Posted by Heliocentrism on July 14, 2011
July 11, 2011
I started this process in April when I showed up at a JAF center to get my license translated. I knew that around July all the new JET’s from last year with cars would need to get Japanese driver’s licenses when their international driving permits expire. I wanted to avoid the rush. But things in Japan are never straight forward. It took months to get all my senseless paper work in order.
3 or more years
I first needed to drive through the practice course. To be allowed to do this I needed to find someone who has had a Japanese license for at least 3 years. That eliminated all my JET friends. The ones who have been here long enough, don’t drive.
I needed to find a co-worker to help me. I hate asking my co-workers for stuff like this. They work so hard and are always busy. They usually work 2 or more Saturdays a month, whereas I never work on weekends, so I felt really bad asking this favor. But I needed to get my license. I would have to ask someone to give up a precious Saturday to drive around with me.
So I asked my supervisor. We found one Saturday where we were both free. It was all the way at the end of May. He was a really busy man. I waited until the next time I was able to leave work early then drove over to Oita’s DMV to sign up for time in the practice car.
Proof of 3 Months
At the DMV I ran into, David. another JET trying to get his license. There was a snag in his paper work. His passport was not proof enough that he had been in the states for at least 3 months after getting his license. You see, the US passport control does not stamp the passport of exiting US citizens. He had to come back later when he had some better proof.
I tried to sign up for practice time, but I was told that I would probably fail if I practiced on my own. I was given the number of Mr. Yano. (I have since lost his number.) I was told to call him and he would teach me everything I needed to know and that he would take care of making the appointment.
Mr. Yano’s help was a bit expensive, but this would mean that I would not have to steal a Saturday from my supervisor. So, I called Mr. Yano and met him one Saturday morning. He didn’t speak English fluently, but he spoke well enough.
I’m really glad to meet you!
After spending 2 hours with Mr. Yano, I could see why most people fail this driving test. It’s really not a test about how well you drive; you never leave this course, so who knows what kind of bat-out-of-hell driver you are? They test how well you can remember and follow a bunch of silly instructions.
On the first 2 curves of the course, you are not allowed to use your brakes. Mr. Yano said, “It’s dangerous to use the brakes on a curve.” But it was quite safe to use your brakes on all other turns on the course. I also had to break 3 times before really slowing down the car. This is supposed to be a warning for the person behind me that I am stopping. I guess my car slowing down and the brake lights aren’t big enough clues.
I was told that hitting the curb on the S-turn part of the coarse was an automatic fail. It is better to back up many times. I just had to make sure to do a 5-point yosh before going in reverse.
What’s a 5-point yosh? Well, let me first explain what a yosh is. It is hard for the proctor to see what you have noticed while you are taking your test. So they make you say this word, which shows that you have noticed something. The 5-point yosh is:
- Point 1 – Look at the left side mirror and say, “Yosh”.
- Point 2 – Look at the left side blind spot and say, “Yosh.”
- Point 3 – Look at the rear view mirror and say, “Yosh.”
- Point 4 – Look at the right side mirror and say, “Yosh.”
- Point 5 – Look at the right side blind spot and say, “Yosh.”
I showed up early and handed in all my documents. I used old credit card statements as proof that I was in the states for at least 3 months after getting my current Florida driver’s license. Luckily for me, Discover card keeps statement records for up to 7 years and will mail them to you for free once you request them.
First I had to have an interview. The interviewer was a very friendly man, who spoke English well. He asked me questions about my driving test in the states. It was over before I realized that I was being evaluated. Everything went well and I moved onto the next step.
The written test was made up of 10 questions. They were easy, but I missed some questions because I over analysed them, thinking that they were put on the test to throw me off. I managed to pass with no points to spare.
The next step was my vision test. It was just lights and colors like the vision tests at most DMVs. I passed with no problems.
Then it was time for the driving test. The proctor spoke no English at all. I yoshed my way into the car and yoshed all the way through the course. Half way into the test I realized that I was not paying attention to my hand positions while turning.
Normally I turn hand-over-hand and sometimes I hold the wheel with my palm up for a better grip. These are a big no-no’s. I also notice many other mistakes that I had made, like not driving close enough to the curb.
When I was done, I yoshed myself out of the car. I stood there awkwardly as the proctor sat in the car for about 3 minutes feverishly writing on my evaluation sheet. He got out and, without saying a word, motioned me to follow him.
We got into an elevator and he began to ask me questions in Japanese. All I could say was, “Wa-ca-de-mas sen.” (I don’t understand.) We got out of the elevator and walked to waiting the area. He pointed to a chair and I took a seat.
