Being Prepared for a Natural Disaster in Japan

When you are driving in Japan, do you know what to do if there’s an earthquake or sudden heavy rain?

Here are some tips to keep in mind when driving in Japan in order to be prepared in case of a natural disaster.

1. Earthquake

■ If an earthquake happens when you’re driving
If an earthquake starts while you’re driving, turn on the hazard/emergency lights and check the condition of nearby cars and pedestrians, then move your car to the shoulder and stop.
If you brake suddenly, you could get hit from behind, so gradually reduce your speed before stopping if possible.
Please wait in the car without getting out until the earthquake subsides, then check the earthquake information, damage, etc, from your mobile phone or app.

■ If you get out of the car and evacuate
If there is a tsunami warning issued or the road is damaged and you cannot continue, turn off the engine, close the windows, leave the car key in the ignition and do NOT lock the doors, and proceed to safety.
When you leave the key in the ignition, emergency personnel will be able to move the car if it’s blocking emergency vehicles.

■ When evacuating with the car
It’s very dangerous to move the car when there is an earthquake because there might be congestion, damage to the road, or debris blocking the way. Therefore, please stop the car in a safe place and walk to evacuate.
If there are no buildings nearby and you must evacuate by car, drive very carefully and pay close attention to road conditions because traffic lights and signals may no longer be operational due to power failures.

2. Sudden Heavy Rain

■ If you encounter heavy rain while driving
If it’s raining very hard, stop driving and park in a safe place and wait for the rain to stop.

■ Avoid underpasses
Underpasses are made by digging down from the surrounding road, such as underground roads passing under railways or highways.
During heavy rain, underpasses are dangerous because they can be easily flooded by several meters of water. During heavy rainfall, never attempt to drive into a flooded area.

■ “I think I can make it” driving is extremely dangerous
It’s extremely dangerous to think that you can drive through flooded roads, even if you think it’s shallow. Even a small amount of water can sweep away a car.
If you do drive into a flooded area, it’s possible that cars in front of you will become unable to move and the water level will increase, meaning that you will be stuck.
Avoid driving through any area that has standing water.

3. Heavy Snow

■ If you get stuck on a snow road
If your tires slip on fresh slow and you get stuck, slowly move the car back and forth to stiffen the snow around the tires.
If there’s a sand box on the side of the road, sprinkle some sand around the drive wheel.

■ If you can’t move because of heavy snow
In whiteout conditions such as snowstorms, please turn on the hazard/emergency lights and and safely stop the vehicle.
Since the exhaust pipe might become blocked by snow, there is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, so please remove the snow from the exhaust pipe while you’re waiting for assistance.

4. If Water Gets Into The Car

It’s important to stay calm even if the car engine stops in a flooded area and water gets into the car.
First, remove the seatbelt, open the door, and evacuate. If the water is too high and the door won’t open, evacuate from the window. If the window won’t open, break the side window and evacuate (don’t try to break the sturdy windshield glass).

5. Car Fire

If a fire breaks out while driving, turn on the hazard lights to notify the cars around you that an emergency has occurred.
Next, stop the car on the side of the road and call the 119 emergency phone number from your mobile phone. If you can, try to extinguish the fire as long as you are not exposing yourself to danger.
Depending on the strength of the fire, you may be able to extinguish the flame by choking it with a jacket or water.

6. Safety Information Card – Useful Tool for Tourists Visiting Japan

This tool from the Japan Tourism Agency summarizes information about disaster preparedness, including useful websites and apps, so that tourists can enjoy a safe trip with peace of mind, even in case of a natural disaster. Please use it by all means.

Safety Information Card – 観光庁

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Throw Beans, Get Luck! Japanese Holiday “Setsubun”

Setsubun, or “節分” in Japanese, means the parting of the seasons. Every time the season changes, it’s called Setsubun, but the new year starts in spring according to the lunar calendar, so the most important Setsbun is in spring. It’s said that evil comes out at the turn of the season, so it’s very important to protect against it with a new milestone every year.

This year, Setsubun will be celebrated on Sunday, February 3, 2019. So, what do you actually do for Setsubun?

