Avoid a ticket by staying out of Okinawa's bus lanes

Avoid a ticket by staying out of Okinawa's bus lanes

by Shoji Kudaka
Stripes Okinawa

Some of you may be new to the island, while others may just seem to forget. But, despite signs and previous stories written by Stripes, I continue to see Y-number license plate cars pulled over for driving in Okinawa’s bus lanes.

When driving south on Route 58 to MCAS Futenma, you need to merge to the far-left lane at some point in order to make a left turn into the facility’s gate. However, doing that too early can lead to trouble.

I see it in the southbound lane between the south end of Camp Foster and the entrance of MCAS Futenma. The scene is all too familiar.

The bus lanes are those that can only be used by public busses during certain times of the day. And the penalty for violation can be 6,000-7,000 yen.

This law is an important one to know, and should be covered anytime someone is new to Okinawa. If you’ve been here for a while, you likely have heard of this many times.

There is nothing difficult about understanding the rule. To put it simply, it is a lane designated for buses, most likely the lane you would see on the far left. But it may require a special attention to note an actual bus lane when you get behind the wheel.

Although some bus lanes are colored green, some are not. Drivers need to note what time of day it is, because the rule only applies certain times of the day – typically rush-hour in the morning and evening.

It is pretty simple, but there are some smaller details one needs to know when driving during bus lane hours.

Did you know that when you only merge into a bus lane for a left turn once you’re close enough to the intersection where you will make the turn? Or that there are roads that turn exclusively into bus lanes, not allowing any personal vehicles to travel in certain directions at certain times?

According to the Okinawa Prefectural Police, the best advice for drivers to avoid bus lane violations, is to be aware of the rules before you drive. And ideally, have an idea of which areas are affected by the rule.

And with all of the people I see getting pulled over, maybe a refresher course would be worth the time.

Bus Lanes

*There are no base lanes effective on Saturdays, Sundays, National holidays in Japan, and January 1st through 3rd.

- Location: Southbound lane of Route 58 (From Isa intersection near the south end of Camp Foster to Nakanishi, southern end of Camp Kinser)

Time: 7:30 - 9 a.m.

Notes: Y-number plate cars are often stopped by local police on the road between Isa intersection and the sign of MCAS Futenma.


- Location: Southbound lane of Route 58 (From Jittchaku intersection to Aja intersection)

Time: 7:30 - 9 a.m.

Notes: This is a short section south of Camp Kinser, where you would drive if you don’t merge on to an elevated bridge that runs parallel.


- Location: Southbound lane of Route 58 (From Ameku to Kumoji Intersection)

Time: 7:30 - 9 a.m.

Notes: This is a long section that runs near the central part of Naha. Traffic on this portion of Route 58 becomes very heavy in the morning. But drivers of regular vehicles cannot take advantage of the less crowded lane on the far left. 


- Location: Northbound lane of Route 58 (from Asahibashi Intersection to Jittchaku, and Nakanishi to Makiminato Overpass, and Ojana to Isa)

Time: 5:30 - 7 p.m.

Notes: The northbound lane of Route 58 is regularly flooded with cars on their way home during the time period. If you go out Gate 1 of Camp Kinser during the time, drivers should not drive on the far left lane. 


- Location: Kokusai Street

Time: 7:30 - 9 a.m. (Southbound) 5:30 - 7 p.m. (Northbound)

Notes: During the above time period, this main street will be exclusively available for buses.


- Location Route 222 (Between Naha High School and Yogi Intersection)

Time: 7:30 - 9 a.m. (Naha High School bound) 5:30 - 7 p.m. (Yogibound)

Notes: During each time period, the road will be exclusively used by buses except for the Yogibound lane between Kainan and Naha High School, where the far left lane will be designated for bus lane.


- Location: Route 330 (From Kohagura through Yogi, northbound lane)

Time: 7:30 - 9 a.m.

Notes: Heavy traffic is regularly seen on this road, which runs almost parallel to Route 58


- Location: Route 329 to Route 507 (from Kanegusuku to Kohagura)

Time: 7:30 - 9 a.m.

Notes: Heavy traffic is regularly seen on this road.


- Location: Route 29 (Between Asato near Kokusai street and Yamagawa near Shuri Castle)

Time: 7:30 - 9 a.m. (Asato Intersection/Kokusai streetbound lane), 5:30 - 7 p.m. (Yamagawa/Shuri castlebound)

Notes: The Asato Intersection/Kokusai Streetbound lane near Shuri Castle between Yamagawa and Matsugawa is exclusively used by buses during the time period. This road tends to see heavy traffic going to Kokusai street or Shuri Castle. There is a reversible lane running at the center, which is used as an Asato Intersection/Kokusai streetbound lane from 6 a.m. through 5:30 p.m. whereas from 5:30 p.m. through 6 a.m., it becomes a Yamagawa/Shuri Castle/Matsugawabound, according to the Okinawa prefectural government.

- Okinawa Prefectural Police

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