How to Rent a Car in Japan

How to Rent a Car in Japan

Renting a car in Japan: Uncover Japan's Hidden Gems

Maricor Bunal
PUBLISHED ONDecember 29, 2023

Are you planning a trip to Japan? While public transportation is efficient and convenient, renting a car can give you the freedom to explore Japan's hidden gems at your own pace. From quaint, off-the-beaten-path villages to scenic mountain drives, Japan has much to offer for those who are willing to venture beyond the major tourist destinations.

But before you hit the road, it's important to understand the basics of car rental in Japan. In this ultimate guide, we'll cover everything you need to know about renting a car in Japan, from choosing the right rental company to navigating the roads and toll systems.

So buckle up and get ready to uncover Japan's best-kept secrets with your own rental car.

If you're looking to uncover Japan's hidden gems and explore both major cities and rural areas, renting a car could be the perfect option for you. You'll have the freedom to go where you want, when you want, and see more of Japan than you ever thought possible. Whether you're planning a road trip through the countryside or simply want to travel around Tokyo hassle-free, renting a car in Japan is a convenient and practical choice.

When renting a car in Japan, it's important to note that a valid driving license is required. If you're a Japanese driver, you'll need a Japanese driver's license. If you're a foreigner, you'll need an international driver's license or a Japanese translation of your driver's license issued in your country of residence.

Payment types may vary depending on the rental car agency, but most accept credit cards or cash. Additionally, electronic toll systems are widely used throughout Japan, so be sure to ask your rental car company about their toll collection policies and procedures.

Familiarize yourself with the driving rules before hitting the road and enjoy the freedom of exploring Japan on your own terms.

When is Car Rental the Best Option?

Sometimes, having access to a rental car can make for a more convenient and enjoyable travel experience in Japan. This is especially true when you are planning to visit areas that are not easily accessible by public transportation.

For instance, if you wish to explore the countryside or go on a road trip along the coast, renting a car will give you the freedom to drive at your own pace and stop wherever you want.

Here are three situations where car rental is the best option:

  • If you're traveling with a group or family, renting a car can be more cost-effective than buying individual train or bus tickets.
  • If you plan to visit multiple destinations in a day, having a car will save you time and allow you to cover more ground.
  • If you want to experience driving on the left-hand side of the road, Japan is a great destination for that. With well-maintained roads and excellent signage, driving in Japan can be a fun adventure.

Exploring Major Cities and Rural Areas

Whether you're strolling through the bustling streets of Tokyo or meandering through the peaceful countryside, exploring Japan's major cities and rural areas will offer a unique and unforgettable experience.

In the cities, you can easily navigate through the busy streets and find hidden gems that are off the beaten path. From trendy neighborhoods to historic landmarks, there's always something to see and do in Japan's major cities.

On the other hand, the rural areas of Japan offer a more serene and peaceful atmosphere where you can escape the hustle and bustle of city life. With a car rental, you can drive through the picturesque countryside and visit quaint villages, hot springs, and natural wonders. You can also experience the traditional Japanese way of life by staying in a ryokan or exploring a local farm.

Whether you're in the city or the countryside, Japan has a lot to offer, and a car rental is the perfect way to explore all its hidden gems.

Requirements for Renting a Car

To rent a car in Japan, you'll need to make sure you have either an International Driving Permit or a Japanese driver's license.

An International Driving Permit (IDP) is a document that allows you to drive in foreign countries. It is essentially a translation of your home country's driver's license and must be obtained before you leave your home country. IDPs are valid for one year from the date of issue and must be carried with your home country's driver's license. It's important to note that not all countries issue IDPs, so be sure to check if your country does and apply for one in advance if necessary.

Japan only recognizes permits that are based on the 1949 Geneva Convention, and many different countries issue these permits.

Japan has a separate driving permit arrangement with Belgium, France, Germany, Monaco, Switzerland, and Taiwan. These countries do not issue permits based on the 1949 Geneva Convention. Instead, their drivers can drive in Japan for up to one year with an official Japanese translation of their driver's license.

On the other hand, if you have a valid Japanese driver's license, you can rent a car in Japan without an IDP. However, it's important to note that Japan only recognizes certain countries' driver's licenses as valid for driving in Japan. If your home country's license is not recognized, you will need to obtain an IDP or a Japanese driver's license.

