose from five different characters. This choice is determined by your financial situation.

1. The Bicycle Freak This category is for the lowest income group, usually young kids, students, tourists, low level English teachers, or homeless folks.
2. The Motorbike Organ Donor Really useful to society.
3. The K-car Kamikaze If you enjoy being squeezed like sardines inside a little box on wheels this would be the choice. You don’t even need car or health insurance - one accident and you’re both gone.
4. Second-hand / Cheap Car Greenhorns Spend long enough in this category and you’ll become an expert in car maintenance.
5. Luxury / Foreign Car Cruisers Make sure you tint all of the windows as dark as possible (leaving some parts of the windshield transparent would be a good idea), get yourself a one digit plate number, buy expensive sunglasses and shave your head. No matter where you park, not even coppers will ever touch your ride again.

There are many enemies and obstacles to overcome in this game: Other vehicles, such as buses (slow and stinky); trucks (fast and stinky); cabs - literary millions of them, especially at night; squad cars and white police bikes - easy to recognize (black and white pandas); atariyas – a special kind of kamikaze breed. These guys voluntarily crash into other people’s vehicles to profit from the accident; they’re real evil minds usually with strong yakuza ties. The worst of these is someone whose older brother is a cop and younger brother is a lawyer. In this case, you’d better pay all the damages and then some. Then there’s “Citizens’ patrols” who are overflowing with intelligence, mostly made up of people who always wanted to become cops but never made it to the police academy. From June, these individuals are going to be able to write parking tickets as well.

Rules of the Road:
1. Forget everything you’ve learned in driving school.
2. Get rid of the blinker switch. It’s a useless piece of equipment on Japanese roads.
3. In case of an accident, make sure you are the first to call the cops. Never apologize! This is considered admitting to a mistake and pleading guilty.
4. When parking a bicycle make sure you chain it to something solid (a tree or pole) so it won’t be dragged away.
5. When parking a motorbike use the spaces with “Bicycles only” signs; cops won’t bother you there because such places are administered by the city.
6. When parking a car the safest place is usually someone else’s private parking lot. No one can touch you there. Worst case, you’ll end up with the “No parking” signs on your windows. If they scratch your car, you can sue their asses.
7. There is no safe distance. Make sure you stay as close to the car in front of you as possible, so no one can swing in front of you.
8. Unless it gets so dark you can’t see any more, it’s not worth turning your lights on. When you do though, make sure you use as many as you can. No one understands the real meaning of the term “fog light” anyway.
9. There is no right of way.

Explanation of some traffic signs:
No parking or stopping: You can park here as long as someone stays in the car.
No parking: You don’t even have to stay in your car when parked.
No overtaking: Overtake really fast.
No right turn: Convenient place to turn right.
Disabled parking: Good place to park your car
Speed limits: Add 30 to the number on the sign and you get the safe speed.
Crosswalk: Taxi parking.
Red light: Good for turning to the right. To determine whether it’s safe to go, rather than paying attention to the traffic lights directly in front of you look at the lights to your left or right.
Orange light: Step on it.
Green arrow pointing to the right: Go straight as fast as you can.

As you can see, driving in Japan can really be fun, so get your motor runnin’ and head out on the highway…


By Chip P. Macel, Czech, President of the Uneasy Rider Club.

Originally published in Fukuoka Now magazine (fn90 Jun. 2006)


Fukuoka City
Published: Jan 1, 2006 / Last Updated: Jun 13, 2017

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