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Guide to All Things Japanese
Monday June 26th 2017

Getting a Japanese Driver’s License

driving

Beginner’s License vs. Regular License

If you have spent more than 90 days, but less than 1 year in the country that issued your driver’s license you will be eligible for a beginners license only.

If you have spent more than 1 year in total (not necessarily consecutive) in the country that issued your driver’s license you will be eligible for a regular license.

A beginner’s license holder is required to display a beginner’s mark sticker for the first 12 months after issue of the Japanese license, and will be credited with 3 demerit points only. (compared to 6 for a regular license) No other restrictions are placed on beginner’s license holders.

Both types of Japanese driver’s license are valid for a maximum of 3 years from the date of issue.

Test Required or Non-Required?

The process of license conversion changes according to the country that issued your foreign license.
Applicants are divided into the following two categories:

Test Non-Required
Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Korea Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, The Netherlands, United Kingdom.

Applicants holding drivers licenses issued in any of the above 22 countries, and one area, listed above do not need to sit for either the written or driving tests when converting their foreign licenses.

Test Required
Applicants holding drivers licenses from countries not listed under the “Test Non-Required” heading above are required to pass both written and driving tests to complete the conversion process.

Why?
Countries are separated in each category according to the driving safety record. The Japanese government feels it is not necessary for those people from countries that have an equal or better safety record to take a written or driving test. Please feel free to check with us if you are not sure which category you fall under.

Driving School or No Driving School?

One of the differences between obtaining a license by taking the examinations at a driver’s license test site and obtaining a license by entering a designated driving school is that you are exempt from taking the driving skills examination if you have a diploma issued by a designated driving school.

The driving skills examination given at the driver’s license test site is very difficult to pass, and the success rate is very low.
More than 90% of Japanese driver’s license holders are graduates of designated driving schools.

Each person must take the written driving knowledge examination regardless of whether or not that individual graduated from a designated driving school.

The most important difference is that if you enter a designated driving school, you have an opportunity to acquire the skills and accumulate the knowledge necessary to drive a car safely in Japan.

Although a fee is required to attend a designated driving school, the fee is not high if you consider the value of learning to drive safely in Japan.

By taking an exam.

Obtain a license by passing a written driving knowledge test and a driving skills test at a test site.

You can take the examination at a test site in the prefecture in which your certificate of alien registration is currently registered. However, you can take the written driving knowledge examination in English in the following prefectures only.

1.Tokyo 2.Kanagawa 3.Saitama 4.Chiba 5.Hokkaido 6.Miyagi 7.Akita 8.Yamagata 9.Niigata 10.Aichi 11.Gifu 12.Shizuoka 13.Osaka 14.Hyogo 15.Kyoto 16. Shiga 17.Hiroshima 18.Tokushima 19.Fukuoka 20.Nagasaki 21.Kumamoto 22.Oita 23.Miyazaki 24.Kagoshima 25.Okinawa

In prefectures other than those above, examinations are given in Japanese only.

To obtain a regular motor vehicle license

1. Take the aptitude test
(1) Eyesight … 0.3 or better in each eye, and 0.7 or better for both eyes
(2) Color recognition … Able to recognize red, green and yellow
(3) Hearing ability … Able to hear ordinary conversation
2. Obtain a learner driver’s permit
(1) Answer at least 45 out of 50 questions correctly (at least 90%) on the written driving knowledge examination (true-false test). (This is not required if you already have another type of driver’s license.)
(2) Take the driving skills test at a course set up at the test site.
3. Practice using a learner driver’s permit
(1) Practice driving for 10 hours in at least five days within a three-month period.
(2) During your practice sessions, you must be accompanied by a person who held a class one driver’s license for more than three years, a person who has a class two driver’s license or an instructor at a designated driving school. This person must be present in the front passenger seat next to you.
4. Take the licensing examination
(1) Answer at least 90 out of 100 questions correctly (at least 90%) on the written driving knowledge examination (true-false test). (this is not required if you already have another type of driver’s license.)
(2) Take the driving skills test out on an ordinary street.

To obtain a motorcycle license

1. Take the aptitude test
(1) Eyesight … 0.3 or better in each eye, and 0.7 or better for both eyes
(2) Color recognition … Able to recognize red, green and yellow
(3) Hearing ability … Able to hear ordinary conversation
2. Take the license examination
(1) Answer at least 90 out of 100 questions correctly (at least 90%) on the written driving knowledge examination (true-false test). (This is not required if you already have another type of driver’s license.)
(2) Take the driving skills test.

Designated driving schools will not allow you to practice driving regular motor vehicles or motorcycles for the purpose of obtaining a license the above method.

However, you can practice at unauthorized driving schools.

Designated driving schools

Driving schools that have been authorized by the Public Safety Commission in each prefecture. If your have a diploma issued by a designated driving school, your are exempt from taking the driving skills examination at the test site in Japan.
* A diploma will not be issued in “Paper Driver’s Course” given for people interding to convert their foreign license to a Japanese one.

Unauthorized driving schools

Driving schools designed as places where you can practice driving ordinary vehicles or two-wheel vehicles. They do not issue diplomas.

Reader Feedback

4 Responses to “Getting a Japanese Driver’s License”

  1. cool article i’ve found some awsome video on youtube about it check it out here:

  2. PPP says:

    Oh my goodness!! You know about Japanese Driver’s License more than me. I hope you can get it easily. Gooooooooood luck with your exam.

  3. PPP says:

    Oh my goodness!! You know about Driver’s License more than me. I hope you can get it easily. Gooooooooood luck with your exam.

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