Driving in Japan
When you want to visit the more remote places, where even buses don’t come or don’t come often, renting a car can provide the answer. When you share the costs, it’s even quite cheap. Enjoy transportation freedom and rent a cool car in Japan!
photo courtesy of minipickup.org
What kind of license do you need?
First of all, you need an international license. In many cases, this, combined with your passport, will suffice. However, there are a few exceptions. If you are from France, Switzerland, Germany, Monaco, Slovenia, Belgium or Taiwan, you will need a translation of your drivers licence (an international licence will not suffice in Japan). If you live in Japan you can get if from the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF). If you don't live in Japan, you can get this translation for instance through Japan Experience, who will deliver the translated licence to your house in around 2 weeks.
There are also some countries that are not so lucky; the people of some countries are not allowed to drive at all. So check first with your local automobile federation if, and so, how, you can be permitted to drive.
For your own safety and the safety of the Japanese people at large, it is worthwhile to study a little bit into the Japanese traffic rules.
When I drive in Japan, what always takes most of my attention is the driving on the left side of the road (which is fine if you drive behind other people, but beware that all other traffic, such as oncoming traffic and pedestrians, also come from the ‘wrong’ side) and the fact that the traffic lights are positioned at the side of the road you’re heading to, instead of on your own side of the road like I was used to. Check these websites for English explanations of the Japanese traffic rules.
Oh yeah, and one more thing: if you want to thank someone in traffic (when they allow you to join their lane for instance) flash your emergency lights (double blinkers) twice and make the road a happier place :-)