About Japanese Driver's License

Japanese driver's licenses are issued by the prefectural government's public safety commissions and are overseen on a nationwide basis by the National Police Agency.

List of the contents:

  1. Types of Japanese driver's license

  2. How to read the information on the driver's license card

  3. The expiration of your first driver's license

  4. The expiration of the driver's license (after the first renewal)

  5. Renewing your driver's license

Types of Japanese driver's license

Classes

Name English Description
仮運転免許 Learner's permit (or provisional license) Issued to a new driver undergoing training for their Class 1 license. Requires the driver to display learner's black-on-white plates on the exterior of the vehicle, and to be accompanied by a supervising experienced Class 1 license holder while driving. This license expires unless a learner driver gains a Class 1 license within six months.
第一種運転免許 Class 1 driver's license The ordinary license for operating a private car.
第二種運転免許 Class 2 driver's license Required when operating a commercial passenger-carrying vehicle such as a taxi or a bus. Driver must be 21 years of age or older and have at least three years of experience driving under a Class 1 license (relaxed to two years for members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces).

Categories

Name English Description
大型自動車 Heavy vehicle Any vehicle which weighs 11,000 kg or more in total, has a maximum capacity of 6,500 kg or more, or carries 30 or more people.
中型自動車 Medium vehicle Any vehicle which weighs between 7,500 kg and 11,000 kg in total, has a maximum capacity between 4,500 kg and 7,500 kg, or carries 11 to 29 people.
準中型自動車 Semi-medium vehicle Any vehicle which weighs between 3,500 kg and 7,500 kg in total, has a maximum capacity between 2,000 kg and 4,500 kg , and carries 10 or fewer people.
普通自動車 Ordinary vehicle Any motorised vehicle which weighs less than 3,500 kg in total, has a maximum capacity less than 2,000 kg, and carries 10 or fewer people.
大型特殊自動車 Heavy special vehicle Specialised automotive equipment such as tractors or cranes which are used for particular work and are not classified as small special vehicles.
小型特殊自動車 Small special vehicle Specialized automotive equipment with a maximum speed of 15 km/h or less and no larger than 4.7m × 1.7m × 2.8m.
大型自動二輪車 Heavy motorcycle Any motorcycle with engine displacement over 400cc.
普通自動二輪車 Ordinary motorcycle Any motorcycle with engine displacement over 125cc.
小型自動二輪車 Small motorcycle Any motorcycle with engine displacement over 50cc.
原動機付自転車 Moped Any motorcycle with engine displacement of 50cc or less.

The "restricted to automatic" license (AT限定免許) can be issued for ordinary vehicle (including Class 2 license), ordinary motorcycle and heavy motorcycle license classes.

How to read the information on the driver's license card

  Item Notes
1 Date of birth Date format: (JP era name in kanji)YY/MM/DD The year follows the Japanese era calendar. See this page to convert Western years to the Japanese era years.
2 Name Last name and first name
3 Address  
4 Date of issue of the card Date format: (JP era name in kanji)YY/MM/DD The year follows the Japanese era calendar. See this page to convert Western years to the Japanese era years.
5 Date of expiry of the card* Date format: (JP era name in kanji)YY/MM/DD The year follows the Japanese era calendar. See this page to convert Western years to the Japanese era years.
6 Conditions In this sample, vehicles weighing up to 8 tonnes. Usual default also includes a limitation to Automatic Transmission (AT); separate driving test on manual transmission vehicle required for this permission. If the driver is required to wear glasses or corrective lenses when driving, it will be stated here.
7 "Sample" This doesn't appear on a normal license
8 Superior Annotation for good drivers (with gold background)
9 License number  
10 Date of first issue of motorcycle license Including motorcycles (二輪車), small special vehicle (小型特殊自動車), or moped license (原動機付自転車).
11 Date of first issue of other licenses Other categories exclude commercial ones.
12 Date of first issue of commercial licenses  
13 Valid categories Valid categories are shown in abbreviations in Kanji, invalid only with a hyphen.**
14 Number Intra-office reference number.
15 Issuing authority Public Safety Commission of a prefecture
16 Seal Official seal of the prefectural public safety commission
17 Photo  

*If the license was issued on 1st May 2019 or after, the year follows both the Japanese era calendar and Western calendar as shown below.
        2025年(令和07年)12月26日まで有効 (Valid until 26th Dec 2025(7th year of Reiwa era))
**See the below table for more detailed information.

Categories of license

Abbreviated names of the categories of vehicles the license includes are shown. For illustrative purposes, the below table shows every category. Category names are in the same places on every license. If the category is not included in the license, there is a horizontal bar in the place where the category name is supposed to be.

Abbreviation in kanji 大型 中型 普通

大特

大自二 普自二 小自二 小特
English Heavy vehicle Medium vehicle Ordinary vehicle Heavy special vehicle Heavy motorcycle Ordinary motorcycle Small motorcycle Small special motorcycle
Abbreviation in kanji 原付 け引 大二 中二 普二 大特二 け引二
English Moped Tractor-trailor vehicle Commercial heavy vehicle Commercial medium vehicle Commercial ordinary vehicle Commercial heavy special vehicle Commercial tractor-trailor vehicle

The expiration of your first driver's license

Your first driver's license is valid until one month after the third birthday counted from the issue date.

Example1):

  • Your date of birth: 5th November
  • Issue of your first driver's license: 3rd November 2020
  • The expiration date of your first driver's license: 5th December 2022 (one month after the third birthday counted from the issue date)

Example2):

  • Your date of birth: 5th November
  • Issue of your first driver's license: 6th November 2020
  • The expiration date of your first driver's license: 5th December 2023 (one month after the third birthday counted from the issue date)

The expiration of the driver's license (after the first renewal)

The validity period of a Japanese driver's license depending on;

  1. the driver's driving history
  2. the driver's age

Please refer to the below table for more details.

Driver category The validity period of the license
Drivers who have had the license for less than 5 years 3 years*
Drivers who have incurred penalty points on their previous license
Drivers whose age is 71 or more
Drivers whose age is 70 4 years**
Drivers who fall under none of the above 5 years***

*The renewed license will be valid until one month after the third birthday counted from the expiry date of the previous license
**The renewed license will be valid until one month after the fourth birthday counted from the expiry date of the previous license
***The renewed license will be valid until one month after the fifth birthday counted from the expiry date of the previous license

Failing to renew your driver's license and continuing to drive after it expires can result in a fine and disqualification from driving. Therefore, beware of the expiry date stated on the license.

Renewing your driver's license

Please check out our webpage illustrating how to renew your driver's license