1. Bean throwing
2. Ehomaki sushi
3. Decorations
4. Summary

1. Bean throwing
On Setsubun, we throw beans while saying “Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi,” which means “Devils are outside, luck is inside.” This tradition is called “mame maki,” where “mame” means beans (think edamame) and “maki” means throw. When you do mame maki, you are driving evil out of the house and attracting good luck into the house. Sometimes, the father of the house will dress up as the devil and children will throw their beans at him!

After you finish throwing the beans, you also have to eat some – but not off the ground! You have to eat as many beans as your age so you will get good luck and good health in the coming year.

2. Ehomaki (恵方巻)
You have to eat ehomaki during Setsubun to get good luck, too! Ehomaki means “lucky direction” sushi, and it must have at least 7 ingredients of different colors. This is because you must eat ehomaki while facing this year’s lucky direction, and you are not allowed to speak until you have finished eating the whole roll. You have to stay silent and make your wish for the new year, because luck will escape if you talk. By the way, the lucky direction this year is east by northeast! There are also some people who believe that you should close your eyes while eating, and there are even some who believe you’ll get the best luck if you laugh while eating! During Setsubun season, you can buy ehomaki at convenience stores, supermarkets, and fancy department stores too, so try it out! There are some very interesting flavors, such as all seafood ehomaki and even tonkatsu ehomaki!

3. Decorations
To protect your house, there are some people who put the heads of sardines and decorations of holly on the entrance of their homes so that demons won’t gather. If you say this outside someone’s house, you might be disinclined to go in, too!

4. Summary
Customs and traditions vary depending on the region, but Setsubun is an event where parents can become demons, children can throw beans with delight, and the whole family can play and eat together. If you come to Japan during Setsubun, why not try experiencing the unique mame maki and ehomaki?

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Japanese New Year

In Japan, the time period of January is called “o-shou-ga-tsu, Oshougatsu in Japan is an event for the family, much like Chinese New Year.  Most Japanese people will be at home with their families come together to celebrate the New Year.

  • The o-souji (house cleaning)
  • New Year’s Decorations
  • nengajo (New Year’s cards)
  • Huge bellsand toshikoshi soba” (year-crossing soba)
  • Events and customs

■The o-souji (house cleaning)

The o-souji ritual used to start on December. It has a practical and a spiritual significance. This major house cleaning is thought as a ritual to give a pleasant welcome to God on New Year’s Day.They will associate a big annual clean with spring, in Japan it’s done in the last days of the year – pretty much everywhere. Homes, schools and offices all get a thorough going over that creates a clean slate for the year ahead.

■New Year’s Decorations

After finish the house cleaning, it will start to decorate their houses with special decorations on December 28th and 30th. Please be carefully they would not do it on December 29th because that is apparently also not a good day to put up decorations because the number nine has the same sound as “suffer” (ku 苦) in Japanese, so it is also considered to be bad luck.

Let’s get to know the different Japanese new year decorations!


Kadomatsu are placed in  pairs in front of the gate or front doors of homes to welcome the Shinto gods.


Shimekazari will put it on top of the house entrance to prevent bad spirits from entering and to invite the Shinto deity, to descend and visit.

A round rice-cake

Japanese people will  and place these at very visible places around their homes for decoration. Placing them in different rooms is said to bring more luck, as each room will welcome Shinto gods come and stay.

■nengajo (New Year’s cards)

People say ”あけましておめでとうございます(akemashite omedetou (gozaimasu)” which is meaning congratulations on the new year. They will  send New Year’s cards called ”nengajo ”to their family or someone treated well by.  Although with the growth of the Internet and cell phones, the number of people who send nengajo is decreasing yearly,  The receiver can know your feeling during you hand writing. However, do not send the New Year’s cards to anyone who has had a death in the family during the year.

■Huge bellbsound and toshikoshi soba” (year-crossing soba)

New Year’s Eve is called “Oomisoka” in Japanese. At Buddhist temples, huge bells are hit 108 times during midnight to get rid of all evil desires. Most people believe that huge bells are hit 108 times during midnight to get rid of all evil desires. So that we will eat the “toshikoshi soba” when we hearing the huge bells sounds and wish for a long lasting life. You can still listen the huge bells sounds even while you’re staying at home  because you can see it at the TV shows.

