I don't drive in Singapore.
So why would I drive in Japan?
Well, the tour promoter for Hokkaido at NATAS 2012 said that our planned trip would be too late for sakura (cherry blossoms) even in Hokkaido, but if we go up north we could see a beautiful flowers in whole fields. But, the best fields are not exactly accessible by public transport and is best to drive around.
So there was this Prime - Follow Me tour agency which offers a self-drive tour in Hokkaido. They provide accommodations, itinerary, GPS in English, mobile phones and English-speaking guides on the other end of the phone to provide help including if you need help talking to the locals. Only problem was it costs about $4000. Per person. For 1 week.
So we were planning for a less intense view of the flowers when we found ToCoo! website. This is a car rental agency and English GPS would be provided. Hey, this could be better. So we booked with ToCoo! for the days we planned to explore Abashiri and asked for the English GPS option.
They confirmed our reservation but then told us that there English GPS is not available.
Checked websites and other tourists advised that they did okay without the English GPS, so we should be fine.
Later I realised that I was booked with Nissan rent-a-car. Nippon rent-a-car had an English GPS rental package and the English GPS would be guaranteed.
More importantly, they would also rent the ETC card. What is the ETC card? It is like our ERP system in Singapore. This would make things a little easier.
I figured that the English GPS is probably not really going to be that helpful. The maps are still in Japanese, and only the voice direction is in English, and after a while I believe we will learn how to say "left" and "right" in Japanese, if we don't already know how to. And you can always look at which way the arrow is pointing.
So the GPS is probably a red herring. But the real issue is the ETC. Then again, without the ETC, you just have to pay the toll manually. (Unlike in SG where you need to have a cashcard in your in-vehicle unit.)
So I am feeling a little more confident.
I got my international driving permit yesterday.