This is a blog post on tips to self-drive in Japan!
Last December, our family went on a road trip and toured around Kyushu. I received lots of questions asking me about renting a car in Japan. Japan’s public transport is beyond amazing, and to be honest, I would pick a shikansen ride anytime because it’s super relaxing.
We did consider whether we wanted to rent a car or take public transport to move about in Kyushu. For me I wanted to take the train because I didn’t want the danna to be too tired driving (he’s not very good with sitting for long hours considering his job requires him to be standing most of the time). But he insisted driving because it was the best option for our family.
So today I am going to share a little about our road trip around Kyushu, and the advantages of self-driving in Japan!
Picking up car!
We landed at Nagasaki Airport from Haneda, and went over to pick up our car that the danna booked in advance.
Danna retrieving his car booking reference number.
There are many car rental companies in Japan all over the cities, including Times Car, Nippon Rental Car, Budget, Orix, etc. Perhaps the most difficult part is choosing and comparing different companies, and of course, advance booking is strongly advised to prevent any hiccups.
Both the danna and I speak Japanese so it’s no problem for us, but for foreigner, I understand that it may be a little intimidating to go through all the booking sites in Japanese. No worries, I have a solution for you at the second half of this post. Keep on reading!
There’s a little waiting area outside Nagasaki Airport, where you could take a rest while the staff arrange to shuttle you and your luggages to the nearby rental car company.
We reached the rental car office and got our car, a super spacious and swanky 7-seater Mitsubishi Delica D5. Loooove it.
The reason why we picked such a huge car despite our 4 family members is that we have plenty of luggages, a stroller, and we too have to install two child-seats. With a normal car I will be left with no space to sit HAHA.
Junya chupped his carseat. And we’re ready to embark on our Around-Kyushu journey!!
Space for Luggages
One of the biggest advantages is of course, space to store your luggage. I’m sure some of you know the pain of having to lug humongous suitcases while having to tend to two (or more!!!) restless children. It is quite… impossible haha.
I also cannot remember the number of times we had to squeeze in packed trains with our luggages next to us because there was no space to store them.
So… being able to just stuff all your belongings without having to constantly haul them along next to you is a bless.
No stress for the mommy and babies. A tiny bit of stress for the driver if he gets sleepy. Haha.
This is of course, the biggest advantage of self-driving. Parents with children know the stress when the little ones start to throw a fit in public ESPECIALLY INSIDE A PACKED TRAIN with nowhere to escape. (Oh god pls don’t let that ever happen again) All you want to do is to high-speed ferry them to a private, quiet place. You will never have this worry if you are in the comfort of your own car.
Other than that, self-driving also means that you don’t have to rush for the buses, the trains (with the luggages!!), etc. You take your own sweeeet time to finish a bowl of ramen without having to worry that you will miss that Hayabusa’s on-the-dot departure time.
You also can snack as much as you want in the car and mess it up (as long as you clean up later) without having those judgemental stares from other passengers haha.
While I love train rides because of the soothing change of scenes from the window, road trip makes it more special because…
You can stop and take a breath of cooling, fresh air any time you like.
And take as many photos as you like that you normally won’t be able to from a public transport. (Remember to obey traffic rules though!)
SA!!! (Service Area)
Omg the best. Have any of you been to the SAs in Japan before??? My favorite is Ebina Service Area in Kanagawa prefecture. Other than the world-class toilets, it is like a mini shopping mall!
This is Kita Kumamoto SA, a very small service area in Kumamoto. Nothing compared to Ebina SA, but I love exploring different local souvenirs in different SA, and I usually buy my Gotochi Kitty in SA too!
Allllll the Hakata Ichigo souvenirs!
Cheesiepetit taking a break from the long car ride.
So, I think those are enough reasons for you to challenge a self-drive-trip in Japan. In smaller cities and less popular prefectures especially, where public transport is not so convenient, self-drive will be your best bet.
And today I’d like to recommend Tabirai Japan Car Rental, a car rental comparison/booking site that allows you to search rental cars from major Japanese car rental companies all at once and book at a reasonable price.
Yes! You no longer have to jump from different car rental companies’ websites to compare prices. Here are some of the advantages of using Tabirai Car Rental:
(1) English-speaking car navigation system
All Tabirai’s rental car will come with English-speaking car navi, either on screen displays or voice navigation in English. Oh this would be so super useful! Save your data roaming and just follow the GPS!
(2) Reasonable prices
Tabirai has a wide range of cars carefully selected from major rental companies and offers very reasonable prices compared to regular prices (maximum 50% off from fixed prices!) to welcome overseas users.
(3) All-Inclusive Price
This means that the price you see is an “assured price”, which includes everything – not only car rental charges, but also CDW (collision damage waiver), car navigation system, ETC equipment (ETC card is not included), and consumption tax. Insurance from individual car rental companies (NOC compensation insurance) is optional and can be added on the date of car rental.
So I have tried looking for a rental car for our future trip to Tokyo, for maybe a day trip out of Tokyo.
The price is really very affordable! A 7-seater Hybrid for only 5500 yen.
It is also really convenient that you get to select options such as child seats and insurance.
How to Rent A Car from Tabirai
(1) Select your desired car. Once the reservation is completed online, the displayed price will be the guaranteed price you are paying. After that, simply go to the meeting place or rental car company office on the pick up date.
(2) You don’t have to register as a member registration or give out credit card at the time of reservation (so much trust! 😱). Payment will be made at the car rental office on the pick up date. (Credit card recommended!)
(3) If you wish to cancel your reservation for any reason, you can simply press the “cancel” button by logging in to the ‘Reservation Information Box ’. Other than the cancel button, you can also check the details of your reservation, or send a message to the car rental company (please write the message in English or Japanese).
So, it looks like renting a car in Japan is really easy even for foreigner!
If you still have questions about renting a car in Japan, for example about driving license as well as toll payments, etc, you can refer to this very thorough and helpful article on tips to renting a car in Japan:
There are also other regional specific pages: