The Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway was opened in short segments beginning with a 4.5-km-long section linking Kyobashi to Shibaura that went into service on Dec 20, 1962.
The toll road network currently boasts a length of 300 kilometers, and between now and 2020, when Tokyo hosts the Olympic games, more improvements are in the works, reports Weekly Playboy (April 28). At the end of the current fiscal year, the Chuo Kanjo Shinagawa-sen (central ring road) will be completed. Still to come are expressways bypassing the western parts of Yokohama and Tokyo, relieving the chronic congestion on National Highway 16.
The toll system was revamped from the end of 2011. Previously drivers of regular passenger cars paid a flat fee of 400 yen if they entered the road network in Saitama, 600 yen in Kanagawa and 700 yen in Tokyo. That system was changed to charges based on distance driven, from a minimum of 510 yen (as of April 1, 2014, when the consumption tax went up) for less than 6 km; 610 yen for 6 to 12 km; 720 yen for 12 to 18 km, and so on, up to a maximum of 930 yen.
If you’re adventuresome, that single 930 yen outlay will let you tour the capital and environs from the elevated expressway for up 1o 149.4 kilometers. To drive the longest possible route you’d have to enter at Minuma in Saitama prefecture, taking route 5 to C2 to Kasai, then route B along Tokyo Bay all the way to Honmoku in Yokohama. From there you can continue along routes K1, C1, 3 and 4, exiting at Takaido in Suginami Ward.
Before attempting that, it might be a good idea to be aware of the sections where cops aboard motorcycles or in patrol cars are most likely to pounce on speeders—most often in lightly traveled sections such as the Wangan-sen along Tokyo Bay, the Saitama-sen and Fukagawa Road 9 headed toward Tokyo.
The most stunning view by far, says Weekly Playboy, can be admired along the Daikoku-sen between Daikoku and Namamugi junctions on Kanagawa 5, which was opened in 1989 in Yokohama’s Tsurumi Ward. Weather permitting, as you glance westward you’ll see an expanse of ocean and Yokohama’s Minato Mirai complex with the 70-story Landmark Tower, Japan’s 3rd highest building, and Mt Fuji towering in the background.
A little known piece of modern history can be found in the “AH1 Asian Highway” sign that’s mounted directly over the Nihombashi bridge. This marks the “genpyo” (starting point) of the 20,557-km-long road, a cooperative project also referred to as the Great Asian Highway, that was initially agreed upon by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in 1992. Plans called for it to proceed from Tokyo to Fukuoka in Kyushu, then by ferry connection to Busan, South Korea (an undersea tunnel project is on hold), and from there to Pyongyang, Beijing, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh, Yangon, Dhaka, New Delhi, Islamabad, Kabul, Tehran and terminating in Istanbul, where it connects to European Route 80. For reasons ranging from political rivalry to economics, the viability of the project is in doubt.
In 2012, 11,279 accidents were recorded on the expressway, an average of just over 30 per day. The spot with the greatest number of fender-benders was between the Edobashi and the Hakozaki junctions, where 113 occurred that year. The cause is presumed due to the fact that cars successively merge into the main lanes from both the right and left sides, something that unaccustomed drivers find perplexing. Sections where roads merge or entrances to the expressway where drivers attempt to butt in and others fail to yield right of way, resulting in frequent accidents, include the Takebashi, Hamazakibashi and Horikiri junctions, and the Yoga, Ooi, Taishi and Muromachi entrance ramps. The S-curve at Shiodome is also notorious.
Finally, the lanes exiting the Kasumigaseki Tunnel in Chiyoda Ward in the direction of Shinjuku can be particularly treacherous, because drivers wishing to exit are required to transverse two lanes of traffic moving straight ahead. How did that bungling situation come to pass? Somewhere a village is missing its idiot.