Driver’s License in Japan -How can people from abroad drive in Japan?-

Some of you may want to drive in Japan for your job or vacation. If you want to drive in Japan, you need to get Japanese driver’s license. Having a driver’s license also gives you a wider range of career choices.

This article first introduces the Japanese system of driver’s license. Then it will also tell you about International driver’s license and the way of switching your driver’s license to a Japanese license.

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1 Driving in Japan

2 International driver’s license & The way of switching your license

2-1 Internatt heional driver’s license

2-2 The way of switching your license to a Japanese version

3 Summary

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1 Driving in Japan

Overseas driver’s licenses cannot be used in Japan due to the differences in signals, signs, standards, and other traffic rules. For example, Japan is a left-hand traffic, that is, a minority country in the world when it comes to traffic rules. Therefore, in order to drive in Japan, it is necessary to  present an international driver’s license or to switch your license obtained overseas to a Japanese driver’s license. Otherwise  you need to get a new Japanese driver’s license from the start.

A penalty of 3,000 yen will be required for notcarrying a driver’s license. Unlicensed driving would be a subject to imprisonment of up to 3 years or a fine of up to 500,000 yen. In addition, the same punishment will be imposed on those who provided the car or got in the car knowing that the driver was driving without a license.

2 International driver’s license & The way of switching your licenses

 2-1 International driver’s license

An international driver’s license is a permit that allows you to drive outside the country or region where you have a driver’s license, based on the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic (1949).

The expiration date of the license is the shortest period of the next two: one year from the expiration date of the license itself or the date of landing in Japan. (From the National Police Agency website)

2-2 How to switch your driver’s license to a Japanese license

To switch from an overseas license to a Japanese license, you need to proceed licensing process (including aptitude test, traffic rule knowledge check, and skill check) at the Driver’s License Examination Centre of each prefectural police department.

You will need the documents below, when you visit the Driver’s License Examination Center.

・ Valid overseas driver’s license

・ Japanese translation of the license

・ Passport

・ ID photo etc. (Click here for details)

The application fee is 2,550 yen for an ordinary vehicle.

However, if you have a driver’s license of a country or region that has not issued an international driver’s license and has a license system that is recognized to be at the same level as Japan (Switzerland, Germany, France, Taiwan, Belgium, Estonia, Monaco ), you can drive in Japan for one year by carrying it with the translated text. (Click here for detailed procedure)

 

Case1  A who has  an Indonesian license

Confirm that you are 18 years old or older, have stayed in Indonesia for 90 days or more after obtaining your license, and have the necessary documents.


Get knowledge confirmation and driving confirmation (at a later date after making a reservation) at the driver’s license centre.  * If you do not speak Japanese, you will need someone who can interpret

If you pass, take an ID photo and you can get a license.

 

Case2  B who has a Taiwanese license

Create a translation of a valid Taiwanese driver’s license at the embassy, ​​Association of East Asian Relations, JAF (Japan Automobile Federation), etc.

You can drive for one year by carrying your Taiwanese license and translation.

* Knowledge and driving confirmation are exempted for stays of less  than one year. However, for long-term stays, procedures at the driver’s license centres (similar to in Case1 ) are required.

 

3 Summary 

If you are from abroad and want to drive in Japan, you have to choose a way from below.

・ Use an international driver’s license

・ Switch the license obtained overseas to a Japanese license

・ Get new license in Japan

Of these, this article has explained the two cases from the perspective of using an international driver’s license or an overseas driver’s license that you already have. If you are staying for a short period of less than one year and thinking of either way, please carefully check the conditions such as expiration date, age, and length of stay, and enjoy safe and secure driving in Japan.

To find out how to get a license that suits you, please contact the police and Driver’s License Examination Centre of each prefecture.

 

References (Japanese) :

・東京都警察庁HP「外国で取得した運転免許証を日本の運転免許証に切替えるには」

https://www.keishicho.metro.tokyo.jp/menkyo/menkyo/kokugai/kokugai05.html

 

・神奈川県警察HP「外国の運転免許から日本の運転免許への切替手続について」

https://www.police.pref.kanagawa.jp/mes/mes83046.htm

 

・日本自動車連盟HP「スイス・ドイツ・フランス・ベルギー・エストニア・モナコ・台湾 における運転免許証の日本語翻訳文について」

https://jaf.or.jp/common/visitor-procedures/foreign-nationals-license