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There are a large number of sites I wish to visit in the wider Tokyo area that are not accessible by train or bus. Often the nearest station or bus stop is a few kilometres away, walkable but due to a disability I'm looking for alternatives to make travelling easier.

What options exist, other than taxis which are rather expensive? You can't take bikes on most trains and my understanding is that electric scooters require a driving licence and to be used on the road. I could get an international driving licence if a very light weight folding one could be taken on the train.

Is car rental a good option? For example is Android Auto available so I can use it for navigation, given that I would struggle to enter addresses in Japanese?

Edit: Doing more research many of these places are between 1.5 and 2km from the nearest station.

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    ‘Wider Tokyo area’ must mean ‘places that nobody would call Tokyo and Tokyoites would call inaka’, isn’t that so? – Jan Sep 16 at 11:04
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    Kanagawa, China, Saitama, maybe even down to Fuji or over to Yamanashi if I get time. Even closer to central Tokyo though there are some sites that are just off the bus routes for some reason. – user Sep 16 at 11:12
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    @Jan For a real Tokyoite anything outside the 23-ku is inaka. – lambshaanxy Sep 17 at 8:20
  • @lambshaanxy Are there even realer Tokyoites who consider everything outside the Yamanote inaka? ;) – Jan Sep 17 at 8:21
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    @user Just in case: I don't know which sites, the level of the disability, but I hope you have checked that those sites are sufficiently accessible (once getting there), as visiting some may require more physical efforts than the 1-mile-walk. – Tuomo Sep 20 at 14:03
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Navigating central Tokyo by car is an expensive, confusing pain, so the Japanese solution is to take the train out to the general area you want to explore, then rent a car at the station. JR's Ekiren service (aka "Trenta", as in train-rental-car) is the best way to do this, and they often have promotional packages that combine train tickets and rental car.

In addition to "normal" rentals, car sharing/hourly rental is becoming increasingly popular in Japan. Check out Orix, Times Plus and Careco, although there are more hoops to jump through to get set up initially, particularly if you're a visitor instead of a local resident.

Built-in navigation systems in Japanese cars are usually Japanese-only and have an unfamiliar UI if you're used to Garmin & co (pro tip: search by phone number is usually the least bad way to find points of interest). The best workaround is to ignore it completely and use Google Maps (or equivalent) directions on your phone.

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  • Thanks. They appear to have an English website: ekiren.co.jp/phpapp/en – user Sep 17 at 8:13
  • Ta, updated the answer. – lambshaanxy Sep 17 at 8:19
  • Can you elaborate on a couple of things? The use of e-toll cards and options for using Google Maps in the car. USB sockets are standard but how about Android Auto or at least some way to mount the phone. Good tip about phone numbers, I can probably cope with those. – user Sep 17 at 8:22
  • Wow, this is a fascinating bit of knowledge I did not yet have. I might be able to use this one day. Would upvote more if I could! – Jan Sep 17 at 8:24
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    @user I haven't seen Android Auto or a phone mount in a rental car in Japan, but I'm also not a heavy user and it's been a few years, so YMMV. – lambshaanxy Sep 17 at 22:30
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Driving in Japan is easier than you imagine it might be, though I would hesitate to drive in Tokyo. The car I rented in Hokkaido in 2016 had navigation in English (I had to specifically request this option when booking), and I needed an International Drivers Permit. The navigation interface was a little unusual relying on phone numbers or points-of-interest that people might want to visit - landmarks, schools, gas stations, etc. Though there didn't seem to be a way to enter a specific address, I found it quite easy to get navigation to some nearby POI, and then zoom in for the last few streets and use it like a regular street map.

The ETC card is for the (very expensive) highway tolls. I had to pay a small extra charge to rent the ETC card, but it gave a discount on the toll rates. In the end, the total discount I obtained was not much more than the rental cost of the ETC card, but it made dealing with the tolls a lot easier and allowed the car rental company to bill me immediately when I returned the car. The toll highways themselves are managed by a regional highway company and the one for Hokkaido had a website that let you calculate the toll for a specific journey - in my case, around $80 for 380km of highway driving! But note that not all stretches of highway are toll roads. The situation could well be a lot different for the highways around Tokyo.

However, perhaps you should compare the car rental prices from Ekiren: $60 or more per day, plus gas; with the price of taxis: around $3 per km. If you are not doing much driving around at your destination and just using it as a means to save a 5km walk, it could turn out to be cheaper taking a taxi when needed.

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  • Thanks. I've been planning a few test journeys on Google Maps and avoiding toll roads doesn't add more than a few minutes to most of the journeys so I'll probably do that. I'm keen to avoid driving in Tokyo having been a passenger with friends before so would try to rent from further out anyway. – user Sep 18 at 11:39
  • Point about taxis is interesting. Looking at the sites lambshaanxy provided a cheap kei car is probably cheaper if I can visit half a dozen sites in a day. The other advantage is that if you buy something large/heavy you can keep it in the car all day, but that would be rare and I was hoping to just get stuff shipped anyway if it's too big to carry. – user Sep 18 at 11:42
  • These guys seem good, English navigation, insurance and ETC card included and pretty cheap: en.tabirai.net/car – user Sep 20 at 9:42
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You can try taking a local bus, but it does take a bit of planning. They are almost always on time, and pretty easy to use. Some of them are pay by trip, and others are pay by distance. You can tell depending if you get on the bus from the front (pay by trip) or the middle (pay by distance). If you get a pay by distance bus you pick up a ticket when you enter the bus, and there is a chart at the front that will have your number and the price if you get off at the current time. The buses have change machines, but getting an IC card would make it much easier.

Hyperdia can be useful to figure out what bus to take. https://www.hyperdia.com/

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    I've used busses extensively in the past and as you say they are extremely reliable and easy to use. I find Google Maps does a good job with them, just beware that sometimes bus stops are not quite where it thinks they are. – user Sep 23 at 7:41

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