To obtain a Japanese driver's license, you must pass a written test and a driving test. The process can be time-consuming, so it's recommended to obtain an IDP if possible.

Age Restrictions for Drivers

If you're under the age of 18 or over the age of 75, you may face age restrictions when it comes to renting a car in Japan. Drivers must be at least 18 years old to rent a car in Japan, but some rental companies may require drivers to be at least 21 or 25 years old.

Additionally, some rental companies may not rent cars to drivers over the age of 75 due to insurance concerns. It's important to note that if you're between the ages of 18 and 20, you may be subject to additional fees or restrictions, such as being limited to certain types of cars.

On the other hand, if you're over the age of 25, you may be eligible for a discount on your rental. Make sure to check with your rental company beforehand to understand their age restrictions and policies.

Japan Car Rental Fees and Insurance

Understanding the rental fees and car insurance can feel like peeling back the curtain on the inner workings of a car rental company. It's important to know what you're paying for and what you're covered for when renting a car in Japan. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Rental fees can vary depending on the type of car you rent, the duration of your rental, and the rental company's location. Some rental companies also offer discounts for booking in advance or for longer rental periods.
  • Car insurance is mandatory in Japan, and rental companies typically include basic insurance in the rental fee. However, this insurance may not cover everything, and you may be responsible for paying a deductible in case of an accident. To avoid unexpected expenses, it's recommended to consider additional insurance options, such as a collision damage waiver or personal accident insurance.
  • Some rental companies may also charge additional fees for things like GPS rental, car seat rental, or toll road usage. Be sure to ask about any additional fees before renting a car so that you can budget accordingly.

Renting a car in Japan can be a great way to explore the country at your own pace, but it's important to understand the rental fees and insurance options before making a reservation. By doing your research and asking questions, you can avoid unexpected expenses and have a stress-free rental experience.

Choosing the Right Rental Company

When it comes to choosing a rental company in Japan, it's essential to know the basics. There are various options available, from local to international companies, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Comparing car rental websites and services can help you find the best deal, while understanding the importance of using a credit card for car rental can save you from unnecessary expenses.

Some of Japan's top car rental companies include Toyota Rentacar, Nippon Rentacar, Orix Rentacar, Times Car Rental (formerly known as Mazda Rentacar), Nissan Rentacar, and Ekiren. These companies have numerous locations throughout Japan and provide a variety of car sizes, as well as larger vehicles such as vans, buses, and RVs. It is common for most companies to offer English options for making reservations, whether through their online system or a dedicated phone line.

With a plethora of options available, it can be overwhelming to choose which rental company to go with. But fear not, as we've done the research for you and have compiled an overview of the top Japanese car rental companies.

Toyota Rent-A-Car, as the name suggests, this company is affiliated with Toyota and offers a wide range of vehicles, from compact cars to minivans. They also have a handy feature called the “Eco Rent Plan,” which offers discounted rates for drivers who choose eco-friendly vehicles.

Another popular choice is Nissan Rent-A-Car, which also offers a variety of vehicles, including electric cars. They also have a “Premium Rent Plan” for those looking for a more luxurious driving experience.

Budget, Avis, and Hertz are international car rental companies that provide car rental services in Japan. However, they usually collaborate with one of the prominent Japanese car rental companies rather than establishing their outlets. Additionally, their rates are generally not very competitive.

With so many options available, you're sure to find a rental company that suits your needs.

Comparing Car Rental Websites and Services

If you're planning a trip to Japan, you'll want to know which rental websites and services offer the best deals and options for your needs.

The most popular car rental websites in Japan are Toyota Rent-A-Lease, Nippon Rent-A-Car, and Nissan Rent-A-Car. These websites allow you to compare rates, car models, and rental locations. Additionally, you can book online and receive confirmation within minutes.

However, there are also other car rental services that cater to specific needs. For example, if you're traveling with a large group, you may want to consider renting a camper van from Japan Campers.

If you're looking for a luxury car, you may want to check out Lexus Rent-A-Lease. And if you're planning to drive in Hokkaido during the winter months, you may want to choose a rental company that offers cars equipped with snow tires and other winter driving features.

Whatever your needs may be, there is a rental service in Japan that can cater to them.

