This is my third time of doing self drive in Japan, the first is to Kyushu Island covering all the seven prefectures, second visit was to Central Japan region including the famous Shiragawa Go and now my third self drive in Japan; to Kansai, Shikoku and Chugoku region.
I love travel with rental car and do road trips in Japan, especially to remote places where you can find lots of hidden gems and also cheaper way of travel if you have a group of 4. You see the thing is, many people think driving in Japan is hard, they can’t speak the languages or read the words in the signboard; they think roads are so narrow. The fact is the signboards are all written in both English and Kanji/Chinese Characters; the roads aren’t narrow especially when you are in expressway.
One facts you need to know is 90% of the population lives in big cities such as Tokyo, Yokohama and Osaka and not many population live outside these big cities. Driving is not advisable in those 3 big cities. Over 70% of Japan is covered by mountain so if you drive away from these big cities, there really not that many congestion and so easy to handle. If you have done self drive in Perth, then I would say it is similar to that.
Rest Area in Japan
When you are doing road trip in Japan with a rental car, you will encounter plenty of rest area along the highway. Visiting the rest area in Japan can be very interesting for both the locals and foreigners. This is because these rest areas are often more than a usual rest area that you see.
Important Sign in Japanese Expressway
First lets find out some important sign along Japanese expressway. You often seen sign with PA & SA and with logo of folk and spoon. Both has folk & spoon mean both offer food. Yes, that’s correct. But,what is the different between PA & SA?
Difference Between PA & SA Sign
PA stands for Parking area, it comes with toilets and some vending machines and may be a restaurant. SA stands for Service Area and generally larger than PA (parking area). Service areas feature toilets, bigger shops/supermarket, plenty of restaurants and a petrol station. PA does not have a petrol station.
Below is SA (Service Area) – if you look at the signboard, it indicate a petrol station, folk & spoon. Let’s find out Awaji Rest Area,
Awaji Rest Area – Review
Awaji Rest Area is one of the best stop you could find in Chugoku Region. If you are doing road trips in Shikoku & Chugoku region, coming to Awaji rest area is a must!
More than a rest area!
Awaji Rest Area is more than a rest area, it has the ferris wheel overlooking the sea view, shopping, cafe and coolest bathrooms & toilets with advance features such as heated seat and otohime/sound princess.
Parking Area : Over 400 car parking lots.
The parking area is so big and spacious and cars and trucks park at different spaces. About 336 parking lot for small car, 103 for big truck and 2 for super long truck trailer. There are also 4 parking lot for disable. In total, there over car park lots!
Over 100 toilet bathrooms!
At the entrance of the building for shopping and food, there are line of vending machines and recycle bins and over 100 toilets for both men and women.
How to use Toilet in Japan
Used toilet paper has to be thrown into the toilet bowl. Unlike in China, used toilet paper are not thrown in the toilet bowl when flushed, it is thrown at the rubbish bin provided near the toilet bowl. This may be due to China toilet flushing are good enough to flush away the toilet paper. Throwing the paper at the rubbish bin provided can be cause discomfort when you enter the toilet.
That’s the cultural difference between China and Japan. Luckily Malaysia and Singapore toilets are the same as Japan and West.
Toilets in Awaji Rest Area are rated 5 Star!
Some toilets in Japan are more elaborate than toilets commonly found in other developed nations. There are control elements and advance features, such anal hydiene, bidet washing, seat warming and deodorization. It is really facinating to use the toilet in Japan.
Shopping in Awaji Rest Area – 24 hours
The shopping here sells souvenirs or Japanese called in “omiyage” – usually are food in nice boxes and fancy wrapping paper. Japanese has this “omiyage” culture where a gift/usually food to give to family, friends or coworkers after coming home from a trip. It is a serious business in Japan and you can’t go empty-handed to the office from a trip. The indoor shopping is 24 hours.
Omiyage お土産 means local speciality
Omiyage /お土産 literally translated as local products. The local speciality here are mandarin orange products & seafood octopus, squid, seaweed from Seto Inland Sea; Onion Pie (Awaji is famous for its sweet white onions) and many more.
Shikoku Omiyage / Shikoku Souvenir
Restaurants Review in Awaji Rest Area
There are several restaurants, cafe and food courts serving variety of cuisine.
Food Court Center operate 24 hours
We decided to have noodles. These are the steps to make your order.
1. Choose your order, there are pictures beside each number.
2. Insert paper notes or coins inside the ordering machine.
3. Pick up the tickets from the machine and wait for your number to be called.
Our orders – Kitsune (Marinated tofu skin) Udon, Wakame Udon, Ramen set including Toriage /Japanese fried chicken with rice.
Free water or tea
Outside it has a beautiful view with fantastic panoroma of the mainland overlooking Kobe and the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge.
Wataru is the bridge’s mascot – you can see there is a car on top of Wataru’s head.
Akashi Kaikyo Bridge / 明石海峡大橋
Once we exit Awaji Rest Area, we drove towards the mainland of Honshu passing through the longest bridge in Japan called – Akashi Kaikyo Bridge. The length of the bridge is almost 2 km connecting Awaji and Kobe. The bridge has a nickname called “Pearl Bridge”.
The Akashi Kaikyo Suspension Bridge is designed in such a manner where the earthquakes and harsh sea currents doesn’t damage the bridge. It even survive the big Kobe earthquake on Jan 1995. I was in Japan during the big earthquake!
Final thoughts :
Japan rest area offer more than a toilet break or fill up with petrol. It even have unexpected facilities such as,telescopes & Ferris wheels. The Awaji Rest Area is one of the famous rest area that you cannot missed if you are doing a road trip from mainland to Awaji Shikoku area.