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Driving License....All u need to know!

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  • Driving License....All u need to know!

    The new traffic law

    In June 2002 the Japanese traffic law changed effecting the foreign community. International driving permits are now only valid for up to 12 months after the landing date in Japan. After this 12 month period a Japanese drivers license must be obtained. If one leaves Japan for a minimum period of 3 months, the 12 month countdown starts again.
    Why this change?

    The basic intent of this law is to stop Japanese drivers who have lost their Japanese license from using an International drivers license. Unfortunately this also poses problems to the many foreigners living in Japan.
    What are the fines?

    The maximum penalty for driving without a Japanese driving license is 300,000 yen or up to 1 year imprisonment.

    The problem of insurance coverage is the most important issue to the expat and employer. Driving illegally without the proper Japanese license could cause the insurer to refuse to pay, especially the policy holders part of the claim. Immediately effected is also the compulsory car insurance. Proof of a Japanese license may be required in order to renew the coverage.
    The Japanese drivers license

    Obtaining a Japanese drivers license can be a difficult and time consuming process for most foreigners. Until June 2002 there was only a recommendation to obtain a Japanese driving license. No laws or fines were in place if you drove around with a valid International drivers license despite the fact International driving permits become invalid if one takes up official residence in another country.

    * Foreign driver's license

    Most important is a valid foreign driving license. You must be able to show official evidence that you resided in the issuing country for at least 3 months after the issue date. If the issue date is not shown on the license, an original letter from the Department of Motor Vehicles (or similar in one's country) translated into Japanese, in addition to the license, will be required. If those conditions are not met then the license can not be changed into a Japanese license and one has to start at a Japanese driving school.
    * Translation of the foreign driver's license into Japanese
    * Passport
    * Alien Registration (the temporary certificate is not sufficient)
    * One portrait photograph (3 cm in length and 2.4 cm in width)
    * Application fee (currently 4,150 yen)

    Please note that all applications and forms are only available in Japanese.
    Who is affected?

    If you have a valid original license issued in one of the following countries, only an eye test is required.

    * Australia
    * Austria
    * Belgium
    * Denmark
    * Canada
    * Finland
    * France

    * Germany
    * Greece
    * Iceland
    * Ireland
    * Italy
    * Luxembourg
    * Netherlands

    * New Zealand
    * Norway
    * Portugal
    * Spain
    * Sweden
    * Switzerland
    * U.K.

    Holders of the following countries licenses are required to take the written as well as the actual driving test after taking the eyesight test.

    * U.S.A
    * Brazil
    * China
    * Hong Kong
    * Singapore
    * Indonesia

    Written Test

    The written portion is a 10 question English multiple choice test on a computer. This test is not very difficult and you need a score of 70% or above in order to pass.
    Although the written test is in English, most likely none of the staff will speak English to assist with the process. If you pass the written test, then the road test can be scheduled for a different day. The interval between the written and driving test is 2 to 3 weeks.
    Driving Test

    If you are late for the driving test you need to reschedule and will have to wait another 2 to 3 weeks. The most difficult part of the whole process is the actual driving portion - most foreigners need to take the test a few times in order to pass. It is possible that only a few people out of your group will pass the driving test. Everyone rides once as an observer with the previous person - this is very helpful as you can see what the driving experts are looking for. You will be required to understand simple, verbal Japanese instructions, i.e. directional terms. There is a 1000 yen fee to take this test.
    Driver's License Bureaus

    Samezu Driver's License Bureau
    1-12-5 Higashi Oi
    Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo
    Tel: 03-3474-1374
    Monday through Friday,
    08:30 -11:00, 13:00 - 15:00
    Akashi Driving License Bureau
    1649-2 Niyama-cho
    Tel: 078-912-1628/9
    Application Hours:
    Monday through Friday,
    09:00 -10:30

    *Procedure is slightly different to Tokyo area. You must be at the center by 10:00 at the latest and as long as your paper processing is finished in time, you can take the driving test on the same day as the written test. If you pass, you will get your license at around 16:00.

  • #2
    Re: Driving License....All u need to know!

    Thanks for the invaluable information! You don't happen to have any info on the location for Osaka, do you?


    • #3
      Re: Driving License....All u need to know!

      thank you your information is very helpful!


      • #4
        Re: Driving License....All u need to know!

        Horror story...I got all the nec doc's and showed up at the Aichi driving center. The deal is my CA Lic was issued in 1998, I had lived in Cali for 5 years before coming to Japan. My Passport was renewed in 2001. Becuase I had renewed my passport, there was no "proof" that I had been in california for the required 3 months after getting my lic in 1998. The guy at the counter was not cool at all, he was a real dickhead. I kept explaining that, I didn't have my old passport, that it was invalid..all he kept saying was can't do it, can't do it...I'm still pissed about this BS. This is a typical example where there is some stupid ass rule put in place, and instead of it accomplishing what it was designed to do, it makes life difficult for others (foreigners) convenient.


        • #5
          Re: Driving License....All u need to know!

          I am actually in the same situation as you
          I had my driving license in 98 and had to get a new passport in 2001

          Could you finally get your Japanese driving license ? what did you do ?



          • #6
            Re: Driving License....All u need to know!

            a passport does`nt have to be proof right? I have my paycheck stubs with me, would that be enough proof for them that stayed in the area where i got my lisence?


            • #7
              Re: Driving License....All u need to know!

              There is some mis-information about countries not needed to take the road test.
              Canada you have to take the road test. I am Canadian and I had to take the road test.


              • #8
                Re: Driving License....All u need to know!

