Take our user survey here!
Photo:
Live

What Happens If You Get A Traffic Ticket in Japan?

What happens when you get pulled over in Japan? How do you pay traffic fines? From tickets to demerit points, let's navigate the system.

By 6 min read

Driving in Japan offers convenience and flexibility, but there are important aspects to consider, from getting a driver’s license without knowing Japanese to renting a car. While the basic rules of the road are similar to those in other countries, the process and consequences of a traffic ticket in Japan can be quite different. Japan’s unique demerit point system and various types of tickets can be confusing.

When pulled over, you’ll be asked to show your license and residence card. Police in Japan are (usually) polite and may even apologize for inconveniencing you by pulling you over. However, this doesn’t mean they’re letting you go with just a stern warning. There’s very likely a ticket on the way.

While it’s best to avoid traffic violations altogether, here’s a guide to help you navigate the process if you ever receive a traffic ticket in Japan.

What Do The Ticket Colors Mean?

Photo:
You’re busted.

In Japan, there are four different classes of tickets, each with a unique color.

White

This is for minor infractions like forgetting to wear your seat belt. They don’t carry a financial penalty, although they will earn you a few demerit points (more on these soon).

Blue

Moving up the severity scale, the next class of tickets is blue. These are in the three to six demerit point range and come with a fee. Making an illegal turn, running a red light or using your phone while driving are some of the ones included in this category.

Red

The top is red, which is bad. Drive while intoxicated or without a license, and you’ll receive one of these. Expect your license to be suspended and to have to show up in court. There will also be a steep fine.

Yellow

The last category is yellow tickets, which are given out for parking violations. If your driving infraction is caught by a camera, your notification will also be one of these. Take the yellow ticket to the nearest police station to be exchanged for a white, blue or red one.

How Do The Demerit Points Work?

Photo:
They’re just looking for an excuse.

Japan implements a unique demerit point system for traffic violations called koutsuuihan. The severity of the offense determines the number of points added to one’s record.

Accumulating demerit points can lead to higher premiums. Insurance companies in Japan often consider the driver’s demerit point history when calculating insurance rates. In severe cases, the accumulation of demerits may lead to a suspended (mentei) or revoked (menkyotorikeshi) license.

For instance, surpassing the speed limit by more than 50 kilometers per hour results in 12 demerits and a red ticket, while exceeding it by less than 20 kph earns just one point. Moreover, the frequency of offenses matters; repeated violations lower the threshold for losing your license. Even holders of International Driver Permits are subject to demerit points.

Though these points don’t impact your license from your home country, accumulating too many can result in losing driving privileges in Japan. Additionally, attempting to transfer your license to a Japanese one with a suspended International Driving Permit on record may encounter complications.

How Many Demerit Points Are Violations Worth?

Below are how many points you can expect for a traffic violation.

Violation Points
Driving without a license 25
BAC of 0.25 or over 25
BAC under 0.25 13
Speeding: +50 kph or more 12
Speeding: +30-50 kph 6
Speeding: +25-30 kph 3
Speeding: +20-25 kph 2
Speeding: Under +20 kph 1
Running a red light 2
Parking in a no-stopping and parking zone 3
Parking in a no-parking zone 2
Failing to stop at a blinking light 2
Cell phone use (involved in an accident) 2
Cell phone use (regular) 1

How Much Do Traffic Fines Cost in Japan?

Photo:
You’ll need more than that, Kenji.

According to Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department website, fines for traffic violations are as follows:

