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Expressways of Japan

expressways of japan
The expressways 高速道路 kōsoku-dōro, lit high-speed road of Japan make up a large network of freeway-standard toll roads


  • 1 History
  • 2 Finances
  • 3 National expressways
    • 31 Features
    • 32 Tolls
  • 4 Urban expressways
  • 5 Others
  • 6 References
  • 7 External links


Following World War II, Japan's economic revival led to a massive increase in personal automobile use However the existing road system was inadequate to deal with the increased demand; in 1956 only 23% of national highways were paved, which included only two thirds of the main Tokyo-Osaka road National Route 11

In April 1956 the Japan Highway Public Corporation JH was established by the national government with the task of constructing and managing a nationwide network of expressways In 1957 permission was given to the corporation to commence construction of the Meishin Expressway linking Nagoya and Kobe,1 the first section of which opened to traffic in 19632

In addition to the national expressway network administered by JH, the government established additional corporations to construct and manage expressways in urban areas The Metropolitan Expressway Public Corporation responsible for the Shuto Expressway was established in 1959, and the Hanshin Expressway Public Corporation responsible for the Hanshin Expressway was established in 1962 By 2004 the lengths of their networks had extended to 283 kilometres 1758 mi and 234 kilometres 1454 mi respectively3

In 1966 a plan was formally enacted for a 7,600 kilometres 4,7224 mi national expressway network Under this plan construction of expressways running parallel to the coastlines of Japan would be given priority over those traversing the mountainous interior1 In 1987, the plan was revised to extend the network to 14,000 kilometres 8,6992 mi In April 2012, completed sections of the network totaled 8,050 kilometres 5,0020 mi 45

In October 2005 JH, the Metropolitan Expressway Public Corporation, the Hanshin Expressway Public Corporation, and the Honshū-Shikoku Bridge Authority managing three fixed-link connections between Honshū and Shikoku were privatized under the reform policies of the government of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi The expressway network of JH was divided into three companies based on geography - East Nippon Expressway Company E-NEXCO, Central Nippon Expressway Company C-NEXCO, and West Nippon Expressway Company W-NEXCO The Metropolitan Expressway Public Corporation transferred its authority to the Metropolitan Expressway Company, while the Hanshin Expressway Public Corporation transferred its authority to the Hanshin Expressway Company The Honshū-Shikoku Bridge Authority became the Honshū-Shikoku Bridge Expressway Company, whose operations are planned to eventually be absorbed into those of W-NEXCO6


Tōmei Expressway near Atsugi

Japan's expressway development has been financed largely with debt It was intended to make the expressways free when they are paid off The Meishin Expressway and Tomei Expressway debt has been fully paid off since 1990 It was decided in 1972 that tolls would be pooled from all expressways to provide a single source of operating funds, since some sections were little used Earthquake resistant construction methods have added to costs, as well as extensive soundwalling In March 2009 then Prime Minister Taro Aso unveiled a plan to reduce tolls to ¥1,000 on weekends and national holidays Tolls on weekdays would be cut by around 30 percent According to the National Expressway Construction Association, 441 million vehicles use the expressways daily, driving an average of 437 kilometres 272 mi7

National expresswaysedit

A typical tunnel entrance with electronic speed limit and notice signs Taga Service Area Toll gate on the Kinki Expressway The lanes under the arches are designated for ETC-capable vehicles only Hokkaidō Expressway

National expressways 高速自動車国道, Kōsoku Jidōsha Kokudō make up the majority of expressways in Japan This network boasts an uninterrupted link between Aomori Prefecture at the northern part of Honshū and Kagoshima Prefecture at the southern part of Kyūshū, linking Shikoku as well Additional expressways serve travellers in Hokkaidō and on Okinawa Island, although those are not connected to the Honshū-Kyūshū-Shikoku grid


Most expressways are 4 lanes with a central reservation median Some expressways in close proximity to major urban areas are 6 lanes, while some in rural areas are 2 lanes only with a barrier on the center line 2-laned sections are built to a standard that allows conversion to 4 lanes in the future8

Speed limits are normally 100 km/h 621 mph , and a minimum speed of 50 km/h 311 mph is also enforced Vehicles unable to reach 50 km/h, such tractors and mopeds, are forbidden from using the expressways9 Speed limits may also be reduced temporarily due to adverse driving conditions or permanently in accident-prone areas as speed limit signs can be adjusted electronically

Many rest facilities such as parking areas usually only with toilets or small shops and service areas usually with many more amenities such as restaurants and gas stations serve travellers along national expressways


National expressways are expensive to use, with the 3255 kilometres 2023 mi journey from Tokyo to Nagoya on the Tōmei Expressway costing ¥7,100 in tolls for an ordinary car10

