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Driver's License

In order to drive a car or motorcycle in Japan you must hold one of the below licenses.

  • 1. Japanese license (Must have a valid expiry date.)
  • 2. An international driver's license issued by a country that is party to the Geneva Conventions.

    One year from the date of arrival in Japan,
    or until the expiration of applicable licenses, whichever is shorter.

    Notes
    A license is not valid when obtained in time spent abroad if the time between departure and re-arrival in Japan is less than three months.
  • 3.Driver's licenses from Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium and Taiwan

    German, French, Swiss, Italian, Belgian and Taiwanese driver's licenses, which are recognized as being on an equal level to Japanese driver's license, are valid as driver's licenses in Japan for one year after the date the holder arrives in Japan, when accompanied by a Japanese translation.

    Notes
    A license is not valid when obtained in time spent abroad if the time between departure and re-arrival in Japan is less than three months.

How to obtain a Japanese driver's license

There are two methods to obtain a Japanese driver's license, as shown below:

1. Transferring a foreign license into a Japanese license.

To do this, you must fulfill the following conditions:

  • You must have lived in the country that the license was obtained in for at least three months after obtaining the license.
  • The license must still be valid in the country of origin at the time of transferal.
  • You must pass an aptitude test and knowledge exams on road safety (practical and written) carried out by the Public Safety Committee.

Where

The necessary procedures should be carried out at your local police station. People living within the jurisdiction of the Hamakita Police Station should apply at the Seibu Driver's License Center.
Application Hours: Weekdays 8:30–17:00 (Closed Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, including year-end and New Year's holidays)

Notes
  • Applying to take the exam to transfer your license at the Seibu Driver's License Center may take as long as a month, depending on the number of applicants.
  • Persons unable to write or speak Japanese must bring someone who can interpret.

What to Bring:

  • One copy of your resident certificate (juminhyo no utsushi) with your nationality printed on it (if you are not a Japanese citizen) or family register printed on it (if you are a Japanese citizen).
  • Special Permanent Resident Certificate (tokubetsu eijyusha shomeisho) or Residence Card (zairyu kado)
  • ID photo – 3cm X 2.4cm & taken within the last six months
  • Foreign driver's license
  • Translation of foreign driver's license. Only translations carried out by an embassy, a consulate or the Japanese Automobile Federation (JAF) will be accepted.
    Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) Aichi Branch
    3-7-56 Fukue, Showa-ku, Nagoya-shi, Aichi-ken 466-8580
    TEL.052-872-3685
  • Passport (all passports that you own)
  • An ID card must be brought if it is a Brazilian or Chinese license. An official receipt must be shown if it is a Filipino license.
  • Money to cover the processing fee.
  • There may be cases when other documents will be requested.
  • For those who previously had a Japanese driver's license, please bring the expired license or a driving history certificate.

2.Obtaining a Japanese Driver's License

You will need to take an aptitude test, a written exam about Japan's road regulations and a driving ability exam regardless of your nationality. Many Japanese attend driving school in order to pass these tests. Driving school classes, as well as the exams, take place in Japanese, so an ability to read, write and converse in Japanese is necessary. The written portion of the exam is also available in English, Portuguese or Chinese (Reception only in English).

Expiration Dates of a Driver's License

A notice about renewing your driver's license (by postcard)

A driver's license must be renewed within one month of the owner's third birthday after the license was obtained. It can be renewed starting from a month before the third birthday up until a month after the birthday. Staring from the 2nd renewal, a postcard with instructions will be sent to you when the renewal period is approaching. Please read the postcard carefully and proceed to renew your license. The postcard will contain the following information:
  • The period for renewal procedures to take place
  • The details of the license to be renewed and a breakdown of the courses
  • Where and when you can apply for renewal
  • The items that must be brought

Courses for renewing a driver's license

The courses to be attended at the time of renewal depend on the traffic offences and accidents that you have been involved in the prior five years.

Course of Excellence
(30 min)
No accidents or offences Cost
¥600
+Renewal fee
¥2500
General Course
(1 hr)
One minor offence (3 points or lower) ¥950
Offender's Course
(2 hr)
For repeat offendersor those with a 4 point or higher offence ¥1500
Beginner's Course
(2 hr)
For people renewing a license for the first time that have committed no more than one minor offence. ¥1500
Senior Drivers Drivers who will be 70 years of age or older on their license renewal birthday.

License Renewal Procedure Locations

Course of Excellence, Senior Drivers

People applicable for the Course of Excellence and Senior Drivers can renew their license at any police station in the prefecture (except at Hamakita Police Station), or at the Chubu, Tobu or Seibu Driver's License Centers.

General Course, Offender's Course, Beginner's Course

People living in the jurisdictions of the Central Hamamatsu, Eastern Hamamatsu, Iwata, Hamakita, Tenryu and Hosoe Police Stations.
Seibu Driver's License Center: Mon-Fri
People living in places other than those listed above
Please go to your nearby Driver's License Center.
・Tobu Driver's License Center TEL 055-921-2000 (Ashitaka, Numazu-shi)
・Chubu Driver's License Center TEL 054-272-2221 (Yoichi, Aoi-ku, Shizuoka-shi)
・Seibu Driver's License Center TEL 053-587-2000 (Komatsu, Hamakita-ku, Hamamatsu-shi)
Application Times (Mon-Fri)
Driver Category Morning Afternoon
Excellent Drivers
Senior Drivers
8:30–11:00 1:00–3:30
General Drivers 8: 30–9:00 1:00–1:30
Offender Drivers
Beginner Drivers
8:30–9:20 1:00–1:50

Contact

It is also possible to renew your license on Sundays.
Sunday Application Counters beginning in April 2013
Operating Days Locations For Application Hours Course Length
1st Sunday
3rd Sunday
5th Sunday
*All year
(except Dec 29–Jan 3)
Chubu Driver's License Center Excellent and Senior Drivers 8:30–11:00
13:00–15:30
30 min
(*Seniors)
General Drivers 13:00–13:50 1 hr
Offender Drivers 8:30–9:20 2 hr
Beginner Drivers 8:30–9:20
13:00–13:50
2 hr
2nd Sunday Tobu Driver's License Center Excellent and Senior Drivers 8:30–11:00
13:00–15:30
30 min
(*Seniors)
4th Sunday
*All year
(except Dec 29–Jan 3)
Seibu Driver's License Center Excellent and Senior Drivers 8:30–11:00
13:00–15:30
30 min
(*Seniors)
*Please keep in mind that when the Sunday application counters are open at the Tobu and Seibu Driver's License Centers on the 2nd and 4th Sundays respectively, the application counter at the Chubu Driver's License Center will not be open.
Things to be careful of
  • The classes for senior drivers 70 years of age or older will take place at specified driving schools, etc., so please finish the class before coming to apply to renew your license. (Seniors renewing their licenses cannot take classes at the Driver's License Centers.)
  • There are times the counters will be crowded due to license renewals.
  • There are limited parking spaces, so there may be times when all the spaces are filled and you will be unable to park.
For more details, enquire at your nearby Driver's License Center.
・Chubu Driver's License Center TEL 054-272-2221
・Tobu Driver's License Center TEL 055-921-2000
・Seibu Driver's License Center TEL 053-587-2000