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Getting a Scooter and Driving it Legally

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  • Getting a Scooter and Driving it Legally

    Do you have a drivers license for a car from an approved country (such as New Zealand, Australia, UK, or Canada) and you want to buy and drive a scooter in Japan legally? I just went through this and thought I would share the relevant information, collected into one convenient location complete with key Japanese terms.

    Since your license from home is for a car (and not a motorcycle), you can NOT legally ride a 50cc scooter (aka gentsuki) in Japan on an international driving permit (IDP), even if you were allowed to use one in your home country with your normal car license. To use a 50cc scooter you need to either get a Japanese car drivers license, or a special gentuski license. The car license is the best choice because it gives you the same as the gentsuki license plus a car (you might want to rent or buy one day), and you don't have to pass any tests so there is no chance of failure. They both cost about the same, so it's a no brainer really.

    First you probably want to buy the scooter, mine was 35,000yen from Yahoo auction site (tIN). You can also get one from a bike shop, but it will probably cost a bit more. Assuming you buy it privately, you will get a piece of paper from the previous owner detailing the sale, which you need to take to your local city office with your up to date gaijin card and register it (ask for gentsuki toroku, to^). They will give you a license plate and registration document free of charge, and it should take less than 20 minutes to complete. Be sure to pick up a certificate of alien registration while you are there if you don't already have one (200yen) - you will need it to get your license (see below).

    Once you register the scooter you have to purchase some compulsory liability insurance (ask for jibaisekihoken, ӕی) - you cannot legally ride the scooter without this. You can purchase 1 to 5 years, 2 years costs about 9000yen. You can get it from the post office or a convenience store, be sure to take the registration information you receive from the city office as you will need it, and Japanese ability will probably be required. They will give you a sticker which you put on the top left hand corner of the registration plate, and some documents which you keep with the scooter. Once you attach the plate to the bike, the insurance sticker to the plate, get your license (below), and buy a helmet, you are all set to go!

    To get your drivers license (menkyo, Ƌ), you will need to take the following to the prefecture police station in the prefecture where you are registered:

    1) Your home country drivers license, and a translation of it from JAF (3000 yen) - this translation should take no more than 30 minutes to complete. You can read some useful info, and find the JAF centre in your prefecture from their website:
    http://www.jaf.or.jp/e/switch.htm
    http://www.jaf.or.jp/e/list_translation.htm

    2) Your current passport, and ALL your previous passports (originals only). This must categorically prove that you lived in your home country for more than 3 months after you received your license, or 1 year if you don't want a learners symbol. If you do not have all of your passports, or your passport does not prove that you lived in your country for 3 months or more after receiving your license, then you will need to ask your country's embassy in Japan for an official immigration record document, proving the above information. If you didn't live in your home country for more than 3 months after receiving the license, you won't be able to transfer with this procedure, and you should try to get a gentsuki license.

    3) Your up to date gaijin card, and certificate of registration (Toroku genpyo kisai jikou shomeisho, o^[Lڎؖ). This costs 200yen from your town office, and you can pick it up when you register your scooter if you don't already have one.

    4) Two recent 3 cm ~ 2.4 cm photos which you stick to the application form. They should have photo booths at the Menkyo center for this purpose if required.

    5) A pen and pencil.

    6) The application fee and the license fee, which is 2,100 + 2,400 yen = 4,500yen.

    If you don't know where your prefecture's menkyo centre is, you could try searching google for (ƋZ^[ + your prefecture in Japanese), then find the address in Japanese and search on google maps. In Tokyo it is in Chiyoda-ku, and in Saitama it is in Konosu. Note that the menkyo centre and JAF are both generally only open on weekdays. What's more, you have to get there before a specific time (1:45pm in Saitama) or you will not get your license on the same day. Expect to spend an entire weekday to get this whole process completed, and be sure to find out what time you have to get there by to avoid disappointment.

    Once you go to the menkyo centre, you will need to fill out a few forms and pay the application fee, then they will send you to a classroom where there is a group safety lecture in Japanese, you go between a few different rooms and pay the license issuance fee, go back to the lecture room, go get your photo taken, go back to the lecture room and eventually get your license about 3hrs later. You should be able to survive without any Japanese ability, but it will help if you have someone on call in case you run into any problems. In my case I went to JAF in the morning, arrived at the menkyo centre before the 1:45pm deadline, then I finally got my license just before 4pm.

    Hope this helps someone, it was a real pain in the a*s for me, but I managed to get everything done in one day when I had a school holiday this week. If you haven't used a scooter or motorbike before, then be sure to start out real slow in an area with very few cars so that you can practise stopping and turning a bit before you start driving for real. It might go without saying, but don't try to accelerate and brake at the same, or you will probably hurt yourself!
    Last edited by timu; 2010-11-06, 12:43 AM.

  • #2
    A quick update to my post
    • Americans have to pass a practical driving test to get their Japanese license, which the countries I mentioned don't need. See here for more info about getting a drivers license, especially if you are from the US.
    • The 30,000yen scooter that I bought from Yahoo Auction site blew up after a few weeks. Highly not recommended to buy such a cheap scooter at random if you don't know the history of the scooter.
    • 50cc scooter engines only tend to last 8,000 to 10,000km, and then the engines often get rebuilt and sold second hand. If you can't afford a new one, it's important to consider how many km's it's done SINCE THE LAST ENGINE REBUILD when looking at cheap used scooters. The actual number of kms on the odometer is largely irrelevant except for very new scooters. I ended up buying one with a newly rebuilt engine from a shop in Saitama for about 65,000yen after they added rebuilding expenses to list price. I did around 4000kms before selling it, and it was still going strong.

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