Renting a car in Japan
Renting a car in Japan

Hi will go to Tokyo mid of Dec. planning to rent a car to nagano. Any advice for car rental co. ?? Have been searching for long time but still no idea which to go. Some don’t even provide English GPS. Can gimme some advise pls. Thanks.

By Mindy Lim on December 7, 2015

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  • eco says:

    Car Rental

    Meanwhile I am looking for option for car rental.

    1) May I know which website you use to make car reservation?
    2) What is the rate for a 5 seater sedan car as per your suggested or what car suit us for 4 pax (2 children).
    3) Is this website good enough? Sapporo Toyota Car Rental http://www.toyotarentacar.net/english/
    4) Do we need to convert our Malaysian driving license to English version?

    Thank you

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1) Usually I recommend readers who do not speak Japanese to rent from Tocoo. They are usually cheaper than renting direct from car companies, unless the car companies are having some special campaigns.

      The company I personally use in Hokkaido, Sky Car Rental, does not deal well with travellers who do not speak any Japanese, but they are quite cheap:

      2) It really depends on how much luggage you have. I pack VERY light (1 suitcase for the entire family) so that I can fit into the cheapest 5 seater available. If you have a lot of luggage, you probably will have problem fitting all your luggage into the boot since all the passenger seats will be occupied and will need to get a 7-seater. I would say a 5-seater should not cost more than 7000 yen per day, while a 7-seater should not cost more than 10,000yen per day.

      Toyota is a good company – reliable and deals well with foreigners with English emergency hotline. But they are one of the more expensive companies. If you rent from them, I recommend getting the Fielder which is a 5-seater with huge boot.

      4) You will need to apply for an International driving license and bring BOTH the IDP and your Malaysia driving license with you to Japan.

      • eco says:

        Dear BUMBLEBEEMUM, thank you for your reply and helpful

      • eco says:

        Hello Bumblebeemum,

        Q1: I would like to seek your advice about the self-drive travel distance in hour from one place to another base on my itinerary below:

        16 days Itinerary
        Day 01 28/7 Thu: Depart from KL to CTS. Chitose to Sapporo is 1hr by train
        Day 02 29/7 Fri: CTS – Lake Shikotsu – Noboribetsu (Noboribetsu, 1 night)
        Day 03 30/7 Sat: Noboribetsu – Lake Toya (Lake Toya, 1 night)
        Day 04 31/7 Sun: Lake Toya – Sapporo (Sapporo, 1 night)
        Day 05 01/8 Mon: Sapporo (Day trip to Otaru) (Sapporo, 1 night)
        Day 06 02/8 Tue: Sapporo (Sapporo, 1 night)
        Day 07 03/8 Wed: Sapporo – Asahikawa (Asahikawa, 1 night)
        Day 08 04/8 Thu: Asahikawa – Abashiri (Abashiri, 1 night)
        Day 09 05/8 Fri: Abashiri – Shiretoko (Shiretoko, 1 night)
        Day 10 06/8 Sat: Shiretoko (Shiretoko, 1 night)
        Day 11 07/8 Sun: Shiretoko – Lake Akan (Lake Akan, 1 night)
        Day 12 08/8 Mon: Lake Akan – Furano (Furano, 1 night)
        Day 13 09/8 Tue: Furano (Furano, 1 night)
        Day 14 10/8 Wed: Furano (Day trip to Biei) (Furano, 1 night)
        Day 15 11/8 Thu: Furano – CTS (Chitose, 1 night)
        Day 16 12/8 Fri: CTS back to KL

        Q2: Asahikawa, is it nice to visit in Summer? Do we get chance to see the penguine parade? How long do we need to spend there to cover the visit? I found this Cherry Picjing at Ovashi Farm is pretty interesting. http://www.oh-cherry.com/foreign/english/english.html so I am thinking if I have enough time to cover both places say morning drive from Sapporo to Abashikawa (Day 07 03/8 Wed: Sapporo – Asahikawa (Asahikawa, 1 night)) to visit Cherry Farm for cherry picking and then next day visit Asahikawa zoo before depart to Abashiri (Day 08 04/8 Thu: Asahikawa – Abashiri (Abashiri, 1 night). Is it advisable?