                I am mistaken. After carefully reading the new license laws effective Feb of this year if you are Canadian you no longer have to take the road test. I was just posting on my own personal experience. Sorry everyone!


                • #9
                  Re: Driving License....All u need to know!

                  Cripey, I've had my license for more than 10 years, the vast majority of that time back home driving every day, but I renewed my passport right before I came here. So they'll reject me saying I don't have enough experience driving?!

                  I haven't a clue where my old passport is, so if anybody has any other info about ways to get around this old passport requirement, I'd be very appreciative.



                  • #10
                    Re: Driving License....All u need to know!


                    I`m in the same position as Tom above.

                    Someone, please help!


                    • #11
                      Re: Driving License....All u need to know!

                      I just got my license little thing I might mention here that is never written ANYWHERE (even on the forms that JAF gave me to tell me what to take to the licensing centre) is that you also need to have PHOTOCOPIES of your O'seas license (front and back), your Foreigner's ID card (front and back) your passport (front page AND your visa page) and also the front page of your old passport if you have it. (I needed my old passport to prove that I held my license in my home country before coming here.)

                      I had SOME photocopies of my license and passport, but I didn't know they wanted my visa as well as my old passport...I should have just done it anyway...I will know better next time I guess.

                      They won't photocopy for you in the license centre. In fact, they didn't even have a pay photocopier there for you to have to LEAVE the building and go down the road to the Convenie. (I went to the license centre in Aichi)

                      Here's the process for all of you who are getting a license in Aichi Ken;

                      BEFORE you line up at the counter to change your license over, you need to go and buy the payment stamps. (In Aichi, this was at counter number 11)

                      Just show them your license and say 'gaimen kirikae' and they will ask you for something like 2000 and a bit yen and give you a form in Japanese with the stamps on it. You need this form before you go to the foreign license exchange counter (luckily all the signage was also written in English so you can find your way around fairly easily) Fill out the form in katakana at least (apparently romaji is no good) and get some kind stranger to write out your address in kanji for you. (the licensing staff won't write for you....some technical reason)

                      Stick your 3cm x 2.4cm picture on the front and together with these documents;

                      -foreigners card
                      -driver's license
                      -JAF translation of your current license
                      -Proof of when you first got your license in the form of an official letter of some kind from the transport department in your home country. If you can prove that you have been out of Japan for a total of three months or more (doesn't have to be at one time, it can be accumulated) using entry and exit stamps in your passport combined with your current license, then you don't need this proof.
                      -and of course photocopies of all of these like I mentioned above.

                      take em to the foreign license exchange window.

                      Wait in line for what seems like hours. (actually, more like 30 mins or so).

                      Then get these documents assessed and processed. If everything goes well, you walk round the corner to another window (think it was number 13, but the foreign license guy directs you anyway) and they check everything AGAIN and then send you to have your eyes checked.

                      The eye check was easy, make sure you know your Japanese for left, right, up and down so you can tell the eye examiner what you are looking at (through the view finder you look at a circle with a piece cut out of it either on the left, right, upper or lower portion)

                      Then you are directed to the next counter where they ask you to read some multicoloured hiragana (colour blindness check) The guy asked me if I could read hiragana and I said yes, but the fact that he asked me leads me to think that maybe they have a contingency plan if you can't read hiragana.

                      Then the next thing I did was go up and wait about 15 minutes to be called in to get my photo taken. I had to check some details on a form, they took my photos, gave me the form back to take back to window 11 and pay another 1750 yen. Then I came back to the photo room and received my brand spanking new license!

                      mission accomplished, I went and bought the green and yellow magnets for my (yet to be purchased) car.

                      The whole process took me 2 and a half hours (cos I didn't have all my documents photocopied and lined up in the wrong line and didn't have everything written in katakana and...well, you get the idea) and the whole time I was there I was feeling SO sorry for those poor Americans who have to go through the practical test and all the associated beaurocracy. (probably twice as much as I had to go through!)

                      I'm thinking that if you have all your required documents etc. you could potentially be in and out of there in an hour...maybe an hour and a bit.

                      Oh, one other thing....get there BEFORE the place opens and line up at counter number 11 to get your stamps. This counter opened a little before the 9am opening time so after you get your stamps you can race over and be first in line at the foreigners license counter.

                      Sometimes even though there are not so many people in this line each person can take a LONG time. Definately get there first thing in the morning. I did, and as I was leaving later in the morning I saw the line at the foreigner's license counter and it was THREE TIMES as long as when I lined up there...and it took me 30 mins to get served!

                      I hope that this info can be of use to someone out there.


                      • #12
                        Re: Driving License....All u need to know!

                        Thank you for the info.

                        Are there any Americans out there that have gone through this process?

                        Do we have to bring anything special when we first go to the DMV? ie. an application form forthe drivers test?



                        • #13
                          Re: Driving License....All u need to know!

                          The bottom line is that it's a totally unnecessary, inconvenient and expensive load of bureaucratic B.S.!!

                          In one fell swoop, they have totally created thousands of foreign "lawbreakers" out of thin air; but maybe that's what they planned all along, ne!

                          It's crap, but what can you do besides take the test or stop driving...if you are foolish enough to drive illegally, and are caught, the fines and legal/workplace troubles can be astronomical. DON'T DRIVE ILLEGALLY UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES!!


                          • #14
                            Re: Driving License....All u need to know!

                            Does anyone know if, it is possible to get a Japanese drivers licence if you have a spouse visa, but no licence in your home counrty????? Can a person start from square one??????


                            • #15
                              Re: Driving License....All u need to know!

                              Yes. Allow \300,000 -\400,000 for the course lessons. Only a few places do it in English, but your test would be in Japanese.