Getting a Japanese Drivers License from Scratch – Illustrated Guide

Japanese Driver’s License?

Most drivers in Japan drive in an orderly manner because of the strict process to obtain the driver’s license.
To drive in Japan, you need to get a Japanese driver’s license in Japan. An international driver’s license issued by a signatory to the Geneva Convention or a driver’s license issued by a country administration that has a licensing system equivalent to Japan.
Recently, however – Japanese law has changed so that those living in Japan may only use an international driving permit for up to one year after living in Japan.  After that time period they will be unable to drive in Japan with an international driving permit.
This means that all medium to long term residents of Japan will need to convert their driving licenses to a Japanese license. Or – if you are like some people – apply for and obtain a driver’s license in Japan from scratch!

Obtaining Your Driver’s License in Japan – “Learner’s License”

To get a driver’s license in Japan from scratch, you first have to start by obtaining the “Learner’s License”. The very first step would be to take the knowledge Test.
You can see the associated steps in the flow chart below:
drivers license Japan flowchart
What should you do when applying for a Japanese Learners license.

1. Prepare the required documents in advance
  • Jyuminhyo (a certificate of residence with your nationality)
  • 2 headshot pictures (3×2.4cm)
  • Alien registration card or resident card
  • Glasses (if you need them)
2. Register time for your test
  • Two registration hours to choose from Monday to Friday
  • After passing the knowledge test, make an appointment for the driving test
3. Driving test
  • Pay the car rental fee: for ¥1,550
4. Get the Learner’s License
  • Issue fee: ¥1,550
5. Practice on the road
  • Practice on the road for at least 5 days
  • Must be accompanied by an instructor who has more than 3 years driving experience with a Japanese license
  • Have karimenkyo renshū-chū (“on practice”) plate displayed on the car when driving
  • Fill out a “Report of Practise” form

How to get the regular driver’s license

6. Bring your documents
  • Learner’s license
  • Alien registration or resident car
  • 1 headshot picture (3×2.4cm) 
  • “Report of Practice” (Report is valid for 3 months)
  • Jyuminho (a certificate of residence with your nationality)
  • Glasses (if you need them)
7. Register time for your test
  • Two registration hours to choose from Monday to Friday
  • Application fee ¥2,200
8. Take the driving test
  • Driving test on the roads outside
  • Car rental fee ¥900After passing the driving test, make an appointment for “Shutokuji-koshu” at an approved driving school.
9. Shutokuji-kosyu
  • It’s a lecture for beginners, fee ¥13,700
10. Getting the Driver’s license
  • Issue fee ¥2,050

 In order to get a Japanese driver’s license, you will need to complete an eye/vision test. This test looks similar to the chart above. You will need to say the correct direction in Japanese where the opening in the circle / c shape is. For example – in the above drawing – the correct answer would be “ue” for up. Because the opening in the c is pointing up.

Good luck on your driving test!
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