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Countryside Driving 2018/7/2 23:25
Hi All,

This is a question more aimed towards people living in Japan than the casual traveller.

I've been traveling around Japan a reasonable amount since 2011 but did not start to drive in Japan (as a traveller) since 2015. I've noticed the following and wanted a confirmation of the following idea..

On reasonably straight and safe roads, many local drivers have a sweet spot of 10-20 k/m over the notoriously slow speed limit.

Am I reading this correctly - as I've even had police overtake me the first few times I was in Japan obeying the speed limit. Note that I do consider Japan to be one of the safest and easiest countries to drive in as a tourist (outside of gridlocked major cities!)
by mfedley  

Re: Countryside Driving 2018/7/3 15:35
Local Japanese driver here.

In Japan, speed limits are indicated on poles or painted on roads in forms like these.
https://japandriverslicense.com/en/japanese-road-signs/
https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E9%81%93%E8%B7%AF%E6%A8%99%E7%A4%BA

On very narrow residential roads where you'd see none of these signs at all, you are expected to drive slower than 20 km/hr.

On reasonably straight and safe roads, many local drivers have a sweet spot of 10-20 k/m over the notoriously slow speed limit.

I'm not sure if I understand this correctly, but are you talking about those who drive in, for example, 50 km/hr when the lawful speed limit is 30 km/hr?

If so, technically that's against the law, so you can get a ticket for this, and it's even dangerous to drive that way. But it's tolerated if you're going with the flow. For example, if you're driving on a 50 k/h road, and all the cars around you are going about 60 k/h, than you're pretty much tolerated to do the same. But if everyone is driving at 60 k/h, and you're the only one going 70 k/h, than you're likely to get a ticket, and it is indeed dangerous. I guess you are tolerated at 60, because going with the flow avoids traffic jams.

I've even had police overtake me the first few times I was in Japan obeying the speed limit.

But there is nothing wrong or illegal about obeying the lawful limit, so don't worry about it. Except that in wide roads where there are more than 2 lanes on one side, your right-hand lanes are for taking over. So you shouldn't be driving slowly on the very right for a long time.

Ask your local friendly policemen for more details.
by Uco rate this post as useful

Re: Countryside Driving 2018/7/3 15:44
There are times when the police, in unmarked cars - will be driving at, or slightly above the speed limit. Pass them at your peril.
by Paul (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Countryside Driving 2018/7/3 17:16
Hi Uco,

Thanks for the info.

I was actually referring to speeding!

When I drive on major roads in the countryside, say 50 or 70 km/h, even local buses will be overtaking me when given the chance. As such, I now drive at how fast the local traffic is moving with the odd person overtaking me. The only people I seem to overtake is tractors & local buses when they are picking up passengers. The story of the police car was them overtaking me when I was driving the speed limit (50).
by mfedley rate this post as useful

Re: Countryside Driving 2018/7/3 17:21
Thanks for your feedback, mfedley. Yes, I think that's how I understood your initial question. I hope I have answered it.
by Uco rate this post as useful

Re: Countryside Driving 2018/7/3 17:36
It is simple if you go with the flow, you will be fine, unless the police is at the end of the month.
They often have extra controls.

That a police car passed you, does not mean you just can speed, since you do not know the reason.

Since you will have a non Japanese driving licence you need to pay cash when you are caught.
by justmyday rate this post as useful

Re: Countryside Driving 2018/7/3 18:33

I've been driving in japan twice and experienced this.

This has always been the subject i wanted to ask, whiles the speed limit is 50, and even if you go with the flow with everyone go at 70, isnt this still illegal.

by Kms899 (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Countryside Driving 2018/7/3 19:03
Of course it is illegal to drive faster than the speed limit - but moderately over it doesn`t usually get you a ticket. Significantly over, and even though there are others, you may still get a ticket.
by Paul (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Countryside Driving 2018/7/3 19:27
whiles the speed limit is 50, and even if you go with the flow with everyone go at 70, isnt this still illegal.

As mentioned, it is illegal but "tolerated" which means that the police will ignore you. But it's technically illegal to speed, so when the police is around, all drivers start driving slowly. The same thing happens when drivers spot one of those automatic police cameras. So as long as you go with the flow you're usually safe anyway. Sometimes police cars come around just to create awareness.

