Speed Trap, Japanese Style
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Fishing for Speeders near the main entrance to Kyoto University -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 82 mm — 1/500 sec, f/6.3, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
Fishing for Speeders
near the main entrance to Kyoto University

For something a bit different from my normal fare of late, here are some pictures of a Japanese speed trap I took a couple of years ago. In front of Kyoto University where lots of college kids are, well, being college kids, it's not at all uncommon to see a speed trap set up here.

Looks Like I Got a Live One -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 190 mm — 1/750 sec, f/5.6, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
Looks Like I Got a Live One

He's actually checking the color of the license plate of a scooter that just passed. If it's white (meaning it has a 49cc engine) the driver will get a ticket. If yellow or pink (larger engines, up to 124cc), they're okay.

If you're caught, here's what you face 100m down the road, just after a slight bend...

H A L T ! -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200 mm — 1/1600 sec, f/4, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
H A L T !
Yes, You -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 110 mm, cropped — 1/1600 sec, f/4, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
Yes, You
Bring It Over Here, Bub -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 110 mm — 1/2000 sec, f/4, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
Bring It Over Here, Bub
Busted -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 116 mm — 1/2000 sec, f/4, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
Busted

And I see a scooter there too, so maybe he did have a live one in the second photo.

The first time I ever saw a policeman stepping into traffic with the big orange “Stop” flag to nab someone, it was right in front of me on a crowded slow-moving four-lane major thoroughfare in Kyoto (Sanjo St., near Higashiooji St.). He stepped right in front of my car with a seriously agitated, angry pissed off look, and having no idea what was going on other than I had apparently done something really bad, my adrenaline shot through the roof. And just like that he stormed past, intent on someone in the lane next to me, a car or two behind. Pretty much needed a change of shorts after that.

I did get a speeding ticket once, about 15 years ago, while riding my motorcycle in the countryside between Nagaokakyou and Takatsuki. I was just going with the flow of traffic, which happened to be traveling at a somewhat more reasonable pace than the 31mph limit. I found out then the other half to the Japanese approach to speed enforcement. The half I knew was that enforcement is very lax, as if no one really cares, and your chances of getting pulled over for speeding (or running red lights, for that matter) is almost nonexistent. The half I learned that day was that if you do get pulled over, you're totally screwed.

My penalty for going 9.5mph over the speed limit was a $400 fine and loss of my license for a month, though that was reduced to one day after taking an all-day class at traffic school where we learned things like “red means stop”. When it was done there was a 40-question test (provided for me, kindly, in English) with questions like “what color means stop?”. We had 20 minutes, and I finished it in three. I brought it up, and the instructors were totally shocked, as if I was throwing away my entire day by abandoning the test. They asked “don't you even want to doublecheck your answers, just to make sure?” to which I repliedI did. Twice.” They were completely dumbfounded when I got every question right.... it wasn't like California's written test, with questions like ”how many feet before an intersection do you need to initiate your turn signal, when in a School Zone that is also a Designated Residential Revitalization District? Choose from among 72, 83, 69, or 64.

I was equally dumbfounded, that they were dumbfounded. Well, we all know that “other drivers” are morons, and so here was my proof. (Course, I was right there with them, wallet $400 lighter, day completely wasted, so I felt pretty much the moron, too.)


All 5 comments so far, oldest first...

Can you explain this? Why is the smaller engine in trouble? Too small to be on a real street? Or is it an emissions thing?

It’s a licensing issue… it’s very easy to get a license to let you ride a 49cc scooter… I don’t know the details, but it’s not much more complex than answering “yes” to “Are you at least 16 years old, have $30, and are not blind?”. A normal car license also allows you to ride a scooter of that size. Beyond that requires a real motorcycle license. —Jeffrey

— comment by Rob on February 27th, 2010 at 8:49am JST (7 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

Agree the enforcement of speed limits is….odd. Once when I had an MR2, I was on the Nagoya Expressway, doing about 110 kph in a 60 zone. A truck that was following moved aside and bam! there was a black & white. Thought I was totally nailed, but got off with a warning.

Next scene several years later and driving a Camry variant on a narrow rural road, doing 60 kph in a 40 kph zone. Was motioned over to what I thought was a soberity checkpoint. Nope, and it cost me 5 man, I think.

Ouch. For those not familiar, “5 man” is 50,000 yen… about $500. —Jeffrey

— comment by Expat in Va on February 27th, 2010 at 10:28pm JST (7 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

My friend got nabbed on the highway with one of the cameras where they send it to you in the mail. The funny part is that it was his Japanese girlfriend’s car which was registered to her father. You can imagine his face when he got the ticket and saw to Gaijinns in the photo! 🙂 Your blog makes me miss living in Japan!

— comment by Drew on February 28th, 2010 at 6:25am JST (7 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

Wonder if the “perp” and is girlfreind are still together? 🙂 Wonderful way to make an impression on one who could turn out to be your father-in law 😀

— comment by Expat in Va on February 28th, 2010 at 8:17pm JST (7 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

Wait … can the drivers see the police officers? If the police is standing in front of you and you go too fast, where is the “speed trap?”

There is a bend in the road between the speed gun and the officers waiting to pluck you from your lane. You can not see them until it’s too late. You’d never notice the guy at the speedgun until it was too late, either, unless you were specifically looking for him (and even at that it’s fairly difficult… I speak from lots of experience). —Jeffrey

— comment by Eric on March 2nd, 2010 at 7:17am JST (7 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink
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