Expressways

Japan's four main island and Okinawa are covered by a expressway network of over 7,000 kilometers. Further routes are still under construction. Below is a map showing the major operational expressways.

Foreign visitors should encounter few problems using Japanese expressways, since all important signs are written in both, Japanese and English. The speed limit for passenger cars is usually 80 or 100 km/h, except on some minor, one lane expressways where the speed limit is 70 km/h.

Below is some vocabulary useful for using Japanese expressways:

  • Interchange (IC)
    In Japan, an interchange refers to an expressway entrance and exit, e.g. Tokyo IC.
  • Junction (JCT)
    Like in English, a junction refers to a place where multiple expressways meet.
  • Parking Area (PA)
    A parking area comes with toilets and one or more vending machines. Sometimes it also features a restaurant.
  • Service Area (SA)
    Generally larger than parking areas, service areas feature toilets, shops, restaurants and a gasoline stand.

The use of most expressways is subject to tolls, which can be paid at manual toll gates by cash or credit card or by passing through automatic ETC (electronic toll collection) gates. The use of ETC gates requires an ETC card and a car that is equipped with an ETC card reader. ETC cards require ownership of a Japanese credit card and provide discounts during certain times of the day and week. Short term visitors to Japan can acquire ETC cards temporarily from some rental car outlets.

The table below shows approximate costs for a regular vehicle between selected major cities. Lower rates apply to light vehicles and motorcycles, while higher rates apply to trucks, buses and trailers.

Approximate Tolls (in yen):

 
Kagoshima
Fukuoka
Hiroshima
Osaka
Kyoto
Nagoya
Aomori
Tokyo
27,500
23,000
17,000
12,000
10,500
8,000
14,000
Aomori
39,000
34,000
28,500
23,000
22,000
20,500
 
Nagoya
21,000
16,000
10,500
3,500
3,500
   
Kyoto
18,500
13,500
8,000
2,000
     
Osaka
18,000
13,000
7,500
       
Hiroshima
11,500
6,500
         
Fukuoka
6,000
           

Approximate Travel Distance:

 
 
Kagoshima
Fukuoka
Hiroshima
Osaka
Kyoto
Nagoya
Aomori
Tokyo
1400km
1100km
850km
550km
500km
350km
700km
Aomori
2050km
1800km
1500km
1200km
1150km
1050km
 
Nagoya
1050km
800km
500km
200km
150km
   
Kyoto
900km
650km
350km
50km
     
Osaka
1000km
700km
450km
       
Hiroshima
550km
300km
         
Fukuoka
300km
           

Six companies are in charge of expressway construction and maintenance:

Last updated: October 10, 2014
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