Metropolis Magazine
Issue #805 - Friday, Aug 28th, 2009
Metropolis Specials Metropolis Classifieds Metropolis Joblet Visitor's Guide Japan Inc Kansai Scene iTunes Metropolis Friends Metpod
Photo of the Week
The Small Print
Star Struck
"Page 2 "
The Goods
Body & Soul
Tech Know
Cars & Bikes
Global Village
The Last Word
The Negi
+ Best of Tokyo
Haikyo Corner
Out & About
Japan Beat
Live Report
Pop Life
2008 Flashback
Stage & Dance
Metropolis League
Theater Maps
Restaurant Review
Bar Review
International Dining
Local Flavors
Table Talk
About Us
Distribution Points
Sponsored Links
Past Issues
804: Drama Scene
803: Heads, Tails & Snake Eyes
801: A Legacy of Emotion
800: Through the Monocle
799: Fighting spirit
798: Taking the Stares
796: Friends Don't Let Friends Become Salarymen
795: Fuzzy Democracy
794: Hung Jury
792: Highway to Hell
791: The Cartography of Cyberspace
790: Train Talk
789: A Confessions of a Teenager in Kimono
787: A Downloaded Question
786: Counterculture Shock
785: The Good Sensei
783: Me, Charisma Woman?
782: Stumbling Block
781: Paradise Lost
779: Half and Half
778: Road Rage
777: Dumb Luck
775: The M-List
774: Compatriotic Spirit
773: The Naked Truth
770-71: It Ain't Easy Being Green
769: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas in Japan
768: Japanese Lessons
766: Bad Credit
765: Chew on this
764: Red faced
763: Down and Out in Tokyo
761: Kicking the bucket
760: Thumbing It
759: Fixing the System
757: Smoke rings
756: Stalking the Predators
755: Banding Together
753: No Competition
752: Sex and This City
751: Let's Shogi
750: The Yasukuni Follies
748: Loud and Clear
747: I'll be back
746: Raiders of the lost SMAP
744: Magical Mystery Tour
743: Murder in Lotus Land
742: Stereotypes 'R' Us
740: The Mother of all Mothers
739: Crimes of Fashion
738: The Hafu Dad Brigade
737: The Green Team
736: Fight Club
735: The Paper Chase
734: The Wind-Up Writer Chronicle
733: Food For Thought?
732: Home and Away
731: The 2008 Nazi Olympics
730: The Two-Wheel Revolution
729: Gimme a Break
728: Power Play
727: Dying for a doctor
726: Footloose Revisited
725: Little Fish, Bigger Pond
724: Japan's Peace Monster
723: Language Abuse
722: Scumbusters "R" Us
721: First Action Hiro
720: The Return of Asashoryu
718-719: A Time to Give
717: My Homelessness Dilemma
716: The 30 Percent Solution
715: Past Imperfect
714: Killing the Kimono
713: The trouble with Tibbets
712: Surfing the Shinto-net
711: Falling Stars
710: Macho Man
709: Bad Impressions
708: Bloodsport
707: Our Last Word
706: Anonymocracy
705: The Air Up There
704: Read the Signs
703: The sky should not be the limit
702: My Year Zero Proposal
701: The Joys of Freeganism
700: Prada for the People
699: The Parasite Country
698: Washed up in Tokyo
697: Birthing's Not for Babies
696: On the Handlebars of a Dilemma
695: My So-Called Poverty
694: Get Out the Vote
693: The Ishihara Mystery
691: Let it Flow
690: Caf Culture
689: Oyaji Fashionistas
688: The Democracy of the Dysfunctional
687: Polite Disregard
686: Venting on Climate Change
685: Silent No Longer
684: To protect and serve?
683: Save the Sanshin building!
682: In the Realm of the Pond God
681: The Open Society and Its Enemies
680: Five-Ring Circus
679: Topic of Cancer
678: Pet Peeves
677: Why I am Banned in Japan
676: A long way to the top
675: Euro-vision
674: Child's play
673: Why I did it
672: I Love Japan
671: Running Crazy
670: Planet Apology
669: A peek behind the curtain
668: Opening Up
666: Pitching a fit
665: All wrapped up
664: Yule Rules
663: Field of Dreams
662: Save Lives, not Face
661: Why Do I Buy a Ticket?
660: Dying for a Nap
659: We, the jury
658: Grain of truth
657: Remembering The Maverick
656: A Rose by any Other Name
655: Heir today, gone tomorrow
654: Manhandled on the Metro
653: The bodyguards of the road
652: Separate but equal
651: Going for the gold
650: Being Audrey Hepburn
649: Not Sitting Pretty
648: Get Smart
647: Through foreign eyes
646: A failing grade in cute
644: Club Lands
643: Sayonara, Hide
642: The JET SET
641: What, me worry?
640: The Da Vinci Load
639: Making Waves
638: Final Cut
637: Resave the whales
636: Soccer Silliness
635: I, Smoker
634: The Ultimate Loss
633: Shoot the Messengers
632: The second sex
631: A Maverick Moves On
630: The curse of Baron Mitsui
629: Waiting for Heidi
628: Memoirs of a fake celebrant
627: Take it Outside
626: Wa? What wa?
625: A well-drawn life
624: St. Patrick the abducted
623: Bend over
622: The (Un)Late show
621: Oil spill
620: Ice Follies
619: Pride Goeth
618: Lost roles
617: Saying it with Cookies
616: Wrestling with foreigners
614-615: Blank Pages
613: Fretting Over Freeters
612: Farewell, Sensei
611: Sympathy for the wild ones
610: Back in Black
609: Out of many, one
608: Youth culture
607: The Russians are coming!
606: Meddle Detector
605: Tokyo, Mon amour
604: The Wailing Wall
603: Getting Abreast of Cancer
602: Willing Ally
601: New war,same story
600: The Big Chill
599: The Gray Zone
598: Jail break
597: Extremely Lost in Translation
596: Wounded Despot
595: History Lessons
594: Valhalla of the Imperial Army
592: Culture crash
591: Complaints Department
590: What lies beneath
589: Strange Games
588: Junk Science
587: The day the invaders came
586: The Test that Drove Me Crazy
585: Smile and say “lesbian”
584: Keep Article 9
583: The Great Divide
582: An ad for all seasons
581: Killing the Golden Goose
580: The other half
579: Give me back my bye-bye
578: Araki in Focus
577: Head out on the Highway
576: The hate that won't go away
575: Here's the beef
574: Yukking it up
573: Squatter’s rights and wrongs
572: The Trouble with Yokoso
571: Fire from the sky
570: Invasion of the gairaigo
569: Good company
568: Find Out What it Means To Me
567: Field of schemes
566: In the Name of Justice
565: Winner or Loser?
564: Staying Foreign
563: The Scare after Tomorrow
561-562: The Spirit of Things
560: War for remembrance
559: Storm damage
558: The Meaning of Godzilla
557: Who’s left to listen?
556: Paying respects
555: Gender Trouble
554: Coming clean at last
553: Go our own way
552: Hits of yesteryear
551: Heir apparel
550: Personal Reflections
549: Nuclear Reactions
548: Article of faith
547: Martyrs for the firm
546: A different anniversary
545: We, the jury
544: Wrongs & rights
543: Moore or less
542: Fair games
541: Developmentally challenged

