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Driving on the Highway

Contrary to what your inaka-born-and-bred coworkers may tell you, driving on the highway is not scary at all. Chiba has several highways and toll roads that are sometimes cheaper and faster than the train, depending on where and when you're going. If you are making a long and expensive road trip, you may want to consider borrowing an ETC from a coworker or investing in one yourself. An ETC card is a fast pass card so you don't have to stop at the toll booth, and you also get a discount on the toll price itself.

The main highways in Chiba are:
  • the Tokyo Bay Aqualine (東京湾アクアライン Tōkyō-wan Akuwarain) that connects Kisarazu with Kanagawa Pref./Tokyo and has the Umihotaru rest area in the middle
  • the Tateyama Expressway (館山自動車道 Tateyama jidōsha-dō) that follows the west coast from Chiba to Tateyama
  • the Chiba-Togane road (千葉東金道路 Chiba Tōgane dōro) that goes east to Togane where it connects to the Ken-O
  • the Ken-O Expressway (圏央道路ken’ō dōro or 圏央道 ken’ō-dō)that loops from the Tokyo Bay Aqualine through the middle of Chiba and up to Choshi
  • the Higashi-Kanto Expressway (東関東自動車道 higashi kantō jidōsha-dō) that goes from Tokyo through Chiba City and Narita and up to Ibaraki Prefecture
  • the Keiyo Road (京葉道路 keiyo dōro)that connects Chiba and Tokyo

Here are some tips for driving on the highway:
  • Just like driving on regular roads, speed limits are ridiculously low (usually about 80kph). If you drive with traffic you should be OK, but try not to go over 120kph even at night--you never know when animals could be crossing, etc.
  • Signs on the highway can be confusing. If you can, bring a GPS, a smartphone, or a friend to navigate. (IC means Interchange, aka highway exit)
  • Green tollbooths labeled 一般 (ippan) are for everyone without an ETC card. Purple tollbooths are for ETC cards that give you a discount and let you proceed without coming to a complete stop. The red and green lights indicate which booths are open.
  • Some highways like the Tateyama Expressway and the Chiba-Togane Toll road become one lane with only a few short places to pass slower cars/trucks.

How to look up highway tolls using Drive Plaza (Japanese only)

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