About five years ago a bunch of automakers were trying to rebrand themselves as “mobility companies” to deal with the shifting trends of the industry. Car ownership was dead! People were just going to pay subscriptions to borrow a car whenever they needed one. Well, at least one good thing came out of it, and it’s the fact that you can now rent these classic Toyotas the next time you visit Japan.
Toyota has arguably gotten the farthest down the mobility company path. In 2020 They launched Kinto, a sort of Zipcar-like car sharing service that lets you rent cars by the hour, day, or month. It lets, even encourages, you to use their cars as Uber or Lyft vehicles.
Japan’s version of Kinto probably has the widest array of services. Subscribers can choose from a variety of different Toyota and Lexus cars, including sporty ones like the GR86. There’s even a plan for enthusiasts, where Kinto will tune your GR Yaris‘s ECU and suspension based on your driving style and the data collected by the car.
But it’s not all rentals. For example in Japan, one called Kinto Factory lets private owners of certain Toyota models get their cars retrofittted with the latest tech, like blind spot monitors and rear cross-traffic sensors.
The one that will be of most interest to JNCers, however, is Kinto Vintage Club, a service that lets you borrow classic Toyotas for a fee. For now, there are only four classic rentals available, so opportunities will be limited. Should you be lucky enough to score one, you’ll be riding in utmost style.
Imagine taking a TE27 Corolla Levin on a remote touge road, or picking up a Z10 Soarer for a slink through the city. You can even pretend you’re terrorizing the expressway in an A70 Supra Turbo. The most recent addition is a newly restored Celica Liftback. Some of the cars are even outfitted with popular aftermarket parts, like RS Watanabes, Hayashi Streets, or a Nardi steering wheel, so you’ll be able to fit right in if you pull into a meet.
Rates for the TE27, Celica and Soarer start at ¥30,000 ($218 USD) for 8 hours. Or you can rent those cars for a 24-hour period for ¥35,000 ($254 USD), with each additional day costing ¥30,000 for up to five days. The Supra is a bit cheaper; just subtract ¥5,000 ($36 USD) from every amount. Kinto even suggests some scenic roads on which to drive the cars.
Currently the cars are located in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture until October 31. Then they’ll move to a GR Garage in Mitaka, Tokyo. So if your trip to Japan coincides with either of these times or places, this just might be the best way to immerse yourself in Japan’s car culture.
Photos courtesy of Kinto Vintage Club.
This is very interesting to me. We’ve booked our 3 week long trip once again (for the 3rd attempt) for this coming spring with fingers crossed Japan will welcome us – or more specifically our money – back in. One thing I’ve always been WAY too apprehensive about is driving. Since the rail system is so good there’s really been no need, however I’ve always wanted to go out to Nagano to see the Prince and Skyline Museum but taking a train would make it really difficult since the station is so far from the Museum and it would be all day on the train to get there and back without the visit – which my wife isn’t too keen on. But renting a classic like these (or now that it’s in my head, pretty much any car) might be the answer to that I’m looking for.
Can anyone talk about what it’s like to be a tourist driving in Japan, specifically with a starting point of Tokyo?
Driving in and around Tokyo can be stressful if you’re not familiar with the area or with Japanese. Every expressway costs a not-insignificant amount of toll, so one wrong turn could be a $10 or more mistake. These do add up.
Around major cities traffic signs are in both Japanese and English. Once you’re in the rural areas, things are only written in Japanese. And very few roads are laid out in a logical east-west grid because of all the mountains. My advice is to get a GPS device (Google Maps should work, but you might have to enter destinations in Japanese) and if you don’t have a Japanese passenger, have the staff at the car rental agency program your destination in before you set off. Then just make sure you never exit out of that screen!
It’s all doable, and I’ve done it before the age of GPS, even. Just budget an extra few hours for your trip in case you get lost.
On top of everything Ben has said, Toyota’s own rental car service is really good, and even allows you to rent a sports car or kei car if you wish. In addition, they have on-call interpreters, and will program your on-board navigation to the language of your choice upon delivery of the car, and even offer an automated toll transponder that can be linked to your rental account, which is a huge timesaver.
Renting a car in Japan can be a ton of fun, and allow you to do car stuff that you wouldn’t be able to do by sticking to the trains, like going to UpGarages, hitting up meets at the PA’s, and taking trips to drive Japan’s various touges. Just don’t forget your international driving permit.
Thank you both for your insights. I was well aware of the tolls, which is certainly a concern.
Last time I was there our friends drove us from Yakosuka to the New Sanno in Tokyo so I got a slight feel for it. Certainly GPS is a must if we were to undertake it. But riding in the backseat is certainly different that being at the helm.
Something to think about. If not for this trip, maybe the next.