Home‎ > ‎Countries‎ > ‎


Area code 81 Common abbreviation J Last updated 7-12-2019
Road class Syntax explanation Administrative subordination Sub classes Zones System Remarks
Asian highway A[0-9]<1-2> Asia See Asia
National expressway E[0-9]<1-2>{A}|C[A1-4] national E Derived from parallel national road sequential exit numbers
Circular routes (C)
National highway [0-9]<1-3> national 1-d sequential sequential exit numbers
Urban expressway {[CKS]}]{1}[0-9]|[BY] Tokyo (Shuto Expressway) sequential
[0-9]<1-2> Kyoto / Osaka (Hanshin Expressway)
[0-9]<1-2>|R Nagoya
Prefectural road [0-9]<1-4> prefecture sequential
General description: Motorways (called expressways) used to have only names (Jidoshi-do), e.g. Kanetsu Jidoshi-do, Tohoku Jidoshi-do. A new numbering system is being introduced which is described on the MLIT website. See Expressways route list.
The numbers are derived from the national highway numbers because locals are familiar with those, see the MLIT system map.
A parallel road to Ex can be numbered ExA if no other national highway number is available. C numbers are for circular roads and are partly derived from existing Urban expressway numbers. They are not unique.
National highways 1-58 are the most important roads, see Route list.
Numbers are assigned sequentially, mostly beginning in the northeast (on the main island) and increasing towards the southwest, and then in Hokkaido. Then numbering starts on the main island again etc. There are 5 ranges on the main island and 4 on Hokkaido for 1- and 2-d numbers and 6 on the main island and 5 on Hokkaido for 3-d numbers. The 1- and 2-d ranges on Hokkaido consist of only one number except for 36-40. On the main island, ranges always increase towards the southwest (except for the first few) but on Hokkaido they sometimes increase to the northeast. The table below shows how all number ranges are distributed. The Main area includes all islands except Hokkaido.
Two exceptions are the numbers 250 and 251, which are much too far to the west to fit into the system.
numbers Main area direction of increase numbers Hokkaido direction of increase
1- and 2-d numbers
1-4 from Tokyo - 5 Hakodate-Sapporo -
6-11 from Tokyo - 12 Sapporo-Asahikawa -
13-35 Akita-Sasebo N-S 36-40 Sapporo-Wakkanai S-N
41-43 Nagoya-Kobe N-S 44 Kushiro-Nemuro -
45-58 Aomori-Okinawa N-S
3-d numbers
101-226 Aomori-Kagoshima N-S 227-244 Hakodate-Abashiri S-N
245-270 Mito-Kagoshima N-S 272-278 Kushiro-Hakodate N-S
279-332 Aomori-Okinawa N-S 333-337 Abashiri-Sapporo N-S
338-390 Aomori-Okinawa N-S 391-393 Abashiri-Sapporo N-S
394-449 Aomori-Okinawa N-S 451-453 Takikawa-Sapporo N-S
454-507 Aomori-Okinawa N-S
Remark: numbers 271 and 450 may exist as well.
Numbered Expressways exist only in the three major urban areas of Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka/Kobe. In Nagoya there are only 1-digit numbers. The highest known number is 31 in Kobe.
Local roads are numbered per prefecture.
Road signs: blue with white text. National numbers appear in a white rounded triangle and local roads in a hexagon. Asian highways are only signposted in exceptional cases. There are signs which indicate the intended color on roads, see explanation on skr.mlit. Example:

Tokyo expressway signs
Pictures taken in 2015.
National highway
Prefectural road
Tokyo expressway
History: Until the 1950's, the road network was not very well developed. The first motorway was opened in 1963.
In 2017 an expressway numbering system was introduced.
Sources and links: various maps and atlases, personal experience   
    Official sites:
  1. Japan Highway Public Corporation
  2. Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport MLIT
  3. Signs indicating road colors
  4. MLIT Expressway route list

  5. Other links:
  6. Motorways in Japan
  7. Motorways in Tokyo
  8. Tokyo motorway map with signs and exit names and numbers
  9. Japanese Expressways
  10. Metropolitan Expressways
  11. Tokyo Expressways map
  12. Hanshin Expressway
  13. Some road pictures
  14. Trafficsignal pictures and other road information
  15. Explanation of road signs aaroads.com blog

  16. Other pages within this site:
  17. Expressways
  18. Main national highways and Tokyo expressways route list

  19. Pictures:
  20. Highashi Kanto expressway east
  21. Tokyo expressways
  22. Tokyo various
Marcel Monterie