Category Archives: Driving in Japan

GPS navigation, directions, expressways and more.

Taking to the Roads


Major Roads Near Yokota
•Route 16 which runs between Yokota and Yokosuka, and near Zama
•Route 7 (Itsukaichi Kaido) along the south fence of Yokota
•Route 20 (Koshu Kaido) along both sides of the Tama River.
•Route 5 (Shin Ome Kaido) to the north.

These roads extend from out past Yokota to Tokyo proper. To orient yourself locally, check on online map, like this one.

The major expressways nearby are the Chuo, which runs from Tokyo to Nagoya, and the Kan Etsu, which travels through the mountains to the other side of Honshu. The Ken-O Do is also useful when heading north to connect the Kan-Etsu to the Tohoku and other expressways.
These English-edition atlases are useful (sometimes available at the BX bookstore, the New Sanno, etc.).

  • Road Atlas Japan
  • Tokyo Metropolitan Atlas
  • Metropolitan Expressway Guide

Free maps, including the Japan Expressway map in English, are sometimes available on request at larger rest areas in the expressway system.

Tokyo Expressways
Simplified, the expressways are laid out like a wheel with spokes. The C1, or Shuto Expressway, is the wheel. Most of the other expressways are the spokes and are numbered consecutively around the wheel. Therefore, when driving into Tokyo on the Chuo, Expressway #4, you will go into the wheel and follow it until your desired expressway takes you away. The numbered expressways (or spokes) run clockwise around the wheel, starting at the southeast section of Tokyo.
Exceptions include Expressway #1, which runs north and south on the east side of Tokyo. Expressways 1-South, 2, and 3 are south of the Chuo and 5, 1-North, 6, 7 and 9 are north of the Chuo. So, if you’re driving to the New Sanno, you will take #4 (Chuo), which will run into C1 (Shuto), and follow the #2 signs which will take you to the New Sanno exit, which is Exit #201. If you’re going to Narita, you will still follow the Chuo and Shuto, but will follow #7 signs directly to Narita. One easy place to get lost is in the Chiyoda Tunnel. This is where you will either take the right fork for Expressways 1-South, 2 and 3, or the left fork for Expressways 5, 1- North, 6, 7 or 9. If you take the wrong fork, you can just continue around on the Shuto and pick up the correct expressway again, although this might take some time.
For specifics and updates, check with the information desks at the Yujo Community Center or New Sanno. Judy Harvey, Sherri Park

Hachioji Bypass & Chuo Expressway
DIRECTIONS: Turn left out the Fussa Gate, setting your trip meter to zero, and carefully follow the signs for Route 16 until you see the signs for the Hachioji Bypass. At 3.2 km, Route 16 will take a left. At 4.7 km it will take a right. You will pass the big round bathhouse on your left and continue on the bridge over the river. If you are going to the Hachioji bypass, a sign will direct you to take a left at 7.4. Continue straight for a short way further to enter the Chuo Expressway on the left. Brian Marriott 6/02

Shortcut to Route 16 from the East Gate:
Turn right out the East Gate/0K, turn right at the first or second light 0.6K/Family Mart and follow the base perimeter road, turning right again at 2.5K/NishisunaNakasato. Stay on this road (Rt 220) past the South/Golf Course Gate, through 4 lights (over railroad tracks, then through an underpass under another set of tracks until the road ends), turn left at the T (3.7K/Akishima Fire Stn). Turn right at the third light, 5.2K/ShowaKaikan Kita, and stay on this road through another light and over tracks. Bear left at the second light. The next light will intersect at Route 16 before it crosses the Haijimabashi Bridge.

If you live on other sides of Yokota, there are other shortcuts, some via Rt 29/ShinOkutama Kaido parallel to Rt. 16. All these shortcuts may eliminate 20-30 minutes from traffic jams on Rt. 16.

Want to use your GPS navigator in Japan? Read about it HERE.

Japan by Rail

Using GPS to navigate Japan

Maybe you already own a Garmin or TomTom GPS navigator that has served you reliably all over the world. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just download Japan maps for it? Unfortunately, neither Garmin nor TomTom — the two most popular U.S. sat-nav companies — make car navigation maps for Japan.

You can buy a Japanese sat-nav that will speak to you in English. The BX and the Auto Hobby Shop sell them. The most popular ones allow you to search by phone number. Users love that feature. (But they say you have to be careful that the phone number you have is actually linked to the location you’re trying to visit, rather than to a central office or a cell phone.)

You can also buy apps that will turn an iPhone or an iPod Touch into a GPS navigator. I have a friend who swears by Gogo Japan. It’s $49 — steep for an app, but he says it’s better than his stand-alone navigator. (It works without mobile Internet, so this may be a use for your U.S. cell phone that won’t work on a Japanese carrier.) It also allows you to search by phone number.