■Events and customs

The first sunrise


It is an event to worship the first sun rising on New Year’s Day, which is the beginning of the year since it is believed that the Shinto gods of the year appear with the first sunrise. So, people pray for good luck when the first sun rises.

First visiting to the Shrine

At the beginning of the year, people go to the shrine and pray for the safety and happiness of the new year. Some people leave their home to visit the shrine on the night of the 31st, or at the midnight, and some people just go there in the morning on January 1st or afternoon. Shrines are very crowded at this time of year. The money which you can put into the wooden box for good luck is well known as the more money you put into it, the more luck you will get. On the other hands, some people believe if you put 5 Yen, it is super lucky. Since the pronunciation of 5 Yen which is ‘go en’ sounds similar to the word ‘ご縁(go en)’ which means luck.

Osechi dish

It is a celebration meal that Japanese people have between January 1st and 3rd. Japanese people believe that Osechi dishes bring good luck in the sense of celebration. It is filled with grilled, boiled and pickled foods in a multitiered Japanese food box. It is made up of dishes which could be preserved longer time so that it  can allow housewives who are busy with cooking take a rest around some days at the New Year.


Originally, this began with the custom to give some left over rice cakes to children. but today it has become an event for adults to give money to children. It’s a small bag of money that children receive from their parents, grandfathers, grandmothers and relatives.



You should eat Kagami-mochi which were offered to the Shinto gods after some days from the New Year day!  People cut this rice cakes and put them into some red bean soup or Ozoni which is Dashi soup(Soup types and other ingredients might be changed up to the location.). They eat this praying for keeping good health of the new year. People eat this mostly on January 11th or 20th.

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Christmas in Japan

Every December brings the season to celebrate Christmas around the world, and Japan is no exception. Christmas in Japan has many unique characteristics as part of Japan’s culture. This time we would like to introduce to you how Japanese people celebrate Christmas.


  • Fried chicken and Christmas cake
  • Who to celebrate with
  • Ending the 25th night


Fried Chicken and Christmas Cake

In the United States and elsewhere, Christmas dinner is a roast turkey or ham, but the dish most associated with Christmas in Japan is fried chicken. Since turkey is difficult to find in Japan, it was replaced with chicken instead. Demand for fried chicken in Christmas season in Japan is very high, with fast food chains such as Kentucky Fried Chicken and butcher shops accepting reservation as soon as December 1st. As Christmas draws nearer, fried chicken and roast chicken will be sold at convenience and grocery stores, so you will be able to see the unique Christmas atmosphere.




It is said that eating cake at Christmas is a staple for Japanese people. To produce a sense of Christmas, it is a common practice to arrange fruits and decorate it with Santa and other motifs. Incidentally, on the night of December 25, many cake shops will be selling their goods for half-price,  so if you want to enjoy a more cost-effective Christmas, please time your shopping as such!

The origin of Christmas cake in Japan began with a campaign in 1922 when cake manufacturer Fujiya started selling a cake decorated with cream with the catch phrase “Let’s eat cake at Christmas!” At that time, cake was a luxury good, and ordinary people could not easily buy one, but around the 1970s, the custom to eat Christmas cake spread through every home in Japan. Whipped cream and strawberry Christmas cakes are the most popular in Japan today, but there are a variety of other flavors and decorated cakes.


Who to celebrate with

At Christmas time, Japanese people often spend more time with their romantic partner than with their families. So, for Japanese people, Christmas and Valentine’s Day are the two big romantic holidays for lovers.

By the way, it’s the same for children in Japan that Santa Claus brings Christmas presents to good children.




Ending on the 25th night

A happy Christmas will be finished at night on December 25th. The shop displays and Christmas decorations are changed immediately after closing on the 25th, and on the 26th we will enter 100% New Years mode. Of course, the Christmas tree will be put away and the traditional New Years kadomatsu (bamboo decoration) will be brought out.




