The islands of Hokkaido and Okinawa are much more accessible by car and the roads are generally very easy to navigate. If you plan to hire a car during your stay in Japan, make sure that you are aware of all local rules and have all the necessary documentation.
This short video of traffic rules in Japan will give you the basics, but be sure to research further into renting a car in Japan
You will be required to produce your International Driving Permit when renting a car in Japan.
Rental prices may vary from company to company. Average rates for 24 hours rental with unlimited mileage are as follows:
|Sub-compact (1,000-1,300cc)||5,000 – 11,100|
|Compact (1,500-1,800cc)||9,000 – 13,500|
|Intermediate (2,000cc)||14,000 – 30,000|
|Standard (3,000cc)||29,500 – 31,000|
The above rental charges do not include fuel costs. Fuel in Japan costs approximately 150 yen per liter.
For driving the expressways at an inexpensive flat rate, use the ETC (Electronic Toll Collection) system card. The unlimited expressway pass “Japan Expressway Pass” is available at all NEXCO (Nippon Expressway Company Limited) companies and prefectural public road corporations in Miyagi, Kyoto and Hyogo.
For further information go to the NEXCO web site
Central Nippon Expressway Pass (CEP)
Hokkaido Expressway Pass
Tohoku Expressway Pass
San'in-Setouchi-Shikoku Expressway Pass (SEP）
Kyusyu Expressway Pass(KEP)
Companies offering vehicle rental at various locations throughout Japan include:
Nissan Rent a Car
Times Car Rental (Former Mazda Car Rental)
Tel. 03-5954-8020 or 0800-7000-815 (toll-free)
Tel. 0120-489-882 (toll-free)
Visitors who intend to drive in Japan should note the following:
On main roads most major destinations are sign-posted in English. In rural areas this may not be the case. If you are planning to drive in more remote areas, it is advisable to purchase a reliable English-Japanese road atlas before you depart. Companies such as Shobunsha and Kodansha publish these atlases.
Driving in Japan is on the left.
Parking can be difficult to find in some urban centers.
An International Driving Permit is required.
Tolls are levied on expressways and other major routes. Toll charges will depend on how far you wish to travel and which roads you intend to take. Example: Tolls for one route from Tokyo to Kyoto cost approximately ¥4,770.
The Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) publishes an English guide to driving in Japan called “Rules of the Road”. These are available at JAF offices throughout Japan. For further information go to the JAF web site or contact the International Affairs Department of JAF on Tel. +81 (0)3 3436 2811 /Fax. + 81 (0)3 3588 6055.
A Metropolitan Expressway map in English is available within Japan from the Metropolitan Expressway Public Corporation:
Metropolitan Expressway Public Corporation
Nittochi Bldg 9F 1-4-1 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku Tokyo 100-8930
Tel. (03) 3539 9259 Fax. (03) 3503 7678
For further information go to the JAF web site - Japan Automobile Federation : Homepage
If you wish to drive a car while in Japan, you must obtain an International Driving Permit prior to departure. You will also need to have your national license on hand while driving in Japan. International Driving Permits are generally issued by the national automobile association in your country. Be aware that to be able to drive in Japan, your international driving permit needs to be issued from one of the countries/regions which participates in the Convention on International Road Traffic of 1949 (Geneva Convention) and be consistent with the regulations laid out in therein.
The official UN web site lists the countries and regions that participate in the Geneva Convention.
Note that a different procedure applies to visitors from Switzerland, Germany, France, Belgium, Slovenia, Monaco, Estonia and Taiwan. If you have a driver's license issued in one of these countries/regions you must carry both your original license and a Japanese translation. This will enable you to drive a car in Japan for one year from the date of your arrival in the country.
To receive a Japanese translation of your license, you must visit one of JAF's (Japan Automobile Federation) offices . The offices are only located in Japan, and do not accept applications from overseas via the Internet. However, to receive a Japanese translation for your license in Taiwan, visit the Taiwan-Japan Relations Association located in Taiwan.
If you live outside Japan and want the Japanese translation, the following agencies accept applications to JAF through internet by proxy. Please inquire at the following agencies.
Languages available：English, French, German
Proxy applications for a Japanese translation of driving licenses from the following countries/areas to JAF is available: Estonia, Switzerland, Slovenia, Germany, France, Belgium, Monaco, Taiwan
Languages available inquiry：French
A proxy applications for a Japanese translation of driving licenses from the following countries/areas to JAF is available: France, Belgium, Switzerland