Recent ski seasons have seen visitors increasingly likely to rent a car during their stay. Unlike some one-ski resort/one-village destinations like Nozawa Onsen, for example, the Myoko Kogen area offers several choices. While many hotel and lodge accommodations provide transfers to the main four ski resorts—Akakura Kanko, Akakura Onsen, Ikenotaira, and Suginohara—both the rise of fully self-contained lodging options and the current steep cost, time, and nuisance involved in jumping on a bus contribute to the argument for renting during your stay. Given the number of ski resorts accessible from your Myoko base, renting a car and heading straight to where you want to be is the logical choice for an increasing number of powder fiends.

Driving in Myoko Kogen not only grants you the flexibility to start your day at any of the numerous nearby ski areas but also opens up opportunities to explore beyond the slopes. You can easily visit the picturesque Nojiri Lake, indulge in local cuisine at remote restaurants, or relax in a hidden onsen without the constraints of shuttle schedules. However, there are a few considerations and key things to know before you book a rental car. Japanese winter driving conditions can be slightly challenging, especially for those unfamiliar with heavy snowfall and icy roads, making it a must to rent a vehicle equipped with snow tyres and to familiarise yourself with local driving regulations and safety tips. Know and do the “musts” when renting a car and you can’t go wrong.

Myoko car rental

“Driving in Myoko Kogen not only grants you the flexibility to start your day at any of the numerous nearby ski areas but also opens up opportunities to explore beyond the slopes.”

Snow tyres?

You have probably seen some form of the question, “Do I really need snow tyres?” asked on a forum. Most Myoko accommodation owners have probably been asked the question at some point. The correct answer is always “yes”.

Snow tyres in Myoko Kogen are an absolute essential, not merely a suggestion. Visit on a busy weekend that happens to coincide with a storm and there’ll be a handful of examples that perfectly illustrate why. When heavy snowfall affects conditions on the mountain, so too does it affect the roads. Without winter tyres, drivers will not only struggle to navigate the streets but also risk being involved in a potentially dangerous accident. The right choice of tyres provides the necessary traction to handle the snow, ensuring visitors can access their dose of Japow safely and confidently.

When booking a car, always confirm with the rental company that your vehicle comes with snow tyres before you commit. Simply winging it and hoping for the best without them has, does and will show itself to be an impractical and hazardous pursuit.

Renting a car at Nagano Station, Joetsumyoko Station, or perhaps even once you get to Myoko is a smart choice. These options will be well-acquainted with the winter driving conditions you will encounter and will therefore include winter tyres and 4WD as standard (but still check!). In contrast, if you rent a car in Tokyo or another city with milder winters, you might face significant additional charges for winter tyres or even worse, find that it’s not even an option. Needless to say, this oversight can be both costly and hazardous.

Other Considerations

Before you think about driving in Myoko and its surrounds, it’s a great idea to get your head around the following important considerations:

When booking a rental car for your visit to Myoko Kogen, several important factors need to be considered to ensure a safe and hassle-free experience:

Vehicle Type

Four wheels are far better than two. While a 2WD might suffice in rare, mild conditions, the unpredictable and often severe winter weather makes a 4WD vehicle the safer and more reliable choice. Like winter tyres, it really should be considered a must to have a 4WD car.

International Driver’s Permit

Ensure you have an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) along with your valid home country driver’s license. This is a legal requirement for driving in Japan and will be necessary when picking up your rental car.

Zero Tolerance for Alcohol

Japan enforces a strict 0.00% blood alcohol concentration (BAC) policy for drivers. Any amount of alcohol in your system while driving can result in pretty hectic penalties, so the safest way to go about life in Myoko is to save your chu-hi for when you put down the keys.

Squeegees, Scrapers and Shovels

Essential winter tools such as squeegees, scrapers and shovels will get you to your first lift faster. Not only will they be handy to dig yourself out on the morning of a huge dump, but these items will also prove invaluable for clearing snow and ice from your car, ensuring visibility and safe driving conditions. Your accommodation should probably have these whether lodge, hotel or self-contained, but it’s probably a good idea to check.

What are your options?

The following options are within a short walk from either or both Nagano Shinkansen Station and Joetsumyoko Shinkansen Station, and have an online booking portal available in English:

Toyota, Budget, Orix, Nissan, Times and Nippon Rent-A-Car.

There is now also another option in Myoko itself. Gently beginning business during last season with only a few options, M.J Car Rental Services is in full swing in time for the 2024/25 winter season. They’re based in Myoko (Arai) only 15 minutes from Myoko Kogen and 10 minutes from Lotte Arai.

This is a local, snowboard-keen family-owned business offering free delivery and pick-up in the Myoko area (but also providing options in Nozawa Onsen, Hakuba and Naeba at extra ¥).

Of course, prices vary depending upon your needs but generally, costs will fall between ¥6000 and ¥15000 per day during the winter season. All options are 4WD with winter tyres and conveniently include board/ski racks, snow shovels and scrapers.

Check out M.J Car Rental Services’ Instagram for further details.

The final word

Ultimately, with numerous ski resorts accessible from Myoko Kogen, renting a car is increasingly the preferred choice for many visitors. It provides the flexibility to start your day at any nearby ski area and opens up opportunities to explore beyond the mountain.

With a bit of knowledge and planning, having a car for your Myoko visit can be a real plus. This is especially true if you happen to be travelling in a group, offering convenience and cost-effectiveness, allowing a bit of extra coin for that chu-hi when you’ve parked up at the end of the day.


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