Hand signals?

Oct 5, 2008
Oamishirasato, Chiba
I was wondering if there are such thing as hand signals in Japan, like for making turns and stopping. On my bike in the US, I have actually been stopped by police for not signaling my turns, but in Japan it seems like some drivers don't even bother to put on their turn lights. If there are turn signals, anyone know what they are? Are drivers responsive to them?
Jan 14, 2007
Turning left or right or cutting in front of cars it's good to wave a hand out in their face.
Not sure if there are any 'proper' signals.

Our club has this... http://www.seo-smd.com/asaren/aizu.htm which we are very strict about. We try to make beginners go in the slower groups till they have mastered these calls. Makes me feel safe when riding in a bunch with good signals. Today's ride with the half fast crew was a little scary... when near pedestrians.


Maximum Pace
There are hand signals for traffic just like anywhere, but I've never seen cyclists use them outside of roadie group rides, and even then it's mostly for the benefit of the group rather than traffic in general.

I signal left and right turns a fair bit, but honestly I think it's so unusual that it confuses drivers more than anything. (I've had cars stop dead in front of me when signalling a right turn across their right-of-way, even though I had my foot down to wait my turn.)

One signal I do find useful (come to think of it, if memory serves I learned it on my first TCC ride when Travis and others used it) is the merge signal, for taking the lane in front of traffic to go round a parked car or prepare for a right turn: right hand down diagonally, pointing vaguely at the asphalt you're about to occupy. It lets drivers know that you ARE going to cut in front of them, so slow down please...
May 22, 2007
This came up in a question on a Jse. TV quiz show yesterday.

For cyclists, the "I intend to turn left or move to the left" signal is to raise the right arm, upper arm parallel to the ground and forearm vertical. (Exactly the same as the old UK hand signal for "I intend to continue in a straight line"!)

Perversely, according to the manual posted above, this has to be reversed for motorcyclists so that they can operate the throttle. (I was never tested on hand signals for my motorbike license here.)

SEMAS' guide is nicely done, but those left-turn/right-turn signals are easily confused with "Look! An eagle!" Clearer if you put all the fingers out together, rather than pointing.

The gospel:



Maximum Pace
Jan 30, 2007
Maybe we should get some of these for Tokyo traffic:


Quite clever.
Personally I use the UK style of hand signals, except for "slowing down" as that one's fairly confusing for non-Brits. Riding in a group I typically give a slowing sign as arm down to the side, palm down towards the road which seems to be well-understood. The group I ride with in Texas is pretty good at calling out too; "slowing","stopping", "rolling", "left/right turn", etc. but for bilingual groups that might not work so well!
I will never stick my hand halfway up behind my back to give a slowing sign to other riders in a group, as I have seen others do on occasion. To me, that is dangerous, the hand is too far from the controls and a fall in that position is instant broken shoulder.