Home » Archives » July 2007 » Getting a Car in Japan Part. 2: Actually Getting your License

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07/05/2007: "Getting a Car in Japan Part. 2: Actually Getting your License" mood: triumphant

I know it's been a long while between posts, I'm sorry I was in the hospital ill. But, I'm all better now and have some new posts to unload on all of you.

So in a previous post I gave the first steps towards getting a car in Japan. Well I recently finished the next step, actually getting my license. So I wanted to share with all of you the process it took to get the license.

First let's talk about the Japanese DMV real quick. There is one large difference between the DMV test here and the DMV test in California. First of all, it is incredibly difficult to pass on your first try. For foreigners to transfer their license, they take a slightly shorter driving test then the Japanese but the average person fails the driving test 3-5 times before they actually pass. Also, the course where you take your driving test is on a large closed course.

As you can see above, the large course in the back is for car tests, truck tests, and bus tests. That building with the light blue roof is the actual DMV. The small course on the right is for the motorcycle testing (which btw is much more strict and more difficult then the car test). The small three-piece building on the right is where they make and release to you your license (if you pass).

So here is where the DMV portion starts, this is the front entrance to the DMV. They were doing a blood drive the days I was there so that's why there is a large red cross sign.

So you've got your driving practice in on your international license, you've done your research, and you feel it's time to go and actually get your Japanese license. The first thing you need is a License History from your home state's DMV. I think we all know how retarded the DMV is in the US, especially California, so the simple request to get this form and then get it to me in Japan, took roughly 2-3 months. If I physically went to the DMV (which is obviously impossible), it would've taken 10-20 minutes. I wish I could ship some bird flu to my DMV, they still cause me trouble from 10,000 miles away. Oh and yes, those are my 5 tickets on my history report, I can't help it if I drive like a man.

Next step is to take your US License and your history report over to a JAF location. JAF stands for Japanese Automotive Federation, and if Japan's version of AAA. The reason they require the history report is to get the original license issue date to prove that I've been driving in America with the license for more than 3 months. JAF then takes the history report and your license and makes an official translation into Japanese for 3,000yen (roughly $25). Doing it in person ensures it gets done within an hour of you coming in which is better then sending it in (which takes 3 or more days). Now with the translation, US License, history report, US passport, and foreign registration card, you can go start the transfer process at he J-DMV.

And once you get to the DMV you walk upstairs to the 2nd floor and go to a special window made just for foreign nationals trying to transfer their license into a Japanese one. Cool thing about this window is that there is usually no line and you get service immediately. After reviewing my paperwork, they take me to the back to take a 10-question written test (on the computer with touch screen actually). You require NO studying for this test. You seriously have to be a total dunce in order to fail this test. You have to get at least a 7/10 to pass and I got 10/10 in like 30 seconds. I was practically done before the guy could sit down in his chair after starting the test. The kind of questions are like "should you park in front of a firestation entrance?" and then there will be a picture of a firetruck trying to get out with your car in the way. Another question I remember was "Is it ok to drive over the speed limit if you want to get somewhere quicker?". Oh, also the test is in English, well Engrish, but it was understandable.

After passing the test they hand me the paper which you see above. They then sent me with this paper downstairs to get that small picture affixed to it then to take an eye test. The eye test also had no line and took only a few minutes. They have you look into a viewer and they show you different arrows pointing different directions and you have to tell in japanese if it's pointing up/down/right or left. After 4 or 5 of those arrows he marks a pass on your paper and sends you to the 2nd part of the eye test next door where they point to a chart of red, yellow, and green and you have to tell them which they are in Japanese. After passing that they send you upstairs back to the first window. At the window they review the paperwork again and then schedule you to came back another date for your driving test. I was lucky enough to schedule the whole thing for the next day. The DMV was really quick thus far though, maybe an hour for everything on the first day.

This is the reverse side of my paper. That stamp means you've paid your 2,300yen for your written and eye test and the 3,000yen for your driving test. Every time you fail the driving test you have to pay that fee again and get another stamp. So you'll often see someone with 3 or 4 stamps. I came back the next day after researching what they're specifically looking for on the driving test and got put in a group of the other foreigners. I was the only American in the group. After waiting awhile a short nazi yelling old Japanese man came out and made us follow him to the driving course.