Using a Credit Card when Renting a Car

Now that you've compared various rental websites and services, it's time to talk about the importance of having a credit card when renting a car in Japan.

In fact, almost all car rental companies in Japan require a credit card to be presented at the time of rental. Why's a credit card so important? First, it serves as a form of security deposit for the rental company in case of damages or accidents. Second, it allows for easy payment of tolls and parking fees, which can quickly add up when driving in Japan.

To ensure a smooth rental process, make sure to have a credit card with a high enough credit limit to cover the cost of the rental and any additional fees.

Tips for using a credit card for car rental in Japan:

  • Make sure your credit card is valid for the entire rental period.
  • Check your credit limit to ensure it covers the cost of the rental and any additional fees.

Having a credit card is essential when renting a car in Japan. So, make sure to have a credit card ready before embarking on your Japanese road trip adventure.

When driving in Japan, you'll need to be aware of the unique traffic rules and driving etiquette to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Drive on the left side of the road: This may seem obvious, but if you're used to driving on the right side of the road, it can take some getting used to. Make sure to stay in the left lane, and be extra cautious when turning or merging.
  • Follow the speed limit: Like many countries, Japan has strict speed limits that are enforced with speed cameras. Be sure to pay attention to the signs and adjust your speed accordingly.
  • Yield to pedestrians: In Japan, pedestrians have the right of way, so be prepared to stop if someone is crossing the street. This is especially important in busy areas like Tokyo, with many pedestrians.

It's also important to remember that Japan has a zero-tolerance policy for drinking and driving, so never get behind the wheel if you've had any alcohol. By following these rules and being aware of the unique driving culture in Japan, you'll be able to enjoy your journey without any issues. For more information on Japan's traffic rules and driving etiquette, read our comprehensive Japan Driving Guide.

Dealing with Traffic Jam and Traffic Conditions

Navigating through a traffic jam in Japan can be frustrating, but there are some tips and tricks to help make the experience a little smoother.

Firstly, it's important to always keep a safe distance between your car and the car in front of you, as sudden stops are common in Japan. This will help prevent any accidents and allow you to react quickly if needed.

Additionally, be aware of the traffic conditions and try to avoid peak hours if possible. Japan's rush hour typically occurs between 7-9 am and 5-7 pm, so plan your route accordingly.

If you do find yourself stuck in traffic, take advantage of the time by listening to music or catching up on your favorite podcast. Utilizing a GPS can also be helpful in finding alternative routes.

Remember to stay patient and alert, and you'll make it to your destination in no time.

Using Google Maps for Navigation

Using Google Maps can be a great way to get around traffic in Japan. Not only does it provide accurate directions, but it can also help you avoid traffic jams and find alternative routes. Plus, it's incredibly easy to use. Simply input your destination and follow the directions provided.

But did you know that Google Maps has lesser-known features that can make navigating Japan even easier? Check out the table below for some tips and tricks:

Next time you're on the road in Japan, give Google Maps a try. It just might save you time and frustration on your journey.

Overview of Toll Gates and Toll Fees

Toll gates are a common sight on Japanese highways, and it's important to be aware of the toll fees if you plan on renting a car. The toll fees are calculated based on the distance traveled and the type of vehicle you're driving.

Generally, toll fees can range from a few hundred yen to thousands of yen, depending on the distance and location. There are different types of toll gates in Japan, including manual toll gates and ETC (Electronic Toll Collection) gates.

The ETC gates are faster and more convenient as they allow you to pass through without stopping, and the toll fee is automatically deducted from your ETC card. Some rental car companies offer ETC cards to their customers, which can be a convenient option for those who plan on using the highways frequently.

Overall, it's important to plan ahead and budget for toll fees when renting a car in Japan.

Understanding Electronic Toll Collection Systems

This means that you can enjoy a hassle-free journey on the highways of Japan without worrying about carrying enough cash or waiting in long lines at the toll gates. To use the electronic toll collection system, you'll need an ETC card, which you can easily obtain at rental car companies or at ETC service stations located along the highways.

Once you have an ETC card, simply insert it into the card reader on your rental car's dashboard, and you're good to go! The toll fee will be deducted from your card balance automatically as you pass through the toll gates. With the convenience and efficiency of the electronic toll collection system, you can focus on enjoying the beautiful scenery and exciting attractions that Japan has to offer.

