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Japanese Driver's License

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Japanese Driver's License

Postby Dehitay » Sat 09.08.2007 11:11 am

I heard that in Japan driving school is mandatory before getting a driver's license. However, I don't know if that applies to Japanese citizens or everybody. Most countries tend to honor foreign licenses. I had assumed with an American license, I might just have to take a test to assure them I'm capable of driving even when my directions are switched up. I never actually planned to get a car, but since I never drink I've developed a habit of being a designated driver and end up driving other people's cars a lot. What's the process for getting a license for foreigners who have one from their country?
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RE: Japanese Driver's License

Postby JaySee » Sat 09.08.2007 11:48 am

I know if you have a Dutch licence you can get an 'international licence'pretty easily for a small fee which is also valid in Japan ... no additional tests required.

In Japan and Holland (and I suppose the rest of Europe too) getting a licence is quite difficult and costs a lot of money, while in America you can basically get one of you can do one lap around a parking lot without crashing into other parked cars. This is one of the reasons why I know American licences are not accepted in the EU and Americans wishing to drive here need to take additional tests... I wouldnt be surprised if the same goes for Japan (though I must say I'm not sure)
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RE: Japanese Driver's License

Postby Mike Cash » Sat 09.08.2007 8:32 pm

Driving school isn't technically mandatory, but the OB system ensures that in in practical terms it may as well be mandatory. But none of that relates to the case of converting a foreign license to a Japanese one.

You'll have to provide your license from home, a translation, some dough, and then take a short paper test and a skills test. If your license doesn't indicate the date of issue, you'll need a letter from the issuing authority back home giving that info.
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RE: Japanese Driver's License

Postby Harisenbon » Sat 09.08.2007 9:31 pm

I've got to run out the door in a minute, so I'll make this really quick.

You can get a international permit at AAA in your home country that will allow you to drive a car in JP for ONE year from the day you land in Japan. While you can "renew" an internalional permit, Japan does not recognize this. If you get caught driving with a renewed permit after the one year mark, you are screwed (a JET in my pref recently got caught like this)

If you are a foreigner with a valid driver's License from your home country, you can convert it to a Japanese one. People from any country BUT America require a written test, a translation of the license and transfer money.

If you are an american, you're screwed. You must provide all the above as well as pass a skills test wherein you drive around a course for 10 mintues (depending on pref). It is usually very difficult, and very few people pass on the first time (through 4 years of JETs, I know 4 people who passed on the first time).
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RE: Japanese Driver's License

Postby Infidel » Sat 09.08.2007 9:54 pm

JaySee wrote:
In Japan and Holland (and I suppose the rest of Europe too) getting a licence is quite difficult and costs a lot of money, while in America you can basically get one of you can do one lap around a parking lot without crashing into other parked cars.


What you are missing is there is no "American" test. It's different in each state. Some states are rather rigorous others are not. I was appalled when I came to Virginia and my driving test was, driving around the block 1 time then park in the first available space back at DMV.
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RE: Japanese Driver's License

Postby Mike Cash » Sat 09.08.2007 11:43 pm

I got both car and motorcycle licenses with no skills tests whatsoever. Never took one until I came to Japan and went for a truck license.
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RE: Japanese Driver's License

Postby Teh_Freak » Sun 09.09.2007 12:25 am

Infidel wrote:
What you are missing is there is no "American" test. It's different in each state. Some states are rather rigorous others are not. I was appalled when I came to Virginia and my driving test was, driving around the block 1 time then park in the first available space back at DMV.

That was it?
My driving test consisted of driving around town (in 2:00 traffic) and parking the car (including the dreaded parallel). I suppose a highschool driving test is more refined though, that or our school has a decent program.
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RE: Japanese Driver's License

Postby pubju » Sun 09.09.2007 2:53 am

Wow...

In england, you have to first take a written test and get like 80% correct, then you need to successfully pass a driving simulation thing called 'hazard perception', then if you pass those 2, you have to take an EXTREMELY strict 1 hour test where you drive around town and prove you can drive, and do 3 'manuveres' (3 point turns, parallel parking, reverse round corner .etc). I passed on my 3rd time. And the worst part is that it costs about £60 per try (which is about $120).

I wish the english test was as easy as the american one :(
Last edited by pubju on Sun 09.09.2007 2:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Japanese Driver's License

Postby Mike Cash » Sun 09.09.2007 4:05 am

Well, pubju, there is no American test, since automobile licenses are issued by the individual states. And just because I didn't take any skills tests for car and motorcycle doesn't mean I wasn't supposed to take them. It's all a matter of where you are and who you know.
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RE: Japanese Driver's License

Postby sei » Sun 09.09.2007 7:55 am

Well, I agree with pubju though. I may know a lot of people, and I'll still have to pass all of the classes and exams and pay all that cash.

