car and mt. fuji

Everything you should know about renting a car in Japan

Everything you should know about renting a car in Japan

As long as you are staying in Tokyo you do not really need a car. That is because owning a car here is more expensive than a train fee. You will need to look for parking. You also might get into traffic jams. But sometimes having a car is convenient, especially when you decide to travel, as the bullet trains (shinkansen) are expensive and getting to and from the airport takes precious time. Moreover, public transportation in rural areas is much less frequent and convenient than in Tokyo. Thus, you might want to rent a car for such occasions. In this article, we bring to you everything you should know about renting a car in Japan.

Driving License:

First of all, in order to be able to drive a car in Japan, you must be at least 18 years old and have a special driving license. You need to get International Driving Permits (IDPs) issued by a signatory to the 1949 Geneva Convention, the only one which is recognized as valid for driving in Japan. An IDP on the other conventions or treaties, including the 1969 Vienna Convention, is invalid.

It is different for people with a driving license from the following countries: Switzerland, Germany, France, Belgium, Monaco, Estonia, and Taiwan. For more details please click here.

Remember that IDP is not a replacement for the driving license and is valid for 1 year only. Hence, if you are a foreigner staying in Japan long-term, you will need to acquire your own Japanese license. Details about the switching process you can find here.

Renting a car:

Renting a car in Japan is not so much different from the same process in other countries. It is highly recommended to book your car in advance. On the web you will be able to choose the days, starting and returning point, and a car type. You can also come directly to the agency on the same day you need a car, but in this case, you risk not getting the car you wanted.


On average a price for a day should be around ¥10,000/day, depending on the type of car you choose and the distance. You can compare the prices on this website.


The basic compensation insurance is usually already included in the fee. However, you might want to confirm with the agency about any additional costs in case of an accident or emergency. Many of the agencies have safety plan that can be purchased as well.


– There are many paid tolls. You should get yourself an ETC card, so you will be able to pay automatically instead of being constantly worried about the exact change. The card can be rented from the renting agencies for a symbolic payment.

– If you are going to Hokkaido or Kyushu, check their expressway passes (Hokkaido Express Pass and Kyushu Expressway Pass). Depending on your itinerary, trains might be more convenient and cheaper. 

– Make sure your car has a multilingual navigation system.

Please remember that renting a car can be a great option when traveling. But it all depends on where you go, how many people, etc. Some more popular destinations have good public transportation access to them and many discounted passes. If you are interested to save yourself some money, always check all these details before you go on your trip to Japan.