Driving on the highway can be expensive (though ETC cards cut that cost dramatically, as do changes made in 2011).

Here's how to calculate exactly how expensive your planned trip is going to be.

It's simple really, there's a website which tells you. The only problem is the lack of English options.

Never fear!

First things first, here's the website.

Now, there are three ways you can enter your route:


Firstly, on the English version of the page is a selection of PDF tables on which you can cross referrence your journey. It's a bit fiddly and annoying.


Secondly, and most easily, you can use the origin and destination input boxes on the front page of the Japanese site. You have to use kanji for this. Check wikipedia for your chosen cities to find out the characters if you don't know them. The next page will ask for a confirmation of which exit you want if you haven't already stipulated.

Page 1, with added English. 
Page 2

As per my illustration, the box below the destination on page 1 is "Via", so put in any stop-off points. The tickbox is for auto-complete which will automatically show you the alternate choices for your location. Not selecting them here will send you to page 2, if applicable.

The other drop-down list is for vehicle class. The default is regular white-plate car. Full options are:
  • K-car (yellow-plate)
  • Regular white-plate
  • Medium sized vehicles (minibus, truck under 8t etc)
  • Large vehicles (buses, bigger trucks etc)
  • Massive great big huge vehicles
These options also appear on page 2.

Click the button and you'll be presented with a page like this:


The option I have marked in the image with "Check ETA" allows you to check the traffic congestion on your route. Input the time and date you will travel for an estimate of how long it will take.

The ルート1 section at the top will display multiple routes if available. The price quote (column 1) is the regular cost, and the blue circles are the various options when using an ETC card. See future posts on the dramas of aquiring one.

Translation and explanation:
IC名 路線名 Name of IC or road
通常料金 Normal price
ETC割引料金  ETC discounted price
○をクリックすると割引料金を表示 Click the circle to view discounted price
距離 Distance
所要 Travel Time
Columns:

2.
通勤
Commuter Discount
  • Must begin trip between 6-9am or 17-20pm
  • Trips under 100 km in length are 50% off
  • Trips over 100 km in length can get up to 50% off on the first 100 km
  • Can only be used once per time slot per day (once per day between 6-9am, and once per day between 17-20pm)
  • A number of Japanese people thwart this limitation by owning more than one ETC card, and stringing the 100km discounts over a longer trip. To do it, you must exit the highway each 100 kilometers, take the ETC card out of your reader, put in a new ETC card, and get back on the highway. Apparently you do save a significant amount of money this way over long distances, though I have never calculated it.

3.
早朝
夜間
Early-Morning or Late-Night Discount
  • Appears to be specifically for travelers in metropolitan areas
  • Must start AND COMPLETE the trip between 22:00 and 6:00am
  • Up to 50% off the normal fare
  • Must travel completely across at least one "Ku" (as in, like, Tokyo's Shinagawa-ku) of a major metropolitan area
  • The length of each trip must be within 100 km

4.
深夜
Late Night Discount
  • Must begin trip between midnight and 4am
  • Trips are 50% off
  • You can start a trip in this timeframe, or in any discount time frame, then travel on the highway for multiple days, sleeping over in service areas. Only the time you started the trip matters.

5.
平日
限定
Weekday Discount
  • Must begin trip between 6am-20pm on weekdays
  • Trips under 100 km in length are 30% off
  • Trips over 100 km in length can get up to 30% off on the first 100 km
  • If trip begins between 4-6am or 20-24pm, 30% off any length

6.
休日
特別
Special Holiday Discount
  • On Saturdays, Sundays, and National Holidays, all trips all day are 50% off, with an upper limit of 1000 yen.

7.
他の
割引
Other Discounts
  • Varies between trips

ETC Discount Types
  • To get ETC Discounts you must enter the highway through an ETC gate with an ETC reader equipped car, and an inserted ETC card. I have heard it is possible to get the ETC discount even if you leave the highway through a normal tollbooth; for example if the ETC gate is out of order or nonexistant in the place you exit from. You must hand your ETC card to the person at the tollbooth.
  • If multiple discounts apply to any trip, they do not stack. The single largest discount to your trip is the one applied.
  • There were some major changes to weekday toll costs. Read about how this affects you here.

    And, the 3rd option for calculating your tolls is to click through the map on the main page of the NEXCO site. I can't think of a reason why you would trouble yourself with this technique, but this site over here has written an English guide if you do want to.


    That's that.

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