Getting a Japanese driver’s license as an American

Like this post? Help us by sharing it!

When tour leader, Brian moved to Japan from the US, he knew he’d need to take another driving test. But moving to the other side of the road was the least of his problems.

Getting my driver’s license was no easy task. Luckily, I already had my California driver’s license. Otherwise, I would’ve had to take a load of driving lessons and it would’ve cost an arm and a leg as well. Still like most things in Japan, they you make you jump through hoops to get anything done. Go to this office and get this document, then go to that office and get that document, then come back, oh wait you forgot that one document. Ahhh!

If you have a UK driving license, I’ve heard it’s a fairly simple process and test-taking is not needed. This could be because Japan and the UK drive on the same side of the road and driver’s licenses are issued through the government in the UK. In America, we drive on the right side of the road and driver’s licenses are issued through each state. Pretty difficult to make an agreement with 50 states with different driving laws, if you ask me. I think that’s the real reason why Americans have to take a written and driving test.

The written test was in English and was very easy. The driving test though, was a whole other animal. Luckily, I had a couple friends who gave me fair warning beforehand. It took both of my friends (who I consider great drivers) 5 times each to pass the driving test.

The problem is, in America you just get in the car and the road test examiner instructs you what to do. In Japan, the road test examiner instructs too, but there are more than a few things you expected to do without the examiner’s instruction.

For example, there is this whole process you have to do before you even get into the car: check under the front of the car, check under each wheel well, look left and right (as if there was traffic) before opening your car door and getting inside. Making a turn at a stop sign has a whole process too: turn your blinker on, once stopped check each mirror saying the word “Yosh!” (Ok!) to confirm you’ve checked it, then turn around and check out the back window saying “Yosh!” once more.

Ok, you’re ready to make your turn now, but before you do you have to say out loud, “I am making a left or right turn”. Don’t mess up the order either or you’ll get points marked off.

Thanks to the help of my friends, and tons of horrors stories online of people failing for various reasons, I passed first try. Yay! Now, let me make something very clear. If you’re just visiting Japan, you can get a temporary driver’s license without having to take any tests, but if you live here and your driver’s license is American, you’ll have to do what I did.

When it comes to actual driving in Japan, it’s a joy. Japanese people are just as courteous and nice on the road as they are in person.

Drive safe everyone!

Like this post? Help us by sharing it!