Escape the Buzz of the City: Take a Slow Road Trip Through the Japanese Countryside to Experience the Beauty on Offer

February 2 2022

Although the rail system in Japan is excellent, there are remote areas with unforgettable scenery that you'll miss out on unless you drive there yourself. The beautiful landscape of the 'Land Of The Rising Sun' includes volcanic mountains, awe-inspiring forests, ocean, grasslands, and rocky terrains. Seasoned travelers argue that the best way to explore Japan is by taking a road trip to see the wonderful sights. Read more about travel requirements and other information pertinent to Japan before you start your journey.

The multicoloredleaves of autumn in Japan create some truly spectacular scenery.

The multicoloredleaves of autumn in Japan create some truly spectacular scenery.

Japanese Seasons

Each of the seasons in Japan offer something spectacular for visitors to enjoy. The summer months (between June and August) are the most popular for sight-seeing in Japan. But this is during the monsoon season, and you may encounter heavy rains. The cheapest months fall during winter, which is from December until February. Japan offers world-class skiing, but of course driving at this time of year can be hazardous and may be more of a challenge than you're looking for.

The famous Sakura or cherry blossoms appear in the spring around March, and crowds of people gather under the trees for o-hanami, a traditional viewing of the blooms. The autumn months are between September and November and the changing colors of the leaves make this season spectacular too.

The 48 sharp bends of the twisting Irohazaka make for an exhilarating drive.

The 48 sharp bends of the twisting Irohazaka make for an exhilarating drive.

Routes to Take on a Road Trip

Starting in the north, the vast open spaces of Hokkaido have an abundance of nature and it is home to the 'Roller Coaster Road'. It is 2.5km long and has a number of steep up and down slopes. Heading south but on a similar theme, the Irohazaka is a one-way switchback mountain road in Nikko, Tochigi. The winding road with its 48 sharp corners is named after a famous poem with the same number of characters.

If you love trees, take a drive to the Metasequoia Tree Road near Lake Biwa, which is lined on either side with towering Sequoia trees. The magnificence of this experience depends on the month. During spring or summer, the trees are verdant and during autumn and winter they are golden. Heading further south to the furthest end of the main island of Honshu, the Tsunoshima Bridge in Yamaguchi is a great architectural achievement, and it boasts an island at the end.

Driving in Japan is straightforward and the road signs are easy to understand. If you hire a vehicle, you must be in possession of a valid IDP (International Driving Permit). If you plan to do a road trip in Japan you will encounter many toll roads, so be aware of these and look into acquiring expressway passes or ETC cards to save money.

If you're driving in the city, you could rent a Kei (light) car, although for a road trip you may want to choose the standard class, which is bigger and more solid. If there are only two of you and you love speed and luxury, you could opt for a sports car or a coupe. The design of a coupe is compact; this makes it a great choice for a road trip because it's a light-weight car with a low center of gravity that brakes well and offers better balance compared to a sedan. The rear-wheel drive facility on many coupe models improves handling, making it ideal for the twisting Japanese roads.

The choice to enjoy the splendor offered by the natural sites in Japan in a leisurely way is just one of the many reasons to take a road trip. You can explore at your own pace, stop off and explore the attractions that interest you, and really immerse yourself in the sights and rich culture of a stunning country.

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