Since Japan has a well developed public transport system it's often better to stick with public transports while travelling, especially in the big cities like Tokyo, Yokohama and Osaka. But if you are interested in the Japanese countryside or planing a road trip across the island, a car is a must.
The legal age for driving in Japan is 18 years old and requires either a Japanese Driving License or an International Driving Permit (IDP). The IDP can not be issued in Japan but have to be acquired in advance before entering Japan. IDP are usually issued through your country's automobile association for a fee, and requires that you already have a valid local Driving License.
The IDP itself is a document a little larger than a passport and contains a translation of your local Driving License. You also have to bring your local Driving Permit with you as well, as a IDP by itself is not valid. In Japan a IDP is only valid for up to a year from entry and is not meant to be used by foreigners living or staying in Japan for longer periods.
Switzerland, Germany, France, Taiwan, Belgium, Slovenia and Monaco do not issue IDP based on the 1949 Geneva Convention required for driving in Japan, but instead have a separate agreement. Letting their citizens drive in Japan on the condition that they have a Japanese translation of their Driving License issued from the Japan Automobile Federation. In some cases the country's embassy in Japan are also able to issue a valid translation of ones Driving License.
This is a list of the leading Japanese rental car chains with shops all around Japan. All the companies below also have a reservation page in English.
Toyota Rent a Car
Nissan Rent a Car
ORIX Rent a Car
Times Car Rental
There are also some English reservation websites targeted at foreign visitors that cooperate with the above rental companies. Such as Japan Experience, that also offers additional services. Such as guaranteed English GPS systems and road side phone support in the case of emergencies.
The usual starting rental fee for a normal sized car is around 10,000 to 15,000 Yen for 24 hours and includes insurance. Most rentals also offers cheaper per day prices depending on the length of the rental period.
All rental cars usually comes equipped with GPS navigation systems included in the base price. Just make sure your car's unit supports English language, as some are in Japanese only. In a worst case scenario you can usually get by with Google maps on a mobile device, provided you have a stable internet connection.
Full-service gas stations are manned and you don't even have to exit your car as the staff fills your car up for you. Other than refuelling they will also take care of any trash you might have, clean your wind-shield and afterwards helps directing you onto the road as you leave. Full-service stations used to be the norm in Japan, but recently cheaper self-service stations have become more common. Other than cash most gas stations also accept credit cards.
This is the domestic average gasoline price at the time of writing. Please not that prices may vary considerably depending on date and location so use the prices listed here more as a general guideline
|Regular (ギュラー)||106.7 JPY|
|High Octane (ハイオク)||117.8 JPY|
|Diesel (軽油)||91.1 JPY|
A huge part of why car ownership is so expensive in Japan is the lack of cheap parking space. In Japan you are required to submit proof of a parking space before you can even buy a car. So do not forget to include parking fees in your travel expenses when planning to rent a car. Parking spaces in more rural areas can be reasonable or even free, while prices in the range of several thousand yen a day are normal in large cities like Tokyo.