Car / MotorcycleJapan has one of the most widespread and convenient rail systems in the world but there are many occasions when even the train can't take you where you want to go. When this happens, and the trusty bicycle is not an option then you have to take to the road in a car or on a motorbike.
The first thing you'll notice is that the Japanese drive on the left side of the road. For people who come from Australia, UK, and many other countries in the region this poses no problems, but for everybody else this can take time to get used to. Driving in Japan is generally very safe and the majority of drivers are careful and courteous though you have to be constantly on the look out for cyclists with a death wish when turning left at traffic lights.
Driving in Japan can be quite expensive for a number of reasons. The price of gasoline is higher than the US and is on a par with prices in Europe (in 2006 around 132 yen per litre for regular fuel). Toll expressways in Japan can be costly unless there is a group of you to split the cost between (a trip from Okazaki to Tokyo costs 6,500 Yen) but have the advantage of being more direct and less congested than regular roads. Major road signs are in English as well as Japanese so it is easy to find your way around on the major roads, but all Japanese maps use Kanji for the place names (no furigana) so if you plan to travel around Japan by car or motorbike it would be a good idea to get hold of a bilingual map of Japan (these can be obtained from any international bookstore such as Maruzen in Nagoya or from internet book stores such as Amazon.com).
Cars can be rented with the relevant license, your passport and a credit card. Again car hire can be expensive but if the cost is split between three or four people then it can work out much cheaper than going by train. Car rental runs from around 8,000 yen per day depending on the type of car and the type of car insurance chosen.
At busy times and in large metropolitan areas driving is best avoided and most people take the train. In smaller cities such as Okazaki it is wise to leave your car at home if you intend to travel during rush hours (7.30-9.00am and 4.30-6.30pm). An alternative to the car, and one which is not only cheaper but in some cases quicker than travel by car is to travel by motorbike.
Scooters (gendoukitsukidensha - or gentsuki for short) , are the preferred mode of transport for many young Japanese because they are cheap to run, and often more convenient than a car to use. You can buy a second hand scooter cheaply (from 30,000-70,000 Yen depending on the year and type of model) and if you already have an International Drivers License or a Japanese Driving License then you're ready to go. No special insurance is needed for a scooter up to 50cc.