The Summer Olympics are coming to Japan in 2020! The excitement is building and a slew of changes are underway in order to help those hapless tourists adapt to the Land of the Rising Sun including revising map icons to be a bit more PC for Western tourists.
Another way Japan is bracing for the influx of tourists is by reviewing road safety. Adding English text to street signs is one of the ongoing efforts. Another is the increased use of car stickers which read "A foreigner is driving" (the translation of the Japanese Kanji on the sticker shown). These stickers are supposed to inform Japanese drivers that they are on the road with a driver who may not be completely familiar with some local traffic regulations.
Yes, a new trend of stickers is gaining momentum among the country's car rental associations. They've been in use in Okinawa and Hokkaido for a while and notify everyone on the road that you are not from around here, or in the words of the Okinawa Rental Car Association, "to show that the driver is a foreigner who is not accustomed to the traffic rules of Japan." What exactly other drivers are supposed to do differently with this information is anyone's guess. It's kind of like when Marge Simpson bought a "Baby on Board" sticker so people would stop intentionally ramming the family car.
The desire for stickers is not surprising though, Japan is a sticker-happy country and already affixes special ones to vehicles belonging to the elderly and newly licensed drivers. And unlike those ones, foreigner stickers are not required by law.
Despite their specious benefits, there might just be a slight risk to using these "foreigner stickers" in that they could also mark foreigners for criminal elements who might take advantage of them. For example, to a thief, it means: "This driver probably has a lot of cash and belongings inside."
Fortunately, the stickers that car rental companies issue are more like "sticker magnets" which can be removed easily when needed.