Driving on the Left in Japan. Why is it Left?




Most of countries have right-hand traffic.

That is, people drive cars and motorcycles on the right side of the road.

Some countries, however, have left-hand traffic.

Japan is one of them and others include England, Australia, Malaysia, South Africa, Kenya etc…


It’s right-hand traffic in Canada and the US.

Today I’m going to discuss why Japan uses left-hand traffic.


Why Do Japanese Follow Left-Hand Traffic?


According to record, it is said that Japanese exercised left-hand traffic already in the early 1600s (Edo period).

There are different theories but the most famous theory argues that samurai started it.

Samurai soldiers had sword on their left so they used to follow left-hand traffic.

left hand


If those samurai use right-hand traffic, for instance, some would argue and start fighting.

right hand



Other people saw the samurai exercising left-hand traffic and they followed the rule.

It was not officially ruled by Japanese government until 1949.

In 1949, the government ruled all traffic go on the left lane.


Most Countries Used to Follow Left-Hand Traffic?




It is said that most countries used to follow left-hand traffic.

According to Anthropologists, ancient Egypt and Greece, for instance, utilized left-hand traffic during 753-509 BC.


In 1700s, nevertheless, one man changed left-hand traffic in many countries and most of them switched to right-hand traffic.

His name was Napoleon Bonaparte and he was French.


I think this theory makes sense because all countries that switched to right-hand traffic were French colonies.

England and Japan were not France colonies, thus left-hand traffic remained.




To conclude, left-hand traffic was already confirmed in 1600s.

It is said that samurai influenced left-hand traffic.

Napoleon forced other countries to have right-hand traffic, but Japan was not affected.




 - Culture

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