Wanting to Drive in Japan
in Japan legally
recently afforded new challenges to foreigners from China, Brazil
and the United
in November 2002 and updated in
February 2003, Traffic Act Article 107-2, has begun to create many
June 2002, Foreigners driving in Japan
(who held a valid drivers
license from their home country) could apply
international driving permit (IDP) and drive in Japan
permanently. Since that time
however, IDPs are only valid for one year. If a foreigner stays in Japan for more than one year and
reapply for an IDP, they would have to leave Japan
for at least 90 days in order
for the IDP to be legal upon their return.
for a short time, of course IDPs are the way to go. They are quite
(around $10-20). Beware however, there are many sites on the internet
offer IDPs for several hundred dollars. These are scam sites and are to
avoided at all costs.
a few countries have a much easier time in obtaining a valid Japanese
license when compared to the United States. Citizens
from Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Switzerland,
Canada or Germany
can simply have
license translated and officiated after a minimal fee and an eye check.
citizens screwed over? You may check this link found on
Embassy in Japan
website http://japan.usembassy.gov/e/acs/tacs-drive.html and find out
you take the time to read the reasons why as well as the requirements
asking for in order to overturn this new law you may very well cry, or
If you don't want to take the time to read the reasons and
short, it's a better idea to try and take the actual Japanese driving
instead of waiting for this law to be overturned.
us rewind to an actual experience of mine.
unaware that my IDP was considered invalid, (I had been living in Japan
years at the time) I parked for a few minutes in a no parking zone (I
50cc scooter, for its sheer convenience). BIG MISTAKE. I come back to
have a parking ticket. "Oh darn, I have a parking ticket. Oh well, I
well go pay the small fine and bite the bullet on this one". I take my
to a police station and show them my passport and IDP. After much
communication it turns out that I cannot legally drive and I must go to
city's main police office a few days later so they can have a
explain to me exactly what needs to be done.
return home to find out why they said I am unable to drive in Japan,
on the net to do some research. After a short time I come to find out
can be fined up to 300,000 yen (about $2,800) or spend up to a year in
to say, my eyes were bulging out of their sockets.
few days later, I go to this police station. I am sweating bullets and
matters worse they do NOT have a translator
to explain the situation.
Fortunately, I have a more then basic understanding of Japanese so I am
understand that I cannot drive legally in Japan with an IDP. Luckily
fairly new law, that has been such a pain for foreigners, is far from
well known. I am let off with a warning and told I cannot drive until I
actual Japanese drivers license.
forward about a month.
that there is only one book in Japan
that has been translated into English regarding the laws of the road in
forced to buy it. This book is about 90% useless. There was a whole two
about driving motorcycles/scooters in Japan. I am fortunate
have some Japanese friends sit me down with a Japanese language
practice test book and ask me some questions that may be on the test I
preparing for. In less than a week, I was ready to tackle this test. Or
Japanese scooter test is made up of 48 questions. 45 questions or more
correct in order to pass with a time limit of 30 minutes. Let me remind
has been required to have this test in English since the changing of
the law so
at least that was one thing in my favor. "Piece of cake, done in 15
Or so I thought again.
since Shakespeare's time where double negatives considered a proper
form for English! This test took me for so many twists and turns with
EXTREMELY poor translation and its "no" + "no" = "yes" terminology that
I felt I
was going to vomit. I took the entire 30 minutes to complete this test
with a certainty
that I was going to fail. At least I got that part right.
to all the American citizens living in Japan and wanting to drive
currently driving illegally, I would suggest taking the driving test in
Japanese instead of English. You will likely score higher.
Getting your Japan driver license