I do think it's relatively good, as at least we know people driving a car here will know what they are doing (though most forget all that was said in the theory classes after a year or so). But it should definitely be a lot cheaper.

What always surprised me in America was that thing where high school students could get a drivers license... Here it is only possible to take a motorcycle (not very powerful one) license after you're 16. But a car's driving license only really after you're 18.
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RE: Japanese Driver's License

Postby Teh_Freak » Sun 09.09.2007 9:16 am

In a lot of states, you must have a driver's permit for a period of time before you get a license. Basically you can't have more than one passenger unless there is a license holder with you in the vehicle; there are also curfew type restrictions, I couldn't legally drive past sundown. Of course, the parents can always take the thing from you if they feel they must.
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RE: Japanese Driver's License

Postby Kagemaru » Sun 09.09.2007 11:18 am

I showed JAF a current Australian licence, an Australian police record to show no driving misdemeanours over 5 years prior to my wanting a Japanese licence, watched a 2 hour video in Japanese and viola, Japanese licence issued.

I received the information regarding the rigmarol from the Japanese consulate in Australia before I arrived in Japan. As records and whatnot take some time to issue in Australia, it was better than being in Japan then having to request the necessary paperwork from there.

Relationships between each country may come into effect in the cases of drivers licenses (as it certainly does for visas) so the Japanese consulate closest to you are really good for finding out all this type of information along with other bits and pieces.
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RE: Japanese Driver's License

Postby Dehitay » Sun 09.09.2007 11:22 am

My Texan driver's license was a result of a written and skills test. Both with annoying tricks. The written test had an upside down black outline of a triangle and the inside was the same white color as the rest of the page. You were supposed to guess what the sign meant by shape alone but they actually had an option "can't answer because picture didn't print".

The skills test wasn't that bad. First there was parallel parking, stopping within 20 feet, and driving in reverse. After that we drove in a neighborhood for a while. However I failed the first time because of a trick turn. It was a simple corner turn with no possible intersecting traffic, and yet there was a stop sign near the street name sign. Since I didn't care what the street name was, I didn't bother looking and didn't realize the stop sign was there which resulted in a failure.
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RE: Japanese Driver's License

Postby keatonatron » Mon 09.10.2007 2:14 am

I'm actually glad you brought this up, because I wanted to share my experiences (got my Japanese license just last week) but didn't want to start a new thread just to talk about myself.

Harisenbon had the right info about the international license. If you are only going to be here for one year, I would suggest doing that (I think it only costs $15 or so from AAA).

If you are planning on being here long term, the cheapest method is to convert your foreign license to a Japanese one.

You have to get an official translation of your license from JAF, and then go to the licensing office. They require proof that you were in the issuing country for at least 3 months after receiving your license. That's kind of a tricky requirement, because there isn't any set definition of what is valid proof. I took in my first license from 1999 along with my current one, as well as my passport that didn't have any stamps in it until 2003. One of the other Americans there said you can get a printout of your driving record from the DMV that will prove you stayed in the country.

The driving test is supposed to be hard, and there are lots of horror stories about it on the web. However, I passed with a perfect score on my first try!!!

There was a guy from India there who had taken the test 4 times. Many Chinese, Indians and Africans failed, but 3 of us Americans and one Malaysian passed on our first try. I think people coming from countries with relaxed/nonexistent traffic laws have a hard time passing. If you just focus on not driving on the wrong side of the road and pretend that there is a lot of traffic, you'll do fine.

One trick I used when I first started driving here is I would focus on my right hand--the significance being you control the turns signals with your right hand and keep the oncoming traffic to your right side.

Oh, and the paper test they make you take is a joke. The first question was "You should always be courteous of other drivers and pedestrians to keep traffic moving smoothly; true or false."
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RE: Japanese Driver's License

Postby chikara » Mon 09.10.2007 3:26 am

keatonatron wrote:
... One trick I used when I first started driving here is I would focus on my right hand--the significance being you control the turns signals with your right hand and keep the oncoming traffic to your right side. ...

I have a similar problem when driving in the USA. I found that I was most likely to end up on the wrong side of the road when turning either left or right. My natural tendency was to turn into the left hand side of the road. In order to overcome this I concentrated on the fact that the driver is always in the middle of the road, ie the side of the car you are sitting on is always furthest from the curb.

This works if you are going from left hand drive to right hand drive or vice versa.
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