Car Accidents Involving Foreign Tourists Driving Rental Cars Surging near Mt. Fuji; Police, Rental Stores Distributing Pamphlets, Urging Caution

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A police officer, left, hands a flyer to an employee of a car rental store in Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi Prefecture, earlier this month.

Accidents involving foreign drivers in rental cars are rapidly increasing in the area around the five lakes at the foot of Mt. Fuji, a region in Yamanashi Prefecture known as Fuji Five Lake.

Last year, 417 accidents (provisional figure) occurred in the area, about nine times more than the previous year, according to Yamanashi prefectural police. This year, 212 accidents have already been reported between January and March. Residents are concerned, saying that accidents would make sightseeing for visitors less enjoyable. Fujiyoshida Police Station, which has jurisdiction over the area, has started distributing English-language flyers to car rental stores and urging for caution. Car rental stores are also calling for foreign travelers to follow Japan’s traffic rules.

English-language flyer

Earlier this month, officers from Fujiyoshida Police Station visited car rental stores in Fuji Five Lake and handed out fliers to employees. The fliers, which are in English, advise the following of traffic rules and to call 110 in the event of an accident. Officers are distributing the fliers to car rental agencies, tourist information centers and ryokan associations, asking them to urge foreign visitors to be careful not to cause an accident.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
English-language flyers produced by Fujiyoshida Police Station

According to the prefectural police, about 26,000 traffic accidents resulting in property damage occurred in Yamanashi Prefecture last year. About 1,700 were accidents involving rental cars, and of those, 456, or a little below 30%, involved rental cars driven by foreign tourists. Most of the accidents occurred within the jurisdiction of Fujiyoshida Police Station.

The police analyzed the accidents involving rental cars that happened between January 2019 and March 2024 within the jurisdiction of the police station. The analysis found that about 70% were single vehicle accidents in which rental cars hit fences or some other structures, while collisions accounted for about 30%.

The police said the slightest lapse of attention could lead to an accident when people drive in an unfamiliar place, asking people to “observe Japanese traffic rules and manners and drive responsibly.”

Pamphlets in 4 languages

Some car rental stores are stepping up their own efforts. J-net Rental & Lease Co.’s Fujisan-Ekimae store in Fujiyoshida provides foreign customers with pamphlets explaining the meaning of road signs, traffic rules and driving precautions in four languages — Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean.

Foreign customers account for 90%

At Toyota Rent-A-Lease Yamanashi Co.’s store near Kawaguchiko Station, foreign customers have recently begun to account for more than 90% of their customers. “There was a certain amount of demand from foreign customers before the coronavirus pandemic, but not as much as now,” an employee said.

According to the store, there are about five accidents a week involving foreign drivers. In many cases, cars scrape the curb or other objects when making turns, due to differences between Japan and the drivers’ home countries in the position of steering wheels and traffic divisions.

“Accidents would make trips less enjoyable. We’d like to inform people about the increase in accidents and urge them to be careful so that they can return home happily,” store manager Wataru Oi, 43, said.