Q and A Driving in Japan
Q: I am interested in getting a driver’s licence in Japan, but I’m not sure how to go about applying for one? What kind of process is there?
Before coming to Japan, you must obtain an international driving permit from your home country to be able to drive. However, these permits, regardless of where they are from, are only valid for one year after entering the country.
Japan recognizes only international driving permits, which are based on the Geneva Convention of 1949. For those countries whose international driving permits are based on different conventions, it is necessary to obtain an official Japanese translation of their driving license from their embassy or consulate.
Once the one year passes, all drivers are then required to obtain a Japanese driving license. You will only be allowed to use your international driving permit if you leave Japan for more than three consecutive months.
If you hold a license from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, you do not need to take a written or practical exam in order to get your license, as Japan already has agreements with these countries to help smooth the process of obtaining a Japanese driving license. You will need to bring your translated license, prove you have lived at least three months in the country where your license was issued, and take an eye test at your local license center.
Those from countries other than the ones mentioned, including the United States and China, must take a written and practical exam which may have to be taken a number of times, even in the case of experienced drivers.