Getting A Japanese Driving License: What You Need

Okay, so today I got my Japanese driving license (yay). However, it was a bit of a headache trying to find out what you need. 

The first thing to know is there are three ways in which you can get your license. 

  1. To take the classes and the tests as would any Japanese person. Avoid this if possible as it is both expensive and difficult (you need a good level of Japanese). 
  2. Apply to have your license changed over from your own country’s license and your country does not have any agreements with Japan (requires a theory test and a driving test). 
  3. Apply to have your license changed over from your own country’s license. There are no tests and this process is paperwork only (this is called a gaimen kirikae). 

The countries that fall into method 3 are: 

Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, The United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Taiwan, South Korea, or USA (only Maryland [from Jan 2016] or Washington [from Jan 2017] )


I was lucky enough to fall into method 3, so that is the method I’m going to talk about. 

It’s also important to remember that the requirements and process may vary slightly according to which prefecture you are in (I’m in Fukuoka).


What you will need

  1. A valid driver’s license (not expired)
  2. A juuminhyo (a document from your local town/city hall that shows your address) 
  3. Your passport
  4. 2 photos (size 3 cm by 2.4) 
  5. Residency card (zairyuu card) 
  6. Money (for me, it cost 3600 yen)
  7. Translation of your driver’s license. (For this, go to your nearest JAF center. Some embassies may also over this)

You may also need: 

  1. Proof that you have resided in your country for at least 3 months since you passed your test. 
  2. Your old/expired license 
  3. An interpreter


Numbers 1-6 on the list are pretty simple. For number 2, a visit to your city hall (or where ever you first registered your residency card is a bit of a pain if you don’t already have one. The size of the photos for your the application is also quite small (I cut some 4cm-3cm ones I had spare, they didn’t have a problem with it). 

Number 7 on the list is a bit of a pain, especially depending on how far away your nearest JAF center is. It cost me 3000 yen to get it translated and took 45 minutes (the JAF website it can take anywhere from 1 day to 2 weeks). 

The website (in my case, it was part of the Fukuoka prefecture police website) said that I would need to prove I resided in my country for 3 months since I passed my test. It says a passport with exit/extra stamps of your country will suffice. Many countries don’t stamp your passport, so I was a little worried. After asking Gaijinpot, many people said to take things such as diplomas or utility bills. I took my degree, but in the end, they didn’t check it. 

If your license has recently been renewed and it does not show the original date you passed, then it could be hard for you to prove that you resided in your country for 3 months. Just to be safe, I made sure the translation included the original date I passed (it did) and took my old license anyway (it wasn’t needed). 

If you’re Japanese is not so good, you may need to bring a Japanese friend with you. When you arrive at the test center, you will need to fill in an application form (in Japanese) and do a very basic eyesight test. 


Japanese Driving License Summary

It took about 3 hours in total when I visited the test center. Most of the time was just waiting about to have the eyesight test, fill in the forms, and have the card made. 

From getting my UK license translated, to getting my Japanese driving license – it only took 2 days (although the website warns both the translation and the license could take weeks). 

My driving license is valid for 3 years, which means I should now be able to enter into certain 2-year contracts, even though my current visa is only for one year. 

That’s everything in my case. Good luck! 

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