Driving: Canada vs. Japan

Tomorrow, I’m renting a car.

As you may know, I live in Japan, though I’m from Canada.  I’ve been driving for 23 years, since I got my learner’s permit when I was 14.  Since 2005, I’ve been living in Japan, and I actually have a Japanese driver’s license.  It wasn’t difficult to switch from a Canadian license to a Japanese one, since there are agreements between the two countries allowing them to share driving safety records.  This means I can easily exchange my license and not take a test.  Americans aren’t so lucky.  They have to take the driving test.

So, as I said, I’m renting a car tomorrow.  I first drove in Japan in 2009, also a rental.  We occasionally rent a car to go shopping at Costco, which is what we’re doing tomorrow.  It’s just easier to transport everything by car, rather than by bus, train, and bus.

Are you wondering how easy it was to adjust to driving in Japan?  Some things were easy, some things I’m still not used to.  Let’s take a look.

The easy things.

  • Switching from right side of the road to the left was quite easy.  I was surprised.  No problems at all.
  • Switching from the left side of the car to the right was also easy to adjust to.
  • Using my left hand to shift from park to drive and reverse was no problem.
  • Traffic laws are very similar.  One major difference is that you can’t turn left on a red (like you can turn right on a red in Canada).
  • Mirrors fold in to protect them from other cars while parking.
  • Everything is in metric, which is what I’ve always used.

The difficult things.

  • Red light runners.  Too many.
  • Too many drivers are inexperienced, as they drive infrequently.
  • So many people stop on the sides of major roads, blocking half of the traffic.  I find this dangerous.
  • Too many people don’t signal when turning.
  • The turn signal and windshield wipers are switched when compared to Canada.  I’ve accidentally wiped the windshield when I meant to signal.
  • Parking.  People back into parking spaces.  Narrower parking spaces.  Ugh.
  • Navigating the mazes that are the streets of Japan is a monumental task.  You really need a navigation system, unless you know the way.
  • Pedestrians are frequently ignored.
  • Narrow streets and many blind corners.

So, I have all of that to look forward to tomorrow.  It’s no wonder I don’t drive often in Japan.  I can’t wait to drive in Canada again.  So much easier.