How to Rent a Motorcycle in Japan: Complete Guide

Evan Rally
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Riding a motorcycle in Japan is a sublime experience.

But renting a motorcycle in Japan? Not easy for a foreigner to navigate.

Japan is very… Japanese. Without knowledge of their very different language and culture, it’s hard to feel confident renting a motorcycle. Which are the best motorcycle rental shops in Japan? What paperwork do you need to rent a motorcycle in Japan? What’s the ideal bike to rent for Japanese roads?

These are not easy questions to answer. However, I’ve done the hard work of figuring them out first hand so that you can read this article and enjoy your trip.

An incredible ride in the spring of 2024 through the tea fields surrounding Kyoto.

Tap the Contents button or swipe left / click the button above to see the table of contents and everything I’ll go through in this guide to renting a motorcycle in Japan.

Also, I’m working on a comprehensive guide to riding a motorcycle in Japan, including pre-planned routes, packing guidance, and rental deals – if you’re interested, let me know on the page below.

Best Motorcycle Rental Shops in Japan

My favorite rental shop in Japan is Rental819 (language switcher at the top right!)

The front of a rental shop with several motorcycles parked in front.
One of many Rental819 shops throughout Japan.

Why them?

Rental819 is highly regarded as one of the best motorcycle rental companies in Japan with over 100 branches across the country, and multiple in major cities like Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. They have hundreds of models of motorcycles for rent from 50cc scooters all the way up to multiple-liter Honda Goldwings and Harleys, and everything in between in every class (including dual-sport).

Here are a couple reasons I always go with Rental819:

  • Easy online reservations with no money down: You can place reservations online up to 4 months in advance without even putting a credit card in their system.
  • Cancellation up to 1 day before: They will let you cancel up to 1 day before pickup, in case the weather is worse than you hoped for your ride. Rain is frequent in Japan, but it’s usually predictable several days out so you can cancel your reservation or modify your plan if needed. Rental819 makes that super easy and painless.
  • Easy rental process: Every time I’ve rented from Rental819 I am in and out in 15 minutes flat. They are professional, detailed, and quick.
  • English proficiency: Many of their shops have English speakers working there, but you can also communicate with their central booking team via email for very accurate English speaking team members.
  • Quality bikes: Every bike I’ve rented from Rental819 was in great condition, with low KMs on the clock.

One thing to note about Rental819 is they do not offer one-way rentals where you pick up at one shop and drop off at another. All rentals must be returned at the same shop as pickup. This is because Rental819 shops are franchised, and each has a specific set of motorcycles they rent. For point to point rentals, try a smaller shop like Bike Rental Japan (mentioned below).

EagleRider is also available in Japan, but please, for the love of all that ride two wheels, do not pay their absolutely insane prices. They charge 2-4x what Rental819 charges for the same bike, but without the massive network throughout Japan.

I recommend making a reservation for a rental in Japan. Many rental shops are actually dealers that have a few bikes set aside for rent, so showing up and expecting to rent a specific bike might not work out as expected.

Many bike rental shops have generous cancellation policies as well, requiring no money up-front to make the reservation and allowing for cancellation in case a typhoon or storm is suddenly expected during your rental period. With Rental819 you can cancel the day before, no questions asked and no money lost.

Motorcycle Rental Tokyo

Scene of tokyo with neon signs.
A thriving metropolis.

If you’re planning to rent out of Tokyo, you have plenty of options for shops. However, if you plan to ride straight out of Tokyo, choose a shop on the outskirts or one that’s close to an expressway entrance. You don’t want to spend half your day getting through Tokyo traffic.

That said, Rental819 is the way to go in Tokyo. I’ve rented from their Odaiba location and got right on the expressway and out of town towards the Izu Peninsula. Rental819 has 30+ branches in Tokyo – pick the one that suits you and you’re on your way. They’re all on Google Maps if you search Rental819.

Motorcycle Rental Osaka

Hayabusa motorcycle in front of a bar in Osaka
A Hayabusa spotted in Osaka.

