Future Vacation Tip: How to Rent a Motorcycle in Japan
It's the best way to see the country and blend in with the locals.
We love visiting Japan, and Mount Fuji, in particular, is quite a breathtaking sight. And for people who love to drive or ride, the roads around Japan's tallest peak are incredible. The active volcano is about 62 miles southwest of Tokyo, and when you visit, you get the best views of it from the north. Remember that Route 413 in Sagamihara is one of the best and most scenic roads to get there from the big city—and traversing it via motorcycle is an experience not to be forgotten. Here's a quick guide on how to rent a motorcycle in Japan, something we did not long ago.
Don't Forget Your International Driving Permit
If you want to rent a motorcycle in Japan, or rent a car if you're not an experienced rider, don't fret. Both are easy to do in Japan; the most important thing you need to remember is to get an International Driving Permit from AAA, and to make sure it has one stamp for driving and another stamp for riding. If you skip this step, it's game over; no one will rent you a motorcycle or car without it.
If you plan on renting a car, it is best to rent one outside of a major city because trying to park in Tokyo can cost a fortune. And remember, the Japanese drive on the left side of the road and you will have to get used to operating a vehicle that's the complete opposite of what you're used to in the U.S. So, other than the enjoyment of riding, there's a practical reason to rent a motorcycle in Japan: Bikes are much easier to park, but you still have to pay for a limited number of spots. Oh, and learn a few basic phrases like konnichiwa (hello) and more importantly, regula (unleaded gas) or hi-oku (high-octane) and nan-tan (to fill up). I kept a short list of phrases on my tank bag for reference. Also be sure to keep a map, because your smartphone will predictably let you down when you need it the most.
Best Places to Rent a Motorcycle
Japan Bike Rentals is a good place to start when you're looking to rent a motorcycle in Japan, and it offers guided tours, self-guided tours, and even one-way rental. The ex-pat owner and staff speak English, too.
I ended up renting a Honda CB400 from Rental 819 at the last minute, and I found it to be great service with 100 locations around Japan. The company also has a great selection of bikes (Kawasaki Ninja is my first choice but they were all booked) and a friendly staff in its Tokyo shop. I rode from Tokyo to Nara, Osaka, Kyoto, and back. It is one of the best ways to really see the country and meet the locals. And you most definitely will meet plenty of fellow bikers on the road; at one point I found myself rolling 50-deep on the Chuo Expressway—it was like a movie scene.
Rent an ETC Card for Tolls
Wherever you decide to rent a motorcycle in Japan, or rent a car, be sure to rent an Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) card, too; it will make your life easier and you won't have to dig into your pockets for yen when a toll collector is yelling at you in Japanese about the amount you need. Instead, with the ETC card you can pay all of your tolls when you return the bike to the shop. It's not cheap but the ride is worth all that yen.
Rent a Motorcycle in Japan: What to Pack
- Leather jacket
- Kevlar jeans
- Waterproof motorcycle boots
- Tank bag
- Rain Gear: jacket, pants, and rubber gloves
- Japan road map