Got a ticket for a moving violation while I was out delivering mail a few days back. Here's the controlled crosswalk just before where it happened:
I tried pull out the color in the traffic light with GIMP, but there was just too much ambient light for the cellphone camera to pick it out in the original image. The traffic light doesn't really have anything to do with it, anyway.
If you look carefully, there are two roads going left ahead of me here.
(There's also one more road going right, just beyond the crosswalk, but it
isn't relevant to what happened.
Also, I took this picture from the sidewalk, not the microvan I drive. You can see my empty box on its side there on the walk in front of the tree in the image above.
The traffic officer, by the way, is standing behind the trees so I can take the picture, or perhaps around the corner on the left.)
Here's the first of the roads to the left:
Too tight to park.
This is from the other side of the crosswalk, and now you can plainly see it. The second to the left is a bit more visible on the other side of the trees. Again, the officer is standing either behind the trees or around the corner, to leave me free to take the picture.
This first road to the left is fully legal to turn on. If I were one of the
motorbike crew, I'd turn left here and park right in front of the front
entrance of that apartment building on the left, where I deliver between
twenty and a hundred fifty pieces of mail each day. But I drive a microvan,
and it'd block traffic even if I parked half on the sidewalk.
So, like a good driver, I haven't been parking there. I've been going to the next road and turning in, which means I have to walk about forty meters. But I can avoid blocking traffic.
All good, right?
If you look carefully about the center of the above image, you'll notice a blot of blue. Here's what that blot of blue is:
What is that spot of blue?
I've been missing that sign, almost every day since they gave me this route. (Sometimes I come from the other direction, depending on what I'm carrying. In that case, this sign doesn't matter.)
Again, these pictures are from the sidewalk. (I'm not going to take pictures
as I drive past. Playing with a camera while you drive is dangerous.) This
sign is going to be more visible from the driver's seat of a vehicle.
Not seeing and paying attention to signs like this in Japan is a no-no.
Here's where I've been turning in to park and deliver the mail, the street the white truck is about to pass, that seems to have the entrance slanting in on the left:
Go straight, young man!
If I took more pictures I could show that there are no one-way signs. This is
not a one-way street coming out or anything, so turning left won't have you
going the wrong way on the street. If you don't notice that sign, you're
thinking that intersection is built for turning left into, right?
Well, that's what I have been thinking for the last six months or so. (My
failing to obey that sign was probably part of the reason the officers were
The traffic officer is standing out of the picture here, again, for me.
Friendly, but firm. She even pointed up to the sign as I drove past her (about
twenty minutes before I took this picture), so I would have a chance to see
the sign and change my mind about turning. And not get ticketed.
If an officer is trying to tell you something, try to figure it out as fast as
Here's a close-up of the sign:
Yes, that means you.
No Left Turn!
Straight arrow with no turning arrows means, "Go straight."
"Do not pass Go. Do not collect ..." No, that's a different game.
The kanji beneath it say, 「自動車・原付」 -- "JIDŌSHA/GENZUKI".
That's "AUTOMOBILES and MOTORIZED BIKES" (essentially, all motorized vehicles).
(How you Latinize/Romanize 「原付」 is a bit subject to vagueries -- By
consonant column, the second character is read in the D column, so it would be
"GENDUKI" or "GENDZUKI", but the hard D goes away when you read
it out loud, so it's usually Romanized as I did above, without the D.)
So. No turns. There's no road to the right at this point anyway, so it means
no left turn.
Even though the street is not one-way. Even with the street built the way it
Yeah, the sign's a little hidden in the trees. But I've been driving past that sign every day. I've even been walking beneath it going and coming every time I park back there.
Somehow, maybe because of the construction of the road, I've just not been
seeing that sign -- or maybe not been paying attention to it or not thinking
that it must mean me, too.
Well, so I have to go pay a JPY 7000 fine today. Don't have to appear in court if I pay the fine. (Would I try to contest it? More below.) Just drop by a Post Office or Bank and they can transfer the money for me.
Oh. And I'm two points down for a few months. Gotta be extra careful now.
No. Points or no points. I can't afford the USD $70 equivalent any more than I
can afford points. I've gotta be more careful, period.
(Oh, and, in addition to the fine, the Post Office (my employer) requires me
to write a little 「始末書」 -- "shimatsu-sho" =>
"take-care-of-it-note" -- a semi-formal hand-written note (in Japanese) that
briefly explains that I got the ticket, that I understand why, and that I'm
committed to not making the same mistake again. Unfortunately, the 始末書 will
have an effect on my bonus, as well. Part of the reason I'm writing this is to
help me figure out what to write in that note. Brief. Not detailed like this
post at all.)
I got lucky a little later that day, and had to stop for the crosswalk signal
coming from the opposite direction, right in front of the intersection in
question. There was just enough time to pull out my cell phone, flick the
camera on, and get this without taking the picture while I was actually
Right turn okay, but watch out for pedestrians and bicycles.
(Yeah, I know. Taking pictures while stopped at a light is not something to
get in the habit of doing, either.)
If you're seeing it like I've been seeing it for the past six months, there doesn't seem to be any hint of a reason for unusual controls on the intersection. It's nice and wide, and even wider coming in from the direction I had usually been coming in from.
Again, if I took more pictures, I could show that there is no sign controlling
turns when traveling in the direction I was traveling when the crosswalk
signal stopped me and I took this picture. Right turns in from this direction
are perfectly fine, as long as you properly yield to pedestrians and bicycle
Bicycle riders --
If you notice, even though I've blurred out the faces and other identifying details, there are four young school-age guys riding bikes in this picture.
This intersection is on a piece of road between an academic/shopping/light industry center and a major shopping center. Both are several hundred meters away, but the foot and bicycle traffic are both pretty heavy here. I've even had the presence of mind to think there should be more controls on the intersection because of the foot and bicycle traffic.
But I guess I was thinking of traffic lights, not no-turn-left signs.
Upshot? Moral? Lesson?
A year and a half ago, when I started this job, I hadn't driven regularly for some ten years or so. Just making sure I didn't do anything overtly dangerous while I was getting the mail out was pushing my limits. Luckily, I didn't have too many of these more obscure kinds of traffic control situations to deal with back then.
I've had a lot of help from co-workers and management on this job (and God),
or I wouldn't have made it through the first year without getting a lot of
tickets like this.
Now I've got to look harder for those blue signs while I'm driving, and be more careful to read and understand them. And watch and learn more about the less-obvious road conditions.
Better focus on understanding those road signs more better. Uhm, more carefully. Better.
(English is my native tongue. Really. Or maybe Texan.)