Japan’s expressways are full of entertainment

What are service areas or parking areas on highways like in your country? You would imagine that there are simple bathrooms, gas station, small shops and cafeterias, right? Also you would just drop by there for restroom and to take a short break from long driving, and then you leave as soon as you have made yourself refreshed.

 

In Japan, after the privatization of Japan Highway Public Corporation in 2005, every service area has developed its service, comfort and food quality to attract people. The concept of highway has been drastically changed in the past 10 years.

 

(Image below is a bakery on a highway service area that sells Mt.Fuji-shaped bread to celebrate that the mountain has been registered as one of the World Heritage)

from: http://chiekostyle.seesaa.net/category/1489424-1.html)

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When you visit Japan someday and if you have a chance to travel around the country by bus or a rent-a-car, visiting service areas (SA) will be one of the things you wish to do in your journey.

 

Here are 5 spotlights in today’s highways. Now many people love enjoying SA. They go to specific SA to buy specific products.

 

(Photo: Ebina SA on Tōmei Expressway looks like a shopping mall or a large train station)

1 Ebina SA

(Photo: Food corners. At Ebina SA on Tōmei Expressway)

2 Ebina SA

 

  1. Highway Gourmet

Restaurants on a highway used to be expensive, boring and not that tasty long time ago, but now no words such “desolate” and “prosaic” exist in most Japan’s service areas. There are numerous and delicious products from standard to popular, attractive, funny and eye-catching foods. The image below is a book how to enjoy Japan’s highway.

(Image from: http://www.7netshopping.jp/books/detail/-/isbn/4796625992)

3 magazine

Here are a few examples of countless foods.

 

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  • This might sound odd to you but it is an ice cream made of tomato paste with cucumber and mini tomato toppings.

 

  • Ichihara Houseki Don (Sashimi on rice)

This dish was nominated No. 1 in the most popular 11 donburi (bowl dishes with rice) dishes in the service areas of eastern Japan. This gorgeous dish is 2,800 yen and filled with precious and local fresh sea foods.

(Image from: http://with.sonysonpo.co.jp/hs/detail/kanto_shinetsu/195774.php)

 

  1. Vending machines

They just sell snacks or beverages? No. Nowadays machines are entertainers, too. Look at this video. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvG2iWRd-F8)

When you buy a drink, the machine begins to play music showing inside of machine: how your coffee is being made right now. So you will never get bored while waiting.

(Image from: http://camelstation.hatenablog.com/entry/2015/06/14/000000)

6 coffee

  1. Souvenirs

In a broad and bright shop, you will find innumerable types of confectionery and locally-special-made foods, such as cakes, puddings, cookies, chocolates, noodles, seasonings and so on. Also there are hard-to-get items sold only in specific service areas. You will surely get lost thinking what to buy.

(Image from: http://www.jb-highway.co.jp/news/shosai.php?id=179)

7store

– Maccha Cheese Cake

Creamy green tea cheese cake, made by a famous tea house.

(Image from: http://www.tnc.ne.jp/special/newhighway/souvenir.html)

 

 8 cheese cake

– Tuna smoked raw ham

(Image from: http://www.tnc.ne.jp/special/newhighway/souvenir.html)

9 smoked ham

 

  1. Restrooms

You can expect that you will find most restrooms incredibly clean. Moreover, they are very wide and equipped with cutting-edge technologies. Also they are easy to use for parents with small children and the handicapped.

(Image from:

http://www.driveplaza.com/sapa/shisetsu_service/barrier_free_toilet/#ssc01)

10SA bathroom

  1. Onsen (Hot springs) and hotels

We used to go to a resort hotel or hot springs passing by expressway once, so expressway was just a mean to reach the destination. However these days, we can enjoy hot springs in some service areas without going to the final destination. Of course, there are shower rooms and laundry rooms.

 

– Rest Inn Toki no sumika (At Ashigara SA in direction to Tokyo on Tomei Expressway)

Onsen is open: 12:00 p.m. – 10:00 a.m.

Charge: 640 yen (320 yen /child) for 3 hours. Hotel guests are not charged.

If you stay more than 3 hours, you will be charged extra 210 yen /hour and 1,000 yen later than 2:00a.m.

(Image from:

http://travel.rakuten.co.jp/HOTEL/129393/CUSTOM/129393110316185502.html)

11 tokinosumika onsen

– Rest Inn Taga (At Taga SA in direction to Kyoto on Meishin Expressway)

Onsen is open: 12:00p.m. – 10:00a.m.

Charge: 850 yen (425 yen /child) up to 6 hours.

Lastly, there are more infinite and attractive things than I can write here in this article, so do visit Japan to find out more and something new with your own eyes. Don’t forget to take enough time for your journey schedule if you want to have a good time in service areas. Note that some products introduced in this article might not be found, because they might be discontinued, sold in a limited period in limited areas or for other reasons. In Japan they keep creating new products day by day. That is why Japan never makes you bored.