While incorporating Japanese customs, Christmas has evolved from the original for many years and Japan’s unique Christmas is now fully established. In December, Christmas songs playing throughout the town are not only Western traditional songs and pop music, but also Japanese original Christmas songs. Also in this season, TV and anime will also be broadcasting their Christmas episodes.

If you visit Japan in winter, why not enjoy a unique “Merry Christmas” in Japan?

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Safety Tips: Must-Have App for Travelers in Japan

Do you know what to do in a natural disaster when you’re on vacation?
In a foreign country with unfamiliar customs, culture, and no climate intuition, it can be hard to know what to do in case of trouble. We’re introducing a new app that can help foreign tourists to go safely even in case of emergency.

The app has the following functions.

外国人旅行者向け災害時情報提供アプリ「Safety tips」を大幅に機能向上しました!

Safety Tips

5 Supported Languages: English・Chinese (Simplified/Traditional)・Korean・Japanese

Supported OS
・Android 5.0 or later
・iOS 9.0 or later

✓ Push notifications for emergency earthquake announcements, tsunami warnings, special weather alerts, and volcanic eruption information

✓ Foreigner-friendly medical facility information (information is from the Japanese government tourism office)

✓ Advanced information (details on each type of disaster, first aid methods, etc.)

✓ Evacuation recommendations and instructions

✓ Weather forecast

✓ Earthquake information

✓ Volcanic eruption warnings

✓ Heat stroke advisories

✓ Evacuation shelter information

✓ Transportation information

✓ Medical facility information

✓ Emergency contact information (110, 119, one-click dial embassy phone numbers)

Below is the home screen of the Safety Tips app.

There are many useful functions in case of a natural disaster.

There are explanations for each type of disaster, as well as what to do when right after an event, so please download it so you can travel with confidence.

You can download the app from the QR code below.
QRコード(For iPhone) QRコード(For Android)
For iPhone    For Android

If the QR code doesn’t work, please use the following URL.

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All About Telephone Translator Support

1. What is Telephone Translator Support? 
2. When can I use Telephone Translator Support?
3. How can I use Telephone Translator Support?
4. Important notes

1. What is Telephone Translator Support?
24-hour Telephone Translator Support can respond to every place and situation in case of trouble or need for help. With this service, you can travel safely and securely in Japan.
Supported languages are Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean.
Telephone Translator Support is not exclusive for rental car situations. It can be used in any situation, as you can see below.

<Questions during shopping>

<When you need an interpreter at a restaurant>

<When you need directions>

*The Telephone Translator Support cannot respond to any inquiries other than for translation purposes.

2. When can I use Telephone Translator Support
The service is available 24/7 if it is within the rental car usage period.
There is no limit on the number of times of use.

3. How to use Telephone Translator Support
① Please check whether or not your reservation includes Telephone Translator Support. You can confirm it from the ToCoo! options section of the Reservation Confirmed mail. If Telephone Translator Support is included in the ToCoo! options, your reservation has the service included.

② Call the dedicated Telephone Translator Support phone number and tell the operator your reference number.
*We will send the phone number and reference number to you by email 1-3 days before your rental car start date.
*The translation service is only for telephone correspondence, so it can’t be used with WiFi phone services such as Line phone, WhatsApp phone, etc.

③ Describe the situation to the operator and tell them what you need translated, then hand the phone to the other party.

④ After finishing with the interpreter, please hang up the phone.

4. Important notes

① Translation service can only be used when you are physically facing the person who you would like to translate. It is not possible to interpret for people who are not with you at the time of the phone call.

② Telephone Translator Support cannot be used as a customer service line. The translators cannot respond to any inquiries about ToCoo services, problems (such as car trouble), or any other negotiations.

③ You can’t use telephone translation service if you don’t have the reference number. If you do not receive an email with the dedicated telephone number and reference number by 1 day before the car rental service begins, please contact us from the following Inquiry Form.

④ Any call charges will be paid by the customer.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us via the Inquiry Form on our website.




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All About ETC Cards & Expressway Passes

This article will explain all about the ETC system. Not sure which ETC card is right for you? Keep reading and find out!

What is an ETC card?

