Attractions Outdoor / Nature

Japan’s Romantic Road – First road trip!

24 August 2013

Somebody recently (and finally…) can legally drive in Japan so what better way to celebrate than going on a road trip?!

I’ve always wanted to go on the Romantic Road route. No particular reason why. I don’t even know exactly what places the route covers.

But I like Karuizawa in summer, and that is the only place I know on that route. I also like the name. Romantic Road. *nods*

That is all. Hahaha.

So off we went!

Somebody is super happy to drive again

It usually takes 2-5 days to cover the whole route, but we wanted to do it in a day, since we didn’t really mind skipping some of the places.

This was the route we took:

Point A: Tokyo

It was our first time driving in Japan and we had absolutely ZERO knowledge of the roads. At the same time, there were the differences in lane width, signage, etc. And the GPS! The GPS!!!

GPS was our sole reliable link of getting around but we couldn’t figure it out at the start! Hahaha. We were randomly jabbing buttons and hoped we can find the screen to enter our destination. When we found that screen, we had no idea how to enter the address T_T

But after that initial bumbling, we gradually found that the GPS is really amazing.
Like, seriously.

On top of the usual “Turn left in 300m, etc” standard stuff, it can tell us that there is a traffic jam ahead. How much highway tolls cost. Attractions in the area selected. Service areas. Shops around the turning, so you know you are turning at the correct point.

Optical shop on the right.Check.
Alcohol shop across the road. Check.
Turn NAO.

Is this common and I’m just being really suaku? But amazing to me nonetheless la!

Anyway, some photos of sights en route to Point B…

Prowess of the national sport (these are just part of all the fields available!)

Exclusive lane for payment of tolls via ETC card (Japan’s Cashcard)

We spotted a Google maps car and got ridiculously excited #nerd


Fu sped up, slowed down, switched lanes, just so we could snap photos.
(I took a dozen, but I don’t want to bore you)
So this is what being paparazzi feels like.

One of the things I was most excited about was visiting SA and PAs along the highway!

SA – Service Area
PA – Parking Area

You know those big resting areas equipped with toilets, restaurants and what not? I was really looking forward to visiting those. That’s like the epitome of road trips in Japan for me.

SAs are supposedly better equipped, bigger, nicer, etc than PAs. But in my (albeit limited) experience, the PAs are way nicer and newer than SAs!



Point B: Kegon Falls, Nikko, Tochigi

2 hours later, we drove into Nikko territory! But before we got to Kegon Falls, we had to battle some crazy mountain roads. I suspect Initial D might have been filmed here.

Does it remind of you of something? Small intestines, perhaps…? o_o

After successfully tackling the mountain, we have…


A kind stranger took this for us…

But the waterfalls are much prettier with our self-shot!

This is actually my second time visiting the waterfall site, but my first time seeing it.

How does that work out?

The first time I came was in 2009. From the same platform structure (just a different level), this was what I saw back then.

Nothing but a screen of grey.
I could HEAR the waterfall, but couldn’t see it -_-

Thanks, typhoon season.

So yeah, don’t visit high altitude places in September!

My hair was at my waist then! Man, I wanna try and keep my hair long again!

Lunch time!

Yuba (made from soy milk) is everywhere in Nikko, so we had a Yuba set!

Rolled yuba

It was so delicious! Man, I feel like having some now…*tummy rumbles* ._.

Point C: Lake Chuzenji, Nikko, Tochigi

It was drizzling slightly, but I think it’s such a gorgeous sight!! We sat there for a while looking out at the waters and mountains, and enjoying the breeze :)

Lake Chuzenji is HUGE though. We are only that tiny red spot on the map!

Point D: Fukiware Falls, Numata, Gunma

Fukiware Falls has a nickname: Mini Niagara Falls. Haha.

I’ve never seen Niagara Falls, but the mister has, and agrees that that he can see where the nickname came from.

I didn’t manage to take any pictures that can justify how nice it was. Too busy relishing the view instead ;D

So here’s one off the web:

image credit
So very pretty! Ahhhh, these moments are what makes life ♥

Point E: Mount Asama, Border of Gunma and Nagano

We were making our way to the most active volcano on Honshu, but the sky was already turning dark as we neared the place. We decided to skip it because so dark see what -_-


Point F: Karuizawa, Nagano

Karuizawa is a very pish posh place and it is said that many rich people and members of the royal family buy mansions here.

It has a huge outlet mall, and a ski park nearby. We were here skiing last winter!

On this day, unfortunately, we arrived at 8pm and the shops close at 9pm. But it’s ok. I didn’t buy anything from the mall on my last trip anyway.

We walked around, enjoying the peace and tranquility. The place is super spacious and very well-kept!

The bottom part of the photo is a ginormous pond, which unfortunately cannot be seen

After grabbing a caffeine fix for the driver in the form of a Starbucks’ grande frappuccino, we made our way back to Tokyo!

Last stopover at a PA for the belly

Point G: Home sweet home!

Random stats:

  • We left house at 8am, and reached home after 3am.
  • We traversed across 6 different prefectures.
  • We covered a total distance of 541km (poor driver!)
  • Car rental costs ~8,600yen. Tolls cost almost as much.

I don’t know why Romantic Road is called that. Maybe because there are so many long stretches of road during which you can bond with your other half?

Well, doesn’t matter. I’m glad to have gone on the trip! It also contributes towards fulfilling my bucket list! (To travel around Japan)

This marks the end of our first road trip, but definitely not the last!


  • Reply thf 23 August 2015 at 7:39 pm

    Hi, it is interesting you went on this road trip within a day. Where would you recommend stopping by for a nights rest? And where did you rent the car from? Thanks!

    • Reply Rin 24 August 2015 at 8:50 pm


      I would definitely recommend staying at Nikko! There are also many other things to do in Nikko (which we did on other trips).

      We rented our car from Orix. If you don’t understand Japanese, you might have to search for other English-friendly car rental companies like Nippon Rent-a-car or Toyota Rent-a-car.

      Hope this helps!

  • Reply Andrew 7 November 2016 at 12:59 pm

    Amazing post! Keep it up! You and your husband is a beautiful couple!
    Just do it! – “My hair was at my waist then! Man, I wanna try and keep my hair long again!” )))

  • Reply Lauren 23 July 2017 at 4:31 pm

    Great blog! Informative and funny :) We’re going to Japan on our honeymoon and are thinking about driving the romantic road. Do you think we will manage with no Japanese? Thanks!

    • Reply Rin 24 July 2017 at 7:43 pm

      The main obstacles are probably getting and setting the addresses in the GPS as well as navigating the roads of Japan. If you can rent a car with English GPS (or navigate using data on your own phone), and read up on driving in Japan beforehand, I think you’ll manage just fine!

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