He disappeared into one of the offices and emerged behind the counter. He started talking to the ladies at the desk while still writing on my evaluation sheet. “Wa-ca-de-mas sen, Wa-ca-de-mas sen, Wa-ca-de-mas sen,” he said to the ladies while shaking his head. “No matter what I ask her, she says, ‘I don’t understand'”.
I felt tired. I was at the DMV since 12:30pm and it was now almost 5:00pm. It had been a long day and I would have to do this again. Near the counter was a bus schedule and I looked at it. My international driver’s license would expire soon, and I might have to take the bus here to re-take this test.
The guy who had interviewed me called me over. He was looking down at my evaluation sheet behind the counter as I walked over to him. “You know, sometimes miracles happen and one happened today. You passed!”
Since my license is new, even though I have been driving since I was 16, I have to put these stupid “new driver” magnets on my car; one in the front and one in the back. Usually, only 18-year-olds have these. This is to let everyone know how inexperienced I am. The only good thing about the magnets is that no one is allowed to drive close to me or cut me off on the road.
People still do, though. In fact the “new driver” magnets seem to bring out the jackass in most drivers. I get tailgated and cut off more now than ever.
How to get there:
You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.
Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.
- Emergency Numbers:
- Police 110
- Ambulance and Fire 119
- Important phone numbers to know while in Japan
- Comfort Woman
- The Commoner
- Empire of the Sun
- Flyboys: A True Story of Courage
- Geisha, a Life
- Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission
- The Last Concubine
- Memoirs of a Geisha
- Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath
- Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan
- What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
- Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan. Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
- InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and callyourbanktoaskwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
- ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
- You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan. I’ve never been a tourist.)
Department of Motor Vehicle Licensing
(Ōita ken unten menkyo sentā)
- 33°11’16.8″N 131°38’59.2″E
- Head towards Park Place, which is near exit #14 on the Oita Express way.
- Go south of Park place on the numberless road on the map below.
- You will see a lot of parked cars.
6687 Matsuoka, Oita City
- 097-536-2131 (ext: 702-245)
- Driving Course
- Instructions on how to pass
- The Tombo Dec09-Jan10 (contains an article on the process)
- It depends on how many times you fail.
- Most people fail several times.
- 3,000YEN to translate your US license at any JAF.
- 1,000YEN for the “Rules of the Road” book.
- 8,000YEN to have Mr. Yano teach you how to past the test.
- 4,000YEN to practice on the course.
- 2,400YEN for the application fee. (Paid right before the written test.)
- 1,650YEN to rent the car. (Paid right before you take the driving test.)
- 2,100YEN for the registration fee. (Paid after you pass the driving test, if you pass.)
- Mon – Fri 12:30 – 14:00 excluding holidays
- This is for US citizens.
- Australians and New Zealanders don’t have to take this test; those lucky bastards.
- You are given one year to drive on an international driver’s license, after that you must get a Japanese license.
Steps to getting a Japanese Driver’s License:
Get your valid driver’s license Translated at JAF. You will need to bring:
- This PDF form filled out and signed.
- Your current American driver’s license.
You can buy a copy of the “Rules of the Road” book here, if you cannot find someone to lend it to you. You just need a quick read through this book. There is no need to really study it.
Practice: I was given Mr. Yano’s number by the guy at the DMV.
- Call Mr. Yano, or some equivalent. (8,000YEN)
- Book practice time on the driving course. (4,000YEN)
- If you hire Mr. Yano or an equivalent, they will make the appointment for you.
- Pay close attention. Every little thing you do, no matter how mindless or insignificant you think it is, matters a great deal on the test.
- Reading the instructions is no substitute for physically practicing the course.
Taking the test.
- Make a reservation at your local Department of Motor Vehicle.
- You will need to make reservations for your first test.
- If you fail, you will not need to make reservations for your second, third, or subsequent tests. Just show up.
On the day of the test bring the following:
- Your current American driver’s license.
- Translation of your current American driver’s license.
- Your Passport.
- Proof that you were in the US for at least 3 months after you got your current license.
- You can use utility bills, college transcripts (if you just graduated), credit card statements, or whatever you think might be proof.
- Your Alien Registration Card also known as your “gaijin card”.
(外 国 人 登 録 証 明 書)
(Gaikokujin Toroku Shomeisho)
- Certificate of Registered Matters
- You get this at city hall
- There is a photo booth at the Oita City DMV
- At least 6,150YEN total
- Application Fee – 2,400 YEN
- Car Rental Fee – 1,650 YEN
- Registration Fee – 2,100 YEN
- An Interpreter
- Not needed at Oita City