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DRIVING IN JAPAN, things to know before coming

When coming to Japan, it can sometimes be useful to want to be able to drive in order to go to places which are difficult to access by train or by bus outside of the urban areas.

There are in total three ways to do so :

  • Switching from a foreign driver’s license to a Japanese driver’s license,
  • Driving with a foreign driver’s license,
  • Driving with an international driver’s license.

 

Below you’ll find more explanation on each of the different systems.

I. Switching from a foreign driver’s license to a Japanese driver’s license

If you have a foreign driver ‘s license, you can switch to a Japanese driver’s license at the driver’s license center of each administrative division.

In order to switch your foreign driver’s license, you need to meed the following two conditions :

– The foreign driver’s license must be valid (the switch cannot be made if the license is expired)

– You must be able to prove that you have stayed in the country you obtained the driver’s license in for more than three months after the day you acquired the license.

The usual procedure for the license switch at the Driver’s License Center goes as follows :

1. Submit application form

2. Capacity test

3. Confirmation of the knowledge of traffic rules

4. Confirmation of driving skill (the driving course is in driving license center)

5. Obtention of the Japanese driver’s license certificate

 

II. Driving with a foreign driver’s license

If you have a driver’s license issued in any of the following countries or regions :

  • Switzerland,
  • Germany,
  • France,
  • Belgium,
  • Slovenia,
  • Monaco,
  • Taiwan;

And carry a Japanese translation of your license, this allows you to drive as well as rent cars in Japan, all according to the laws of Japan.

When driving or renting a car in Japan, you must always carry the Japanese translation of your driving license as well as the original of your driver’s license.

With the translation, you can drive and rent cars in Japan for a period one year starting from your date of entry into Japan. (If you leave Japan then re-enter the country at a later date, you’ll benefit of a period of one more year starting from the date of your re-entry).

To confirm the number of days elapsed since your date of entry, you may be asked to present your passport to police officers during controls that occur while driving.

Once the period of one year since your date of entry into Japan passes, you will not be able to drive or rent cars in Japan even if you’re in possession of the translation. If you are staying in Japan for a long time and driving, it is recommended to make the switch to a Japanese driver’s license. The Japanese translation can also be used for the license switch procedures.

 

III. Driving with an international driver’s license

With an International Driving Permit issued in a foreign country under the Convention on Road Traffic (Geneva Convention of September 19, 1949), you are able to drive and rent cars in Japan, all according to Japanese laws.

Driving and renting cars with an international driver’s license subject to a Convention other than the aforementioned (such as the the Vienna Convention of 1968) is not permitted.

You can drive and rent cars with an international driving license for a period of up to one year starting from your day of entry into Japan (if you leave Japan then re-enter the country at a later date, you’ll benefit of a period of one more year starting from the date of your re-entry).

However, the conditions for the people living in Japan may differ. You’ll have to contact the license center which has jurisdiction over your area of ​​residence for more details.

Once the period of one year since your date of entry into Japan passes, you will not be able to drive or rent cars with an international driver’s license. If you are staying in Japan for a long time and driving, it is recommended to make the switch to a Japanese driver’s license.

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