Go road tripping in Japan

Mel had a conversation with a colleague one day. The topic was travel (of course) and invariably it veered into how we (ie Mel and Suan) explore the destinations that we journey to. For the most part, we do not drive in cities or in countries where self drive can be tricky due to the traffic etc or hard to rent (that’s only a few countries) – but…

For the rest, it’s fair game. Give Mel a rental and we will brave the open roads.

So it was a curious thing to hear : “my husband has a phobia of driving overseas” or “he feels it’s not safe to drive outside of Singapore”. As if it was ever that safe driving on the roads of the little red dot especially with recent incidents of folks driving in the wrong direction…consolation – well perhaps it’s kind of ‘safer’?

Getting a rental in Japan

In this day and age it is a surprise that many still do not consider this to be an option high on the list of choices – mode of transport that is in Japan outside the large cities. We are not advocating driving per se and are not paid by auto companies, but if one were to travel…

First up, it’s surprisingly affordable. At our favorite N*ssan, you can rent a compact for about ¥7,000 per day. This translates to a 1.4 litre N*ssan N*te. Enough horsepower to bring you to the mountains. And it comes with the GPS built into the car, so you don’t pay extra. There are other sites such as Toc*o.com, but they carry additional charges and have a hold on your credit card unlike our favorite (no bias here).

Our first rental was in a city called Shirahama (read story here). It is true that for folks driving on the other side of the road it can be intimidating at first. Especially when most of the roadside signage (commercials etc) are not in English. But then you only need to focus on the road – other cars and pedestrians + the traffic lights. Within an hour of driving on the roads in Japan, you’d soon come to know its NO DIFFERENT from anywhere else.

Plan your trip

Obvious step.

There are now many sites on the web that offer advise to craft your own itinerary. It is plain obvious we are biased towards using Google maps. You will see references to embedded maps all over our pages and posts. This is just an example:

For example (above), Suan had mapped out her journeys and saved them, “printing” them into the cloud and referring to them along the way as we drove. Of course it helped that the cars in Japan usually come with in-built GPS devices which meant you can programme in the waypoints ahead of time. And if you are not sure how to do it, just ask the rental agency folks. They will be more than happy to help you find your way and return the car unscathed.

Don’t believe us that it’s fun? Read Traipsy Pixie’s road trip to Shirakawa, one of our to do destinations in Japan. They do the drive too!

Once you have the car and a plan, you’re on the way. Enjoy the fun and the freedom that comes with driving your own. It might be soon when driverless cars become mainstream and ‘take away’ the fun of driving!

We enjoy exploring Japan this way. Will you?


Author: Mel & Suan

Mel works his day job for a living, but lives for antiquities, history and geography at all other times. He enjoys writing and thought sharing and obviously traveling. Suan is a homey person, who like girlie stuff such as cross stitching etc. Enjoys shopping & modeling for Mel. What a match!

40 thoughts on “Go road tripping in Japan”

  1. When I lived in Japan, I lived in Wakayama ken and driving there was quite useful. It was company policy that all teachers lease cars, so at the very lease shopping was much easier for me.
    The best drive I ever took was going from Wakayama to Ise. That was truly fantastic and had such beautiful sights.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t have a car in Japan, but my husband and I have rented one a few times. The longest I’ve driven was from Nagoya to Niigata. It took six/seven hours, but it was surprisingly easy. And fun! Did you find city driving or highway driving more challenging?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We’ve never driven in a large city – the Osaka/Tokyos of Japan. But small cities (eg Wakayama) was alright. The highway is fantastic. And on some driving routes, there are rest stops that offer very good food!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I only tried driving overseas once and I was completely petrified. I had to change gears with my opposite hand which was very difficult! Then there was the matter of the wrong side of the road………..we drive on the left. Denmark on the edge right…not easy. 5 kms and I had enough!! But It really is a skill I would love to conquer

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ooh, hubby would love to go road-tripping in Japan. He’s a petrol head and his favorites are Japanese. He’ll probably take a Nissan GT before a Ferrari… okay, not the Testarossa. Only place I drove outside of SA is USA and it was quite fun, other side of the road and all. Haha. I don’t even drive in the Philippines. Hectic there. Hubby, on the other hand, braved it like a pro and did wonderfully. I guess, some of us are blessed with courage and driving skills. Lol! We will definitely be driving in the States again and next is Europe (NOT London probably).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Driving around Europe is a must. We see lots of posts about the cities. But there is much much more to the country than the cities right? Rail is an alternative but it brings you to other cities! LOL. We are sure you agree this is the same in SA!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I definitely would like to do both cities and the country, especially France and Italy, I think. Actually, whole of Europe. Haha! I’m hoping I can travel the “outline” of South Africa before we move… I think we’re still moving… one day. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, yes I also recommend car camping too. Japan has great road stops to sleep at with onsens. I did video on our car camping road on my channel. It can make road tripping even more affordable and there so many things you can see.

    My husband and I mostly travel around by car in Japan.

    I just recommend avoiding driving in Tokyo. My friend nearly went crazy going through there. It was stressful, but the countryside is very peaceful 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes great tip indeed. And it adds to the excitement of a road trip too, being literally on the road! Oh we’d never drive in Tokyo, not only because of the traffic but also beause its expensive and hard to find parking!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes we highly recommend it. Outside the big cities only of course. There are so much more to see and do outside of the cities, though on the other hand Tokyo and Osaka can keep you occupied for a while!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. We just booked our rental for Feb’s road trip. Good thing is that in Japan all rentals come with GPS, so you do not need to pay extra or try to use your own mobile device. Its also in English too!You just need to punch in the waypoint details amd concentrate on the roads!

      Liked by 1 person

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