Getting a Driving License in Japan | Tests & Tips for Foreigners (2023)

For Japanese citizens, and for anyone who didn’t drive in their home country, getting a Driver’s License in Japan can be a long, daunting, and expensive task.For some jobs in Japan, a driving license is essential.

The minimum age for driving in Japan is 18 years old. Some earn their Japanese driving license by taking some basic courses and trying the driving test. Others take the longer and more expensive route of comprehensive courses, where graduation means that you automatically pass the Japan driving exam.

Japanese people usually go to driving schools and that takes several months of classroom and practical training and costs up to around 250,000 yen – the equivalent of over 1000 pounds or 2000 dollars.

Fortunately, if you have a valid driving license from your home country, you may be able to use it to change and convert your license to a Japanese driving license – without having to go to driving school, and sometimes without even taking the driving exam. Here’s how to get a driving license in Japan.

Getting a Driving License in Japan | Tests & Tips for Foreigners (1)

1. What you need to have and prepare:

  1. A valid driver’s license from your home country
    • Check your license to see if the original issue date is on your license. If not, you should request a full driving record from the licensing authority in your country.
  2. Official translation of your home country’s Driver’s License
    • The most common way to get this is by visiting your nearest Japan Automobile Federation office. Usually, they can give you the documentation you need within an hour. If there is not one nearby, certain offices allow you to apply via mail.
  3. Documents that prove you lived in the country of your license for at least 3 months after receiving your driving license
    • Whatever documentation you use, the dates need to be compatible with your license. For example, you can only use university transcripts if you already had your licence at that time. This is why it’s important to have the original issue date mentioned earlier, as the documentation will only support the dates that you can show.
    • Examples of good supporting documents: official academic transcripts, work certificates, pay stubs, utility bills in your name and address, or an entry stamp into your home country in your passport.
    • Examples of bad supporting docs: bank statements, loan statements, credit card bills, marriage certificates, exit stamps in your passport.
    • Ultimately, the validity of the documentation for proving the ‘3-months’ requirement is at the discretion of the Driver’s License Center representative who is handling your application.
  4. 2 identical Passport-style ID Photos
    • Often, there will be a photo booth in or near the Driver’s License Center.
    • This photo is used for the application – you will have a different picture for your license.
  5. Passport and Residence Card, and a Certificate of Residence (住民票, Juminhyo) from your town office

2. What you need to do to convert your driving license:

No matter where your driver’s license is from, there are a few steps that everyone needs to take for the Japanese driving license application process.Later, there are differences depending on the country.

  1. Contact your driving center to set up an appointment
    • Some centers will require reservation a few months in advance.
    • The center will be able to advise you whether you can take care of all the steps at once, or if you need to make multiple trips.
  2. Meet with the interviewer
    • The driver’s license center representative in Japan will review your documents, especially about the ‘3-months’ requirement.
    • They will also ask you about your driving history, what you needed to do to get your license, what kinds of driver’s ed courses you took, and so on.
    • If you don’t speak Japanese, you are encouraged to bring a friend who can interpret for you.
  3. Take the eye test
    • Wear your glasses or contacts, especially if your license says that you require them.
    • You will look at a ‘C’ shaped character, and will have to say which direction the opening is facing – up, down, left, or right.

If your driving license is from any of the following territories:

  • Australia, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Holland, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Taiwan
  • The US States of Hawaii, Indiana*, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia and Washington (*Indiana license holders still need to take the written test)

…then the points above are all that you need to do, in most cases.

(Video) Getting a Driver's License in Japan | Converting Your Overseas License | Getting From Scratch | Etc

3. The written test and the driving test

If your country/state is not in the above list*, then you will need to take the two exams: the written test, and the driving test.Each prefecture in Japan has its own rules, so contact the licencing center directly.

*In certain cases, the written test may still be required even if you are exempt from the driving test.

(Video) Getting my Japanese Driver’s License (FOREIGN CONVERSION)

The written test

  • This test is generally 10 questions, all true or false, and is available in English.
  • A pass is 7 correct answers.
  • While most of the content is familiar to anyone who is experienced with driving, it’s good to familiarize yourself with rules particular to Japan. Such examples are as always stopping before going over railroad crossings, or the effectively-0 limit for driving under the influence.