But if it's a lonely road in a residential area or a countryside where there are no other cars creating the flow, you really need to keep an eye on your speed indicator. And sure enough, accidents often happen in the most loneliest roads or crossroads when drivers "assume" nothing would happen.
by Uco rate this post as useful

Re: Countryside Driving 2018/7/3 19:37
I've been on roads where others are driving well in excess of the limit, like 80-100 instead of 50. I did it too because the limits are ridiculously low and with my driving experience in my home country I know how to drive to the conditions. Yes, speeding is dangerous but doing 40 on a road that should be 80 (and would be elsewhere) usually makes me want to fall asleep from sheer boredom. In short, because I think the speed limits on Japan are stupid, I ignore them and will suffer the fine if that happens.
by roadrunner (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Countryside Driving 2018/7/3 19:56
Thanks Uco - I did not correctly read your first comment. For some strange reason I was reading it as going 20 km/h under the limit as I would not drive 50 km/h in a 30 km/h zone as this would probably be unsafe.

I've also learnt to go with the flow but also accept that I may get a ticket. I still don't feel comfortable speeding though . On an odd note - some of these roads in winter I would be completing MUCH UNDER the speed limit with the amount of snow!
by mfedley rate this post as useful

Re: Countryside Driving 2018/7/3 20:06
My experiences have been that on open roads and expressways it is pretty common for people to be travelling at 10 or 20 kph over the posted speed limit.

My personal choice - being a tourist in someone else's country - is generally to err on the side of caution and to have a default position that you keep below the legal limit, but to balance that with an element of going with the flow.

An interesting observation from when we were doing a lot of driving on our last trip was that speed limits were often VERY low on roads which were often largely empty, safe, and in very good condition. Whilst not trying to speed, I did find once or twice that we set off on a trip where the satnav (which, I assume, uses legal speed limits as a maximum for calculating trip time) estimated journey time was some way in excess of the actual time. And I'm by no means a speedy driver, even in my own country.
by Winter Visitor rate this post as useful

Re: Countryside Driving 2018/7/3 20:17
Thanks for all the answers, I do agree that at built up places and cities where they request you to drive around 20k, following the speed limit is the right thing to do, my speeding is only on the expressway, and that is what i'm referring to from my last post.
by kms899 rate this post as useful

Re: Countryside Driving 2018/7/3 21:41
"Illegal" and "enforced" don't necessarily go hand in hand.... Over the speed limit is "illegal". Is it constantly "enforced"? No.
by John B digs Japan rate this post as useful

Re: Countryside Driving 2018/7/5 11:44
Harldy any of the roads in Japan are straight, most roads are winding, even the toll roads are very winding, and there are alot of roads that go really narrow at some points, so I can understand why the speed limit is low on alot of roads because it's dangerous to go really fast on a winding road. The lanes on the toll road are not very wide either so not much room for swerving even a little bit. Alot of roads are steep too, so combine a really steep inclination with winding curves every second and its really not good to speed. A straight wide road is rare in Japan.
by Cody (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Countryside Driving 2018/7/5 12:58
A straight wide road is rare in Japan.

But not as rare in the countryside, which is the issue in this thread.
by Uco rate this post as useful

Re: Countryside Driving 2018/7/9 12:54
When I lived in the Japanese countryside, I regularly drove 10-20 kph over limit on certain stretches of roads that were surrounded on both sides by rice paddies. The logic there was that police cars couldn't hide in those, and there weren't any side streets where cars or bikes could suddenly pop out. Those roads were also pretty deserted throughout the day and located away from residential areas.

Whenever I came near a residential area, I'd immediately slow down to the speed limit, and slow down even more if I saw someone walking or biking on the road. At the time I was an English teacher at several public schools, so I was extra sensitive about being a potential hazard to children and their families.
by YBates rate this post as useful

Re: Countryside Driving 2018/7/9 23:43
Hi All.

Just confirming that I got my answer from your replies. Thanks for the replies and no more comments are needed after this one.
by mfedley rate this post as useful

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