It’s a card that can be used with the ETC system. If you use the ETC system, you don’t need to understand Japanese, you don’t need to use cash, and you don’t have to stop at toll gates, so it’s a very convenient system. The ETC card reader device is equipped as standard in all rental cars in Japan, so all you have to do is put the ETC card into the ETC device and you’re good to go! There are many different types of ETC card passes and services available, so keep reading and we’ll go through the main ones.

What is an expressway pass?

An expressway pass is a special ETC card with the pass preloaded onto it so that you can use the expressways as much as you want. There are various kinds of ETC passes, but there are 4 that you can reserve from ToCoo! Also, you can’t reserve just an ETC pass on its own, so make sure to book the rental car with it.

Each ETC option covers a different area! Keep reading to find out more.

Area Unlimited ETC Card Pickup Place
ETC Card  Nationwide × Post Office/Hotel
TEP  Nationwide Post Office/Hotel
ToCoo! Unlimited ETC Pass  Nationwide Post Office/Hotel
TEP Hokkaido Hokkaido Post Office/Hotel
TEP Kyushu Kyushu Post Office/Hotel
HEP Hokkaido Rental Car Outlet
KEP Kyushu Rental Car Outlet

About the ETC Card Types

1. ETC Card (nationwide)
You can book a standalone ETC card without any expressway passes. After you return the ETC card at the end of your reservation, your actual used toll fees will be charged to the credit card you register.  After the ETC card is returned, we will confirm the toll road usage details with NEXCO, the highway provider in Japan. If you rent a ToCoo! ETC card, you can pick it up from your hotel or a post office, but please note that rental car companies don’t offer delivery service for packages,  so you can’t get it from the outlet.
We recommend the Free ETC Card Plan!
Check it out here! → ToCoo! ETC Card Plan

ETC System Area

2. ToCoo Expressway Pass (Nationwide)
The ToCoo Expressway Pass, or TEP, is a special ETC card that is only offered by ToCoo! It’s an unlimited expressway pass for all of Japan. TEP can only be reserved from the TEP plan, and the TEP fee is paid at the time of reservation, so it’s super convenient.  All you have to do is pick it up from your hotel or a post office and basically forget about it until your return date! Total driving freedom.  You can pick up the TEP ETC card package from a hotel or post office, but rental car companies don’t offer delivery services for packages, so you can’t get it from the outlet.

Check out the plan here! → ToCoo Expressway Pass Plan

TEP Coverage Area

4. ToCoo! Unlimited ETC Pass (Nationwide)
The ToCoo! Unlimited ETC Pass is a special ETC card similar to TEP, but unlike TEP, the ToCoo! Unlimited ETC Pass can be added on as an option to almost any reservation. Just like TEP, the ToCoo! Unlimited ETC Pass fee is paid at the time of reservation, so it’s extremely convenient. You can pick up the TToCoo! Unlimited ETC Pass ETC card package from a hotel or post office, but rental car companies don’t offer delivery services for packages, so you can’t get it from the outlet.
★ What’s the difference between TEP and the ToCoo! Unlimited ETC Pass? The difference is that the ToCoo! Unlimited ETC Pass can be added onto any existing plan. Because of that, it’s also a little more expensive than TEP.

More info here! → ToCoo! Unlimited ETC Pass

ToCoo! Unlimited ETC Pass Coverage Area

5. TEP Hokkaido (Hokkaido)
It’s similar to TEP, this is a special ETC card offered only by ToCoo, which offers unlimited expressway use only in Hokkaido, so we recommend it for anyone who is traveling to Hokkaido! You can reserve it under the TEP Hokkaido plan. You can pick up the TEP Hokkaido ETC card package from a hotel or post office, but rental car companies don’t offer delivery services for packages, so you can’t get it from the outlet. One advantage of TEP Hokkaido is that you can drop off the car anywhere with it!

Check out the plan here! → TEP Hokkaido

TEP Hokkaido Coverage Area

5. TEP Kyushu (Kyushu)
Similar to TEP, this is a special ETC card offered only by ToCoo, which offers unlimited expressway use only in Kyushu, so we recommend it for anyone who is traveling to Kyushu! You can reserve it under the TEP Kyushu plan. For the ToCoo! ETC card to use for TEP Kyushu, hotel and post office pickup is available. In addition, some TEP Kyushu plans have the special option for ToCoo! ETC card pickup at the  rental car outlet! For details on where to receive the ToCoo! ETC card, please check the email from ToCoo! One more advantage of TEP Kyushu is that you can drop off the car anywhere with it.

