Are Cars Used In Japan & Should You Use Them Over Trains?

When people think of transportation in Japan, mainly Tokyo, they usually think of busy trains travelling at super-fast speeds. After all, this is the primary method of transportation around Japan’s capital city. However, everyone knows Japan is home to some of the world’s largest car brands, think Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Subaru Suzuki and so much more. With so many successful car brands in the country’s history, you would think that Japan would use these amazing & more importantly, reliable vehicles. So, are cars used in japan?

Japan is one of the top countries for having ‘Vehicles In-Use.’ In 2019, it came third on a list of countries with the highest number of used vehicles, with approximately 77 million. Despite Tokyo having a small number of cars in-use, a popular misconception is that this applies to Japan as a whole.

With that being said, we now know that cars are used in Japan, but not so much in Tokyo. In this article we are going to take a look at why cars aren’t used as much in Tokyo and if you should even consider using cars as a transportation method in Japan.  

Are Cars Used In Japan?

A common misconception about Japan is that they very rarely use cars. However, I can confirm this is not the case at all. The Japanese use motor vehicles a lot more than most people think. 

In fact, they use them so much that they were ranked 3rd in the world for countries with the most road-running vehicles in the world back in 2019. Japanese families and individuals took the number of in-use motor vehicles to around 77 million at the time of that particular world ranking.              

However, in 2022, the number of vehicles in Japan was at an estimated 82 million!

It shouldn’t be surprising considering the sheer amount of success Japan has had in the automotive industry itself. From big 4x4s, fun drifting machines to reliable estates, Japan’s amazing cars deserve to be driven in their home nation. And they are! 

To find out more about Japan’s drifting cars and whether drifting is illegal in Japan or not, we have the perfect article.

So, why do people think that cars aren’t much in Japan? There is a simple reason for this. 

Tokyo is the country’s capital city and is the main go-to area for tourists visiting Japan. The use of cars is definitely a lot different there compared to the rest of the country.

This leads us to the next point…

Are Cars Used In Tokyo?

If you are visiting Japan, this is probably the question you need answering most. Are cars used in Tokyo?

Cars are used in Tokyo, however, it has the lowest vehicle ownership of any other city or area in Japan. With an estimated number of only 3 million vehicles, when compared to the 14 million population of people, it’s safe to say that cars are not used in Tokyo much at all.

But, why is this?

With a country that uses vehicles so much and has a great reputation for making cars, why is Tokyo the exception? To put it simply, the train and tube systems are just so good that it wouldn’t make sense for the residents to drive their own vehicles. 

Not only this but the humongous population of the city would cause insanely congested roads with traffic jams if everyone decided to drive. It would make travelling around the city almost impossible at times, especially during rush hour. 

Now it’s not like you’ll never see a car driving in Tokyo; they are still very common on the roads. But, you won’t see them as much as any other city in Japan or around the world. 

Why Trains Are More Popular Than Cars In Tokyo

The train system in Tokyo is undoubtedly the go-to method of transport for people in Tokyo. The travel times between Tokyo’s major districts via the famous JR Line can be as short as just 10 minutes! 

This makes it perfect for people travelling to get from one end of the city to the other in the shortest amount of time, something that with cars, would be almost impossible. 

Another prime example of this situation is London, England. They do have cars driving on the roads (a much larger amount than in Tokyo), but the main method of transportation would be the infamous London underground tube system. It is just so much quicker and makes sense for the larger-than-usual population. This same thinking applies to Tokyo.

So, even though cars are used in Tokyo, it isn’t the primary method of transportation for many reasons. In fact, the majority of cars that are being used are by families, businessmen/tradespeople and taxis

Should You Use Cars In Japan?

To answer this question completely depends on whereabouts in Japan you are staying or visiting. If you are visiting family in a smaller village or going to a smaller city like Nara, then a car is definitely a valuable form of transport.

However, if you are visiting Tokyo then I would strongly advise against using a car for transportation. Not only because the trains are so good and more affordable for shorter stays, but also because the traffic at times can be insane. When visiting Tokyo, you want all of the time you have there to be spent enjoying your trip, not being stuck in traffic. You can get that back at home when you return!

If you are desperate to use a car in Tokyo then you can rent a car or book a taxi, or better yet get a motorcycle, but this should only be done if you really need it. A prime example is if you have a baby with you, as moving a stroller or buggy around on busy trains is not ideal for some people.


Cars are used at an insane amount in Japan. Despite Tokyo not using cars much at all, it is important to remember that Tokyo is not Japan as a whole. Japan is a big country and in other areas, cars just make much more sense than what they do in Tokyo.

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