I have on several occasions been driving in Japan. The first thing that strikes you when hitting the roads is obviously that the Japanese are driving on the left side of the road. This might be a little bit odd at first but it’s surprisingly easy to adapt too. Everything in the car is mirrored, so it’s pretty easy to get into because you are sitting on the “wrong side” in the car and drive as well.
OK, so driving on the road, now you are prepared for it. What do I need to drive? Well, you need a so-called international driving permit (IDP), which basically is a translated version of your driver’s license. In a separate little booklet. The international driving permit is applied for and issued in your home country so you need to get that sorted before leaving for Japan. There are usually two versions of the IDP available, a 1-year, and 3-year-old version, for the Japan you need the 1-year version. In my neck of the woods, it takes around 2-4 weeks to get the IDP in the mailbox so take that into consideration before your trip to Japan.
When you have arrived in Japan, there are several different options for renting cars. It might not be those who are big in your part of the world who are big in Japan. Hertz, Avis etc are usually in a few places and often around airports which might not suit your need if you want to do a day trip from an area in Tokyo. Vendors like Toyota Rent a Car or Times Car is far more common and they are available in many locations and have good prices. Once you have come so far that you booked the car and are going to pick it up. You need three things, besides your international driving permit mentioned above, you need your regular driver’s license from your home country, as well as your passport.
If you drive a car in Japan during winter time so you have to be prepared there are no winter tires on your car, they run the same tires year-round. So if you are headed to a snowy area or mountains in the late fall to early spring, if there is snow on the ground or the temperature is freezing you might need to put chains on the car.
Good luck driving and drive safe!
– Apply for international driver’s permit in good time before leaving (1-year version)
– Check up some local players when you rent a car, for example, Toyota Rent-a-car or Times car, it can pay off.
– Bring your driver’s license, passport, and international driving permit when renting a car in Japan