There seems to be more and more people renting cars for their snow season trips to Japan, so I thought it might be good to illiterate some of the potential hazards!!!!! 1. Driving under the influence of alcohol. Contrary to what some people say is a relaxed attitude to drink driving (particularly in Niseko), it's something you should not ignore. There are two rules: a. Over the legal limit. This is 0.03%. The fine is up to 500,000 yen, and possibly up to 3 years in gaol. If you are above 0.08%, it's 1,000,000 yen and up to 5 years in gaol. b. Driving while drunk(or similar meaning). This is an arbitrary judgement made by the policeman, that you are drunk, regardless of no breathalyser test. similar penalties to the 0.08%. I think the rule would be applied if you were under the influence of some drug Refusing a breathalyser is a 500,000 yen fine. Most expats use a "0.00% rule"; to make sure there is no problem. 2. Accidents. The normal investigative rules should apply, there are some rules of thumb: a. Generally, a Japanese person is more likely to be in the right, than a foreigner if it involves vehicles of the same size. (unless there is clear supporting evidence) b. Usually, the larger vehicle is in the wrong. I know this sounds absurd, but generally it's correct. So for example, accident between car and scooter, the car is in the wrong. Truck and a car, the truck is in the wrong. I know a guy who was drunk, staggered into bushes at the side of the road, tripped on a tree root and suddenly fell into the roadway. He was hit by a scooter, and the scooter was in the wrong!!! 3. Bicycles. Be EXTREMELY careful of these. Around city thoroughfares and side streets (but not big main roads) at least 50% of the riders will not even LOOK to see if there is a car coming. A colleague saw a kid get cleaned up by a garbage truck two weeks ago, because the kid just hurtled out of a side street. Luckily, the truck was traveling very slowly. Be defensive and always assume there will be a bike coming out of a side street as any moment. I may take some video the next couple of times I go to the super market, as I've got a 20% chance of catching this on video!!!! (I'm thinking about buying one of those traffic cam things) If you are turning right across traffic at traffic lights, before turning, check the footpaths to make sure you won't clean up a cyclist who's traveling at break neck speed on the footpath. 4. Pedestrian crossings. They take practically no notice of these, even if you're already on the crossing. 5. Traffic lights. They run red lights. Now, whenever the light turns amber, I look in the rear vision mirror to see if somebody is behind me. If there is, I will run through the amber (or even red), because the following driver will expect you to run the amber, and if you don't, he'll run up your back side!!!! Oh, and most traffic lights will have a red, and green turn lights..... I'm still not sure what it means when there is a red light, and under that there are left green, straight green, right green arrows!!!!!! 6. Scooters. They ride near the gutter. They sit in your blind spot, and they have no clue about the best place to ride. It's very easy to hit them, particularly if you're turning left. 7. Most drivers are inexperienced, so they do dumb things. Just expect them to. I will add other thoughts as they come to me!!!!! Be careful !!!!!!!!!