Roads, and policies relevant to roads, impact on the economy and the environment and have profound impacts on society yet there are few studies of the interaction between civil and civic society covering state formation, transformations to the form of government, the administration of the road sector of the economy, and personal mobility. A conceptual diagram of interactions is presented where, through an historical lens, data from secondary literature and government websites in English and Japanese are interpreted for the five “Societies” identified by the Japanese Government, namely, hunter-gathering, agricultural, industrial, information technological and “Society 5.0”. These data are interrogated through key propositions based on the New Institutional Economics (NIE): the interplay between economic and political markets holds the key to the dynamics of institutional change; transformation occurs over long periods of time, with the dynamics of change in phases; it is people in institutions and organisations who make decisions about what to do when confronted with internal or external pressures for change; it is people who are informed by the circulation of ideas on technologies, policies, services and finance (policy transfer); and judgement on which values govern the decision and in what way do they impact on society. The discussion section uses summary tables that shed light on these propositions. The broad perspective taken suggests that policy objectives change over time in response to emerging problems (both internal and external) and that institutions and organisations also evolve in response to changing circumstances. The conclusions suggest areas for further research.