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Things to know when renting a car Things to know when renting a car

Things to know when renting a car

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

International Driving Permit

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 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, Monaco and Taiwan. If you have a driving 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. Please check the following website if you have a driving license issued by Switzerland, Germany, France, Belgium, the Principality of Monaco, and Taiwan.

For more information on valid driving licenses in Japan, please click here.

To receive a Japanese translation of your license, you must visit one of JAF's offices . The offices are only located in Japan, and do not accept applications from overseas via the Internet. 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.

Japan Experience

Proxy applications for a Japanese translation of driving licenses from the following countries/areas to JAF is available: Switzerland, Germany, France, Belgium, Monaco, Taiwan Languages available:English, French, German, Italian, Spanish

Keikaku Japan

A proxy applications for a Japanese translation of driving licenses from the following countries/areas to JAF is available: France, Belgium, Switzerland

Languages available inquiry:French

Rental Companies

Companies offering vehicle rental at various locations throughout Japan include:

Nissan Rent a Car Tel. 0120-00-4123

Nippon Rent-A-Car Tel. 03-6859-6234

Toyota Rent-A-Car
Tel. 092-577-0091 or 0800-7000-815 (toll-free)

Niconico Rent A Car
Tel. 092-687-4556 Email. inquiry@niconicorentacar.jp

Budget Tel. 0570-054-317

Tel. 0800-999-1406 (toll-free)

JR (Japan Railways) Rent-A-Car
E-mail. reserve@mx.ekiren.co.jp

Japan Campingcar Rental Center
E-mail. info@japan-crc.com


Rental prices may vary from company to company. Average rates for 24 hours rental with unlimited mileage are as follows:

Size JPY/Day
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

Rental car insurance

When renting a car, you are required to purchase insurance with a certain level of coverage. Insurance coverage and conditions may vary depending on rental car companies, but be sure to purchase it just in case an accident should occur.

Car rental etiquette

Check for any scratches or dents on the rental car with the staff before driving off from the rental company. Refueling the car, before returning it, is also one of the basic rules to be observed.

Fuel costs

The above rental charges do not include fuel costs. Fuel in Japan costs approximately 170 yen per liter (as of 2022).

How to refuel at gas stations

There are two types of gas stations in Japan: full-service stations, where staff will refuel your car, and self-service stations.

Please see the following link for how to refuel your car at gas stations.

Driving in Japan

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.

(*) Some rental companies have cars equipped with foreign-language navigation systems. Please inquire with the rental company at the time of reservation.

Traffic rules in Japan

Japan has strict road rules including:

・When driving, ensure the driver and all passengers have seatbelts fastened.
・Make sure to observe and comply with all speed limits.
・You must not drive under the influence of alcohol.
・Using mobile devices while driving is illegal.
・Before crossing railroad tracks, drivers must pause at the stop line and check both ways for oncoming trains.
・Newly licensed and elderly drivers must display appropriate signs on the outside of their cars.

Newly Licensed Driver/Elderly Driver Mark

・When traveling in snowy areas, be sure to install winter tires or tire chains.
・Parking can be difficult to find in some urban centers.
・You may get penalties if you don't park your car in a designated car parking space.
・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 ¥10,070.
・JAF publishes an multi-language 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 .

“Michi-no-Eki” (Roadside Stations)

Many towns and cities have roadside establishments called “Michi-no-Eki” parking areas where one can rest. They also provide an array of services such as information on local culture, history, places of interest, and specialties of the areas along the route, as well as give road trip suggestions. One can also buy a variety of regional products and souvenirs at the stores.

Scenic driving routes

There are many scenic routes to drive on that offer breathtaking views throughout Japan. Make your sightseeing and travel plans using expressways to make the most of the scenery on your road trip. Recommended driving routes from the All Japan Rent-a-Car Association:
Traditional Chinese

Tourism Driving Route

Expressways in Japan

In many cases, expressways in Japan require toll fees. Expressway tolls are collected at toll gates either by manual cash or credit card payment (gates with a green sign) or by automatic ETC card payment (gates with a purple sign). While ETC (Electronic Toll Collection) cards can be rented for free at most car rental companies, toll fees incurred will be charged once you return the car.

Along the expressways, there are service areas where one can use restrooms and enjoy a variety of restaurants and shops full of local products and souvenirs. Drive safely while taking regular breaks at service areas.

Unlimited Expressway Pass available only for foreign tourists

While the Japan Expressway Pass (JEP) is no longer for sale as of December 2023, many great regional expressway passes are available for purchase! These passes are only available to international travelers and provide unlimited use of major expressways in different regions throughout Japan. For more information, check out our Regional Expressway Passes guide here .

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