What's the prevalent type of gear transmission on rental cars in Japan (Hokkaido specifically), manual or automatic ?

If it's manual, are there restrictions ? Assuming I have an International Driving Permit, and my regular one allows me to drive manual where I live

  • 3
    It would be nice to have a map showing different countries along with their prevalent transmission type, so far I couldn't find one.. Sep 19, 2015 at 19:58
  • 1
    Anyway, reading some forums, it seems that automatic transmission is the default in japan. Sep 19, 2015 at 20:02
  • 1
    Most of NZ's cars are imported from Japan. It was something like 70% automatic 15 years ago, and it's increasingly difficult to find a manual transmission :( Odds are almost certain you'll be in an automatic.
    – Mark Mayo
    Sep 19, 2015 at 22:59

2 Answers 2


Since you're only interested in rental cars rather than a car to buy, it makes sense to look at the car rental booking sites. For example, in Tokyo Airports, all of the listed rental cars are automatic:

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Searching specifically for cars in Hokkaido also fails to find any manuals:

hokkaido rental

Also note that your manual license should by default allow you to drive cars with automatic transmission as well.


Prior to 2005, everyone in Japan had to learn and pass the driver's test using a manual transmission car. Since those cars were cheaper and -- at the time -- had better fuel economy, they were more popular.

Since 2005, there has been a revision to the automobile license law that allows for "AT-only" driver's licenses for people who wish to take the test using an automatic transmission car. This is also because of the growing popularity of automatic transmissions and the fact that many automatic transmissions such as CVT as well as hybrids can get better fuel mileage than a regular driver with a manual transmission.

As a result, rental car companies have shifted their fleets over to automatic -- given that younger people tend to be the people who rent, and are also the people most likely to have AT-only licenses.

I've rented quite often in Japan (including Hokkaido) and have always been put in an automatic transmission car. I'm sure if you looked hard, and especially at non-chain rental companies, you'll find a manual transmission car (especially if you want to rent a light truck / pickup).


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