Aside from Rental819, you have Bike Rental Japan based in Osaka. They are a smaller operation than Rental819 but have a large range of bikes available from small Honda CT125 adventure scooters to monstrous Suzuki Hayabusa 1300cc sport touring bikes. They also offer guided tours throughout Japan.

Motorcycle Rental Kyoto

Kyoto river scene with cherry blossoms.
Kyoto in sakura (cherry blossom) season is pure bliss.

On my last visit to Kyoto I rented a Yamaha XSR700 through Rental819 from their Kyoto Jujo branch, which is right by a train station that connects to the central Kyoto station just a few minutes away.

Bike Rental Japan also services Kyoto, as they’re Kansai based, though their offices are in Osaka. Shoot them a note about picking up in Kyoto if you’re wanting to base out of this beautiful, ancient city.

Same advice I gave about choosing a shop on the outskirts in Tokyo applies here too, but doubly so because Kyoto has very few expressways. You will spend a lot of time riding light to light on your pickup and return day if you choose a rental shop in the city. Trust me, I learned this the hard way when I rented from Rental819 Kyoto Jujo!

Licensing Requirements

Before you can cruise through the neon lights of Osaka, the traditional temples of Kyoto or the absolute insanity of Tokyo on two wheels you need to ensure you meet the licensing requirements here. Japan is not a country that plays around when it comes to rules and regulations; if you’re missing one small thing, you may be out of luck.

As an international rider renting a motorcycle in Japan, here’s what you need:

International Driving Permit (IDP)

To rent a motorcycle in Japan, foreign riders must have a valid motorcycle license from their home country along with an International Driving Permit (IDP) that corresponds to the class of motorcycle they intend to ride. The IDP must be based on the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic, which Japan recognizes. Notably, IDPs based on the 1968 Vienna Convention are not accepted in Japan. The 1949 ones (valid) are only valid for 1 year from issuance, while the 1968 ones are valid for 3 years from issuance. Make sure you’re getting the right one.

The International Driving Permit in all it's glory.
The International Driving Permit in all it’s glory.

How to Obtain an IDP:

  1. Check Eligibility: Ensure your domestic motorcycle license is valid.
  2. Apply Before You Travel: You must obtain your IDP in the same country where your domestic license was issued. You cannot legally obtain an IDP once you are in Japan.
  3. Where to Apply: Typically, you can apply for an IDP through national automobile associations or other authorized motoring groups. For example:
    • In the United States, you can obtain an IDP from the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA).
    • In the United Kingdom, the IDP can be issued by the Post Office, the AA, or the RAC.
    • In Australia, the Automobile Association (AA) provides this service.
  4. Required Documents: When applying, you’ll need to provide a completed IDP application form, your valid driver’s license, passport-sized photos, and a small fee.

Special Notes:

  • Check the Motorcycle Class: Make sure that your IDP allows the operation of the class of motorcycle you plan to rent. Different countries categorize motorcycle classes differently, so verify that your IDP covers the specific type you intend to use in Japan.
  • Carry Both Licenses: Always carry your domestic driver’s license along with your IDP when riding a motorcycle in Japan. Both may be requested by rental agencies or local authorities.
  • Duration and Validity: An IDP is typically valid for one year from the date of issue. Ensure that your IDP will remain valid for the entirety of your trip. However, note that sometimes the IDP issuer will write a later start date on yours than the present day – I’ve had AAA do this in the past so that I could chain together two IDPs, essentially getting coverage for ~20 months from my last visit to AAA.

By ensuring you have the proper documentation, you can avoid any legal issues and fully enjoy your motorcycle adventure across Japan’s unique and scenic landscapes.

Type of Motorcycles Available for Rent

If you want it, Japan probably has it. Rental shops like Rental819 have Japanese and international models stationed all across Japan, so whether you want to ride a cruiser in Okinawa, a sportbike in Hokkaido, or a Monkey bike in Kyoto – you’re covered.

