How to Rent a Car in Japan?
|Tips fro Renting a Car in Japan||License Requirements to Drive in Japan|
|Book in Advance!||Let’s Rent a Car!|
|The Best Car Rental Companies for Foreign Drivers||General Traffic Rules in Japan|
It’s exciting to tour around Japan! You might want to take advantage of Japan’s exceptional railway system using the Japan Rail Pass, especially in the areas that have advanced railway networks like Tokyo and Osaka.
For more information on the Japan Rail Pass, see this article⇒All you can ride ticket for the shinkansen! You’ll gravely regret not getting the Japan Rail Pass!
However, after flying to Hokkaido or Okinawa, you might find out that there is no railway service to your destination. There might be local bus services, but it can be complicated. Many Japanese tourists rent a car to get around Hokkaido and Okinawa, and more foreign tourists use these same services nowadays.
In this article, we’ll talk about basic information for renting a car in Japan for beginners. By the way in Japan, we also call a car that you rent “rent-a-car”.
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You can’t use your driver’s license from your country (except for certain countries) to rent a car in Japan. You will need to have either an International Driving Permit or a license issued in certain countries and its Japanese translation issued by an authorized organization.
For more details on required documents to drive in Japan, see this article!⇒Basic Information for Driving in Japan
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Most major airports in Japan provide a number of principal rental car companies. There are also a variety of car rental companies around airports and major train stations.
You can go straight to a counter and book a rental car, but you may not get the type of vehicle you want. In addition in Japan, if you have a passenger who is under six years old, you are required to have a child seat. Most of the car rental companies require an advance notice for a child seat, so we recommend that you make a reservation and other arrangements in advance on their website. Many rental car companies have reservation sites in foreign languages.
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Now you have arrived in Japan! You will go to the rental car company that you have a reservation with.
◆Documents you need at the counter
・International Drivers Permit or foreign driver’s license (certain designated countries) and its official Japanese translation
◆Check the vehicle carefully!
Check the vehicle that you rent for its equipment and scratches with an attendant.
◆Fill up the gas tank when you return it!
Before returning the vehicle, fill the gas tank up at a gas station.
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They have branches throughout Japan and a comprehensive reservation system on their website. They also offer vehicles with a GPS that supports foreign languages. In addition, they provide telephone support in 10 foreign languages including English and Chinese. You will have peace of mind when you have an accident or trouble. There are other convenient services, such as ETC card and portable Wi-Fi rental.
Times Car Rental
Official Website (English, Traditional Chinese, Korean sites available)
◆TOYOTA Rent a Car
They conveniently have over 1,200 branches throughout Japan. They also offer GPS with foreign language support and ETC card rental. The company’s unique feature is its reservation website. It explains procedures of renting a car as well as traffic rules and road situations in Japan using an animation in each language. You will be prepared for a pleasant driving trip in Japan.
TOYOTA Rent a Car
Official Website (English, Traditional Chinese, Korean, Arabic sites available)
◆Budget Rent a Car
This American car rental company has 120 branches in 35 prefectures. You can get a discount when you make a reservation on their website. In some areas and time periods, they have a Wi-Fi router rental service as well as discount when you drop off a car at a different location.
Budget Rent a Car
Official Website (English, Traditional Chinese sites available)
We will talk about the general traffic rules in Japan here.
◆Vehicles keep left, so the steering wheel is on the right side of the car in most cases.
◆Not only the driver but also all passengers are required to wear seat belts except an expecting mother and an injured person who can’t wear a seat belt properly.
◆Passing lanes and no passing lanes are indicated by the different colors and types of line in the center of the road.
◆Sometimes the same line indicates a different rule with a traffic sign. It can be complicated!
It’s common sense! Taboos while you are driving
◆Dangerous passing or lane changing maneuvers are prohibited.
◆Using a cellular phone while driving is prohibited. When you need to use it, stop the car. Fatal accidents due to cell phone use are increasing in Japan as well.
◆Use your car horn appropriately and responsibly. Try not to use it too often.
◆Keep a safe distance between your car and the car ahead of you. In Japan, the suggested distance is longer than in other countries. For example, if you are driving at 40 km/h, the safe distance is 40 m. If you are driving at 80 km/h, it is 80 m.
◆You will be fined for speeding and parking violations.
◆Like any other countries, DUI is strictly prohibited. Failure to obey the laws can result in large fines or even prison time.
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Stickers for Foreign Drivers are Available!
A magnet sticker saying “A foreign driver is driving” is available in Okinawa where many foreign tourists use rental cars. When they get lost or drive awkwardly, other drivers pay attention to them.
There are many traffic rules and signs that are unique to Japan, so you definitely want to understand them before you arrive in Japan. You won’t have enough time to learn all the rules in the vehicle. Before you start driving, check the fuel gauge as well as warning lights and learn how to use the GPS. Be safe and have a good trip!
（Source：わたなべ りょう / PIXTA)