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Driving to the Unexplored Areas of Japan

When you travel to Japan, there are several means of transportation such as by airplane, subway, bus or taxi. Due to Japan’s excellent transportation system, these are normally sufficient to get you where you need to go.   

However, if you want to go several different places efficiently or some other ‘‘unexplored places’’, travelling by car may be the most ideal means of transportation. By finding good deals with rental cars, you will not only be able to save your time and money but also be able to have a great time with whoever joins you on your journey. We will introduce to you how you can find and rent a car in Japan in this article.

1) Requirements for car rental in Japan

If you want to drive in Japan, you will need to fulfill the following requirements.

✓    Age over 18

✓    Hold an International driver’s license
※People from the following countries do not need an international driver’s license but can use the license issued in their own country and its Japanese translation: Switzerland, Germany, France, Taiwan, Belgium, Slovenia, Monaco

You can have Japan Mobile Federation (Japan) translate your license into Japanese. If you want more information, please check here.

2) How to rent a car in Japan

You can rent a car from a car rental shop or through the website of a car rental shop. If there is a preference of car that you have, we recommend that you make a reservation online several days in advance. The following are the major car rental shops in Japan. You can find them everywhere in Japan near train or subway stations.

◇   NIPPON Rent a Car

◇   TOYOTA Rent a Car

◇   NISSAN Rent a Car

◇   ORIX Rent A Car

Aside from these shops, you can find many local car rental shops on your trip. Personally, one of my favourite car rental shops is“2525 Rent a Car”, which is particularly good value for money. 2525 (Yen) relates to the minimum rate when you rent a car for 12 hours. If you are not particular about the car brand, I suggest you 2525 Rent A car.

When you rent a car, you can use the below as a checklist+

✓      Duration for rental (In most cases the duration is 6h, 12h, 24h, and over 24h)
※You may not be able to extend the duration in the peak season, so it is recommended that you consider carefully before deciding on a duration.

✓      Type of car (Includes mini car, light truck or ※Camping car)
※Shops providing camping cars are limited. This website shows you the shops providing camping cars in the Kanto area. (Japanese language only)

✓      Returning the car back to the same dealership or not (if not returning directly, there may be an additional fee)

✓      Other options such as car navigation, ETC, child sheets, battery chargers for smart phone

➢     Child sheet is required for children under 6, as per road traffic law in Japan.

3) Japan traffic rules

Naturally, traffic rules are essential for road safety as the top priority. As you would expect, it is necessary to adhere to the speed limit and keep a safe distance between yourself and the car ahead. However, we will also outline some Japanese traffic rules that may be easy for non-Japanese drivers to miss.

✓      Driving with anylevel of alcohol is not allowed in Japan, and there is a zero-tolerance policy on this. In addition, not only the driver but also the passenger will be punished if caught out.

✓      Tobacco should not be thrown away from the car window. For those who need to smoke, you will need to park the car.

✓      Unlike some countries, the Japanese do not use the car horn excessively. We would advise to refrain from over using it as it will likely annoy other drivers.

✓      In Japan, cars drive on the left-hand side.
※The passing lane is on the right side of road.

✓      Please be sure of the seating capacity of the car you rent. The seating capacity of a standard size car is 5 adults and that of a light car is 4 people. Here 3 children (under age 12) = 2 adults.

For those that break the traffic rules, there will be a penalty of at least 6,000JPY and penalty points on your driving license. Please check this website for further details.

4) Making use of parking permits

Parking fees in Japan are prohibitively expensive in certain places. For example, the picture above shows the parking fee in Ginza - 600 JPY per ten minutes (24:00~9:00 limit = 1,800 JPY). If you parked your car in this place for 24 hours, it would cost you 55,800 JPY! The expensive parking fee may be one of the reasons that so many people park illegally. In addition, finding a parking place can be very time consuming and uses up fuel, especially in a congested area. Carstay is a free web applications that navigate you to the best parking areas.

Carstay|The Ultimate Driving App for Your Adventures in Japan

Carstay has an extensive database of recommended places for car trips where you can enjoy spectacular views, hidden treasures of nature, natural hot springs for relaxation and places of historical interest, that are not found in regular tourist guides. This is combined with a database of RV parks and camp sites so that you always know where you can park and stay for the night during your drive.