Freeway rest areas in Japan 日本のサービスエリア
Between gas station and amusement park
In addition to allowing motorists to rest for a few minutes during a long journey, the rest areas offer them, in addition to what to eat, a whole host of small, even sometimes extravagant pleasures!
If you've ever driven in Japan, you must have ventured on the highways . Just like in France, these ultra-fast lanes are dotted with rest areas at regular intervals. While some only have a car park, toilets and vending machines , others, larger, offer motorists experiences that are sometimes out of the ordinary. Indeed, in Japan, there are SA ( service area ), rest area, and PA ( parking area ), parking areas , which are more extensive.
1963, Birth of motorway rest areas
But above all, we must go back in time. It was in 1963, in Shiga prefecture, that the first motorway service area was created. Only equipped with parking and toilets, its view of Lake Biwa and the city of Otsu attracted motorists. Since then, the number of rest and parking areas has continued to grow, and even more so since the privatization of the highways in 2005 .
Read: Visiting Otsu
So of course, there are gas stations and other highway restaurants where you can enjoy ramen, udon or yakitori on the go. But there are also other areas, which have become real miniature leisure parks where you stop much more than just to take a break on your journey.
And there's something for everyone: from the area offering culinary specialties from the region, to the one with a sports course for dogs or a Ferris wheel with multicolored cabins . Some even contain onsen or even motels.
Areas with multiple activities
If ever some of these areas are on your way, do not hesitate to stop, it is worth a look. Note, for example, the Maesawa area (Tôhoku highway), which is one of the most luxurious in the country and has its own mini-golf course . The Fujikawa area (Tômei highway), which is nothing special except that it offers a superb view of Mount Fuji . Or the Awaji area (Kobe-Awaji-Naruto highway) with its Ferris wheel which culminates at more than 100 meters high and offers a panoramic view of Naruto Bay .
See: Visit Naruto
And amazing architectures
There is also another type of area, which is distinguished not so much by the attractions or the products that they offer, but by their architecture .
Thus, the Neopasa Hamamatsu area (Tomai highway) is unique in that its building is in the shape of a piano , the nearby town of Hamamatsu being especially known for its musical instruments.
The Hanyu area (Tôhoku highway) is also famous since it fully recreates the setting of the novel and the television series Onihei hankacho . All shops and buildings appearing in the novel are built identically, thus recreating the village of Edo.
Finally, the Yorii area is entirely dedicated to Saint-Exupéry's Little Prince . The little blond guy and his companions are displayed on all the walls, just like quotes, in French, taken from the novel. The shop even sells imagawayaki , small filled Japanese desserts in the shape of an elephant that strangely resembles a hat, unless it's the other way around.
As you will have understood, the motorway rest areas in Japan are worth the detour!