Tips on Converting Your Foreign Driver’s Licence to Japanese License

Japan related

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As a foreword, I want to make it clear that I will not be writing about the actual conversion process like where to get your papers, how much it will cost, etc. There are plenty of other site that does that.

Instead, what I WILL be writing is tips and attitude you should display that will help you pass the ridiculously difficult driving course test. Driving course test is where many people get stuck and unable to convert the license, not the textual exam. From what I heard, only 5% of people pass on the initial try and about 15% on the second try.

Before I get started, here is a good site to help you to determine whether you need to take the test or just the bureaucratic process.

Are Tests Required? | japandriverslicense.com
Foreign license conversion in Japan can be divided generally into two groups, depending on what country issued the foreign license.

Check to see if which group you belong to you. If you are lucky group 1,close this page and go get your license. I was foolish enough to let my US drivers license expire. Don’t repeat my mistake. Go and convert your license right away.

If you are group 2, may God bless your soul.

driving course

This is how a typical Japanese driving test course looks like.

When I passed the driving course test after the second try, there were over 30 people in my group and I was the ONLY ONE to pass that day. How did I do it? It is because I understood what the instructors were looking for and I will share this knowledge with you.

  1. 1. Understand what the instructors are looking for. You may have driven for many years in your country with zero accident, considered to be a good driver by your friend, etc.
  2. 2. Take the paid lesson. Most driving courses are built right next a course, and they offer a paid lesson during night hours. I think it was like 4000yen/hour or something like that. I highly recommend you take it, because by doing so you can learn the course and what I talked about in Part 1, understanding the instructors intentions. If you do not take the paid lesson, you won’t be able to know that you are supposed to look behind before opening the door, the correct procedure of adjusting your seat before the mirror, etc. These are written in the text book, but would prove to be extremely difficult to display on the first try. It may cost you, but you will save yourself more money by doing it in advance.
  3. 3. Relax; error is not an error. The driving course have A route and B route, and it is decided on that day which route will be used. It is bit confusing so you might make a turn at the wrong place but DON’T PANIC. Making a wrong turn will not get your point deducted, instructors see it as a way of displaying that you have a capability to correct your error without freaking out. Just follow their instructions and get back on the course accordingly.
  4. 4. OVER EXAGGERATION IS YOUR FRIEND. This is where many people are deducted. Instructors want to see that you know the rules, and the best way to display it is by over exaggerating them. Here are some pointers that instructors want you to emphasize.

1. Understand what the instructors are looking for. You may have driven for many years in your country with zero accident, considered to be a good driver by your friend, etc.

THESE GUYS DON’T CARE.

What they are looking for is your efficiency to display that you know how Japanese people are taught in drivers school and is able to display it accordingly. Being able to drive accordingly is the bottom line, they want to see that you can display what they want to see.

2. Take the paid lesson. Most driving courses are built right next a course, and they offer a paid lesson during night hours. I think it was like 4000yen/hour or something like that. I highly recommend you take it, because by doing so you can learn the course and what I talked about in Part 1, understanding the instructors intentions. If you do not take the paid lesson, you won’t be able to know that you are supposed to look behind before opening the door, the correct procedure of adjusting your seat before the mirror, etc. These are written in the text book, but would prove to be extremely difficult to display on the first try. It may cost you, but you will save yourself more money by doing it in advance.

3. Relax; error is not an error. The driving course have A route and B route, and it is decided on that day which route will be used. It is bit confusing so you might make a turn at the wrong place but DON’T PANIC. Making a wrong turn will not get your point deducted, instructors see it as a way of displaying that you have a capability to correct your error without freaking out. Just follow their instructions and get back on the course accordingly.

4. OVER EXAGGERATION IS YOUR FRIEND. This is where many people are deducted. Instructors want to see that you know the rules, and the best way to display it is by over exaggerating them. Here are some pointers that instructors want you to emphasize.

・Turning your head with exaggeration when making/before a turn.

・Look at your mirror with your head turned and held still for few seconds.

・When making a left turn, get as close to the gutter as you can get without actually going over (this is really important btw, because there are many bicycles on the street of Japan).

・Show them that you are looking both left and right by moving your head before accelerating after the red light.

What I have listed is just a tip of the ice berg. At this point, I think I managed to convince you that it is very difficult and there are many obstacles to over come. But eventually, people pass and so will you. Hope this helps, and good luck.

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