NEWS: Japan raises its national speed limit


Last Thursday, the Japanese government passed a law allowing the raising of the national speed limit for the first time. Ever since the opening of Japan’s first highway, the Meishin Expressway, in 1963 the speed limit has been pegged at 100 kph (approximately 62 mph). The new laws will lift that cap to 120 kph (approximately 75 mph) on select expressways. 


It’s almost ridiculous that the speed limit has gone unchanged for so long. In 1963, a typical Japanese car was something like a Subaru 360, Nissan Bluebird 312, or a Toyopet Crown. And yet, despite tremendous advancements in safety, fuel efficiency and high-speed stability, GT-Rs, Supras and NSXes were constrained by the same rules (not that anyone really followed them outside of speed camera zones anyway).

016s_JNC Grand Touring Kanto

The recommendation comes on the heels of research jointly conducted by the highway regulation experts, police agencies and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. The study showed that raising the speed limit by 20 kph didn’t really result in more accidents as long as violations were enforced.


The first five roads to employ the 120 kph will be the Tohoku, Kanetsu, Joban, Tomei, Shin-Tomei and Kyushu expressways. Large trucks, however, will still be capped at 80 kph (5o mph), and urban loops like the Shuto will keep their 100 kph limits.


While Japanese drivers are now free to put their collective right foot down with a little less anxiety, the decision also means that the speed warning chime in most nostalgic domestic cars built from 1974 to 1986 kicks in far too early (usually 105 kph).

Skorj is co-founder of Filmwasters; you can find more of his work at Cars on Film and here on JNC.

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20 Responses to NEWS: Japan raises its national speed limit

  1. Alex says:

    Haha pretty sure almost nobody goes to the speed limit on the highway anyway

  2. Sideglide says:

    I had the chime aka “King Kong” installed as a novelty in my Corolla GT-S several years ago. It took all of one trip to the local Fry’s Electronic store to realize I made a huge mistake. This one came on at 101 km/h or about 61 mph. I will see if I can find a video of it in action but the chime sounds off at about half the speed of a “door ajar” chime.

    Luckily, while at said Fry’s, I grabbed a toggle switch and installed it in-line so I could switch it off. From time to time, it was fun to switch it on if I had a passenger or at the local gymkana event.

    Fun fact #1: Because the chime is annoying and many speed on the expressways, many Japanese owners simply unplugged it at tossed in the garbage. Now, some chimes are actually worth good money!

    Fun fact #2: The chime is called “King Kong” for the 2-tone chime it makes aka; it makes a high pitch “king” sound followed by a lower pitch “kong” sound. Say the 2 words out loud and you get the idea of what it sounds like.

  3. Nigel says:

    Here in Canada they are just now raising the speed limit from 100 km/h to 120 km/h.
    (And only in Vancouver so far).

    • nnywg says:

      Alberta envies man

    • Dimitry says:

      Hey, at least we don’t have speedtraps here! My brain just couldn’t comprehend it after I moved to Toronto from Jerusalem. The transfer from a country with up to 1 camera per kilometre to 0 per country was…strange…
      Speaking of which, Israel’s speed limit was raised to 110km/h on most highways roughly 5 years ago. Glad to see that government officials start noticing that we don’t live in 1960 any more.

  4. Wayne Thomas says:

    The speed limit has been 120kph for a long time. Even when around a white Toyota Crown – kosokodoro drivers know what a white Toyota Crown means especially if it has two little black sticks on the rear window.

    Plus, I’ve never had a speed camera go off at 120kph. I’ve blown through some at 140kph and no ticket. But then, this is out of the cities so maybe in Tokyo the cameras actually work.

  5. SHC says:

    I’m sure the KPH increase will be appreciated by the Japanese citizenry especially on the open motorways. Here in Texas we have higher speed (80 MPH) limits which everyone exceeds by as much as 20 mph. That being said owning a Japanese GT car feels very comfortable at 100-120 range.
    Sounds like the Japanese increase was long overdue, hope they enjoy their scenery which now passes at a faster pace.

  6. Yoda says:

    I wonder if this ties in with the effort to get more home-market sales of full-size (non-kei) cars?

  7. MikeRL411 says:

    In 1962 I drove from Tokyo to Hakone on the brand new section of the Expressway! The speed limit was 60 KPH! 35 MPH on a superhighway? It was in my 1955 Chevy Bel Aire coupe with the new V8. Salmon Pink and Grey! How times have flown! For example,we stayed overnight in a Ryokan, dinner and Breakfast included for 1,000 yen per person! $10 per head by current exchange rates,$2.89 by the then 360 yen per dollar rate. Why 360 yen per dollar? Because it was 1,000 yen per British Pound Sterling! Japan and British ties extend beyond the Government organization into a House of Lords [now upper house] and the House of Commons [now the Parliament lower house].

  8. Censport says:

    How nice that the expressway speed limits have finally caught up with me.

    Er, the times. I meant “caught up with the times”.


  9. Brignola says:

    You guys would love the Motorways in France: 130 Kph – approx. 80 Mph – lovely flat tarmac – not too crowded outside urban areas – the only downside is: the fastest streches are mostly are toll roads

  10. Foo says:

    This will never happen in Victoria, Australia. They have brainwashed people into believing that speeding is the problem. Regardless that all new cars are significantly safer than their predecessors. This is so the government can install more speed cameras on our roads to raise more revenue.

    • Skorj says:

      The roads Sport, its about the roads. There might be one road in Vic that comes anywhere near to the safety and layout of the Japanese expressways mentioned? No idea, but how many km of Australian roads have crash barriers down their full length, on both sides?

      • steve elliott says:

        there is thousands of kilometres of safe freeways in victoria , three lanes wide , crash barriers down the middle , but the public has been brainwashed that anything over 100 ks your car will automatically crash and you will die . its brutally reinforced by speed cameras ,. a major money source for the government

        • Skorj says:

          It is running off the side into those stationary trees that gets you every time though. Hence the need for side barriers too… All the roads quoted here have just that.

  11. Brian Guinan says:

    It’s definitely a step in the right direction for the Japanese motorist .It’s time the pre historic mentally retarded “road safety experts” in this country took notice of what is happening in other countries with no increase to their road tolls. It’s absolutely ridiculous that we should still be tied down to speed limits that were set for 1960s model cars .

  12. JHMBB2 says:

    We just came from Japan and drove an RX7 for a couple days in Japan. Speed limit might have been 80 KPH, but I had to go 120 KPH just to keep up with the traffic, even then people were passing me.

  13. Ant says:

    Refreshing to see an authority deciding that a higher speed limit would be no less safe than the lower one as long as it’s correctly policed. Such logic would never pass in the UK…

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