Here’s a quick rundown of the types of motorcycles available and their suitability for different regions and roads in Japan can enhance your riding experience:

Scooters

Scooters are a popular choice for getting around Japan’s metropolises like Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto for good reason. They’re small enough that you can park them pretty much anywhere (parking is a pain in Japan, more on that later) and you can navigating around city traffic easily. Road speeds are slow across the whole of Japan (like, 40kph slow), so a scooter is suitable for longer trips too – as long as you don’t mind taking it slow.

Be aware that scooters and motorcycles with 125cc and smaller engines are not allowed on expressways – in some cases that will completely change a ride or route.

Best For: Urban areas; perfect for quick trips around town or weaving through traffic. Suitable for longer trips if you’re going slow and not taking expressways.

Daily Cost: Expect to pay $15 – $60 USD per day for a scooter. The higher end will have 200-300cc scooters.

Standard and Sport Bikes

Standard and sport bikes are plentiful in Japan, ranging from ~250cc to 1000cc+, and are versatile for anything from city mazes to open road straightaways. Just depends what model you decide to ride, and what areas you take it. There are many classic bikes available as well, such as the neo-classic Honda GB350 single (only available in Japan).

Best For: Adventurous riders aiming for faster rides on highways or those seeking the thrill of Japan’s mountainous twists and turns, such as the famous Hakone Turnpike.

Daily Cost: Expect to pay $60 – $130 USD per day, depending on the model you choose.

Touring Motorcycles

With larger engines and more comfortable setups, touring motorcycles are built for long distances. They often come equipped with amenities like saddlebags, comfortable seating, and advanced ride controls. You’ll find everything from BMW GS adventure tourers to Honda Goldwings and Harley Davidson Road Glides.

Best For: Long-distance explorations or riding with a passenger, particularly suited for touring the scenic routes like the coastal roads of Hokkaido or the historic landscapes of the Japanese Alps.

Daily Cost: Expect to pay $60 – $130 USD per day, depending on the model you choose.

Dual-Sport Motorcycles

Dual-sport bikes like the CRF250 all the way up to the Husqvarna 701 are available in Japan and perfect for both on-road and off-road riding. They are an excellent choice for those planning to venture onto Japan’s less-traveled paths or rural areas. Be sure your rental agency knows you’re going off-road.

Best For: Riders looking to mix asphalt with trails. Great for exploring off-beaten paths in regions such as the forests of Otaru or Zenibako.

Daily Cost: Expect to pay $30 – $90 USD per day, depending on the model you choose.

Pick the right machine for your ride and you’ll have a much nicer journey through Japan. I’ve done it on a scooter and a 700cc – neither was the right machine. Next time I’ll do it on something in the 200-400cc range, or a Honda Monkey (because why not?!)

Costs for Motorcycle Rental in Japan

Renting a motorcycle in Japan is likely a lot cheaper than you imagined. Here’s how it all breaks down, from the type of bike you rent to duration and additional accessories to help you budget for your trip. For a full breakdown of what a motorcycle ride in Japan costs, check my ride report.

Average Rental Prices

  • Scooters (50cc to 250cc): Typically range from ¥2,500 to ¥9,000 per day. ($15 – $60 USD)
  • Standard and Sport Bikes (250cc to 1000cc): Prices generally start from ¥10,000 up to ¥22,000 per day. ($60 – $130 USD)
  • Touring Motorcycles: Touring models from 200cc to 1000cc can cost ¥10,000 up to ¥22,000 per day. ($60 – $130 USD)
  • Dual-Purpose Bikes: Expect to pay about ¥5,000 to ¥14,000 per day. ($30 – $90 USD)

