From Hakone we rented a car to take on a road trip the next 12 days.
We rented the car with Nippon Car rental and had some advantages since we rented long term. We were in doubt about the size, but we ended up choosing an SUV. This proved to be really nice for our comfort and when riding in the cities and highways, however, was a challenge when we arrived on islands and went on narrow hillsides and into the mountains.
The railways and public transport in Japan in general is really really good. But it doesn’t come cheap, so after doing calculations on both public transport vs. car, it turned out to be almost the same in the end. What really made us choose a car rental was our locations. We had read both Shodoshima and Shikoku would be difficult without a car, and it turned out to be very true.
Parking is always available..as in always, we learned, and the parking fees were very reasonable. The speed limit is 40-50 km in all of Japan except on the highways, where you pay road fees. On the highways you can ride 80 km, however most traffic runs around 110 km, and the fees are not too expensive. For the 12 days on the roads, we ended up paying 240 euros, and we only drove highways whenever it was possible.
Gas is very cheap and easy to manage; either there is someone to help you with the fuelling or there is someone to help you with the machine and payment – in any case it never seemed difficult or troublesome for us the times we needed to have gas.
For anyone considering going to islands, as us, or having a road trip, we recommend this highly. Such a great way to see the country and to get around. Signs are in both Japanese and English and Google maps makes it easy to get around.
One tip to go along this post: do rent a local ECT card when you rent the car. It’s for the toll fees and it is very cheap to rent, but worth it, so you don’t have to stop and pay cash every time you meet a toll stand (which is a lot, if you use the highways).