Whoever said it's better to travel than to arrive must have been traveling in Japan. Just ask the folks who hit the road earlier this month for the o-Bon summer holidays. Sure, the nightly newscasts were filled with horror stories of bumper-to-bumper traffic, but motorists and their families knew that relief lay as close as the next rest area, where they could refuel, refresh — and finally let the kids out of the car.

Over the past few years, expressway pit stops have become destinations in their own right, as operators have transformed the plazas — known as SA (service areas) or PA (parking areas) — into mall-like venues. At the same time, the nationwide infatuation with local cooking known as B-kyū gourmet (B-grade cuisine) has led motorists to stop by for a taste of authentic regional dishes. Here are some notable rest areas within easy reach of Tokyo where travelers can fill up both their gas tanks and their stomachs.

Ranzan PA, Kanetsu Expressway, Saitama Prefecture