Though not a popular option among tourists because of Japan’s super-efficient public transport system, getting your own private vehicle does have it share of advantages in certain situations. If you feel that this is for you and your base is Tokyo, here’s a handy guide to everything you need to know about car rentals in the city and driving in Japan in general.

Tip1. Driving Permits

The first order of business is to secure an international driving permit based on the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic obtained in your home country prior your trip to Japan. This permit is valid for a maximum of 1 year.

However, for citizens of Belgium, France, Germany, Monaco, Slovenia, and Switzerland, they only need to secure an official Japanese translation of their driver’s license issued by either the Japan Automobile Foundation (JAF) or the respective country embassy or consulate in Japan. The same applies to Taiwanese citizens except that the official translation must be coursed through JAF or the East Asia Relations Commission.

JAF Website: http://www.jaf.or.jp/e/

Driving in Tokyo.

Driving in Tokyo. From Flickr

Tip2. General Driving Guidelines

Japanese traffic drives on the left-hand side of the road. Meaning, the steering wheel is on the right side. As with any country, drivers must abide by all traffic rules and regulations at all times. Japan’s National Police Agency released a guide to foreign nationals about driving in Japan. You can view the latest issue here.

Wearing of seatbelts for all passengers and use of car seats for children are also strictly enforced.

Tip3. Parking

Parking in Japan is always tricky most especially in the big cities. It is always safe to assume that it is illegal to park on roadsides even in residential neighborhoods. However, the reality is that there are actually a few designated places for metered parking, but for visiting tourists who are not too familiar with the area, paid parking services are strongly recommended. This is because if reprimanded, Illegal parking will incur you significant penalties.

Most malls, hotels, national parks, and major tourist attractions offer their guests parking spaces for a fixed or time-based fee. Elsewhere, you may also find a variety of paid parking establishments such as self-service car parks and very high-tech elevator parking towers. Rates vary depending on the location. The denser the area, the higher the price.

Automated parking in Tokyo.

Automated parking in Tokyo. From Flickr

Tip4. Electronic Toll Collection (ETC)

You will encounter ETC when you drive along Tokyo’s Shuto Expressway or on other highways outside the city. Through the ETC system, toll fees are collected automatically and electronically enabling motorists to pass through toll gates without stopping. Cars equipped with ETC devices will need an ETC card, which works just like a credit card.

It is a relatively faster way to travel but this is optional. Alternatively, you can pay in cash at the toll gate. Just make sure that you enter the correct lane.

Tip5. Car Rental Companies in Japan

Below is a list of the top rental companies in Tokyo. Before making a reservation, outline your itinerary and the additional requirements you may need for your trip so that the company representatives can best recommend a suitable option for you. The basic documents you would need to present are your passport and international driver’s permit. Whereas, payment can be done by cash or credit card. Some options are exclusive for credit card transactions only, so please always double check.

Rent A Car in Tokyo.

Rent A Car in Tokyo. From Flickr

The information provided below are only basic ones, which are included for the purposes of simple comparison among different rent a car options. Note that other details such as special offers, actual pricing structures, drop-off arrangements, and the like are not covered in this guide. Thus, please consult each company’s website or customer service hotlines for more details.

Toyota Rent A Car

Toyota Rent A Car offers passenger cars, minivans, wagons, sports cars, SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicles), and hybrid options for both sedans and minivans. Minimum rates are as follows:

  • Passenger Cars: From ¥5,400 for 6 hours
  • Minivans & Wagons: From ¥7,560 for 6 hours
  • SUVs: From ¥10,260 for 6 hours

Rate Inclusions: Multi-lingual car navigation system (except for some car models and areas), ETC device

Paid Options: ETC card rentals, Child seat, Four-wheel drive option for some models, Carrying systems (for skis/snowboards) plus winter tires and snow chains

List of locations in Tokyo: https://rent.toyota.co.jp/eng/shop/tokyo.html

Website: https://rent.toyota.co.jp/eng/

Nissan Rent A Car

Nissan Rent A Car offers passenger cars, minivans, vans, wagons, sports cars, SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicles), and hybrid options for sedans. Minimum rates are as follows:

  • Passenger Cars: From ¥5,076 for 12 hours
  • Minivans & Wagons: From ¥8,856 for 12 hours
  • SUVs: From ¥8,199 for 12 hours

Rate Inclusions: Japanese/English car navigation systems, ETC device

Paid Options: Car navigation system (for other languages besides Japanese or English), ETC card rental, Child seat, Four-wheel drive option for some models, Carrying systems (for skis/snowboards) plus winter tires and snow chains

List of locations in Tokyo: https://nissan-rentacar.com/english/shop/tokyo/#ttl_area_anc

Website: https://nissan-rentacar.com/english/

Nippon Rent A Car

Nippon Rent A Car offers multi-brand passenger cars, subcompact cars, minivans, vans, wagons, sports cars, trucks and hybrid options for sedans. Minimum rates are as follows:

  • Subcompact Cars: From ¥7,020 for 6 hours
  • Passenger Cars: From ¥7,128 for 6 hours
  • Minivans & Wagons: From ¥9,288 for 6 hours

Rate Inclusions: Multi-lingual car navigation system (except for trucks and dry vans), ETC device

Paid Options: Child seat, Four-wheel drive option for some models, Carrying systems (for skis/snowboards) plus winter tires and snow chains

*ETC card rental not available in Tokyo outlets

List of locations in Tokyo: https://www.nipponrentacar.co.jp/english/rental-locations/kanto.html#anc01

Website: https://www.nipponrentacar.co.jp/english/index.html

Orix Rent A Car

Orix Rent A Car offers multi-brand passenger cars, subcompact cars, SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicles), minivans, vans, wagons, and hybrid options for sedans. Minimum rates are as follows:

  • Subcompact Cars: From ¥4,860 for 6 hours
  • Passenger Cars: From ¥7,020 for 6 hours
  • Minivans & Wagons: From ¥7,020 for 6 hours
  • SUVs: From ¥9,720 for 6 hours

Rate Inclusions: Multi-lingual car navigation system, ETC device

Paid Options: Child seat, Four-wheel drive option for some models, ETC card rental (selected outlets only)

List of locations in Tokyo: http://car.orix.co.jp/eng/shop/

Website: http://car.orix.co.jp/eng/

Times Car Rental 

Times Car Rental offers multi-brand passenger cars, subcompact cars, sports cars, SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicles), minivans, vans, wagons, and hybrid options for sedans. Minimum rates are as follows:

  • Subcompact Cars: From ¥4,536 for 6 hours
  • Passenger Cars: From ¥5,292 for 6 hours
  • Minivans & Wagons: From ¥6,804 for 6 hours
  • SUVs: From ¥9,828 for 6 hours

Rate Inclusions: Multi-lingual car navigation system, ETC device 

Paid Options: Child seat, Four-wheel drive option for some models, ETC card rental (selected outlets only), winter tires and snow chains

List of locations in Tokyo: http://www.timescar-rental.com/shop/results/?mode=4&KEN_CD=13

Website: http://www.timescar-rental.com

*All prices quoted above are regular season rates as of August 2016. For updated price information and high season rates, please visit the respective company’s website.

**Basic insurance coverage varies per car rental company.

 

Thumbnail image is from Flickr