Driving in Japan : Where to Find All Your Mapcodes and How to Use Them

Japan Mapcode

When driving in Japan, the most convenient way to search for a destination in the navigation system of your Japanese rented car is to use mapcode. Using telephone number is easy too except that scenic locations like lakes and mountains don’t have any. It also takes more effort to search for the telephone numbers of all your destinations from the different official websites.

So, how easy is it to find all the mapcodes for your itinerary and how to use them?

What is a Mapcode


From the user’s point of view, it is sufficient to know that a mapcode is a code that represents a specific location. It is a code of up to 12 numbers with or without an asterix * in it.

e.g. 72 820 146*63

Typically, just using the string of numbers in front of the * is good enough and car rental companies may even tell you to skip the rest of the code. However, adding the numbers after the * will bring you to a more accurate position that is within 3m of your desired location. But for an attraction that occupies a large area of land, you naturally won’t need such precision.

How to Find Mapcode

Contrary to what many websites teach you, searching for the mapcode of a place is very simple. You don’t have to hunt for it on official websites or use any app. You can easily get yours with just a click on your mobile phone, tablet or computer.

Japan mapcode search

All you need is this webpage -> https://japanmapcode.com/en/. Just enter the name of the attraction or address of a building in the search bar and the corresponding mapcode will be displayed at the bottom left corner.

Japan Mapcode

Sometimes, the webpage may display more than one pin on the map indicating related locations. Simply choose the appropriate one to get the mapcode. You can then click ‘View on Google Maps’ below the mapcode to confirm if this is the location that you are after.

Use Google Maps

For me, my usual approach is to first find the location on Google Maps, copy the name of the location and paste it onto the Japan Mapcode search bar. This saves me time because I don’t waste time getting the wrong spelling. Also useful for cases where the name of the attraction or store I’m visiting is displayed only in Japanese on Google Maps.

Use Mapcodes of Car Parks

Using mapcode of car parks

Instead of recording the mapcode of the attraction, I find it more convenient to search for the mapcode of a nearby car park. When there is more than one car park, I will find the one with the cheapest charges, free would be the best obviously even if there is more walking involved. Take for an example, if I’m visiting Nara Park. I would search for a car park beforehand and not drive around upon arrival to look for a reasonably priced car park.

The next question is how do you find out about the car park charges? First, check if a website is given in the description in Google Maps. When there is none, you may find a photo of the car park charges posted by past visitors. The last approach is to copy the name of the car park (unless it’s a generic name) and google it. Chances are you will find the web page of the car park owner/operator and the required information. This method has helped me save money many times when parking within the cities.

Using Mapcode in GPS

Using mapcode in GPS

The car navigation system used by the various car rental companies may be different but once you have been shown how to input mapcode, everything should be easy thereafter. Check the guide on the company’s website or the manual that they give you upon car collection for reference. The usual steps are:-

Menu/Navi -> Destination -> Search by Mapcode -> Enter mapcode and Search -> Set as Destination/Go Here -> Select from 5 Routes 5ルート -> Start Navigation

Do note however that even with an English speaking GPS, some menu items remain in Japanese language and the map may not display entirely in English as names of locations and streets may still be shown in Japanese.

Finding the Best Navigation Route on GPS


5 route options in GPS

After you have keyed in your destination, it’s always a good idea to take a look at the other available route options apart from the one offered by the GPS in the first instance.

5 route options in Japanese GPS

Depending on the GPS model you have, the terms used may be different but generally, 5 routes (5ルート), sometimes 6, are available based on the following conditions:-

推奖 Recommended Route or 標準 Standard (highway) Route
省工礻 Energy-saving Route
有料回避 Route avoiding toll roads or 有料優先 Route using toll roads
一般優先 Route using general roads or 主要道路優先 Route using main roads
距離優先 Shortest Route
他ルート Other Route

While I always go with the cheapest route, it may not be the best route if it takes too long compared to the other routes just to save a little money or if the route takes me through remote areas with more dangerous road conditions e.g. driving on narrow and windy mountain roads in the dark.

More about driving in Japan in my future posts. Meanwhile, please share this post if it has been helpful for you 🙂


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