Additional Costs

  • Helmets and Gear: Some rental services include helmets for free, while others might charge from ¥200 to ¥1,000 per day. Additional gear like jackets and gloves may also be available for rent – you’ll just have to check with each shop. Also don’t assume all branches have the same services: smaller branches of Rental819, for example, do not have jackets, gloves, or any gear aside from helmets for rent.
  • Phone Holders: Often you need to explicitly request these, but they’re cheap – from ¥100 to ¥200 per day if not free. I recommend you bring your own holder and install it on your rental, like I do with my Quadlock.
  • GPS Units: For those planning extensive travel, renting a GPS can be crucial. Costs typically range from ¥500 to ¥1,000 per day.
  • Side Cases and Extra Storage: For touring or longer trips, extra storage options like side cases can be rented for about ¥500 to ¥1,500 per day. Sometimes they are included with the bike at no extra charge.
  • Insurance: Basic insurance is often included in the rental cost, but additional coverage for lower deductibles or more comprehensive protection can be added for an extra fee, usually around ¥800 to ¥2,000 per day.
  • ETC Toll Card: Make sure you get this if there’s any chance you’ll get on the expressway! This makes it a breeze to ride through tolls – otherwise you’re fishing around for coins at every toll booth. Usually it’s free of charge to rent, but of course you’ll get a bill with the tolls you incurred.
My Quadlock phone mount was quick to install and remove from my rented XSR700.

Tips for Getting the Best Deals

  • Book in Advance: Especially during peak tourist seasons or around holidays, booking your motorcycle rental in advance can secure better rates and ensure availability.
  • Compare Online: Use rental comparison websites to find the best deals across different rental companies.
  • Long-Term Rentals: If you’re planning to ride for several days or weeks, look for deals on long-term rentals, which often come at a reduced daily rate.
  • Check for Packages: Some rental companies offer packages that include gear, unlimited mileage, and insurance, which can be more cost-effective than paying for these separately.
  • Ask About Loyalty Discounts: If you plan on returning or are renting multiple bikes, some companies offer discounts for repeat customers or multiple rentals.

By understanding these costs and planning accordingly, you can manage your budget more effectively so you can just enjoy Japan’s beautiful landscapes and roads. Keep these tips in mind to snag the best possible deal on your motorcycle rental.

Rental Process: How to Rent a Motorcycle in Japan

Renting a motorcycle in Japan involves several important steps. Understanding each part of the process ensures a smooth experience from start to finish.

Make sure you understand the whole process before you start making bookings. As I said earlier, Japan is not a place where you can skirt around rules easily.

Here’s a comprehensive guide:

Step 1: Choose a Rental Company

Look up reputable motorcycle rental companies in the area you plan to visit. Websites, reviews, and forums can be great resources to gauge reliability and customer satisfaction. Rental819 is likely the most well-known service – you can go direct to them with their English-language website (language toggle is at the top) and they have 100s of branches across Japan.

Step 2: Select Your Motorcycle

Based on your riding skills, route, and preferences, choose the type of motorcycle that best suits your needs (e.g., scooter, sport bike, touring bike). Don’t just get the biggest / fastest / coolest bike you can; keep in mind Japan’s roads can be very narrow, the traffic generally moves at slow speeds, and there’s a lot to see in a small area. Sometimes a smaller bike can be even more fun here.

Step 3: Gather Necessary Documents

Do not skip this step. Repeat after me: do. not. skip. this. step!

Bring these when you pick up your motorcycle.

  • Your national motorcycle license: A license from your home country that certifies you are legally able to ride the class/size of motorcycle you’ve rented in Japan.
  • International Driving Permit (IDP): You must have an IDP (1949 Geneva Convention) alongside your valid national motorcycle license. Make absolutely sure it has the stamp for motorcycles on it.
  • Passport: A valid passport is required for identity verification. Every rental shop will ask for thi
  • Credit Card: Most rental companies will require a credit card for the security deposit.

Also, understand the age restrictions. If you’re over 21, you won’t have any problems. But if you’re younger than that (first of all super badass that you’re about to ride in Japan) but check with the rental companies on what you are or are not allowed to rent. Don’t assume all is good and show up guns blazing to pick up a rental reservation – as you might be flat out denied!

Step 4: Choose Insurance Options

Basic coverage usually includes third-party liability and may cover theft or damage with a deductible. You can also add optional insurance for lower deductibles, comprehensive coverage, and personal accident insurance. Discuss these options with the rental company to understand the coverage limits and extra costs.