        Q3: For these 3 days as below here:
        Day 02 29/7 Fri: CTS – Lake Shikotsu – Noboribetsu (Noboribetsu, 1 night)
        Day 03 30/7 Sat: Noboribetsu – Lake Toya (Lake Toya, 1 night)
        Day 04 31/7 Sun: Lake Toya – Sapporo (Sapporo, 1 night)

        I am referring to the Hokkaido map from the japan-guide.com, which route to use best to save time and get to enjoy better scenery / view? Would you recommend once I touch down at Chitose airport, pick-up the car from the airport and then drive to Lake Shikotsu via Tomakomai > Noboribetsu? After last visit at Lake Toya, shall we detour with the same route or better go forward to Niseko > Kutchan and then Otaru > Sapporo one round?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          1. For driving times, please use Google map for estimation. I have found Google map estimations pretty accurate for summer driving.

          2. Asahikawa is not very interesting in summer. There is no penguin parade at the zoo. What is more interesting at that time of the year would be Himawari no Sato (sunflower field) which you can visit enroute from Sapporo to Asahikawa.

          Yes, the cherry picking looks interesting. I would definitely do that if I am in the region during cherry season. So what you can do on Day 07 would be:

          Sapporo – Ohashi Cherry Farm (cherry picking)
          Ohashi Cherry Farm – Himawari no Sato Sunflower Park
          Himawari no Sato Sunflower Park – Asahikawa (visit Asahikawa Ramen Village for dinner)

          You can do the zoo the next morning.

          Q3. This is the route I would take to go CTS – Lake Shikotsu – Noboribetsu – Lake Toya – Sapporo

          But yes, you can also go to Otaru after Lake Toya before returning to Sapporo – that route would be quite scenic:

      • KW says:


        For sky car rental, is the GPS they provided contains English language?

  • eco says:

    Hi Bumble Bee Mum,

    What is the rate for the fuel charge in Hokkaido?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hmm… On average, maybe about 150 yen per litre? It is generally cheaper in the large cities and more expensive in the rural areas. I would say a budget of about 10,000yen should be sufficient for fuel.

  • Mindy Lim says:

    Hi will go to Tokyo mid of Dec. planning to rent a car to nagano. Any advice for car rental co. ?? Have been searching for long time but still no idea which to go. Some don’t even provide English GPS. Can gimme some advise pls. Thanks.

  • Cal says:

    Dear bumblebeemum,

    we would love to seek your expertise and opinion, was wondering if for a couple to spend their 1st driving experience in tokyo itself, where would you recommend say from narita?

    Thank you !!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I wouldn’t drive in Tokyo if it’s just me and my husband. It’s terribly expensive! I would only consider rental if I am heading to outskirts that are hard to reach by train.

  • Joyce Koh says:

    Hello Bumblebee Mum,

    How did you convert your Singapore drivers license to drive in Hokkaido?
    Are the traffic there different from Singapore?
    Look forward to hear from you!


    • bumblebeemum says:

      You do not convert your license. You need to apply for an international driving permit from AA:

      It’s really easy. You just go to AA, fill in the application and pay the money and they will print your IDP for you on the spot. The IDP has a validity of one year.

      You will need to bring BOTH the IDP and Singapore driving licence with you to Japan to rent a car there.

      Japan’s traffic is the same side as Singapore.

  • Samantha says:

    Hi Bumble Bee Mum, I’m trying to plan a roadtrip in hokkaido for mar 2016 and chanced upon your blog. Was wondering if you are able to advise me on how do I go about checking out the toll price in hokkaido?

  • Rochelle says:

    hi bumblebee mum
    read one of your earlier blogs recommending signing up as car rental member to be eligible for better deals. I tried for Times car rental but they don’t accept English names, what shall I do? how did you register as member

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If I’m not mistaken, TIMES membership is for people residing in Japan only. But if you want to try, there are websites where you can translate your name into Japanese like this one:

      I use that to translate my name to hiragana to get past those Japanese hotel booking websites.. hah.

  • Angie says:

    Hi Bumble bee mum,

    Can you share with me the car rental company that you use for your self drive? I am thinking of driving from Niseko –> Sapporo—> CTS

    Thank you very much

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I usually use Sky Car Rental in Hokkaido but they don’t speak much English. If you are doing a one-way rental from Niseko to CTS, you may not have much options. You may have to go with the bigger companies that have offices in both Niseko and CTS and offer one-way rentals. Try Toyota.

  • Jolene says:

    Thank you for sharing your experiences! May I know where you rent your car from? My friends and I would like to drive from Kyoto (pick up) to Shirakawago and Toyama (drop off).. But I am having difficulty finding such rental cars online.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      We rented from Times car rental.

      Generally one-way rentals are harder to find compared to round-trip rentals. You have to go with the larger companies like Times, Nippon Rent a car, Nissan, Toyota etc.