The driving test

  • You will use a car provided by the Driver’s License center. It will be automatic unless you are applying for a driver’s license that lets you use manual transmission.
  • While not a requirement, it is often very worthwhile to enroll for a few hours of practice with a tutor. These lessons are generally around 3000 to 5000 yen. You can practice on the actual driving course.
  • The driving test in Japan is very standardized, and the details that the instructor is looking for are very particular. The general flow is:
    • Checking the area outside of the vehicle to look for any obstructions before getting in.
    • Adjust seat, belt, and mirrors, even if you feel they don’t need to be adjusted.
    • Start driving through the course, following the rules of the road exactly to the letter. The course includes various signs, markers, turns, and even an ‘s-curve’ and ‘crank’ where you need to drive through short but narrow and winding paths without going over the lines.
    • Making sure your movements and actions are very clear and obvious to the instructor. Common wisdom is that if they didn’t explicitly see that you did it, you didn’t do it!
  • It’s not uncommon to need to take the Japanese driving test again a few times. Many people don’t pass on their first try, so it’s fair to be prepared to take the test a few times if necessary and consider it a happy surprise if you make it through on your first one!
  • If you’ve passed your test, you’ll have your picture taken and your new license issued to you. It’s important to dress well, not only to make a good impression, but because it will be your ID photo that others may see.

4. After you get your driving license

Congratulations!You’ve received your Japanese driver’s license as a foreigner in Japan. Now there are some more things to keep in mind as you hit the road. Here are our tips for driving in Japan.

Renewal procedure

  • Your first Japanese driving license is valid for up to 3 years. Near the expiration date, you’ll receive a postcard in the mail with information about renewing, which can be done within 1 month before or after your birthday that year.
  • When you renew, you will have to sit through a one-lesson safety course. The length of the lesson can vary depending on if you have any infractions, if it’s your first time renewing, and so on.up-to-date.
(Video) I NEVER Want to Do this Again | How to Pass the Japanese Driver's License Test on Your First Try

Keeping your address up-to-date

Just like your residence card, you will need to update your address on your Japanese driving license when you move. You can do this at driver’s license centers, but you can often get it done at your local police station (not kobans!).

  • Similar to AAA in America, the Japan Automobile Federation offers services that can be helpful in an emergency situation, and they offer 24/7 translation support.
  • If you don’t own a car, there are numerous car share services in Japan that you can now use thanks to your new driving license. These are services where you can rent a car for a short time through an online reservation system.Websites like Lease Japan are useful for this.

It’s a good idea to read the Japanese book ‘Rules of the Road’ to pass your driving test.

Having a Japanese Driver’s License can open doors not only for your personal life and ease-of-travel in Japan, but can also make you eligible for certain career opportunities as well.

(Video) How to pass the Driving test on first try in Japan

Find out more about how to get a job in Japan, or register with our recruitment agency today.


How can a foreigner get a Japanese driving license? ›

Official translation of your home country's Driver's License

The most common way to get this is by visiting your nearest Japan Automobile Federation office. Usually, they can give you the documentation you need within an hour. If there is not one nearby, certain offices allow you to apply via mail.

Is Japanese driving test hard? ›

The driving test itself is not difficult, but there are many simple sequences and processes that the examiners are looking for, and, if you are not aware of them, you will not pass.

How many questions are on the Japanese driving test? ›

The written test tests your knowledge of the basic safe driving and Japanese rules. It is available in English, as well as several other languages (varies by license center). The test consists of ten, True-False questions. You will have 10 minutes to complete it and seven correct answers are needed to pass.

Is Japanese license valid in USA? ›

The United States driving laws state that you're required to have a valid driving license in possession to be able to drive in the US. This can be either issued by a US State or a foreign country. So, yes, you can drive with a foreign license in the US.

Can I rent a car in Japan with a US driver license? ›

You can rent a car in Japan with a U.S. drivers license, but you are also required to have an IDP. You should obtain the IDP before you travel to Japan. IDPs cost $20, and all you need are a valid U.S. driver's license and two passport-size photos.

Which is the toughest exam in Japan? ›

1 Analysis of the 8th dan in kendo. Japanese arts and crafts have been enhanced by the clan system throughout history. As with the way of arts, kendo has also been promoted and developed with the quality determined by the grade system.

