Driving in Japan

Because of urban traffic congestion, driving within Japan's major cities is not recommended for foreign visitors. However, driving on main roads between cities is a viable alternative to public transportation. Visitors who intend to drive in Japan should note the following :

  • On main roads most major destinations are sign-posted in English. In rural areas this may not be the case. If you are planning to drive in more remote areas, it is advisable to purchase a reliable English-Japanese road atlas before you depart. Companies such as Shobunsha and Kodansha publish these atlases.

  • Driving in Japan is on the left.

  • Parking can be difficult to find in some urban centres.

  • An International Driving Permit is required.

  • Tolls are levied on expressways and other major routes. Toll charges will depend on how far you wish to travel and which roads you intend to take. Example: Tolls for one route from Tokyo to Kyoto cost approximately 4,770.

The Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) publishes an English guide to driving in Japan called "Rules of the Road". These are available at JAF offices throughout Japan. For further information go to the JAF web site or contact the International Affairs Department of JAF on Tel. +81 (0)3 3436 2811 /Fax. + 81 (0)3 3588 6055.

A Metropolitan Expressway map in English is available within Japan from the Metropolitan Expressway Public Corporation :

Metropolitan Expressway Public Corporation
Nittochi Bldg 9F
1-4-1 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo 100-8930
Tel. (03) 3539 9259
Fax. (03) 3503 7678

International Driving Permit
If you wish to drive a car while in Japan, you must obtain an International Driving Permit prior to departure. You will also need to be in possession of your national license while driving in Japan. International Driving Permits are generally issued by the national automobile association in your country. Some countries, such as Germany & Switzerland, do not have a reciprocal agreement with Japan to honour the permits. Please check with your automobile association when applying.

Vehicle Rental

You will be required to produce your International Driving Permit when renting a car in Japan.

Rental prices may vary from company to company. Average rates for 24 hours rental with unlimited mileage are as follows :

Size /Day
Sub-compact (1000-1300cc) 5,000 - 11,100
Compact (1500-1800cc) 9,000 - 13,500
Intermediate (2000cc) 14,000 - 30,000
Standard (3000cc) 29,500 - 31,000

Fuel costs
The above rental charges do not include fuel costs. Fuel in Japan costs approximately 100 yen per litre.

Rental Companies
Companies offering vehicle rental at various locations throughout Japan include:

  • Budget
    UK - Tel 0800 181 181


  • Avis
    UK- Tel. 0870 90 77 300

  • Hertz
    UK - Tel. 08708 448844

  • Japaren Co., Ltd
    4th Fl Ogikubo Kangyo Bldg
    202 Amanuma 3-chome
    Suginami-ku 167-8578
    Tel. (03) 5397 8811, Fax. (03) 5397 8816
    Reservations outside Japan can be made through Avis.

  • Mazda Rent-A-Lease
    2-12 Takadanobaba
    Shinjuku-ku 169-0075
    Tel. (03) 5286 0740, Fax. (03) 5292 0236

  • National Car Rental
    UK - Tel. 0870 600 6666


  • Nippon Rent-A-Car
    5-5 Kamiyama-cho
    Tel. (03) 3468 7126, Fax. (03) 3485 7105
    Reservations outside Japan should be made through National Car Rental.

  • Toyota Rent-A Lease
    3rd Floor, Q Dan Bldg
    12-1 Fujimi 1-chome
    Chiyoda-ku 102-0071
    Tel. (03) 3264 0100, Fax. (03) 3239 0857

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  Information provided by Japan National Tourist Organization.


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