Obtaining a Japanese driving license

  • HOW TO
  • For those who do not have an international driving permit, taking a new driving license in Japan have the same steps to follow as that of a Japanese citizen. And it is quite a tedious task to get your license in hand. Being a foreigner, we have to provide the Juminhyo (Residency certificate) and the Alien registration card before registering for the classes at the driving school. Even though we collected information from friends around us before going for the procedures, we could understand the actual methods and efforts in accomplishing the task to own the license only after starting the classes at the driving school.

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    Every city has a driving school and it costs around 3,00,000 yen to acquire your license through the course and exams. And there are some private institutions also where the cost might slightly differ. And from the city driving schools, it takes three months to complete the course and other procedures to acquire your license. The private institutes sometimes offer faster ways, maybe it is possible to get your licence in a month or so, but we should keep in mind that the task will be riskier, and need to furnish more effort. We really thought that it is such an easy task and needs a course of only a month. But the prejudice was really wrong.

    Step 1 : Learner’s permit (Kari menkyo)

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    The first task in taking the license is getting your learners license. And for that we have to attend a paper test(kari menkyo gakka shaken) containing 50 questions and should get a minimum of 45 marks (90%) to pass the test. Once we pass this test, we have to attend a practical driving test (kari menkyo ginou shiken). This can be done in a single day. For taking the written test only, it costs 2500yen and for the driving test only or for both of these together in a single day it costs 4480yen. The written test includes true/false questions and we can prepare for the exam with the help of the textbooks provided by the driving school. We got a textbook published by Toyota. The exam could be attended in many languages including Japanese, Chinese, English, Russian and so on. We can select our language for the test. And one important thing we could understand at this point of time is that the city driving school will have mock tests in most of these languages before attending the actual written exam. But the private institutes might not always have such a facility and mostly it will be in only in Japanese. So if we are attending the exam in other languages, we must have to prepare with the set of some five model question papers and the textbooks provided by them and prepare for the test by ourselves.

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    Author’s photo

    The practical test for learner’s permit include three different driving courses that are done inside the driving school itself. They will have specially set pathways with rail crosses, traffic signals, signboards, pavement markings etc. and we have to practice through these path before attending the exam. They will be conducting model tests before letting us to attend the actual exam. There will be negative marks set for every single faults done by us during the test. For passing this test we should gain minimum of 70% marks. From among the three courses of study, they will select a single one randomly for conducting the exam.
    And if you are done with these two steps, you will be issued a learners permit the very same day after the examination.

    Step 2 : Driving license (hon menkyo)

    You can attend the driving test for the original license, after five days from the day you have issued the learner’s permit. The next and most difficult task is to attend the following set of exams to acquire the actual Japanese driving license. The textbook provided or the written examination will have two different stages and for the learners test, we have to learn only the first stage which include information like sign boards, pavement markings etc. For the next test we have to learn the entire text book including everything we want to know while driving. For example, driving at various weather conditions, driving in different kinds of roads, maintaining our vehicle etc.
    And in this stage there is another written examination (hon menkyo gakka shiken) with 100 questions : 90 true/false questions like before and the rest of which are questions with pictures stating different conditions. The last few questions with pictures will have three sub-questions each which are also true/false questions. And for this test the pass mark is again 90% (90 marks).

    Similar to the learners test, the practical driving test (hon menkyo ginou shiken) have to be attended after completing the written exam with three courses on open roads, which will be practiced at the school during the course. It includes paths in your city and there will be classes conducted on express highways also. During the exam, they will be selecting a course from among the three and we have to do it as part of the exam. Here also every minute faults will be calculated and will be assigned negative markings as per the intensity of the fault you have made. It also requires a pass mark of 70%. This time, the test is not at all fulfilled with these two. The next step includes reverse parking of vehicle in between two others or in a small gap. It is done at the driving school course path. On completing these three procedures, you have done your part successfully and will be issued the Japanese driving license with a novice period of one year.

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    It is not as easy as what we were thinking once we start with preparing for the exam. For the written exam, we have to work hard and learn the portions provided in the book and should remember every point mentioned in the textbook for the exam. We should always bear in mind that being true/false questions, it is easy to make a mistake. And the practical driving tests also require good concentration and confidence. Anyway, once you are issued with the license, it’s really a moment of happiness and expectations. We can drive an automobile in Japan from today and enjoy life in Japan.