If you are considering renting a car in Osaka, there are a number of reputable car rental companies to choose from in the vicinity of Osaka Station. Not far from the north side of Osaka Station City you can find Toyota, Nippon, and Osaka Station’s own rental car office.
Of these, Toyota, Nippon, Nissan and Orix have websites with plentiful information in English (see the links 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?
You will need a valid international driver’s license in order to rent a car in Japan. These are 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?
Renting a car might be a worthwhile option if you intend to explore rural areas of Japan that are less accessible by train or bus. Renting a car may also be an economical option if you are traveling with a group of people who can share the cost.
However, within Osaka city itself (or other Japanese cities) we do not recommend using a car. Traffic is heavy, the streets are difficult to navigate, and parking can be both elusive and costly. Besides Osaka has such an excellent public transport system, that within the confines of the city, renting a car seems quite unnecessary.
Is it expensive?
At the time of writing the average price of gasoline in Japan is 130 yen per liter. 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
Major roads, towns and cities have English signage but 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. Also, just to be on the safe side, it might 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.
And remember the first rule of the road in Japan: driving is on the left!
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.