MyCarForum and sgCarMart recently went on a trip with Prime Follow Me Japan to East Kyushu, Japan. With advancement in GPS technology, Follow Me Japan (FMJ) wanted to show us how easy it is to drive around in Japan. Gone are the days where you would need to know how to converse and/or read Japanese to get around in a car.
Before we show you some highlights of the trip, we would like to explain that FMJ's tour is different from a usual tour whereby you just sit in a coach and it brings you from one attraction to another. It is also different from a self-drive tour as everything from the GPS coordinates to the toll fee card (ETC card, the equivalent of our cashcard) has been prepared beforehand.
In short, this Follow Me Japan tour mixes the advantages of a guided tour with the flexibility of a self-drive free and easy tour. Not interested in a certain attraction on the suggested route, just move on to the next! Want to spend more time at a certain attraction? No problem, meal times can be shifted accordingly without affecting the others in the tour group!
Anyway, you get the idea. Less talking from us then. Here's how our seven-day trip went...
Day 1 - Fukuoka to Beppu
Like most tours, everyone gathered at the arrival area of the airport on the morning of 20 November. Unlike most tours, not everyone in the group flew in at the same time. Some came into Fukuoka a day before while others joined us on day two.
We made our way to the Toyota-Rent-A-Car booth where we handed over our International Driving Permit and passport, which was needed for registration. Thankfully, our guides, Yuta-san and Anna had already settled all the paperwork beforehand.
The phone was provided for those who wished to use it for calling our guides when help was needed. For those who are wondering, these are present-day Japanese phones and not things from the early 2000s.
After keying in the coordinates, we started driving towards our first attraction. Immediately, we went through a toll. It was as straightforward as it could get. All you had to do was to drive under the sign with the words ETC at around 20km/h and the gates would open as you got nearer.
This is a typical Japanese highway or toll road, as they call it. We kept to the left-most lane first as we tried to monitor how the Japanese drove. We then concluded that there was no real need to keep strictly to the speed limit. They are much more considerate and give way much more readily.
Onwards to our next destination, we chanced upon some lovely b-roads. The Prius did decently well in terms of handling with an accurate steering and a well-judged suspension setup. You could really feel the weight of the battery underneath the centre of the car keeping the centre of gravity low.
One thing we loved about driving in Japan is the amount of convenience stores around. Everywhere we went, there always seemed to be one around the corner, allowing drivers passing through towns a quick toilet break and bite.
A little tip - our tour guide Yuta-san, said Lawson is the best convenience store as their chicken karaage is the best.
Moving on to our last chosen destination for the day (the sun was already setting at four-plus in the afternoon), we keyed in the coordinates again in the GPS. For those who didn't notice, the GPS actually gave us a few routes to choose from. On many occasions, you could take the easy way out by going onto the expressway or take the more adventurous one consisting of longer winding roads.
At dinner, our guides made sure our stomaches were well filled before they proceeded to brief us on what to expect the next day. If you did have any questions regarding the next day's itinerary, this was the time to ask.
Before we ended the day, we were told that if you found your pillow not to your liking or the shower robe ill-fitting, you could come to this room to choose an alternative. The hotel staff would then send whatever you chose up to your room.
Day 2 - Beppu/Yufin
We went to Blood Pond Hell first as it was the most intriguing hot spring in the area. Thanks to the large amount of ferrous minerals at the bottom of the spring, the water appeared to be red in colour.
Hidden in a corner of the town is Lake Kinrin, which is well-known for its dreamy-like mist that rises from the warm waters in the morning air. Obviously, we didn't see anything like that at 4:00pm in the afternoon.
To be continued in Part 2...