How to get a Japanese driver's license from scratch
If you have no driver's license at all or if you cannot convert your foreign license to Japanese to drive in Japan, there are two ways to get a Japanese license from scratch.
- To attend a designated driving school
- To take theoretical tests and driving tests at the Driver's License Center without attending a designated driving school
In Japan, you are required to complete 2 stages until you get a full driver's license.
Learner's permit stage
You need to pass a theoretical test consisting of 50 questions, and a driving test to get a learner's permit.
After getting a learner's permit, you are required to practise driving for a certain number of days with someone who possesses a Japanese driver's license sitting on the passenger's seat and keeping the record of practice. After the practice period, you are allowed to proceed with the next stage.
You are required to take a theoretical test consisting of 100 questions and a driving test at Okinawa Prefectural Police Driver's License Center* to get a full driver's license.
*If you are enrolled in a driving school, the driving test will be taken at the driving school. After passing the driving test at the driving school, you are required to visit the Driver's License Center to take the theoretical test.
First time practical test: 800JPY (3,350JPY from the second time and on)
A-day-long course at a driving school: 15,400JPY
Driver's license issuance fee: 2,050JPY
The easiest way to get a Japanese driver's license would be to complete a whole driving course at a designated driving school as they train people to be able to drive properly in Japan, and teach people to comply with the Japanese traffic laws and rules. All the theoretical and driving tests except the theoretical test for the full driver's license stage will be held at the designated driving school. It is also true that it costs quite a lot to attend a designated driving school. The average cost for completing the whole course at a designated driving school is said to be around 300,000JPY.
If you are planning to go directly to Okinawa Prefectural Police Driver's License Center to take those tests without any knowledge of driving or Japanese traffic laws and rules, please be aware that it can be an extremely difficult and long process until you pass the final test for the full driver's license because you are expected to perform all the small driving techniques such as "safety checking", "turning left or right", etc. perfectly while in the driving tests and all these techniques have to comply with the Japanese traffic laws and rules. Hence, it is likely that you will be required to keep taking the driving tests until you are able to drive in the way that the proctors expect you to drive. That is why it may be a good idea to attend a designated driving school so you will be able to practise driving at the school and take the driving tests at the school.
Driving school vs Without driving school
Without driving school
The school will teach you how to drive in Japan while observing the traffic rules
May be able to get a license in 1-2 months if you take lessons intensively
Shuttle services to/from the driving schools may be available
All the tests except the final theoretical test are taken at the school
May cost less than going through a driving school course
May take less time than going through a driving school course
Don't have to go through a whole driving course if you already know how to drive
Cost (approximately 300,000JPY)
May take time to complete the whole course if your schedule doesn't fit theirs
May have to get instructions on what you already know if you already know how to drive
Most instructors can speak very little English
Need to visit the Driver's License Center everytime you take the tests
Options for transportation going directly to the Driver's License Center is very limited
Will be required to find someone who will accompany you for several days to practise driving after a provisional license is granted
May be more costly than going through a driving school course if keep failing the tests
May be more time-consuming than going through a driving school course if keep failing the tests
Driving schools are recommended for those who are completely new to driving as they will teach you in detail what you are expected to do while driving. They will also provide you with a textbook illustrating the Japanese traffic laws and rules to study for the theoretical tests.
If you have experience in driving, it may be a good idea to give it a try for taking tests without attending the courses at a designated driving school as it may be less time-consuming and less expensive. However, please keep in mind that you are expected to comply with the Japanese traffic laws and regulations (i.e. Regardless of how good you are at driving, it all depends on whether or not you drive while complying with the Japanese traffic laws and rules.). Hence, the longer your driving experience is, the more difficult it may be to pass the driving tests (because you may have driving habits that don't comply with the Japanese traffic laws and rules). Please also remember that you will have to drive on the left side of the road if you are used to driving on the right side of the road.
- If you want to know more about taking theoretical and driving tests without attending a designated driving school please click here for more information.
- If you want the Resource Center to introduce you to a driving school near OIST, please submit an inquiry through the webform.