Although Japan is most famous for its extensive train network, there are a great many highways and byways as well.

And side streets, a few roundabouts, etc etc etc.
Trains are nice, and they usually get you going where you want to be going, but to really get around you need a car.

I should know: for 3 of the 5 years I've been in Japan, I didn't have one and it really didn't hit home to me how important a car is in Japan until I didn't have one and then I did.

Now that may seem ludicrous to someone who lives outside of Japan because they really do have a great train system that seems to go everywhere;
but ask yourself: do you really want to carry groceries home on the train?

Or a bookshelf? And what if the place you want to go is 3km away from the train station?

That's a 6km round trip walk! Plus, the trains stop running at a certain time every night, so your schedule ends up tethered to the train schedule.

So having a car is a must if you plan to be here any length of time and want to see the real Japan.

Trains are OK for tourists, but to really get out you need 4 wheels.
Used cars are quite affordable here, and they're all pretty darn good quality.

It's not like going to a clunker lot back home.
Japan has some pretty stringent lemon laws, so what you get is probably going to be what works.

Cars here range from sub-compact 3-cylinder makes to V8 powerhouses that are way too big for the streets you're going to have to go down.

There are a lot of people who drive big cars in Japan, but honestly so many of the roads are so narrow that I can't imagine why you would want one.
You literally couldn't make some turns if you vehicle is big enough in Japan.

Driving is another matter altogether. Sure, driving is driving; but in Japan, things are reversed.

As an American, I was use to sitting on the left side of the card when I was driving. In Japan, the driver sits on the right.

Also, the windshield wipers and turn signals are opposite in Japan what they are in America,
so often times new foreign drivers will flip on their turn signal only to find that their wipers have been activated.

I'm sure nobody notices, but it's still embarrassing.
There are also a lot of different unwritten rules of the road in Japan, but I think I'll save those for another blog post.
You may be surprised to hear what they are, so stay tuned!