Driving in Japan
Driving in Japan can seem daunting from the outside: tricky roadsigns, unknown rules, and of course – very snowy roads! However it really isn’t that difficult when you know what to do, and we’re here to help you.
Step One | International Driving License
The first thing to make certain of if you want to be driving during your holiday to Japan is that you have an International Driving License (IDL) or International Driving Permit (IDP). As a foreigner in Japan you simply cannot use your own license to drive, and any rental company will just refuse to do business with you if you attempt to. Additionally Japan will only recognise IDPs based upon the 1949 Geneva Convention.
Now this might sound quite difficult, but actually acquiring an IDP is very easy. Each country will have different methods of applying, but in general you just need to turn up at the appropriate vendor with your driving license, passport, a passport-sized photograph, and some money. As you can only apply for one in your home country it is critical that you get it before you leave on your holiday.
Once you hold the IDP it will remain valid for a period of one year, or until your actual drivers license expires. Remember for the IDP to be valid it MUST be coupled with your real drivers license.
Step Two | Rent or Buy
Renting a car is relatively straightforward in Japan as long as you have your International Driving Permit (IDP), there are plenty of international companies that you can rent from at the airport. If you are interested in renting for the season then please contact us and we can recommend some rental companies.
If you are planning to buy a car then there are several things you should be aware of. Your car must have a Shaken, this is a certificate proving that the car has passed its routine safety inspection. The Shaken is valid for 3 years on a new car and 2 years on a used car. They can be very expensive to update – costing anywhere from ¥100,000 – ¥200,000 – so when purchasing be sure that you are happy with the Shaken. The Shaken includes mandatory insurance but this does not provide full coverage, so we recommend getting secondary insurance.
Step Three | Rules of the Road
Mostly the rules of the road are the same in Japan as the UK or Australia. You drive on the left side of the road and traffic lights work exactly the same. It is important, however, to be aware that Japan is very intolerant of driving with alcohol in your bloodstream. The best policy is no drinking at all if you are driving.
Speeds are always denoted in kilometres per hour (kmph). Speed limits tend to be much slower than in other countries. Small roads are limited to 30/40 kmph, while larger roads are only 50/60 kmph, with expressways operating at 80/100 kmph. You will notice that local drivers are constantly speeding, however we do not advise copying this habit. As a visitor to Japan the police will be likely to treat you harshly, and the winter weather makes it very dangerous for those unused to driving in the snowy conditions.
Ski Rusutsu | Our Tips
When driving around the Rusutsu and Niseko regions it is important to remember that petrol stations close at strange times. In order to avoid a tricky situation where you run out of fuel we advise that you take every opportunity to fill up, especially if you are driving long distances. On the plus side most petrol stations have pump attendants who will fill you up for you!