Stop! In Japan, they drive on the left! Got it? OK – then we can continue. We mention in the Getting there and around sections of each town in Japan – 100 Hidden Towns as to whether a rental car is necessary and, inevitably, some trips would benefit from having four-wheeled transport.
The process for renting a car is straightforward in Japan, with companies such as Nippon Rentacar and Toyota providing services at every major transport hub. You will need an international licence, but all the booking can be done online in English and any insurance and other documentation are available in English (and other languages) at the rental location.
Once behind the wheel, some highways require tolls. It is recommended to purchase an ETC Card from the rental company, which will enable you to automatically go through the toll booths.
All rental cars will come with a satellite navigation device (nabi), but double check to see whether it has an English-language option (these can sometimes be pre-arranged when you book online).
Parking at many rural spots and hotels is free, but not always, so have some change available for when you return to your car.