Which country has Toughest driving test? ›

The most difficult tests to pass

In China, the theory test contains 100 questions and requires you to memorise 1,000 in total. There are then two separate practical assessments, followed by a final theory test. New drivers in Croatia must attend 70-100 hours of mandatory driving school before attempting their test.

What is the passing score for driving test in Japan? ›

The passing mark is 45 points out of 50 points. * The written test (theory test) for the Full License contains ninety-five (95) questions. There are ninety (90) multiple-choice questions. Each correct multiple-choice answer is worth one (1) point (90 points possible).

How much does it cost to take the driving test in Japan? ›

The cost of the written test is around ¥1,550, while the actual license is ¥2,050. Some companies offer a complete package for about ¥100,000, and they will teach you how to drive and accompany you all the way until you have the actual license.

What is a good test score in Japan? ›

Most Common
GradeScaleGrade Description
A80.00 - 89.99Very Good (優 • Yū)
B70.00 - 79.99Good (良 • Ryō)
C60.00 - 69.99Satisfactory (可 • Ka)
F0.00 - 59.99Fail (不可 • Fuka)
3 more rows

How long does it take to get a drivers license in japan? ›

If you're commuting to a driving school, it usually takes about two to three months to complete the course. With an overall cost of about 300,000 yen and taking over two months until completion, some may think getting a driver's license in Japan is too difficult.

What is the highway speed limit in Japan? ›

Traffic rules

Legal speed limits in Japan are “60km/h on normal roads” and “100km/h on expressways.” It is prohibited to drive a car at the speed exceeding the legal limit even if there is no traffic sign for speed regulation. Yellow solid line in center means “No Crossing.”

What is Type 2 license Japan? ›

Class two driver's license is required to drive motor vehicles to transport passengers or to operate a duly designated driver service.

How long does it take to get an international driver's license in Japan? ›

Obtaining an International Driving Permit (IDP) in Japan

The process of getting an IDP generally takes one hour, and requires a visit to a license center within the prefecture you live during business hours. Please note that license centers may offer this service only during specific times, or on specific days.

Why does Japan drive on the left? ›

In essence, driving on the left has little to do with cars. Quite the contrary, it's all for the convenience of the samurai and Japanese road usage logic. You see, at the time of the samurai, city streets and footpaths were quite narrow. In addition, most samurai were right-handed and wore their katana on the left.

Is Japan left hand drive or right? ›

In Japan, vehicles usually drive on the left-hand side of the road. Be sure to obey any signs that indicate a speed limit. The legal speed limit is 60 km per hour on general roads and 100 km per hour on expressways.

Is it worth hiring a car in Japan? ›

Renting a car is an option worth considering if you plan to explore rural Japan where public transportation can be both inconvenient and infrequent. A rental car can also be an economical alternative when traveling in groups or can make traveling with a lot of luggage easier.

Is it better to rent a car or take the train in Japan? ›

If you're a visitor to Japan and plan to spend a few days in Tokyo or Osaka at the start of your trip, picking up a rental car from one of the international airports is a bad idea. Getting around by taxi or train is the way to go in the big cities—it's cheaper, faster, and more convenient.

Is it expensive to drive in Japan? ›

On Japanese toll roads, the average car ride costs 25 yen per km, plus 150 yen in fees, with an added 10-percent consumption tax. The total is then rounded up to the nearest 50 yen.

Does Japan have Uber? ›

In short, yes, you can use Uber in Tokyo, but mostly to hail a taxi. But, more often than not, stopping a random taxi on the street might be faster (and cheaper) than requesting a taxi via the ubiquitous app. Uber is relatively new to Japan, and as a result, its network isn't the largest.

What is the easiest JLPT test? ›

The JLPT has five levels: N1, N2, N3, N4 and N5. The easiest level is N5 and the most difficult level is N1.

Which is the No 1 toughest exam in the world? ›

Top 10 Hardest Exams in the World
  • Civil Services Exam (CSE)
  • GATE.
  • GRE.
  • Master Sommelier Diploma Exam.
  • ICAI CA Exams.
  • CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert)
  • Mensa International.
  • CFA.
Feb 17, 2023

What country has no driving test? ›

Honduras. In Honduras, there was never a driving test in any form but in recent years they have made it more difficult by actually creating a driving test, however, this is isn't a practical test.

