What side is the steering wheel on in japan?

What side is the steering wheel on in japan?


In Japan, the steering wheel is located on the right side of the vehicle, which means that the driver sits on the right-hand side as well. This is the opposite of what is commonly seen in countries like the United States and most of Europe, where the steering wheel is on the left side of the vehicle. The placement of the steering wheel in Japan is a result of various historical and cultural factors, which we will explore in this article.

Historical Background

The origins of Japan’s right-hand driving can be traced back to the Edo period (1603-1868) when Japan was under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate. During this time, samurais, who were predominantly right-handed, would ride on the left side of the road to have their right arm free for drawing their swords. This practice influenced the positioning of the steering wheel in later years.

In 1872, Japan adopted a set of traffic regulations that mandated left-hand driving. However, in 1924, the government made the decision to switch to right-hand driving to align with neighboring countries like China and Korea. This change was implemented gradually, and by 1948, right-hand driving became the standard in Japan.

Vehicle Manufacturing

The shift to right-hand driving in Japan also influenced the design and manufacturing of vehicles. Japanese car manufacturers produce vehicles specifically tailored for the domestic market, where right-hand driving is the norm. This includes the positioning of controls, such as the gear shift and indicator stalks, which are designed to be easily accessible for right-hand drivers.

International Compatibility

While Japan drives on the left side of the road, it is worth noting that the steering wheel position is not the sole determinant of road rules and regulations. In some cases, vehicles manufactured for the Japanese market may not meet the safety and regulatory standards of other countries with left-hand driving. Therefore, if someone from Japan plans to drive a vehicle in a left-hand driving country, they may need to make modifications or purchase a different vehicle to comply with local regulations.

Tourism and Foreign Drivers

With the increasing number of tourists visiting Japan, the issue of driving on the opposite side of the road has become a concern for foreign drivers. To address this, rental car companies in Japan provide vehicles with steering wheels on the left side for tourists who are more comfortable with left-hand driving. Additionally, road signs and markings in popular tourist areas often include English translations to assist foreign drivers.


In conclusion, the steering wheel is located on the right side of vehicles in Japan, with drivers sitting on the right-hand side. This practice has historical roots and is now deeply ingrained in Japanese culture and road regulations. While it may present challenges for foreign drivers, Japan has taken steps to accommodate tourists and ensure their safety on the roads.


– Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association: www.jama.or.jp
– Japan National Tourism Organization: www.jnto.go.jp
– Japan Traffic Safety Association: www.jtsa.or.jp