Driving has become an essential part of many people’s lives. Depending on where you live, you may need it as it’s your only way to get the essential things that you need. Having an international driver’s license in Japan can help for the first year, but if you plan on staying longer than that in a driving position you will need to get a proper Japanese driver’s license. Depending on what country you hail from you may have an easy or difficult transition. Some only need to pay a fee and have a current driver’s license from their home country. This is the case if you are from the UK, Europe, or other Asian countries. Those from other countries, however, will require its ex-pats to take the driving exam. The exam is one of the hardest and most talked about part of getting a Japanese driver’s license. You will get some tips and a loose walk-through of what to expect, and what to prepare, for your driving test.
Gather Documents and Make an Appointment
The first thing that you need to do is to gather every document and fill out all the appropriate paperwork. There are a few things that are required before you should even make your appointment with the driving center.
- Current international driver’s license.
- Your driver’s license from your home country. It should still be current at the time you go to turn in your paperwork.
- Your passport and resident card.
- An official translation of your home country driver’s license. You can get a translation from the nearest JAF building, or you can apply it on their website.
- Proof of residence, or juuminhyou. You can get one from the city hall.
If you are not fluent, or well learned in Japanese, you will need to have someone who can speak it fluently to go with you. The reason is that during the first visit, they will check all your documents. They will also ask questions about your driving history at home and in Japan. If you drove to the center yourself with an expired IDL you can receive a large fine or even be arrested, so it is a good idea to try and get your translator or a friend to take you there.
Once all your documents have been checked and the worker is satisfied, you will need to take a short ten question test. The proctor will bring you to an empty room where they will choose the questions from a pre-made booklet. You will get fifteen minutes to finish and you can miss at most three questions. It is best to study the book that they hand you at the center as they are in English as well as other languages. If you pass, you will then take an eye exam. Once you finish, you may be able to take the test that day if you are lucky, but you will most likely make another appointment for the driving attempt.
Take the Driving Lessons
Many people try to take the test on their first try without taking any lessons for it and fail. The driving test is different from other countries in that it requires the driver to perform specific driving tasks while on the course. You won’t know what to do unless you take the lessons. Every driving center offers lessons that cost about 5,000 yen an hour. Even though it seems expensive, it is well worth the cost. You will save more if you finish the test on the first try rather than taking it multiple times. Once you have memorized the correct steps, it is time to take the driving exam.
- Most of the things you will need to know will be taught during the lessons, but here are a few tips that can help when going to take the test.
- There are certain aspects of the test that give you an automatic fail. Follow the procedures as best as you can, and you will make the proper grade.
- The little things matter and too many small mistakes will add up to large points losses. Try to pay attention to the small things.
- Make sure the instructor can see every move you are making. Try to say the things you are doing, even if you can’t say it in Japanese. If they can’t tell you are making the right moves, you will lose too many points.
- If you make any mistakes don’t think about them too much and get flustered. Just try to do the rest of the test as mistake-free as you can.
- Try to be as nice to your instructor as possible, and don’t treat them badly for marking any mistakes. Your score can be changed for small things like that so try to be on your best behavior.
- Relax. If you are too tense and you overthink your every move, you will make more mistakes than usual. Do your best to give yourself the best chance at a passing grade.
Taking the Test
Here is an example of what a typical driving test will be like.
You must check the tires and underneath the car before making your way to the driver’s side door. Be thorough and obvious when you do this.
Before you enter the car, you need to check the road to make sure no cars are coming. It is a closed course, but it must be done.
When you enter the car, you need to adjust your seat and then check your mirrors. Make this obvious to the instructor.
Once you have checked all those things, you will put on your safety belt and ensure that the instructor puts theirs on as well. Put the key in the ignition, depress the brake, and start the car.
Turn on your blinker and check behind the car. After that check, all your mirrors, look behind again and slowly pull out.
Keep the main driving speeds and never move your foot from the gas until you come to a crosswalk. Do not touch the brake but hover your foot over it.
Once you pass it, bring your foot back to the gas pedal. Take the curves easy and don’t stray onto the middle lines. You will have a long stretch of road and you will need to get to a higher speed as soon as possible.
Before the ending curve, you must slow down using three short brake depressions to reach the new speed.
To change lanes, you need to check mirrors, turn on the blinker, check behind the car, check mirrors again then merge into the next lane.
This was only a small portion of a test, but these are the kinds of rules you will need to follow when taking the exam. Try not to worry about the test too much and follow the instructions you learned from the lessons. You can be one of the few who get their license on the first try.