Chances are you have lived here for a few months before considering the need for the drivers license. Whether it’s cravings that can only be satisfied by Costco, or your wanderlust is getting the best of you and you want to get off the train path in Japan; getting your license here is a great idea if you are patient!
First stop: JAF. Provided you have a valid license from your home country (few states from the USA are exempt, as is Australia, I believe), then you are able to head to JAF and have the license translated. Your translation will take about two hours… Try going in the morning and combining it with the ward office to get your ‘juminhyo’ while the translation is in the works! Bring cash, as always in Japan.
Be prepared to spend a long day at the DMV when you head there with your other materials. I chose the Samezu DMV Center, and I showed up about twenty minutes before the doors actually opened. As anticipated, there was already a line. Out of sheer paranoia, I went to the DMV armed with my last two passports, an old driver’s license, current American license, Japanese ID, electricity bills from my last residence in the States, and my Kindle. I was able to take the written test on the same day as the paper work, probably because I went nice and early. It was a breeze, although I did find this test helpful to read through a few times beforehand.
There are a few tricks to the course so it helps to take a class beforehand; in my blog post “Moving To Japan” you can find a link to the instructor I used to prep test, or just click here. Please avoid a meltdown like the one I experienced on my first test by coming to a complete stop at the flashing red light.
Think that’s about it. As with anything, don’t make it more than it is. Time consuming, yes, little nerve-racking, double yes, but at the end of the day it is just your ticket to the rest of the world outside of public transportation, no big deal.