Violation Type Fine (in thousands of yen)
Exceeding the speed limit by 35-40 km/h 40 (Large), 35 (Regular), 30 (Motorcycle), 20 (Small), 20 (Moped)
Exceeding speed limit by 30-35 km/h 30 (Large), 25 (Regular), 20 (Motorcycle), 15 (Small), 15 (Moped)
Exceeding speed limit by 25-30 km/h 25 (Large), 18 (Regular), 15 (Motorcycle), 12 (Small), 12 (Moped)
Exceeding speed limit by 20-25 km/h 20 (Large), 15 (Regular), 12 (Motorcycle), 10 (Small), 10 (Moped)
Exceeding speed limit by 15-20 km/h 15 (Large), 12 (Regular), 9 (Motorcycle), 7 (Small), 7 (Moped)
Exceeding the speed limit of less than 15 km/h 12 (Large), 9 (Regular), 7 (Motorcycle), 6 (Small), 6 (Moped)
Overloading by 10% or more (Regular) 35 (Motorcycle), 30 (Small), 25 (Moped)
Overloading by 5-10% (Regular) 40 (Large), 30 (Motorcycle), 25 (Small), 20 (Moped)
Overloading by less than 5% (Regular) 30 (Large), 25 (Motorcycle), 20 (Small), 15 (Moped)
Using a mobile phone while driving 25 (Large), 18 (Regular), 15 (Motorcycle), 12 (Small), 12 (Moped)
Disobeying traffic signals (red) 12 (Large), 9 (Regular), 7 (Motorcycle), 6 (Small), 6 (Moped)
Disobeying traffic signals (flashing) 9 (Large), 7 (Regular), 6 (Motorcycle), 5 (Small), 5 (Moped)
Defective brakes 12 (Large), 9 (Regular), 7 (Motorcycle), 6 (Small), 6 (Moped)
Defective taillights 9 (Large), 7 (Regular), 6 (Motorcycle), 5 (Small), 5 (Moped)
Inadequate operation record device 12 (Large), 9 (Regular), 7 (Motorcycle), 6 (Small), * (Moped)
Violating railroad crossing 15 (Large), 12 (Regular), 9 (Motorcycle), 7 (Small), 7 (Moped)
Violating lane restrictions 12 (Large), 9 (Regular), 7 (Motorcycle), 6 (Small), 6 (Moped)

Drinking and Driving in Japan

Photo:
Just over 0.03%, and you will have a bad time.

Exceeding a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of approximately 0.03% can result in severe legal consequences, including imprisonment for up to three years and a fine of up to ¥500,000. A BAC exceeding approximately 0.05% incurs even harsher penalties, with potential imprisonment for up to 5 years and a fine of up to ¥1,000,000.

In either situation, you risk losing your driving license.

Also, people who provide you with alcohol, encourage you to drink, or provide you with a vehicle can face significant penalties. Those who supply the vehicle are subject to the same fines and prison terms as the driver.

Photo:
They will absolutely chase you down, even on a bike.

Alcohol providers could face up to three years in prison and a fine of up to ¥300,000 or up to two years in prison and a fine of up to ¥200,000, depending on the driver’s level of intoxication. Passengers in the vehicle face identical penalties to those who provided alcohol. Similarly, if you are a passenger in a vehicle with a driver who has been drinking, you risk the same fines and imprisonment.

It is important to note that authorities may use different measurements based on breath alcohol concentration (BrAC), with thresholds set at 0.15% and 0.25%, respectively.

And just so you know, that includes bicycles.

How Do You Pay a Traffic Fine in Japan?

Photo:
You do practically everything at a post office in Japan.

When you receive a colored ticket from the police in Japan, you’ll also get a smaller slip of paper with the fine written on it. You have seven days to pay this fine. Head to a bank or post office during business hours to process the payment, which must be made in cash and cannot be paid in installments.

Not paying the fine within the first week will prompt a notification by mail specifying where and when to pay. Failure to pay even after this notice can lead to criminal procedures. If you dispute the ticket and refuse to pay, you’ll be summoned to court for a trial.

  • Payment Method: Cash only.
  • Where to Pay: Banks or post offices.
  • When to Pay: During regular business hours.
  • Process: Pay the full amount in cash. No installments.

It pays to be aware of basic traffic laws in Japan to avoid getting a traffic ticket.

If you’re unsure about the current traffic laws, the Japan Automobile Federation offers a booklet called Rules of the Road, translated into several foreign languages. It is available for purchase on Amazon.jp.

This article was written in collaboration with Aaron Baggett.

Have you ever been pulled over in Japan? Tell us about it in the comments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA - Privacy Policy - Terms of Service

Related

Live

How to Get a Driver’s License in Japan

Tips on the process and English-speaking driving schools.

By 5 min read 2

Live

Is June the Worst Month in Japan?

What month is filled with rain, high humidity and plenty of bloodsuckers? Welcome to June in Japan.

By 5 min read

Learn

Making Reservations in Japanese

Failsafe ways to book accommodations, tickets and dinners out in Japan.

By 5 min read