By William Bonds

Highway to Hell
Or, why I hate driving in Japan

William Bonds is an automotive journalist based in Chiba

I don’t get out of Japan as much as I used to, but as far as I’m concerned, driving overseas is a zillion times more enjoyable than it is here. Why? Well here’s ten reasons.

1. Country roads. The most pleasurable thing about driving, for me, has always been cruising along a road less traveled in the British/American/Canadian/European countryside—there are few cars, no speed cameras and only beautiful scenery to look at. The Japanese countryside is polluted with ugly overhead cables, ugly villages and boring, boring roads.

2. Driving lessons. Getting a license in this country is ridiculously time-consuming and expensive. I know this because Mrs. Bonds is halfway through the process. There are, if I remember rightly, around 40 hours of driving lessons, 30 hours of classroom lessons and five tests to take. It will cost around ¥300,000. All this wouldn’t be so bad if Mrs. Bonds were actually learning how to drive—but in fact all that is just to learn how to pass the exams. After she’s got her license, I’ll have to teach her how to drive.

3. Truck drivers. When the missus finally does earn her license, she won’t get any help from truck drivers. In Japan, like many other countries, “might is right.” Truckers seem to think that they have the right of way on any stretch of road. This is most apparent on expressways, when they drive right up your rear to try and bully you into moving over.
Illustration by Shane Busato

4. Blinkers. Do driving schools teach you what those orange lights are for? Even if they don’t, just how stupid can the drivers of Japan be? You put your indicators on before you brake to show that you are about to turn. Every day, I see drivers brake, then indicate, and then turn. The dumbest thing in Japanese motoring.

5. Insurance. OK, we need insurance, but my insurance man just quoted me a rate that’s higher for my second car than my first car, which is worth three times as much. On top of that, he says that because my second car is so cheap, it’s not covered for damage. So I pay less to get more insurance for a more expensive car. What’s more, he can’t link the two cars’ insurance policies. Oh yes, and I’m not covered for theft. Eh?

6. Shaken/taxes. You must get your car tested three years after you bought it new, and every two years thereafter. A dealer will charge you in the region of ¥150,000 to do this (my local mechanic does it for half that). A car inspection program is good, but this isn’t it. And how many privately owned Japanese cars need to be inspected after three years? Almost none. It’s an unrealistic and unnecessary burden on the car owner.

7. Parking. You have to have a parking place before you can own a car in Japan. Maybe not such a stupid idea, but the street parking in cities is way out of hand. Enforcement has improved, but there are still too many cars blocking too many roads. On the other hand, you will get a ticket for parking in a metered spot after-hours. Well, if a spot is OK during busy hours, why can’t we use it when the roads aren’t busy? Doesn’t make sense.

8. Tolls. I hate tolls. Apart from being an inefficient system for collecting money, they are way too high. OK, PM Aso has reduced them temporarily. Well done, but no one should be charged for sitting in a 50km traffic jam. You should only have to pay for expressways if they do their job, i.e., getting you from A to B fast.

9. PC Plod. A cop caught me speeding last week. Was it fair? Well, yes, I was speeding, but it was on a coastal toll road with absolutely no traffic. Possibly the quietest, safest road in Japan. Penalizing me on that road will not contribute to road safety in any way; he was just making sure he got his quota for the month. The police too often go for the easy target while letting the loonies go free.

10. Old People, young people. Confucius says old people are the repositories of wisdom. No, stupid people only get stupider as they grow older. And young stupid people are just plain dangerous. Restrict what they can drive and keep death off the roads.

Got something to say about this article? Send a letter to the editor at

Listen to the Metropolis Podcast, the coolest guide to what goes on this week in Tokyo.

Looking for international friends? Check Metropolis Friends now - it's 100% free!