You have made it to Japan and you now find yourself in a job position that requires you to drive. It can be a scary thought trying to use a car in another country that has different driving rules and signs. The transition can be both simple and complicated at the same time, but it will be necessary for anyone who will live out in the countryside. There are a few things you should know before going to apply for a license.
International Driver’s License
The one thing that everyone will need no matter what country they are coming from is an international driver’s license. These are required to act as a temporary license when driving in other countries. They are only good for one year and you must keep your home countries license as well as your international driver’s license on you when driving. If you don’t have them you will be taken by the officers and fined, which can take hours, so try not to forget them.
If you plan on staying longer than one year you will have to get a Japanese driver’s license. The process will be different depending on not only what country you come from but what part of the country you come from.
America- If you come from America the biggest thing you will have to do is take a short-written test of about ten questions, and the driving exam itself. This is a huge hurdle for many Americans and is the most difficult part of the process. This doesn’t apply to some states in the US, such as Maryland and Washington, and you can drive with a valid license from those places.
Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Republic of Ireland, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom
People from these places have to simply bring their license from their home country and pay a small fee for conversion. You can get your license finished on the same day.
Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Monaco, Switzerland, Taiwan-
If you are from any of these countries, you can drive without converting your license. As long as you have a current license from your home country you can drive normally.
You will need a few things when you go to the driving center and apply for a Japanese license. You will need your passport, license, international driver’s license, and the finished application papers. They will need some proof of living in your home country such as an old bill. This is just to prove that you lived in that country at the time and after getting your license. You will need some basic information about your old vehicle too so keep that in mind.
The next important thing you will need is a translation of your license. You will need to go to your nearest JLA office and fill out an application to have your license translated. It will take a few days to finish so make sure to do it ahead of your appointment. If anything is missing, they will refuse you and you will need to make another appointment. Please remember that the driver centers only give the exams at certain times of the year and the lists fill up quickly. You may have to wait months if you don’t have everything you need so make sure you get it all.
The Driving Exam
The driving exam is usually the most difficult part of the entire ordeal. Your company can set up an appointment for you if you don’t have that option you can make one yourself. When you go to the driving center you will need all of the appropriate paperwork. Once you have finished the application process, they will have you do a standard eye exam. It is the same as western ones so there is no need to worry. You will then have to take a short ten question test on basic driving rules in Japan. They are pretty simple questions and you are allowed to miss up to three before failing. Once you pass the test you will then be allowed to take the driving exam.
The driving exam is the reason most Americans and some other foreigners can’t get their licenses. The reason for this is that the test isn’t as much about practical driving skills as it is more of being able to follow the motions of the test. You will need to drive in a specific way around the test track. Since that is the case the driving centers offer driving lessons with instructors. They usually have an English-speaking instructor to help foreigners. They typically cost 5,000 yen for an hour and they are almost necessary if you want to pass on the first try. If you fail the driving test you will need to set another appointment and pay the fees to try again. There are a few ways to automatically fail the test so make sure to follow all of the small things you practice with the instructor.
It is a big step for getting your license in Japan, at least for Americans and a few other countries, but it will give you a large amount of freedom. You can use your license in place of your residence card in many situations, and most of the time the tellers would rather use the Japanese license instead. The biggest thing to remember is that if you have to take the test, it is best to get the lessons before your first attempt. The less you have to attempt the test, the more money and time you will save.