Thursday, February 2, 2012

Japanese Driver's License

For a while, I considered applying for a Japanese driver's license.

There are numerous laws regarding the privilege to drive in Japan. As an American, I am part of a very difficult and grueling system which involves having to retake the road test I took when I was 16, in order to prove that I am capable of what I've been doing for nearly a year.

In order to drive in Japan, I went to AAA, paid $30, and obtained an International Driver's Permit. This booklet gives me permission to drive in a multitude of countries for up to a year after issue. My year started and ends on April 1st. After one year, the Japanese government requires foreigners to apply for a Japanese driver's license.

With most countries, getting a license is as easy as taking a written test and filling out some paperwork. Not so for the US. Because my country is composed of 50 states, each of which has different laws regarding motor vehicles, there is no formal agreement between the US and Japanese governments in terms of license issuance standards. Meaning I have to start over, from scratch, as though I'm fresh out of driving school.

The process is long and expensive. You must pay money to translate your own license into Japanese, pay for each of the tests, and pay various fees and "donations." Most foreigners taking the test fail their first time. You will have to pay again to retake the test every time. There is only one DMV in each prefecture that allows foreigners to test, so you must pay to travel there (in my case, the capitol which is two hours by car, longer by train).

I decided it wasn't worth it.

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