Thinking of traveling to Japan? Your reasons for a possible trip to Japan could be any one of many, including for business, as part of a home stay program, as a tourist, or maybe to participate in certain cultural activities.
Many people considering or planning a trip to Japan want to know more about the possibility of driving while there. In particular, a traveler to Japan may want to know more about what is involved in obtaining a travel driver’s license.
It is only natural that a person would want to drive while in Japan. After all, in most developed countries around the world, automobiles are by far the most common and relied-upon mode of transportation. Furthermore, anybody who has ever traveled to North America, Australia, New Zealand, or Europe has probably rented a car during their time there and is probably expecting a similar situation for a trip to Japan.
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For a trip to Japan, it is important to learn about the various driver’s license options that you have available to you.
If you need a travel driver’s license for a Japan trip, here are 5 Japan driver’s license FAQs:
1. Will I need a car during my stay in Japan?
A: Japan is equipped with one of the most extensive rail systems in the world. If you are planning to spend most of your time in Tokyo and/or Osaka, in particular, you will likely be able to get away without ever having to drive a car at all during your stay. On the other hand, if you plan to travel to some of the outlying areas or if you are not staying in a major city, it may benefit you to have a car while there.
2. If I plan to drive while in Japan, will my International Driver’s Permit (IDP) be valid?
A: Yes, you may legally drive using your IDP as a license for the duration of one year. After that, you will need to make other arrangements.
3. What happens after the period of validity for my IDP has passed?
A: Once one (1) year has passed, you will be required to either stop driving in Japan or to apply for a Japanese driver’s license through the proper channels and following the proper procedures.
4. What is the fastest way to obtain my Japanese driver’s license?
A: The fastest way to get your Japanese driver’s license is to do what is called an “exchange.” In this scenario, you are essentially leveraging your own, domestic driver’s license as a way to obtain your Japanese license much quicker. You will still need to take a short written test (which is fairly simple). To apply for a license, you need to apply to the prefectural government’s public safety commission, which is overseen in turn by the National Police Agency.
Types of Japanese licenses include:
- Provisional license, which is issued to a beginner driver who is still in training for their Class 1 license
- Class 1 license, which is the ordinary license required to operate a private automobile
- Class 2 license, which is required when operating a taxi or a bus
Most foreigners living in Japan will apply for the Class 1 license.
If you should choose to attend driving school, be sure to show up with your Alien Registration Card and your Japanese driver’s license (if already obtained). Also, your personal seal (hanko) and the necessary registration fee are also required. In order to qualify for private driver’s training, you will need to pass an aptitude test (eyesight, hearing and color recognition).
5. Will I be required to take a driving test in order to obtain my license?
A: If you are a citizen of Canada, Australia, or one of a few other countries, you may be able to skip the driving portion of the exam completely. However, Americans WILL be required to take the driving portion of the exam, at least as of the time of this writing.
If you need a Japanese driver’s license and plan to be in the country for more than a year – but if you do not have a driver’s license from your home country – you may need to take the more involved Japanese driver’s test in order to get your license. Consult your local town, city or ward office in Japan for more details.