Japanese police have been reported to be looking into Chinese tourists renting cars with fake international drivers' licenses. Japanese road traffic law states that foreign drivers must have a license issued in Japan, or an international driving permit based on the Geneva Convention or a license from countries or regions recognized by Tokyo to have similar systems for driving permits, such as Germany, Switzerland and Taiwan. Japan was party to the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic, which was designed to facilitate international road traffic and increase road safety by establishing standard driving regulations among the signatories. And while many countries were not included in the original party, many of those countries has their International Driving Permit honored.
The most noticeable countries not included in the 1949 Geneva Convention are China and Brazil. The Japanese government only regards the licensing systems of seven countries and territories as comparable and China is not one of them either. This would result in very few Chinese tourists the qualifications to drive in Japan. However, in a survey done by the Okinawa prefecture government found that 11 percent of Chinese tourists in Japan rented cars. Similarly, Hokkaido, a popular northern destination for Chinese tourists, found 16 percent of those surveyed said they have rented a vehicle in the past. These suspicious licenses have compounded safety concerns since record tourism traffic in Japan has correlated to a rise in road accidents involving rented vehicles.
Multiple sources in the car rental industry has claimed it is possible for Chinese tourists to purchase a Philippine license and an international license by sending certain documents, including a photocopy of a Chinese drivers' license to certain companies in the country. The cost ranges from $370 to $465. And since the Philippines is a Geneva convention signatory, their international licenses are valid in Japan. But international licenses are tricky for car rental agencies to verify since they differ from country to country. Some fakes are recreated so well that even the police may have a hard time to tell the difference. Many car rental agencies currently have their own policies in combating fake international licenses. Some agencies such as Nippon Rent-A-Car Service, one of largest car rental companies in Japan, only rents to overseas tourists if their international license was issued in the same country as their passport. Other companies are reluctant to be as strict as they see turning away customers the same as turning down business opportunities.