Check out the plan here! → TEP Kyushu

TEP Kyushu Coverage Area

6. Hokkaido Expressway Pass (Hokkaido)
The Hokkaido Expressway Pass (HEP) is an unlimited expressway pass that can only be used in specific Hokkaido expressway. This pass is only offered by the rental car companies, so not every outlet offers it. Also, if you use HEP, you have to pick up and return the car to the exact same outlet. If the outlet offers HEP, you can get it when you pick up the car.
★ CAUTION! ToCoo’s ETC card can NOT be used for HEP! If you want to use HEP, please book the HEP plan and don’t reserve any other ETC cards.

Check out the plan here! → Hokkaido Expressway Pass


7. Kyushu Expressway Pass (Kyushu)
Kyushu Expressway Passis an unlimited expressway pass that can be used only on specific Kyushu expressways. This pass is also only offered by the rental car companies, so not every outlet offers it. Something to watch out for is that it doesn’t cover all the expressways in Kyushu. Please check the map below and make sure that the roads you plan to use will be covered before booking it, so that you can avoid an unpleasant surprise when you return your car.
★ CAUTION! ToCoo’s ETC card can NOT be used for KEP! If you want to use KEP, please book the KEP plan and don’t reserve any other ETC cards.。

Check out the plan here! → Kyushu Expressway Pass



It might seem a bit complicated, but we hope this has been helpful. Check your travel schedule and choose the best ETC card for you! As always, if you have any further questions, let us know down below or from the inquiry form on our website.

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Kansai International Airport and New Chitose Airport Latest Updates

Due to the typhoon damage that occurred on September 4, 2018, Osaka’s Kansai International Airport has been temporarily closed. Additionally, New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido has also been put under restrictions due to the damage caused by the earthquake that occurred on September 6, 2018. There are also many rental car outlets which are closed temporarily. If you are preparing to travel soon, please be careful and check the details.

1、Kansai International Airport Status
2、New Chitose Airport Status
3、Information for those considering cancelling their travel plans

1. Kansai International Airport Status

Status Notes Last updated
Kansai International Airport 【KIX homepage】 2018/9/7
Nissan Rent a Car Closed until 10/8 2018/10/4
Toyota Rent a Car Reopens for business on 10/12. 2018/10/12
Times Car Rental Resuming Operations 2018/10/10
Nippon Rent a Car Closed until 10/6. Reopens for business at 8:00 AM on 10/7. 2018/10/5

2. New Chitose Airport Status
Note: If you already have a reservation during the following closure dates, your rental car reservation will be carried out as usual.

Status Remarks Last updated
New Chitose Airport Normal operation 【CTS homepage】 2018/9/10
Nissan Rent a Car Normal operation 2018/9/10
Nippon Rent a Car Normal operation 2018/9/10
Toyota Rent a Car Normal operation 2018/9/10
Budget Rent a Car Normal operation 2018/9/10
Times Car Rental Normal operation 2018/9/10
Hokkaido Travel Rent a Car Normal operation 2018/9/10
Car Rental Hokkaido Normal operation 2018/9/10
Honda Rent a Car Normal operation 2018/9/10
Nikku Rent a Car Normal operation 2018/9/10
Samurai Rent a Car Normal operation 2018/9/10
NICONICO Rent a Car Normal operation 2018/9/10
Family Rent a Car Normal operation 2018/9/10
World Rent a Car Normal operation 2018/9/10
Karaoke Rent a Car Normal operation 2018/9/10

3. Information for those considering cancelling their travel plans

※If you cancel your trip, please cancel your rental car reservation as well.
Cancellation form →
If you can’t cancel your reservation from the website, please contact ToCoo!

<Caution> Although we try to post the latest and accurate information, we do not guarantee its completeness, accuracy, or usefulness. Please check the website of each company for accurate information.

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