Who has failed the driving test the most? ›

Indeed, Cha Sa-soon, age 69, estimated that it cost her well over $10,000 to finally pass the South Korea drivers' test. Of course, she took it 960 times before finally passing in 2010 and now holds the world's record for most failed attempts.

Is driving test hard in USA? ›

Not hard enough. It's very easy to pass a driver's test here. If you've even ridden in a car before the short written test will be very simple.

How fast do you have to go to not get pulled over in Japan? ›

Statutory speed limit in Japan defaults to 100 km/h (62 mph) for divided national expressways and 60 km/h (37 mph) for any other roads, unless otherwise posted. The highest speed limit in Japan is 120 km/h (75 mph) on some sections of Shin-Tōmei Expressway (E1A) and Tōhoku Expressway (E4).

Which lane is the passing lane in Japan? ›

Lane Differences in Japan

If there are several lanes, as in two-lane or three-lane highways, you are expected to drive on the left and pass on the right: the rightmost lane is the passing lane.

What is a failing score in Japan? ›

Grade Scale
ScoreNotice of Academic Record (MyWaseda)Pass or Fail
2 more rows
Feb 28, 2023

How can an American get a Japanese license? ›

For Americans, it's a simple process. Download and fill out an application, bring it to a AAA office along with two passport pictures and a valid US driver's license, pay the $20 fee, and voila! Every country has a similarly easy process, so check with yours to see what you need to do.

Which countries driving license can be exchanged in Japan? ›

Driving licenses issued by the authorities of Belgium, France, Germany, Monaco, Switzerland, and Taiwan are valid in Japan under the following conditions: 1. Your license is attached to a Japanese translation provided by the authorities that are stipulated by the applicable cabinet order.

Can a foreigner apply for driver license in USA? ›

What ID do non-citizen residents need to drive in the U.S.? If you are eligible to apply for a driver's license, you must get a driver's license from the state where you live. The residency requirement for obtaining a U.S. driver's license is different in each state.

How much does it cost to get a driver's license in Japan? ›

If you're commuting to a driving school, it usually takes about two to three months to complete the course. With an overall cost of about 300,000 yen and taking over two months until completion, some may think getting a driver's license in Japan is too difficult. For those people, we'd like to recommend a driving camp.

Can an American get dual citizenship in Japan? ›

U.S. law does not contain any provisions requiring U.S. Citizens who are born with dual nationality to choose one nationality or the other when they become adults. Choosing Japanese nationality has no affect on U.S. citizenship. I am a dual citizen and wish to change my name to match my Japanese passport.

Is it hard for an American to learn Japanese? ›

The Japanese language is considered one of the most difficult to learn by many English speakers. With three separate writing systems, an opposite sentence structure to English, and a complicated hierarchy of politeness, it's decidedly complex.

How many points do you need to pass your driving test in Japan? ›

The passing mark is 90 points out of 100 points. * An instant photo booth is available in the Driver's License Center.

Can you own a car in Japan as a foreigner? ›

If you're a temporary resident (ie. on a tourist visa) or you don't have a Japanese driver's license, you can't buy a car in Japan. Even if you're equipped with the right visa and you've switched your license over, you still need a couple more things. The first is relatively easy—you need a registered inkan.

Which country accept US driver's license? ›

Know Before You Go

U.S. driver's licenses are valid in both Canada and Mexico. But many other countries do not recognize U.S. driver's licenses, according to the U.S. State Department. For those countries, you'll typically need an International Driving Permit.

Can I buy a car in Japan with an international license? ›

Buying a Car From a Dealer

To buy from a dealer, you will need: Valid international driver's permit and foreign drivers license or Japanese driver's license.

How long can I drive with a foreign licence in USA? ›

You can drive legally in the U.S. for one year using a driver's license from your home country and an International Driver's Permit (IDP).

Can I have 2 drivers licenses from different countries? ›

You have the drivers license of the country of your primary residence and that's it. Licenses are easily exchanged from one country to the other, but you cannot have both.

What are speed limits in Japan? ›

Speed limits

They are 40 km/h in towns (with varying areas: some at 30, roads by schools usually at 20), 50 to 60 in the countryside (if unmarked, the limit is 60), and 100 on the expressways. There is usually a fair bit of leeway in terms of speeding - about 10 km/h on normal roads, for example.


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