In the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake and it's enormous toll on government and individuals alike, expressway toll prices (including ETC card prices) are being overhauled in Japan--again. The result is a general increase in the price of automobile travel. We'll explain exactly what changes and how expensive travel will be after the change below.

Click here for our post on how to calculate your highway tolls in advance.

First off, here's what's different:
  1. Elimination of the 1000 yen cap on weekend and holiday travel
  2. Reinstatement of normal fares on regional stretches of road previously made free by the 高速道路無料化社会実験 ("toll-free expressway trial," or "toll-free expressway social experiment.")
  3. Abortion of the proposed 2000 yen cap on weekday travel.

Because of these changes, ETC prices after midnight on July 20, 2011 will be as follows for normal size vehicles (普通車) and light vehicles (軽自動車):
  1. Extant weekday discounts will continue to apply.
    1. Travel during commuting hours (6:00-9:00 and 17:00-20:00) not exceeding 100 km once per day will still be discounted 50%. It will still be possible to (ab)use multiple ETC cards in a row to get this 50% discount over longer stretches of road.
    2. Travel beginning or ending at night (22:00-24:00) will be discounted by 30%.
    3. Travel beginning or ending from late night to early morning (0:00-4:00) will be discounted by 50%.
  2. Travel on weekends and national holidays will be discounted by 50% all day.
If you happened to have your primary residence in an earthquake-affected region and drive as part of your job (as in, you ship things in a 5,000kg or heavier vehicle), it is also possible to apply for a pass which will allow you to enter and exit the expressway for free from June 20, 2011 until June 19, 2012.

Tokyo says that the extra revenue from this change will go towards helping out post-earthquake recovery efforts.  However, some citizens seem to feel that the earthquake just offered a convenient opportunity for opponents of the travel discounts to pull the plug on them.

As always, we welcome and comments or questions below.

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