You're not allowed to take pictures so sorry for not having more but I did sneak this pic of part of the driving course. The old man then sat us down in a group at yelled at us in blazingly fast angry Japanese for about 10 minutes then made us follow him again to where the test car was waiting. It was obvious the tester hated foreigners as I hear frequently about abuse from the testers to foreigner nationals and this old man confirmed it beyond a doubt. The test reflected this as well. How it works is you ride with the person taking the test before you to see a bit of the course then after he fails, you get your chance. The driving test is so difficult in that you can't make a single mistake or you fail, and by mistake I mean something as small as accidently tapping your wipers or forgetting to look over your shoulder for 2 full seconds once when changing a lane. You must do everything perfectly by the book in the proper timing or you fail, keeping in mind this is in RHD on the opposite side of the road with different road rules then America.

When it was my turn I first checked all my car's functions (A Nissan Sunny btw) like my pedals, signal, etc. I also had to check the front and back of the car and under to make sure there was no obstructions. I also had to ask to take the test in a manual car because if you take the test in an automatic, your license only allows you to drive auto cars. The mean angry short stupid man then death stared me the whole test yelling at me at every opportunity, even when it wasn't necessary. For example I had to go through this extremely tight left then immediate right turn where if you touch the curb you'll fail and you must go slow if you have any chance of making it. While I am driving slowly he's vigorously pointing over and over to try to get me to hurry up and mess up. Also as I was going to a blinking yellow light intersection where you must slow down while looking both ways, this dirty old jerk just pulls out a nazi salute as we're driving through the intersection for no discernable reason. As you go through the course it's a series of him telling you to turn at different intersection numbers while he tries to stress you out. Luckily I was aware of the asshattery common to these testers so I ignored him and much to his GREAT DISPLEASURE, he couldn't get me to mess up on anything and was forced to pass my on my first try. The driving practice really helped me get used to driving in Japan.

After the test they made us wait for the tester to give the result to the foreign nationals window which for some reason took two hours. He was probably cursing himself for not being able to fail me and so wanted to make us unecessarily wait the freaking dick. Anyway, out of the whole group taking the test, only me and this one russian guy passed and it was his 3rd time.

After the window got my pass info, he processed the rest of my paperwork and handed back my Cali License, passport, and stuff and told me to go to the 2nd building in a few hours to pick up my finished license. Alright! finally I passed and will soon actually have my license. The whole process was really stressing me. This was the hardest part in the process of getting a car.

Since I had some time to waste I, wandered the neighborhood.

and went to this large park nearby.

Then to an overpass to admire the higher quality of the roadways.

And here I am much relieved to finally have it all over while I wait for them to make my license. After the few hours wait I walked back to the DMV and there was a huge room full of people waiting to get their license. Luckily, as I was walking into the building, they called my name up. I walked up and input a PIN that apparently is attached to my license and they finally gave me the final product, my Japanese Drivers License, or Menkyo in Japanese.

And here it is! Now I'm one step closer to having my car here. The next step is to go get my parking spot I rented officially checked by a police officer then go register my parking spot. From there is shopping time.

As usual, thank you very much for visiting my site!

Replies: 8 Comments

Visitor378 [e-mail] [homepage]
Thursday, September 13th
I could not find this site in the Search Engines index

Visitor811 [e-mail] [homepage]
Thursday, September 13th
Your site found in Google: http://google.com/search?q=jtv

Visitor176 [e-mail] [homepage]
Thursday, September 13th
I have visited your site 155-times

> Cpl. "G"
Tuesday, July 24th
> Yeah, seems kinda late to bring this up. But I heard you were really fucked up with some flu or whatever. Sorry man, I went a few weeks without the internet. I'm just glad to hear that you're good to go.

Lauren [e-mail]
Friday, July 6th
I'm so jealous! I don't even have a license here in the States and I'm 23 going on 24. Driving makes me uber paranoid so I never wanted to learn. Although, I have driven before, it's just nerve wracking for me. Congrats on your victory!

Friday, July 6th
"officially checked by a police officer "

tokyo josh [e-mail] [homepage]
Thursday, July 5th
Your welcome

Thursday, July 5th
Congrats!!! Have fun with your car (once you get it). big grin