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 complete a whole driving course at a driving school
- To take theoretical tests and driving tests at the Driver's License Center without going through a 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 consists 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 certain number of days with someone who possesses a Japanese driver's license sitting on the passenger's seat and keep the record of practice. After the practice period, you are allowed to proceed with the next stage.
- Full-license stage
You are required to take a theoretical test consists of 100 questions and a driving test at Okinawa Prefectural Police Driver's License Center to get a full driver's license.
The easiest way to get a Japanese driver's license would be to complete a whole driving course at a 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 will be held at a driving school. It is also true that it costs quite a lot to go through the whole course at a driving school. The average cost for completing the whole course at a driving school is said to be ca.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 go through a whole course at a 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 traffice 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 availeble
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 details what you are expected to do while driving. They will also provide you with a texbook illustrating the Japaese 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 going through a driving school course 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 in driving, it all depends on whether or not you drive while complying with the Japanese traffice laws and rules.). Hence, the longer your drving experience is, the more difficlt it may be to pass the driving tests (because you may have driving habits which don't comply with the Japanese traffice 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 going to a 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.