If you're contemplating a road trip for part of your Japan travel adventures in the future, it's likely you'll need to plan out places to stop to refuel, stretch your legs, and use the restroom. Rest areas here are known as michi no eki – literally, 'roadside station,' and many of them are destinations in and of themselves.
This guide covers five of the country's best rest areas – be sure to keep them in mind when you visit!
Kariya Highway Oasis, Aichi
A rest area that doubles as an amusement park
If you want a little added fun in your future travels, find a way to work the Kariya Highway Oasis into your travel route. This rest area has a variety of amusement park rides for passersby to enjoy, including a giant ferris wheel.
If you need to use the restroom on your visit here, you'll be happy to know that this rest stop has some of the best bathroom facilities in all of Japan – seriously. You can check the Kariya Highway Oasis official website to take a peek at what to expect.
Hanyu Service Area, Saitama
For a step back in time experience
Located on the Tokohu Expressway inbound towards Tokyo you'll find Saitama's Hanyu service area, which provides a wonderfully fun step back in time experience. It has been designed to look like an Edo period village, with all of the stores and amenities fitting the theme. Because of this, it has become a tourist destination in and of itself!
Ito Marinetown Roadside Station, Shizuoka
A splash of color by the coast
If you're driving to the Izu Peninsula area, the Ito Marinetown Roadside Station is a fantastic place to stop and recharge. The colorful buildings provide a carnival-like atmosphere, with numerous souvenir stores and restaurants selling fresh seafood and other tasty treats. Even if you're not driving, the roadside station is quite accessible via public transport – it's around 15 minutes on foot from Ito Station, served by the Izu Kyūkō Line.
Phoenix Roadside Station, Miyazaki
For some phenomenal water views
If we're talking about photogenic rest areas, Miyazaki's Phoenix Roadside Station is right up there with the best. This rest area sits right by the palm-tree lined coast, and offers some incredible vistas of the Pacific Ocean and of a rock formation known as the Devil's Washboard. The soft-serve ice cream dished up here is also highly regarded, with some unique flavors on offer including hyuganatsu, a type of citrus fruit native to Japan.
Surugawan-Numazu Service Area, Shizuoka
European-inspired buildings by Suruga Bay
Another Shizuoka-based entrant on the list, the Surugawan-Numazu Service Area takes on a European feel with its buildings. The natural surroundings don't disappoint, either, with some great views of Suruga Bay available from the parking lot. There are numerous places to grab a bite to eat, and there is even a dog run available if you're traveling through the region with your canine companions.
Not spectacular, but important if you're traveling from Tokyo to Nagano is Kurabuchi Oguri no Sato in Takasaki. It overlooks a river and has all the things you need - restaurant, gift shop, and chill out space to take a break.