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Driving in Japan, Stop By the Service Areas on Highways!
Japan is famous for being clean, having great customer service and amazing food. From restaurants to convenience stores to even your local McDonald’s or KFC, you can rest assured that you will get high-quality product delivered by friendly and helpful staff. Knowing this, it should come as no surprise that even at a truck stop, those places where one might find themselves in the middle of a long drive in need of a cheap and terrible coffee, Japan absolutely has you covered.
Why is a Truck Stop in Japan so Special?
While truck stops are, at least in my home country, often just a petrol station with a few tasteless and expensive snack options, in Japan they are unbelievable! They seem to have everything that you can possibly need during a long drive, and the prices are not usually unreasonable. There you can find restaurants, convenience stores, gift shops, bathrooms, smoking areas, petrol stations and more.
On my recent drive outside of Tokyo, where I visited Izu and Shizuoka as well as climbed Mt Fuji, I was fortunate enough to come across the EXPASA-branded truck stops on my way out of Tokyo and also on my return journey home. Here are a few of my experiences having visited Japanese truck stops.
The food at the truck stops is kind of like typical food court food, but with Japanese-level quality it is still very decent. The above picture was a delicious ramen and curry rice set for only 950 yen! Most meals will come under 1000 yen and there are a generally a large variety of meals including ramen, curry, burgers, tempura, udon and soba. Even with all that I am positive that I am forgetting something.
I think that the most surprised I have been in quite a while was entering this truck stop near Yokohama on the way back to Tokyo and realizing that it had escalators and a whole second floor. This truck stop was in fact bigger than a lot of shopping malls. Besides restaurants, inside there were grocery stores, gift shops and coffee shops. Before leaving we picked up some regional omiyage (お土産’, “gifts”, often souvenirs or candy) for our friends and family. It is great finding regional sweets that you just cannot get anywhere else, but in case you forget while at your holiday destination, you can likely find them on the way back if you visit a truck stop!
Getting to a truck stop is simple. As you drive along the highways in Japan, you will see signs that indicate when a rest stop is approaching. However, there are different types of stops in Japan. The most basic facilities have just a bathroom, smoking area and payphone. One step above that and they will have a convenience store and a petrol station. The best type, and the ones we came across on our travels, where the big EXPASA truck stops. The easiest way is to pay attention to those highway signs and check the graphics that accompany them. The big ones will always display the most available facilities on the signs.
There is parking available for pretty much any type of vehicle, and it is separated by size, with trucks parking towards the back.
If you are thinking about taking a driving trip in Japan, definitely go for it. Japan is a country with a low speed limit, mountainous winding roads and spectacular views, so go rent a car, get traveling and enjoy some truck stop food and shopping![cft format=0]