Converting to a Japanese Driver’s License: Written Test
It’s not especially important to arrive early for the first day, though you don’t want to be late, of course. Even if you get to the front of the sign-in line and are the first person through the document checking process, you’ll still have to wait for everyone behind you to catch up before you can all take the written test together. Once the check-in window opens, go forward, give your name, and show your ID and they’ll set you up with a set of paperwork to carry through the application process.
Document review is straightforward, if you’ve prepared all the documents as described in the last article. However, a Japanese-speaking friend could be helpful if you have any unique circumstances. If you’re testing in Kyoto, go to window 8, at the top of the stairs. There is no signage here in English or Japanese to indicate that you’re in the right place, but that’s ok. Whether you’re in Kyoto or anywhere else, show your paperwork to any of the staff and they’ll point you in the right direction.
Turn in your documents, pay a fee (¥2200), and wait until they call your name again. Bring a book so that you don’t get bored. You’ll also need to come up with a 4-digit pin number. I’ve never figured out when this number might be necessary, but you need to have it anyway. I recommend something that you’ll remember easily even if you never have a chance to practice it.
After passing document review, you will receive your application packet (this will not contain all the documents that you submitted, just the ones they consider to be necessary) and proceed to the written test. This is a 10 minute, 10 question, true/ false test and is available in English. Seven correct is the minimum score, but the questions are absurdly easy, so it really shouldn’t be a problem.
The questions are common sense and leading, but they are rather badly worded, so while the answer may be obvious, the question may not be. For example, “When you stop at a red light, it is not proper to not stop prior to the crosswalk, even when there are no pedestrians around. True or False.” Read the questions carefully and make sure you’re not getting caught up by a triple or quadruple negative, and you should be fine.
If you do fail, then you will have to come back another day to retry and you’ll be charged for the test fee again, too.
By the way, True.
Once you pass the written test, you’ll have that annotated on your application package and be told to come back some other day to take your driving test- it is not possible to take the driving test on the same day. You will also get an information packet, including a map of the course turns- you will have to memorize this!
They will explain all the times to you in Japanese, but here are the important ones for Kyoto:
- 07:30 – 9:00 am: You are free to walk the course. Note: nobody will announce that the course is open, just go out the doors and wander around on your own. This is a great chance to think about how far away from the intersections to start your turn procedures, etc. If you’re lucky, you may even meet the head of the testing center walking around as well and get invited up to his office for a chat and cup of tea.
Note: This did not help me pass.
- 8:30 – 9:00 am: Register for the test.
Get a Driving Lesson
Japanese speaker requiredNow, Go Get a Lesson! No matter how confident you are in driving, driving for the test is completely unlike driving on the roads on a day-to-day basis. A driving instruction center will help you learn precisely what the testers are looking for. Even if you feel really confident after reading the step-by-step driving test guide in the next article, a lesson should cost you less than the cost of retaking the test once after a failure- not to mention save you time. It’s a good investment.
Bring your information packet with you so that the instructors at the training center know what turns and lane changes you will have to demonstrate. Depending on your tester, they may ask you point blank if you have taken a lesson. I have heard unverified stories that answering “no” will result in stricter grading. One hour should be plenty, unless you need the driving practice for its own sake, too.
One last note on the driving lesson: most lesson centers will offer free transportation to and from their center. If you’re near a university, you can be sure there will be a shuttle traveling there. If not, then train stations are a good bet for pick-up and drop-off, too.
If you’re unsure about you ability to understand the instructors’ Japanese, or you want to be as prepared as possible, I recommend reading through the step-by-step instructions for the driving test on the next page in advance, as well.