When traveling around the more rural prefectures of Japan bike is our preferred mode of transportation. That said, for the non-cyclists amongst us, or those trying to optimize their bike time on tour and off bike time afterwards renting a car can be a great way to see tons of awesome places in Japan well off the beaten path of the infamous train lines.
While there are many rental car companies in Japan, we at Bike Tour Japan recommend Toyota Rental Car to our guests above most all other for a few reasons.
1) Toyota Rental Car’s Website Has an English Rental Page
Not too long ago Toyota Rental Car added a fully English rental system. This now makes renting in Japan through one of the biggest rental car companies easier than ever.
2) Toyota Rental Car has Locations All over Japan
Toyota Rental Car not only has locations outside nearly every major train station across Japan, but also many of the larger cities have dozens of locations to pick from.
3) Toyota Makes Reliable Cars
Toyota’s reputation for reliable cars is well known in the states, and that reputation certainly carries over to its rental fleet in Japan. Not only are the cars consistently in great condition and newer models, but they also offer great roadside assistance should you need help while on your trip.
How to Rent with Toyota Rental Car
Renting is easy with Toyota Rental Car.
- Start by going to their English rental page.
- Next, type in the city, airport, or train station nearest to where you would like to pickup your rental.
- Then, Select your car model from the list.
- You will then get a list of add-on options. If you plan to use any highways (you almost certainly will when driving in Japan) be sure to get the ETC express way card for smoother (and cheaper) tolls.
- While the insurance listed is optional, you will by default get this police listed on the Toyota Rental Car site that is quite comprehensive after three different deductibles that max out at 50,000yen, 50,000yen, and 20,000yen for a total of a maximum deductible of roughly $1,100.
Please read the full details here to get the complete information on the policy.
- The last page will ask you to confirm the reservation information and complete the reservation.
International Drivers Licenses and Driving in Japan
While each country is different, you will almost certainly need an international drivers license to drive in Japan as a visiting tourist.
Beyond that, we highly recommend those coming from western countries and without Japanese reading skills to take a moment to familarize themselves with the common street signs of Japan and road rules.
Big Differences Between Driving in Japan and the US, Europe, Australia, etc
- Japan drives on the LEFT SIDE of the road. This means the driver gets in the right hand side of the car. For those from countries that also drive on the left such as the UK this will come as no shock, but for those from right side drive countries.
So, before you even get in the car it is best to mentally prepare yourself and try to imagine what this means when you get to turns.. tight left, wide right, etc.
- Speaking of right turns, there is no such thing as “Right on Red” Americans. All red lights in Japan mean a full stop and wait until green. No exceptions!
- Another place you must stop by law is train tracks. Every train crossing you approach you will see each car come to a full stop, look both ways, make sure they can fully clear the tracks before proceeding, then pass over the tracks.
This is a safety rule that is strictly enforced in Japan.
- Lastly, the most unique sign in Japan is one of the most common on the road, that is the Japanese Stop sign or “Tomare” (written in Japanese as 止まれ).
See the photo below, but these upside down red triangles have just Japanese text on them and are easily missed by foreign eyes that don’t read Japanese. That said, they are one of the most important signs! Learn this symbol well and play a game when you first start driving to point them out to yourself in order to become familiar with them as blowing through one could be the end of a fun road trip and the start of a lot of Japanese paperwork and insurance claim information exchange.
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