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New law permits Taiwanese to drive in Okinawa

Date Posted: 2007-09-27

A week-old change to Japanese Traffic Laws has opened the doors to Taiwanese driving in Okinawa with their home country licenses, but local officials are saying a lack of English language signs may make things tough.

The reciprocal law permitting Taiwanese to use a Taiwan driver’s license in Japan, and Japanese to drive in Taiwan on Japanese licenses, was effective September 19th. Tourist companies and rental car agencies are scrambling to market the new privileges, but say there aren’t enough road signs to make it easy.

The first tourists eligible to drive under the new law arrived Saturday. Tourists say they’d like to drive, but there aren’t enough traffic, destination and parking signs in English. A requirement Taiwanese licenses be translated to Japanese is another obstacle being worked, as is the issue of installing vehicle navigation systems with English and other foreign languages.

Nippon Rent A Car Okinawa began promoting the new opportunity last month. Nippon has contracted to have English language translations of traffic rules, and what to do in case of accidents. “We are looking for the kind of rich private travelers who can use the rental car,” a Nippon official says, noting “Until now, most Taiwanese traveled by cruise ships. We believe that now, since they can drive here, we can be of service.”

Government officials say there are education concerns, mostly with driving on the left side of the road, understanding bus lanes that operate 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and how to cope with the many one-way roads on the islands. They also cite issues of roads requiring additional maintenance and environmental updating.

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