Destination Guide | Tokyo Japan

Driving in Japan

Driving in Tokyo is not as difficult as you might think. However, it does take some practice with lots of trial and error! Sunday traffic is easy so it’s a good time to practice. Know exactly where you are going. There are good street maps of Tokyo. You may need a magnifying glass to read the fine print. It is also helpful to have a navigator if you are going to an unfamiliar place.

Visitors who intend to drive in Japan should note the following:

  • On main roads most major destinations are sign-posted in English. In rural areas this may not be the case. If you are planning to drive in more remote areas, purchase a reliable English-Japanese road atlas. Publishers like Shobunsha and Kodansha publish these atlases.
  • Driving is on the left.
  • Parking can be difficult to find in some urban centers.
  • An International Driving Permit is required.
  • Tolls are levied on expressways and other major routes. Toll charges will depend on how far you wish to travel and which roads you intend to take. Example: Tolls for one route from Tokyo to Kyoto cost approximately 4,770 yen.
  • Do not drink and drive. You may end up in jail. No alcohol is allowed to be in your bloodstream when you are driving.

The Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) publishes an English guide to driving in Japan called “Rules of the Road”. These are available at JAF offices throughout Japan. For further information go to the JAF web site or contact the International Affairs Department of JAF
Phone: 03 3436 2811
Fax: 03 3588 6055.

A Metropolitan Expressway map in English is available within Japan from:

Metropolitan Expressway Public Corporation
Nittochi Bldg 9F
1-4-1 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo 100-8930
Phone: 03 3539 9259
Fax:03 3503 7678

Japanese Drivers License Conversion


In June 2002, the Japanese traffic law changed affecting the validity of International driving permits among the foreign community. Twelve months post arrival; a foreigner living in Japan must now obtain a Japanese Drivers license.


The maximum penalty for driving without a Japanese drivers license is ¥300,000 or up to one year in prison.


Driving illegally without the proper Japanese license invalidates insurance policies. Cover yourself effectively.


The process of applying and being rejected is frustrating. Your consultant will assist you in negotiating this process.


The applicant must have a current driver’s license and be able to prove that he or she stayed in the country of issue for at least three months after obtaining the license.

Requirements to obtain a license follow:

  1. Translation of the foreign drivers license into Japanese
  2. Original drivers license
  3. Valid passport
  4. Alien Registration Card or Temporary Alien Registration (Notification of Designated Period for Delivery of Alien Registration Card) and Certificate of Alien Registration
  5. One photograph (3 cm in length and 2.4 cm in width)
  6. Application fee (currently 4,150 yen)

Complete a 10 question multiple-choice test in English. A score of 70% is required to pass. Passing the written test the practical test is scheduled for a different day. The interval between the written and driving test is 2 to 3 weeks.

The most difficult part of the process is the driving test – take a lesson! These lessons are taken at the driving centers. This will equip you effectively. You will be required to understand simple verbal Japanese instructions.

If you have a valid original license issued in one of the following countries, only an eye test is required.

New Zealand

Holders of the following countries licenses are required to take the written as well as the actual driving test after taking the eye test.

Hong Kong

Importing a Car

Required Documents:

  • Original Passport to be presented to customs
  • Original OBL (or express/telex released)
  • Packing List
  • Vehicle registration & de-registration from origin country (original)
  • Invoice/Receipt for the purchase of the car
  • Original Declaration of Accompanied Personal Effects and Unaccompanied Articles form – One page, two-sided form, which is available from the inbound flight crew of the passenger airline. Two copies must be completed identically and submitted to the Customs Official at airport of arrival. Official will stamp both copies returning one to the owner. It is this original which we need to clear the shipment.
  • Application Duty Exemption: Please see the attached document.  If Client has the original unaccompanied baggage declaration form, we will need to complete the Application Duty Exemption as well.  The customs requires 3 original applications.

Import Duty/Tax

The car will clear duty free if the following criteria are met:

  • The car has been registered in a foreign country longer than 6 months and the owner has a copy of the registration certificate
  • Client completes the Declaration of Accompanied Personal Effects and Unaccompanied Articles
  • Car is for private use

Note: If client can not provide the required documentation, the car could be cleared as general cargo with consumption tax assessed at 5% of the market value of car + ocean freight


You are required to register your car. A car may require modifications to meet with Japanese regulations. Charges depend on the type of vehicle vary between JPY250,000 – JPY500,000. (Note: Costs for modifications are your responsibility. We can recommend government authorized companies to do required modifications).

Buying and Maintaining a Car

Many expatriates own cars, but few have drivers. The most expensive aspects of owning a car are the registration and renewal processes. A car must be re-registered every three years after purchase.

Car owners are also required to pay various car-related taxes (acquisition tax, tonnage tax, automobile tax, etc.) in addition to insurances.

Most important of all is to acquire parking certificate (Shako-Shomei), as you will not be able to purchase or lease a vehicle in Japan without proving that you have secured a location to park your vehicle.

Here are our recommendable car dealers in Japan:

JCE Autos
Car sales & Buy backs
Nick D’Onofrio
Mobile: 090-6042-8555

Car servicing, Shaken, insurance etc Hollis Humphreys
Mobile: 080-3761-7422

Auto Direct
English Line
Mobile: 03 5573-8776

Car Rental

Car Rental services are available in most large and medium-sized cities as well as at airports and major train station, with (international) driver's licenses recognized.

Tel. (03)5695 1351

Phone: 0120 489 882
Fax: 03 5401-7656

Mazda Car Rental
Phone: (03) 5286 0740
Fax: (03) 5292 0236

Nippon Rent-A-Car
Phone: (03) 3468 7126
Fax: (03) 3485 7105

Toyota Rent a Car
Phone: (03) 3264 0100
Fax: (03) 3239 0857