I opted for a third approach.  An outfit called Up Up Down that sells maps of Japan that will work on an American version of a Garmin navigator. You can download maps from their website. They only work for Garmin navigators, not any other brand. They cost about $250, so they’re not cheap, but they cover all of Japan, they’re in English and they work well most of the time. (Mine, though, has the annoying habit of telling me I have to exit expressways every few miles, even when I expect to be on the same road for hours.) As far as I know, this is the only company that makes Japan maps for an American Garmin. If you know of other third-party maps, please put it in the comment section below and tell us what kind of navigator they work on.
One caveat: You can’t search the Up Up Down map by address the way you would in the States. The Japanese address system is entirely different. (Read about that here.) You can search by pre-programmed Points of Interest or by a creating a Favorite to get back to a spot you’ve already located.

The most versatile search, though, is by GPS coordinates. Plug them into your navigator, your iPhone or Googlemaps on your computer and you can direct yourself to the exact entrance of the parking lot. Just be aware that there are different formats. Here, for example, are three different ways to describe the location of Fussa Gate:

35°N 44′ 32″, 139°E 20′ 17″  (Degrees, minutes, seconds.)

35°N 44.5440, 139°E 20.2859  (Degree, minutes.decimals)

35.7424, 139.3381  (Degrees.decimals)

In this guide, we’re opting for the third format because we think it’s simplest: Degrees and decimals thereof. If you use a navigator, make sure to change to this format in the settings. You can map a spot just entering the coordinates — i.e. “35.7424, 139.3381″ — in Google Maps. (You may not need to use North or East. That’s implied by the positive number. If it was Southern or Western Hemisphere, it’d have a minus sign in front. Also, the exact number of digits after the decimal point is unimportant. Your navigator requires five digits after the decimal but you only have four? Just add zeros at the end. “35.55” is the same as “35.5500”.)
Want to find the coordinates of any spot on Earth? If you can find it on Google Maps, you can get the coordinates. Just right-click on the map (or option-click if using a Mac) and select “What’s here?” The coordinates will automatically pop up in the search box. Need to convert to another format? Here’s a converter.
One last warning: The roads on the base are probably “non-routable” for your navigator. The device may come up with a route for you, but it will likely be a crazy one. Wait until you reach the gate to press “Find Route.” Likewise, do not set your on-base home as “Home” on your navigator. Sure, it’ll show your location on the map just fine, but it will likely build an insane route to it. Liz Ruskin, 2012.




Getting your car fixed

Auto repair shops

  • AAFES garage: On Yokota’s West Side, Bldg. 1293. (Sometimes called the BX Garage or the Auto Care Center.) Does JCI inspections and some repairs. 1-214-261-2114 or DSN 976-2114. Open Mon-Fri 7:30am-5pm, Sat 9-5. Sun Closed
  • Ushihama’s Garage: A number of people recommend Ushihama’s. It is across Rt. 16 from the base, between the Fussa and Terminal gates. It’s at the Shorin Dori intersection, by George’s used car lot. The owner speaks English. Tel. 042-553-0350
  • Auto Skills Center: 30-minute oil changes, minor repair services, parts ordering, do-it-yourself auto repairs, and auto repair classes. Located near the high school. Building 4086. DSN: 225-7623.

Auto Parts Stores

  • Autobacs: Autobacs is a chain of automotive parts stores. The closest can be reached by turning left out the East Gate then turning right at the first light. Go through one light until the road ends at the second light. Turn right. Autobacs will be before the next light on your right.
  • Driver Stand: On Yanagi Dori, two lights past Do-It. Drive straight out the Fussa Gate. Bear to the right at the “Y”. Turn right at the second light past the “Y.” Go straight for about 4.5 km. It will be after Sabaecho 2 Intersection, but before Sabaecho 1 Intersection. A second Driver Stand is on Shin Ome Kaido, just before the Yellow Hat (see below).
  • Yellow Hat: On Shin Ome Kaido, just beyond Outdoor World. Turn left out the East Gate. At the first light turn right. Go through one light until the road ends at the second light. Turn left. Drive straight through three lights until the road ends at the fourth light (Shin Ome Kaido, Mos Burger on the left). Turn right onto Shin Ome Kaido and drive for about 3.5 km. Yellow Hat is on the right with a large English sign, just past Drivers Stand.

Brian Marriott. Updated 2011.

How to buy a car from a private individual
Once you’ve agreed to buy someone’s car, start by getting insurance. Take the car information, including serial number, or the entire packet of documents if the owner will part with them. Two of the most convenient places to buy insurance are the agency in the Yujo Center and George’s Insurance, right next to Blue Seal ice cream shop (go out the Supply Gate, turn right on Route 16 and it’s on the corner at the first light.)
Next, the buyer and seller should go to Pass & Registration, at the Supply Gate. The owner will have to scrape the round sticker off the windshield. The folks behind the desk will give the new owner  a temporary base pass. Now, you bounce like a pingpong ball between Pass & Reg and your insurance agents. It’s easy enough. Just follow their instructions. They’ll tell you where you need to go.
Remember, as you’re withdrawing cash for the purchase, to get a few hundred dollars more than the purchase price to cover insurance, registration and fees. Liz Ruskin, 2012.