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Guide To Road-Tripping In Japan: Tips On Renting A Car & Scenic Routes To Experience

18 Oct 2019

Hew Lee Yee

Klook Travel Curator
https://www.klook.com/activity/15626-js-car-rental-hokkaido/
All you need to know about driving in Japan

Nothing screams adventure much like going on road trips - just the open road and wherever the car takes you! If you’re visiting Japan and plan to explore outside of the well-connected cities, opting for a car rental can be a convenient and more economical option, especially if you’re travelling in a group. Keep reading for some practical tips on renting cars and also suggested scenic drives to experience in Japan!

Essential tips and guide

How to rent a car in Japan

It can be daunting trying to navigate the logistics of renting a car in Japan. However, rest assured that your experience with renting a car in Japan is fuss-free and painless with Klook. You can pre-book your rental car online and select your desired vehicle size and rental duration. You can also indicate your preferred pick up and drop off location of your choice from the list.

Once you have arrived in Japan at the specified pick-up location, present your Klook voucher and supporting documents to collect your rental car. Then it’s off you go on a road trip before dropping it off at your selected drop off location!

IMPORTANT: Those travelling with children do take note that according to Japanese law, children under age 6 must be equipped with a child seat when travelling in the vehicle. Hence, if child seats are required, make sure to indicate the quantity and the age of the child when booking your car rental on Klook.

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Shuji Abe for Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/GeeamX)
What you need to rent a car in Japan

Driving permit To be able to rent and drive a car in Japan, you have to meet a minimum age of 18 and posses either a Japanese driver’s license or for fellow foreigners, an International Driving Permit (IDP). For visitors in Japan, you have to obtain your driving permit in your home country prior to your arrival in Japan.

The only permit that is recognized by Japan is based on the 1949 Geneva Convention, which is issued by most countries. The International Driving Permit (IDP) is valid for 1 year from the date of issue. The permits' validity for driving in Japan is 1 year from the date of arrival in Japan.

If you’re visiting from selected countries (Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Monaco, Slovenia, Switzerland & Taiwan) which do not issue permits based on the 1949 Geneva Convention, there’s a different procedure. You can drive in Japan for up to a year with an official Japanese translation of your driver’s license. The Japanese translation of your driver's license must be issued by your respective country’s embassy, a consulate in Japan, or by the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF)

Other supporting documents Aside from your driving permit, you may be asked to provide your passport information and to present your passport when getting your rental car. Other information you may be asked to provide when pre-booking your car rental is your flight number and to indicate your pick up & drop off location.

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GPS navigation in rental car

Typically, rental cars in Japan come equipped with a GPS navigation system built into the dashboard. Sometimes they the map and direction are set to Japanese but can be switched to another language. Check with the staff when getting your rental car if there is GPS navigation available in English (or your preferred language) and ask for their help to change the settings.

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Photo Credit: micsworld for Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/mmEYrL)
Insurance

The car rental services on Klook are inclusive of basic insurance coverage. However, if you’d like to top up your insurance for additional coverage, you can speak to the staff and pay them the additional fee when getting your rental car.

Basic traffic rules in Japan

In Japan, the driver’s seat is on the right and vehicles drive on the left side of the road. Of course, all the standard driving rules apply like buckling your seatbelts, using a child seat for children under age 6, and more.

Make sure to familiarize yourself with the traffic regulations, the various traffic signs and what they mean, and more with this guide for foreign drivers in Japan prepared by the National Police Agency of Japan.

An advantage in driving in Japan is that drivers typically stick to the traffic rules, so there’s no need to worry about reckless driving everywhere! If you’re nervous, just follow what the other drivers are doing.

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Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eshima_Ohashi_Bridge)

Scenic drives in Japan

1. Okinawa

The southernmost island in Japan, Okinawa is actually closer to Taiwan than the Japan mainland! Many like to opt for self-driving when in Okinawa and it’s a must to drive along the Mid-Sea Road, also known as Kaichu-doro, a 5km sea road which connects the famous Ikei-jima (Ikei Island) and the mainland of Okinawa.

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Wikipedia (https://zh-yue.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kaichu-Doro.jpg)
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Ikidane Nippon (https://press.ikidane-nippon.com/en/a00227/)

2. Nikko Irohazaka

A small city in Tochigi Prefecture, Nikko is 2 hours away from Tokyo and mostly known for the elaborate Toshogu Shrine. For those driving to Nikko, the highlight is the Nikko Irohazaka, a pair of winding roads between central Nikko and the mountainous Okunikko region. During fall, the roads are surrounded by autumn leaves, which makes for the most magical view!

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Wikipedia (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Izu_Skyline_20120203.jpg)

3. Izu Peninsula

Izu Peninsula is located in Shizuoka, facing the Pacific Ocean. It’s just under 3 hours away from Tokyo by car and has plenty to offer from hot springs to fresh seafood, abundant fruits and more. The main highlight of driving there is, of course, the beautiful scenery along the 40.6km Izu Skyline sightseeing road!

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Ryan Kartzke for Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/HJ22CV)
4. Niseko & Lake Toya

A popular road trip route in Hokkaido is Niseko and Lake Toya, which are about an hour apart. They are both 1.5 hours from Sapporo and can be quite difficult to get to unless you rent a car or join a day tour. Make sure to enjoy the view of Mt. Yotei from the ski resort of Niseko and take plenty of pit stops in nearby hot springs along the way!

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5. Furano

One of the most popular destinations in Hokkaido, Furano is located about 2 hours away by car from New Chitose Airport or the capital, Sapporo. To maximise your time and experience the many beautiful scenic spots in Furano, renting a car and going on a road trip is highly recommended, especially for summertime!

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