Comfortable camping in winter! Renting campervan in Japan


photo by apollocamper

It is ski season now! All ski fields across Japan are all busy with ski and snowboarding lovers. You may have been to skiing once or twice during this season. Many people use cars or public transports, and stay at hotels or motels when they are out for skiing. But do you know there are better way to go there? That is a campervan! Campervans are not for just summertime. In fact, it is also super handy for winter camping with heating facilities that can be used inside of the car. Therefore, many skiers use rental campervans. This column will explain how to rental a campervan in Japan.


Commonly used campervans in Japan

You may often see cars pulling camping trailers outside Japan. However, in Japan, most people prefer campervans, typically compact size ones, to camping trailers no matter of self-owns or rentals. This is mainly because roads in Japan are rather narrow and Japanese ordinary houses are not big enough to spare parking spaces for large vehicles. Accordingly, Japanese rental campervan dealers also mostly have rather small sized campervans.


Requirements to rent a campervan in Japan

Holders of Japanese ordinary driver licence are permitted to drive vehicles that meet the following conditions. Most of rental campervans fall into category 2, holders of Japanese driver licence or International Driving Permit can rent campervans in Japan most of the time. However, the campervan or comping trailer that you wish to hire exceeds 750kg, you are required to present a towing licence that is valid in Japan. 

1. Person who obtained Japanese ordinary driver licence on 11th March 2017 or earlier

  • Vehicle of which gross weight is less than 5tonnes and riding capacity is 10 people or less
  • Vehicle with maximum loading capacity of less than 750kg

 2. Person who obtained Japanese ordinary driver licence on 12th March 2017 or after

  • Vehicle of which gross weight is less than 3.5tonnes and riding capacity is 10 people or less
  • Vehicle with maximum loading capacity of less than 2tonnes

Note that rental vehicle dealers may have additional conditions under their own rental policies, such as:

  • Age restrictions: e.g. 20 years or older/25 years or older
  • Restriction for driving experience: e.g. Drivers must have 1year or more driving experience
  • Restriction for type of driver licence: e.g. Japanese licence only


Required documents and items to rent a campervan

  • Passport
  • Driver license that is valid in Japan *1
  • Credit card under the name of the person who rent a campervan *2

 *1 “Driver licence which is valid in Japan” includes: Japanese motorcycle licence, International Driving Permit issued in accordance with The 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic (the original driver licence must be attached), or driver licence issued in Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Principality of Monaco, Slovenia, Taiwan or Estonia accompanied with an official Japanese translation. However, some dealers accepts only Japanese licence.
*2 Credit card must be under the name of the person who is renting the campervan.


Booking a rental campervan

Same as ordinary rental car booking, a booking for rental campervan can be made as follows. 

Select a campervan you want to rent and send a booking request via website

  1. Receive a booking confirmation email
  2. On the day you made a booking, visit the rental campervan shop with all required documents and items
  3. Fill in the rental agreement document, and receive an explanation about the campervan and the agreement from a shop staff
  4. Return the campervan to the same shop by the time

There certainly are more demands for detailed information about specification and equipment of vehicles before renting a campervan. Most rental campervan dealers communicate with their customers only in Japanese, but some can respond in English.



Optional rental items

The following items may be available at rentals campervan shops. Availabilities of optional rental gears is different depending on each shop. If you require specific items, make sure to inquire the shop beforehand. Some shops offer rental plans that include some basic camping items. 

  • GPS
  • Direct vent heater (this can be used without the car engine running)
  • Camping table and chairs
  • Bedding for camping
  • Snow tires
  • Child restraint
  • Generator


Nice cosy campervan

Now you know traveling in a campervan is not just summertime activity, but it may best in winter. Rental fares for campervans are more expensive than those of ordinary rental cars, of course. However, you don’t need to pay for accommodation if travelling in a campervan, therefore it can be cheaper in the end. Also, it is very handy as a private rest house with a nice warm heater when going out for skiing. If you are planning to traveling with friends or family, why not renting a campervan? Of course it is a very comfortable transportation in any other seasons.


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あきらことほ Kotoho Akira

Living outside Japan for a good many years, I often rediscover nice little things about this country every time I return here. I would be more than happy if this column may help you find your "nice little things about Japan"!

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