Importance of Japanese Translation of Your License

If you're planning a road trip in Japan, don't forget to have your driver's license translated into Japanese before hitting the road! This is a crucial step as Japanese authorities require a valid driver's license to operate a vehicle in the country.

Having a Japanese translation of your license will ensure that you have the necessary documentation to avoid any misunderstanding or fines during your trip. You can obtain a Japanese translation of your driver's license through your embassy or consulate in Japan or through a translation service provider.

It's important to note that a certified translator must do the translation and should include your name, address, birth date, and the type of license you hold. By taking this extra step, you can ensure a smooth and hassle-free driving experience in Japan and enjoy the hidden gems the country has to offer.

Tips for Driving in Snow (Snow Tires)

Now that you've got the Japanese translation of your license, it's time to hit the road! But wait, if you're visiting Japan during the winter season, you need to prepare for driving in the snow.

This means you'll need snow tires, which are mandatory in some areas of Japan during the winter months. Driving in snow can be challenging even for experienced drivers, but don't worry, we've got you covered with these tips for driving in snow in Japan.

First, make sure to rent a car with snow tires, which are designed to provide better traction on snow and ice. Second, drive slower than usual and keep a safe distance from other cars. Third, avoid sudden movements such as hard braking or sharp turns, as these can cause your car to skid. Finally, be aware of the weather forecast and road conditions, which can change quickly during the winter months.

  • Rent a car with snow tires.
  • Drive slower and keep a safe distance.
  • Avoid sudden movements.
  • Be aware of the weather forecast and road conditions.

By following these tips, you'll be able to enjoy driving in Japan, even during the winter season. Just remember to stay safe and enjoy the breathtaking scenery of Japan covered in snow!

The 24-hour Rental System

To fully immerse yourself in the local culture, it's important to understand how the 24-hour rental system works for renting a car in Japan. Unlike in some countries where the rental period is measured in days, in Japan, the rental period is measured in 24-hour blocks. This means that even if you rent a car for only a few hours, you will be charged for a full 24-hour period.

To make the most of your rental, it's important to plan your schedule accordingly. For example, if you plan to return the car at 10 am on the second day of your rental, it's best to pick up the car at 10 am on the first day of your rental. This way, you can maximize your rental period and avoid paying extra fees for returning the car late.

By understanding the 24-hour rental system, you can make the most of your time and explore Japan's hidden gems at your own pace.

Returning Your Rental Car

Once you're done exploring Japan's hidden gems, it's time to return your rental car.

At the rental car facility, you'll need to follow the procedures outlined by the company.

Make sure to fill up at a gas station before returning the car, as you'll be charged a premium if the tank is empty.

Procedures At The Rental Car Facility

As you step into the rental car facility, you'll feel a sense of excitement and anticipation for the adventure ahead.

The rental process in Japan is generally straightforward, but it's important to be prepared for the procedures at the rental car facility.

Once you arrive, you'll need to present your driver's license and passport to the rental agent. They'll then confirm your reservation and provide you with the necessary paperwork to sign.

After you've signed the paperwork, the rental agent will walk you through the inspection process. This involves examining the car for any pre-existing damage and ensuring that everything is in working order. If there are any issues, make sure to bring them to the attention of the rental agent before you take off.

Once the inspection is complete, the rental agent will hand you the keys and you'll be on your way to explore all the hidden gems that Japan has to offer.

Filling up at gas stations before returning the car

When it's time to return the rental car, don't forget to fill up at a gas station before dropping it off. Most rental car companies require you to return the car with a full tank of gas. If you fail to do so, you'll be charged a higher fee for the gas plus a service fee for the company to fill it up themselves.

To avoid these extra fees, make sure to fill up the tank at a gas station before returning the car. Gas stations in Japan are generally self-service, so you'll need to know how to operate the pump. Here are some quick tips to keep in mind:

  • Look for the kanji character for 'gas' or 'petrol' (ă‚Źă‚œăƒȘン) to locate the gas station.
  • Pay at the machine first, then pump your gas.
  • When finished, be sure to return the pump nozzle to its holder before driving away.

By following these tips, you can avoid any additional fees and return your rental car with ease. Plus, you'll have peace of mind knowing you've handled everything before you hand over the keys.

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