If you are considering renting a car in Yokohama you have a number of choices near the major stations. Toyota, Nippon, and Nissan are three reliable car rental companies that have offices in Yokohama.
These three companies all have offices that are no more than 8 minutes’ walk from the West Exit of Yokohama Station. You can check the map below for their locations.
Nippon and Nissan also have offices that are within walking distance of the main northern exit of Shin-Yokohama Station, and Toyota have an office right outside the Shinohara Exit. You can check the following map for the locations of these offices.
All three of these companies have websites and information in English (see above). Before deciding whether or not to rent a car though, there are a number of things you need to consider.
What are the legal requirements?
To rent a car in Japan you will need a valid international driver’s license. This license is not issued in Japan and must be obtained in your home country in advance. You will also need a valid driver’s license from your home country that is at least 3 months old.
Certain countries do not issue international driver’s licenses that can be used in Japan. These countries are Switzerland, Germany, France, Belgium, Slovenia, Monaco and Taiwan. Drivers from these countries need to obtain an official Japanese translation of their original driver’s license from the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF). You can find out more about this at the JAF website.
Do you need to rent a car?
Yokohama has a very good public transport system with easy access to all the major tourist locations, so you probably won’t need a car within the city. However, a car might be useful if you plan to explore the rest of Kanagawa Prefecture. Kamakura, Enoshima, Odawara, and Hakone are all popular destinations that are a short driving distance from Yokohama. Renting a car may also be an economical way to reach these destinations if you travel with a group of people who can share the cost.
Is it expensive to rent a car in Japan?
At the time of writing the average price for a liter of gasoline in Japan is 125 yen. If you want to rent a standard sized five-seater compact car for 24 hours, it will cost you between 7,000 and 8,000 yen. The car will come with a full tank of gas and should be returned to the company with a full tank also.
Finding your way around
The major roads, towns and cities have English signage but some more rural areas do not. However, almost all rental cars are fitted with GPS satellite navigation systems. The GPS might have English on the menu, but in case it does not, ask your car rental company to show you how to use it before your departure. They can also program the navigation system for you with your destination’s address or telephone number. It might also be a good idea to buy an English-Japanese road atlas in advance.
The Rules of the Road
The Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) publishes an English language guide to Japan’s traffic rules called “Rules of the Road”. You can buy these at JAF offices throughout Japan. A digital version is also available to download from the JAF web site.
Of course the first rule of the road you should remember in Japan is that driving is on the left!
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.