Step 5: Review and Understand the Rental Agreement

Read the rental agreement carefully. Pay attention to terms regarding rental duration, mileage limits, return policies, fuel policies, and penalties for late returns. Ask for this in advance so you don’t run in to surprises come pickup time.

Step 6: Inspect the Motorcycle

This is basic knowledge for any vehicle rental, but before taking possession of the motorcycle, inspect it thoroughly for any existing damages. I usually record a video while walking all the way around the bike to capture any little glimmer from existing scratches. Pictures work too, but sometimes you miss an important angle.

A thing of beauty.

Also, ensure that basic functionalities such as brakes, lights, and indicators are working properly. Check the fuel tank too and make sure you understand how much fuel you need to return the bike with. Rental shops often charge a hefty surcharge if they have to top up the tank for you.

Step 7: Pay Security Deposit

The security deposit can range widely, usually from ¥10,000 to ¥50,000 ($60 – $300 USD), depending on the motorcycle type and rental duration. This is often held on your credit card and released upon safe return of the bike.

Step 8: Hit the Road

Collect the keys and any documents the rental shop gives you (Rental819 gave me a veritable novella last time I rented) and keep these safe throughout your trip. Don’t forget any of the extras (phone holder, GPS, saddlebags), or your ETC toll card!

That should make your motorcycle rental experience in Japan completely hassle-free.

Road Rules and Etiquette in Japan

It’s better you know these now (especially #1) so you know what you’re getting in to with a ride in Japan. Overall this country is incredible for riders, from the pristine road conditions to twisty mountain passes and beautiful small towns dotted throughout the islands. However, there are few things you need to know to make your journey safe and enjoyable.

Driving on the Left

Traffic Direction: In Japan, driving is on the left side of the road, opposite to what you may be used to (like my American brothers). Keep to the left in your lane and use the right side for overtaking only. Ensure you’re comfortable with this arrangement, especially at intersections and roundabouts.

Speed Limits

Urban areas typically have speed limits of 40-50 km/h, while expressways can range from 80-100 km/h. Always observe local speed limit signs as they can vary depending on the area. Be aware that motorcycles under 125cc are not allowed on expressways.

Try not to disturb the peace!

Parking

You cannot park wherever you want in Japan, unfortunately. Look for designated bicycle / motorcycle parking areas and pay the (low) fees to park there. Many of these lots have tons of space for bicycles, a bit for 125cc and under motorcycles, and a few for big bikes.

Parking is only really an issue within major cities like Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto. Outside you’re more likely to be okay with an “anything goes” parking style.

Expressway Tolls

Motorcycles are subject to tolls on expressways. Tolls can be paid at manned booths or via automated machines. Carrying a toll card or electronic toll collection (ETC) device makes this much easier.

Petrol Stations

Many stations are full-service, where attendants will fuel your bike. Simply open your fuel tank upon arrival and let the attendant know how much fuel you need. To check if they take credit card, just say “Card-o”.

At self-service stations, follow the instructions on the pumps, which are often also available in English. Or, you can Google Translate with your phone’s camera (make sure you have internet access!)

Emergency Information

Be safe out there. Dial 110 for police assistance. Dial 119 for medical emergencies or fire.

Useful Japanese Phrases

Never hurts to have these in your back pocket.

  • Thank you: “Arigato gozaimas”
  • Asking for Help: “Tasukete kudasai” (Please help me)
  • Finding a Petrol Station: “Gasorin sutando wa doko desu ka?” (Where is a gas station?)
  • Road Directions: “___ e no michi o oshiete kudasai” (Please tell me the way to ___.)
  • Reporting an Accident: “Jiko ga okimashita” (An accident occurred)

Still have more questions?

Japan is one of the best places to ride in the world, but it’s not well known. I’m working on a comprehensive guide to riding a motorcycle in Japan, including pre-planned routes, packing guidance, and rental deals – if you’re interested, let me know on the page below.

You can always get in touch with me at [email protected] as well – I’m happy to help.

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