How to Rent a Car in Japan with Foreign Driver's License
Raod trip in Japan
Do you not want enjoy driving a car in Japan?
Even the country is known for its great public transport. If you travel to suburb of Japan, there is virtually no public transportation.
In some area, you only get two buses per day ( in the morning and the night) or even no bus.
Actually Japan is a wonderful road trip destination. If you travel to Hokkaido or Okinawa, you definitely need a car to enjoy the landscape. You will be in the middle of nature, if Hokkaido, the endless field all year around and the great view of snow in the winter and if Okinawa, the ocean! If you use a taxi in Japan, you pay crazy amount of fee or pay a good amount for the one day deal. When we were in Okinawa where a public transport is poor, we used a bus to get our hotel. It was 2 hour trip with no option to stop by at a cool cafe we saw from the bus or at convenience store for quick refreshment. Many travelers rent cars.
We liked a road trip in Nara actually. Nara is not only known for the big Buddha but it has many tiny old villages like Asuka village where you can see the mysterious stone structures from the ancient time.
How To Rent a car in Japan?
So how to rent a car and drive in Japan as a foreign tourist?
The car rental in Japan itself is not hard, the same as most of the countries. You just need to communicate with the staff by Google translation if needed.
Major rent car companies in Japan are:
But you need to prepare the critical documents with you. Note that depending on your country origin, you may not be able to rent a car.
Witnessing the increase of traffic accidents involving foreigners in Japan, we hope you pay maximum attention to the regulations and drive safe!
For all of these, first of all, you need a driver's license from your country (valid one). If not, you cannot rent it.
If you have, then, there are several options. You can get a Japanese driver's license, an international driver's license or an official translation of your driver's license.
Sports car to rent in Japan?
Looking for a great time driving in Japan? How about cabriolet?
You feel the wind of speed. Wonderful experience to go through the big cities, mountains and the coast.
Some rent a car companies specialized in sports cars like Skyline GT-R. You can check the list of sports car and classic car rentals in Japan here!!
Camping car to rent in Japan?
If you want to do outdoor for days, this shall be a great option to rent a camp van in Japan. This way, you save up the money to stay at a hotel. You have a total mobility.
This company lends you a camping car.
Kimono car to rent?
Orix rent a car company started renting a "Kimono concept"car at Kansai Internationale Airport.
Source: Orix rent a car company
An official translation of your driver's license
This is the easiest and fastest.
This is where we can help. It depends of a rental car company. Japan Automotive Federation, JAF, issues the official translation of your driver’s license (" Gaikoku Unten Menkyosho Honyakubun 外国運転免許証翻訳文 ").
To get this translation paper, you fill in the document , take your original driver’s license and basically go to the JAF office with a international service department in Japan. It takes 1 day – 2 weeks to make the translation.
You show this translation with your valid driver's license from home country, "basically" you can rent a car in Japan.
Be aware that the decision is up to the rent a car company. There is NO guarantee that you can rent a car. For now, with our customers, we have never heard that this did not work.
Before all this, Make sure you find a car rent company in your travel destination, and mail/call them up and ask if " JAF (pronouced as " Jafu ") Gaikoku Unten Menkyosho Honyakubun 外国運転免許証翻訳文 " is enough to rent a car.
Here is the list of info we need:
a) Applicant's name
b) Applicant's address in Japan (hotel, if not decided, your home address)
c) Your telephone number ( home, office, mobile)
d) Your email address
e) Issuing country of your driver's license
f ) If you have not lived in your country for at least 3 months after you get your license, please let us know (we need to specify in the application)
g) Full color photocopy/scan of your driver's license (need to be clear copy, not blurry) FRONT AND BACK (PDF)
h) Proof of the valid travel insurance covering your entire stay in Japan (PDF)
i) by when you need the document
How to get a Japanese driver's license with your foreign license?
Based on your license from your nation, you can get the Japanese drivers license at a local license center ("Unten Menkyo Centre ( 運転免許センター )") in Japan. For this, you first need to fill in the official form, actually need to go to the center, take some tests (paper and actual driving in the center's venue).
The local license center is not a police department but a facility run by a police related agency which is usually located in some country side.
If you have no foreign driver's license, you need to go to a driving school for 2-4 weeks and take the paper test (in Japanese) and driving tests ( in Japanese).
International driver's license
It is more officially called “International Driving Permit ”. It depends on the law of your country, you go to the relevant authority in charge of driver’s license and fill in the necessary documents. In case of Japan, you also need a photo of your face. Many think that they can drive anywhere in the world with this license but it is not the case. International driver’s license is not universally use-able. It depends on the agreements (e.g. 1949 and 1968 conventions on Road Traffic) amongst countries.
The 1968 Convention on Road Traffic has been ratified by 72 countries (e.g. Japan ) and the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic has been ratified by 96 states (e.g. Germany). Technically speaking the permit from Japan which only ratified the 1968 is not use-able in Germany which only ratified the 1949. But thanks to the special agreement between Germany and Japan, the personnel with the permit can drive in both countries.
Keep in mind that it is not strange not to be able to drive with the international driver’s license in some major countries.
The validity is usually 1 year but depends on the local laws. You better research before you drive in a foreign country even when you have an international driver’s license.
Police Enforcement in Japan
Police enforcement is quite harsh in Japan. For any violation of the law, this will be a permanent record on you. Unlike some countries where you can buy the police out in case of some trouble, you cannot do so in Japan. If you try, you will be in even more serious problem.
Many people get caught for these violations:
a. drink driving (you can not drink even a drop of alcohol when drive in Japan),
b. going into a one way road from the opposite ( there are so many one way road in Japan esp. in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto ),
c. not stopping where it supposed to stop,
d. illegal parking (not enough parking lot in the big cities. Recently we have more traffic wardens watching!) and
e. not wearing seat belt
Share your experience!
Enjoy and safe trip in Japan!
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Onegai Kaeru wants you to enjoy Japan trip.
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Source: JAF official page, Wikipedia
Disclaimer: Even though we try to make the info as updated and accurate but the accuracy of the information herein is not guaranteed by us. If you have any uncertainty, please contact the information source.
Write a comment
Iwan santosa (Tuesday, 25 December 2018 14:23)
Rental car company dont mention which origin country can drive in japan, it is should be filtered from the beggining we apply rental car in websitte, if for example we wre from Indonesia when we try to should mention that our local and international driving license not acceptable in japan then we try to book the rental car should refuse from the beggining wehad expreince today that we already in toyota rental car hokkaido for deparure, they just starting to check we have which license we have really make trouble for our planning fir next 7 days it should annountmentcand also dont accept any booking from indonesia because int’l cannot used incindojesia
Shenghua Liu (Thursday, 03 December 2020 15:46)
On my visit in japan, i found a rent a car place in Matsudo Chiba, renting was smooth with my available permit and there was a wide range of vehicle for rent. Leadrentalcars .There was support in English and was easy for me.