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Car rental and driving times/distances? 2008/1/27 13:53
Hello All:

In April we have planned a trip to Japan with a family of 4; wife, husband and two children (10 and 7). We are Dutch nationals but we currently live in Russia. I have all hotels sorted out; we are planning 5 days Tokyo, 3 days Takayama and then 4 days Kyoto and last 2 days in Disney. I am planning to rent a car but need some advice on
A) driving distances i.e. how far and how much time does it take from (1) Tokyo to Takayama (2) Takayama to Kyoto and (3) Kyoto to Disney.
B) Does anyone have advice on a good car rental company.
C) I am flying in to Narita and we are staying at the Shinjuku Washington Hotel. I guess when in Tokyo we will be using the subway to move around. Is it sensible to hire a car for the initial Narita - Tokyo trip (and leave the car at the hotel for 5 days) or start renting the car in Tokyo before taking off to Takayama. This saves money but I am not sure how easy it will be to get from Narita to Shinjuku with our luggage (2 cases at least) by public transport or what the price of a taxi would be.

Any advice that anyone can give me is very much appreciated. I should mention that we do not speak nor read any Japanese.

Many thanks,
by Johan  

... 2008/1/27 15:32
Tokyo to Takayama

First, it is about 210 kilometers (2-3 hours) from Toyko to Matsumoto along the expressway and then an additional 2 to 2.5 on regular roads through the mountains.

Takayama to Kyoto

About 250 kilometers, mostly expressways. I estimate 3 hours without stops.

Kyoto to Disney

About 530 kilometers all along expressways. I estimate 6-7 hours, which compares to a 3 hour journey by train.

Does anyone have advice on a good car rental company.

For cheap rates and an English reservation interface:

For high quality service and cars:

Is it sensible to hire a car for the initial Narita - Tokyo trip (and leave the car at the hotel for 5 days) or start renting the car in Tokyo before taking off to Takayama.

The easiest and most comfortable way to get from the airport to the Shinjuku Washington Hotel is by direct bus (3,000 yen per person):

Or by taxi (about 19,000 yen per taxi).

Driving into central Tokyo is extremely stressful for people not used to the city and its confusing expressway network. I definitely recommend not to hire a car until leaving for Takayama.
by Uji rate this post as useful

... 2008/1/27 15:38
Note that Tokyo-Takayama could actually be faster via Nagoya, all along expressways.
by Uji rate this post as useful

driving Tokyo to Takayama 2008/1/27 16:16
I think you should rent a car starting from Tokyo and not when arriving at Narita - the rental cost and parking while you are not using it will be wasted.
I have driven to Takayama different ways and I think the fastest is still via Chuo Expressway to Matsumoto and then 158 over the mountains.
by Spendthrift rate this post as useful

Thanks - one more question for now 2008/1/27 19:49
Uji and Spendthrift:

Many thanks for your answer. I have one more question of a slightly different nature.

In Takayama we are staying in the Hiranoya Ryokan. The place looks great but i wonder if anyone has experience with the food they offer. We are happy to try new things but for the kids the food should not be too adventurous. Any light you can shine on this is welcome.

Many thanks again.
by Johan rate this post as useful

Navigation 2008/1/27 23:48
Keep in mind that in Japan not many rental cars have English car navigation systems (all Japanese). As far as I know, at international airports like Narita or Kansai you can rent cars with English navigation systems. The cheap car-rentals in the cities usually have 1 or 2 cars with English navigation and they are usually not avaible. I've experienced this in Kyoto, Okayama, Matsumoto, Hiroshima and Nagoya, at Kansai airport (Osaka) I could get one with English navigation, but this one was much more expensive. Also keep in mind that 99% of the streets in the cities don't have a name and that it's very difficult to find a address. A typical Japanese address consists of the name of the neighborhood and than 3 numbers like 88-462-45 (I don't know how this system works but even taxidrivers find it difficult!) Furthermore, in Japan you drive on the leftside of the road, cities like Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya etc etc are famous for their traffic jams, most roadsigns are Japanese only (except on the expressways and near popular tourist spots), for most expressways you have to pay toll (and some expressways are very expensive!), gasoline is almost that expensive as in the Netherlands and parking in the big cities is difficult and expensive in particular near hotels. My experience is that for the big distances and the big cities you better can use the train or bus or subway and rent a car to explore rural Japan in smaller cities like Takayama or Matsumoto
by Bert rate this post as useful

Navigation 2008/1/28 00:33
This website:


allows you to input Japanese addresses in English or kanji. Every once in a while you get an incorrect address, but for the most part I find that the addresses are correct.

I rented a car with a navigation system in Japanese and didn't have much trouble getting around. Of course, it helps to have an idea where you are going in the first place. Major route numbers, cities or villages along the way. Otherwise, good luck.
by Paul rate this post as useful

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