Converting to a Japanese Driver’s License: Final Steps
Congratulations! You’ve Passed the Driving Test
The only thing left to “pass” is the vision test. Everything else is just waiting. This is where that book will come in handy. I’ll also let you know when you’ll need to touch up your hair and makeup below, if you’re concerned about your photo.
Ability Test (Eyesight Test)
The Japanese name translates to ability test, but this is just a vision exam. If you’ve never taken a Japanese vision exam before, don’t worry, there’s no Japanese reading ability required. You’ll see a set of circles with a break in the circle to the top, right, left, or bottom. You can simply point as you go through, but here are the words, as well:
- Top: ue
- Left: hidari
- Right: migi
- Bottom: shita
From this point forward, all you have left are waiting, formalities, waiting, and one more ¥2100 license issuance fee, and waiting. If you’re in Kyoto, you’ll next go back up to window 8 (remember this place from day 1?) on the second floor to enter your four-digit PIN. Turn in your paperwork there and wait for them to call your name to enter your 4-digit PIN for your license. This will take a while.
Once you enter your PIN, the staff will tell you what time to return to the registration window to verify the information on your license and what time you can pick up your completed license. When I went through the process, I finished all the paperwork and entered my PIN shortly after 10 am then I had to wait for 11:30 to verify my information and 1:15 pm to pick up my license.
There will be a small horde of people gathered at the registration window at information verification time, but it isn’t a line- they will call people forward in order and, at least when I was there, foreigners got called first. Japanese government offices usually are not used to dealing with foreigners’ names and information, so check carefully through the form for mistakes. Once you’ve confirmed your information, you’ll pay the license fee (¥2100), then head off to have your photo taken- just follow the crowd. Or, if you’re concerned about that photo, this is your last chance to check a mirror.
After lunch, everyone will be summoned back together in the written test room and endure a short presentation on how to fill out a form, then be issued licenses. Like the information check, licenses are issued in order, and foreign names usually get called first. Fortunately, there’s no need to wait for the rest of the group: Once that glorious piece of plastic is in your hand, congratulations, you’re free!
Your initial license (with a green “newby driver” band over the expiration date, like the example above) will be valid until your third birthday after acquiring it, regardless of your residence status in Japan or period of stay, so you don’t need to renew this with your Residence Card. You will receive a post card in the mail about 2-3 months before the license expires and you can renew your license within one month before or after your birthday. Those dates are fixed and they will not be flexible if one month after your birthday happens to be during the New Year holidays, or Golden Week, or any other time when they’re closed, so be sure o plan ahead. More about that in the the license renewal guide.
Congratulations and welcome to the ranks of legal (paper-)drivers in Japan!
If you’ve passed the test – or didn’t – I’d love your feedback on the guide and anything that I can improve! Please leave your comments below.