  • Alex lee says:

    Hi bumble bee mum, as i will be going to Hokkaido in July. I’ve rented a car to travel around and is currently in search of a good travel insurance that covers the Collision Damage. Are there any recommendations to which insurance that you’ve used and are willing to share with me? Thanks alot.

  • farmie says:

    hi bumblebee mum, 3
    did u sign up for times car rental in their Japanese site?
    they asked for address in japan. What did you fill in?

    Do you know of any cheap car rental for 1 month?


  • Jas says:

    Hi Bumblebee Mum, ur blog is so informative! May i know for ur trip wif 3 adults, 1 snr and 2 kids, the model of car u had rented? Is the enough boot space to keep all the luggage? Thx!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I travel VERY light. In total we only had 2 large luggage cases and 1 cabin-size luggage. We rented a 7 seater (we got a Toyota Wish eventually) and managed to fit in our 2 big luggage + 1 small luggage + a small Maclaren stroller. Our kids used 1 child seat and 1 booster.

  • alyssa says:

    hi, may i know which website i can rent mini van for 9people and also can fit all our luaggages? Because the websites i went to maximum is for 8people. thank you

  • Lydia says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,
    Thanks for your sharing! There are lots of useful information!
    We are planning to stay a day in Kyoto next Mar. We want to go to the bamboo forest in Arashiyama. Is it better to drive or to take a train there? Which website do you usually use to rent a car in Japan? Thanks.

  • Sean wong says:

    Does the rental car company requires car seat for kids above 6 years old?


  • meester zee says:

    Hello there. Thanks for sharing your travels in such great detail. I’ve driven in Japan just twice before and would usually go for the smallest, most compact cars. But, for my upcoming trip, I’ll be travelling with 4 other adults and a baby. Hence, compact cars won’t cut it any more. What cars would you recommend that would fit 5 adults (including the driver) and a baby seat PLUS luggage comfortably?

    • Queen Bee says:


      You’ll need an 8-seater. Something like Estima. Note that for many car rental comapnies, 7 and 8 seaters are different categories, so be sure to pick the 8 seater. The boot of an 8 seater can fit 4 large suitcases, so keep it to that.

  • Pico says:


    I will be travelling from Nagoya-Gero onsen-takayama-shirakawa-go-Kanazawa-Nagano in mid December. We have 5 adults and 2 kids so we are thinking of driving. I have read online about driving is not safe during December in this area as it will likely snow. However I chanced upon your blog and saw your wonderful self drive itinerary in December. I like to ask if it is generally ok to drive during December in Central Japan?

    Any recommendation which car rental company to go for 8 or 9 seater vehicle? We will probably do a round trip from Nagoya and back.

  • Huyen says:

    My trip in HOkkaido will be on 16 untill 19 Oct, I will rent a car during stay in Hokkaido. BUt Im not sure I should rent until 19 Oct and return the car in CTS airport or return the car on the day before and will take bus to airport?

    Looking forward to hearing from you,


  • Lucida says:

    Is it advisable to drive from Hakone all the way to Nagano directly?? Any stop we can take in between? We will be there around mid november and travelling with 2 kids.. tot it would b more convenient and cheaper to drive than to take the train? Our ultimate destination is to go takayana and kanawan, via shirakagawa.

  • Yow Ching says:

    Hi BumbleBeeMum,

    Thank you so much for your informative blog!

    We will flight to Tokyo the coming mid Dec.
    We plan to take train from Narita airport to Hakone on the 1st day (our flight will arrive at 6.15am).
    If we go to Hakone by romance car, can you advise if we should pick up our rental car at Odawara station or Hakone Yumoto station?
    Consider that we might arrive at Hakone a bit late, is it advisable to pick up the car on arrival or shall we wait till the next day to rent the car? (This shall impact where we stay for that day).

    Thanks in advance for your advice!

  • Janice says:

    Hi Queen Bee

    Thanks very much for sharing your tips. Without the mapcode, we wouldnt have been able to enjoy our 7 nites drive in Hokkaido. Not to mention, being able to squeeze as many sights as possible. 4 times out of 5, keying in either the phone no or name doesnt yield any results unless its in the database of the car navi system. Thank you again.

  • Wan Azman says:

    Hi Bumblebee Mum

    After reading your wonderful post on Hokkaido, I am inspired to plan for a self driving trip in Hokkaido around Feb next year. Only problem, as a Malaysian, I am fearful of driving in winter (black ice, snow drifts etc). How do you find the winter driving experience? Were you provided with winter tyres?


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