With a few exceptions, tolls on national expressways are based on distance travelled When entering the expressway, one collects a ticket, which can be inserted along with the fare into a machine or handed to an attendant upon exiting the expressway There is also an Electronic Toll Collection ETC card system installed in many cars which automatically pays at the toll gate As of 2001 toll fees consist of a 150 yen terminal charge plus a fee which depends on the distance travelled The rate of this fee depends on the type of vehicle as shown in the following table1

Type of vehicle rate in yen/km rate in yen/mile
Light car and motorcycle 1968 3149
Ordinary passenger car 2460 3936
Small and medium-sized truck 2952 4723
Large-sized truck 4059 6494
Special large-sized full trailer 6765 10824

Tolls are always rounded to the nearest 50 yen and include consumption tax If there are two or more possible routes from the entrance to the exit, the toll will be calculated based on the shortest cheapest route

Tolls collected from all routes are pooled into a single fund and are used to repay the entire network6 It is expected that all national expressways in Japan will be fully repaid 45 years after privatization 205011

Some future national expressways are planned to be built according to the New Direct Control System, whereby national and local governments will absorb the burden for expressway construction12 and operate toll-free upon completion13

Urban expresswaysedit

Main article: Urban Expressways Japan Shuto Expressway in Tokyo

Urban expressways 都市高速道路, Toshi Kōsokudōro are intra-city expressways that are found in many of Japan's largest urban areas Due to lack of space many of these expressways are constructed as viaducts running above local roads The two largest networks are the Shuto Expressway in the Tokyo area and the Hanshin Expressway in the Osaka area There are other smaller networks in Nagoya, Hiroshima, Kitakyūshū, and Fukuoka Each network is managed separately from each other the Fukuoka and Kitakyūshū Expressways are managed by the same company but are not physically connected to each other


This sign indicates entrances to expressway-standard roads

All roads in Japan that are built to expressway standards including national and urban expressways themselves are known as Roads for motor vehicles only 自動車専用道路, Jidōsha Senyō Dōro If a road for motor vehicles only cannot be classified as a national or urban expressway, it may be classified into one of the following categories

  • National highway for motor vehicles only with national expressway concurrency 高速自動車国道に並行する一般国道自動車専用道路, Kōsoku Jidōsha Kokudō ni Heikōsuru Ippan Kokudō Jidōsha Senyō Dōro
    • Roads in this category are built to facilitate future incorporation into the main route of a national expressway Examples include the Yonezawa Nan-yō Road, the Higashi-Mito Road and the Futtsu Tateyama Road
  • National highway for motor vehicles only 一般国道の自動車専用道路, Ippan Kokudō no Jidōsha Senyō Dōro
    • Roads in this category are national highways built to expressway standards as designated by the Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Examples include the Ken-Ō Expressway and the Tōkai-Kanjō Expressway


  1. ^ a b c d Kimura, Fukunari; Maeda, Mitsuhiro November 2005 "Transport Infrastructure Development in Japan and Korea: Drawing Lessons for the Philippines" pdf Retrieved 2008-04-11 
  2. ^ Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport "History of Japanese Roads" Retrieved 2008-04-11 
  3. ^ Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport "Roads in Japan - Metropolitan Ring Roads" Retrieved 2008-04-11 
  4. ^ http://wwwmlitgojp/road/road_e/pdf/ROAD2014webpdf
  5. ^ http://wwwstatgojp/english/data/nenkan/1431-12htm
  6. ^ a b Mizutani, Fumitoshi; Uranishi, Shuji 2006 Privatization of the Japan Highway Public Corporation: Policy Assessment pdf 46th Congress for the European Regional Science Association Volos, Greece Retrieved 2008-04-11 
  7. ^ Nagata, Kazuaki December 16, 2008 "A highway system that ever exacts toll" The Japan Times 
  8. ^ "NEXCO-Central Business Outline" pdf Retrieved 2008-04-13 
  9. ^ The Traffic Bureau of the National Police Agency 2001 Rules of the Road Japan Automobile Federation pp 72–74 
  10. ^ Zen-Nippon Dōro Chizuchō 全日本道路地図帖 All-Japan Road Atlas Tokyo Chizu Shuppan 2003 p 155 
  11. ^ "Framework of Agency's Business" Japan Expressway Holding and Debt Repayment Agency Retrieved 2008-04-13 
  12. ^ "Cooperation on New Direct Control System Sections 新直轄方式区間への協力 Shinchokkatsu Hōshiki Kukan e no Kyōryoku" Retrieved 2008-04-13 dead link
  13. ^ "New Direct Control System 新直轄方式" in Japanese Nishinippon Shimbun Wordbox Retrieved 2008-04-13 

External linksedit

  • Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, Road Bureauin English
  • Map of expressway routes in English
  • 全国の高速道路ガイド in Japanese

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