By Bryan Baier
Two brightly colored scooters sitting outside a gas station caught my eye. Investigation of the signs on their baskets revealed they were available to rent and at an extremely reasonable cost. The owner of the gas station checked my license, gave me a rundown of the rules and then spent some time advising me about my intended route over a well detailed map.
Scooter Rental in Dorogawa Onsen
An important piece of advice before traveling to Japan: get an international drivers permit! They're not expensive and open the whole of the Japanese roadway network to the holder. Besides the typical rental cars, an IDP also allows holders to use 50cc scooters and motorcycles which can be the fastest, most cost effective, convenient and fun way to see as much as one can see of a local area. The scooter rental offered by the Mobil Service Station in Dorogawa Onsen is a perfect example. Dorogawa Onsen is known and famous for its hot springs and historic ryokans, traditional Japanese Inns, but there is much more to do then turn oneself into a giant prune. Limestone caves, beautiful rustic temples and shrines, suspension bridges and glorious hiking trails are all available, but they're spread out enough to make seeing them all on foot a challenging feat. Being at Dorogawa Onsen's 820 meter (~2,690 foot) elevation could also tire one out more quickly than expected. Renting a scooter changes the effort and time of moving from place to place into a bigger part of the fun.The first hour of scooter rental is ¥980 (~$10US) and every 30 minutes after that is ¥320 (~$3US). The fee includes a helmet, 2 pairs of gloves, a towel and a rain poncho (for just in case), tissues, a lock for the scooter and a basket with restraints to store luggage safely. One also doesn't have to top off the scooter's tank after using it. "That's part of the rental fee!" The owner of the gas station told me with a smile. My 4 hour rental cost just ¥1,940 (~$19US)! It also allowed me to see and do everything I wanted to in Dorogawa Onsen in the time that I had. My only regret is that I couldn't take the scooter home with me. It was a fun bike to ride.
Dorogawa Onsen is way off the beaten path. Without a car one needs to get a bus from Kintetsu Shimoichiguchi Station, ¥1,280 (~$13US) and about an hour and ten minutes each way. The Mobil Service Station renting the scooters is just across the bridge from the Dorogawa Onsen Center Bus Stop (the end of the line). Speaking Japanese will help but isn't necessary. There are only 2 scooters available so a little bit of luck might be.
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Seven years of exploring and playing in the wilds of Japan! Now I'm JapanTravel's Tourism and PR Ambassador in Nara Prefecture and the Regional Partner for Nara Prefecture. It's been my experience that there's little if any awareness of Nara and its importance outside of Japan. My goal: remedy that