Aya, her father, and a business associate met me at the small Awa Yamakawa train station. It was already getting dark, so we drove across the river to a restaurant in an old village for dinner. This was a reasonably traditional Japanese meal in a private room on a tatami mat with shoes removed.
My three companions had a beer each, but I passed and kept to tea with the meal. After we were through with dinner, and getting ready to drive me to the Japanese-style inn where I would be staying, Aya’s father asked me, “Do you have an international driver’s license?”
I did not, and frankly had no wish to drive on the left side of the road in a country with strange road signs that I could not read. But why?
It turns out that in Japan one beer puts you over the legal alcohol blood-level limit for driving. And the fines are enormous, 200,000 Yen (or about $2,000) for the driver and each passenger and the restaurant that served the booze and let them drive.
So what people do is call a special taxi service. The service shows up with two drivers—one for your car, and one for the taxi to follow it.
There’s not much drinking and driving in Japan!