Traveling by car is one of the best ways to see Japan in comfort. Whether renting a car or hailing a taxi, it can sometimes be worth the price tag, especially if traveling with young children. Child car seat laws in japan take the safety of small children very seriously. It’s important to have all the information to help you make responsible decisions when you’re traveling with a child seat.
Do you need a car seat in Japan?
The easy answer is yes. Japanese law does require all kids aged 0-6 to be buckled into a rear-facing car seat at all times while in a car. Older children are often allowed to be in booster seats (and infants in baby seats), but those are also required to be buckled into the rear seat. And in a busy city like Tokyo, there’s a good reason besides just the law: compared to just using a seat belt, car seats reduce the risk of injury during a crash by up to 82%. Booster seats are also highly effective at reducing the risk of injury, by up to 45% less than a seat belt alone. Police rarely enforce these rules, but you can still get into trouble should you be caught, so it’s best not to risk it.
The American Academy of Pediatrics(AAP) suggests parsing out criteria by height, weight and age. The general guidelines are outlined as follows:
Infant seats are special and not to be confused with a general car seat, though some special baby car seats are made to be converted into regular car seats later. This car seat must be rear-facing and positioned so the infant can lie down. Generally, infant seats can carry children up to 2 years old, though if your child is in the higher range of height and weight, you may need to change to a car seat earlier than usual, so be sure to check. Most infant seats don’t recommend children over 25 pounds, but there can be exceptions.
For children that have outgrown the infant seat (often around the age of 2), the AAP recommends a front-facing car seat where the child can sit up. The car seat should fully lock into the seatbelt, with adjustable harness straps over both their shoulders. Just like with the infant seats, height and weight always need to be taken into account to make sure your car seat isn’t hurting your child.
Another option you’ll find in child seat safety – booster seats just lock into the seatbelt and should be adjusted to be more appropriate for the height and weight of the child. Usually, this occurs when the child is around 5 and can even be used until they are 7, depending on the child’s’ size.
The AAPs guidelines state that children should be in booster seats until they are the size of a small adult, (around 100 lbs and almost 5 feet), though of course, that’s not always the case.
How do I get a baby/child seat?
Car seats are often available at rental car outlets all over Japan. It’s always best to enquire when making the reservation, as some pick-up or drop-off spots may not have them in stock unless you specifically request them, especially in rural areas outside Tokyo. You can also sometimes just rent car-seats, though they’re almost guaranteed to be unwieldy– an inconvenience not often wanted in busy Tokyo. Nissan rent a car, Nippori Rent-A-Car, and Toyota Rent-a-car all offer options to rent booster or baby seats as well.
You can also buy or bring car seats from your home country, though ‘top-tether systems’ are incompatible with some models of Japanese cars. The best option for parents on the go is something like Singaporean expat Elise Mawson’s Taxi Baby; foldable seats that are made to be packable and sleek. Taxi Baby also sells taxi-friendly locking clips, which may be a smart investment for parents looking for the quickest and safest way to take advantage of Japan’s taxi network.
If you’re planning to spend a little more time in Japan, we recommend a car seat like the Cosco Scenera It is lightweight and durable, with an insanely low price tag so you wont have to feel worried about roughing it up in the hectic lifestyle that can come with Tokyo living.
We personally recommend the Scenera for its simplicity of design while still being equally as effective as seats costing over 300 USD. Purchasing your own will make sure you’re always prepared, and with Rakuten or Amazon, it’s easy to for you to get the car seat delivered either to your hotel or serviced apartment– if you want to send it ahead, you can also send it to any local convenience stores in the area you’ll be staying (and maybe pay from there as well!)
How do I ride a taxi with a baby seat?
Taxis are exempt from car seat regulations, though you can of course still choose to bring your own from home. Since passengers are almost always in the backseat of taxis anyway, most Japanese parents choose to keep their children on their lap or in slings across their front.
Taxis rarely even enforce adult seat belt rules (seat belts are mandatory for rear passengers), though that culture has begun to change as we get closer to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Many of the old guards of taxi drivers, however, may have buckles shoved down between the seats or otherwise difficult to access, so it may behove you to call a little early to give drivers time to help you arrange the seat and buckle up. As previously mentioned, there are special locking clips (which can be purchased here) that keep the belt locked in place without damaging the belt itself.
Child car seat laws in Japan are strict, with all children aged under 6 years required to use either a car seat or booster seat, generally regardless of height and weight.
Taxis are exempt from car seat regulations. At the rental car outlets, car seats are often available all over Japan.
No matter what you do, we at Metroresidences want you to get there and come home with your sweet little ones safe and sound!