Getting A Driving License In Japan

Obtaining A Japanese Driving License

Japanese Driving License 運転免許

Getting a Japanese driving license.

For most short-stay foreign visitors an International Driving Permit (IDP) issued by your national automobile association is sufficient to drive in Japan for up to 12 months.

However travelers from Belgium, France, Italy, Taiwan, Germany and Switzerland and nationals of countries that are not signatories to the 1949 Geneva Convention on international driving licenses must have an authorized Japanese translation of their own license obtainable from JAF or an embassy or consulate office in Japan (and their own national license).

In some cases (though not the for the US) translations may be obtainable from your embassy or consulate in Japan. Check first with your own country's representatives in Japan.

Getting A Driving License in Japan

All drivers who are resident in Japan for more than 12 months must obtain a Japanese driving license to drive, buy or rent a car.

On paper, former residents of Japan who then depart the country for more than three consecutive months before returning again are able to continue driving in Japan with an International Driving Permit, so long as it has been renewed within the past year.

However, the reality is that decisions regarding the validity of an International Driver's Permit are at the discretion of the Japanese police, and a foreign driver suspected of a traffic offense while driving with an IDR is more at risk of prosecution than one driving with a Japan-issued driver's license.

Therefore only visitors on 90-day tourist visas should use an IDP and people resident in Japan for more than 90 days should obtain a Japanese driving license.

Drivers from a number of countries that have reciprocal agreements with Japan can obtain a driver's license in Japan with the minimum of fuss. These countries include: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, New Zealand, South Korea, Spain and Switzerland.

Residents of these nations can obtain a Japanese license without the need for a written exam or actual driving test. Drivers from these countries must present an official translation of their license from their embassy or from the Japanese Automobile Federation (JAF), undertake an eye test, and show that they have resided in the country that issued their driving license for at least 3 months after receiving their driving license.

Translations of foreign licenses to obtain a Japanese license (gaimen kurikae) currently cost 3,000 yen if issued by JAF.

Japanese driving licenses for cars are also valid for motorbikes up to 50cc engine capacity (without passengers). For motorbikes over 50cc and for riders who wish to carry passengers, riders must obtain a separate driving license specific for motorcycles.

Japanese driving license.Japanese driving licenses contain a photograph, the name, date of birth and address of the holder
Japanese K-car.
Cars with under 1000cc engine capacity have yellow number plates and are called K-cars in Japan

Driving License Validity In Japan

Japanese driving licenses are valid for a period of 5 years if you have no penalties. You will receive a reminder from your local License Center to attend within a period of 60 days one month before your birthday and a month afterwards. Renewing your license (if you do not have any penalties) entails paperwork, an eye test, a photograph taken at the center, a small renewal fee (3,250 yen) and a road safety lecture with video. If you do have penalties on your license, you will be forced to sit through a longer video.

Japanese Driving Test

Drivers from countries that do not have a reciprocal agreement with Japan such as Brazil, China or the USA must take a special, simplified version of the Japanese driving test. This involves a written and practical exam which few people, even experienced drivers, pass at the first attempt.

To take the Japanese driving test you must attend your local driving license examination center. You will need to take along your passport, foreign driver's license, a translation of your license and your alien registration card. There are a number of fees you will be required to pay during the process. It is a good idea to take a prepatory lesson in advance of your Japanese driving test.

English versions of the written exam are available in all 47 prefectures, Chinese versions of the Japanese driving test written examination are available in Kyoto, Miyagi, Kumamoto and Wakayama prefectures and a Portuguese version can be taken in Shizuoka Prefecture.

Tokyo License Examination Centers

License examination centers are where you must go to get your first Japanese driver's license, or replace a license that has already expired (as opposed to renewing a license before its expiry date).

Koto Driver's License Center
1-7-24, Shin-Suna, Koto-ku
Tel: 03 3699 1151
Tokyo Map - search for "Koto Driver's License Center"

Fuchu Driver's License Center
3-1-1, Tama-cho, Fuchu-shi
Tel: 042 362 3591
Hours: 8:30 a.m. - noon; 1:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
To get there: Musashi-koganei Station on the JR Chuo Line, South Exit, bus stop no. 6 (on the far side of the bus area from the station)
Tokyo Map - search for "Fuchu Driver's License Center"

Samezu Driver's License Center
1-12-5, Higashi-Oi, Shinagawa-ku
Tel: 03 3474 1374
Tokyo Map - search for "Samezu Driver's License Center"

Tokyo License Renewal Centers

A license renewal center is where you go to renew a driver's license before its expiry date. It is recommended that you go to the Kanda Driving License Renewal Center or the Shinjuku Driving License Renewal Center, as police station driving license renewal centers often have severe restrictions on who is eligible to use them. If you want to use a police station driving license renewal center, check first that you are eligible.

Kanda Driving License Renewal Center
3F, Tokyo-to Bureau of Industrial and Labor Affairs Building, 1-1-5 Uchikanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03-3294-3380
Tokyo Map - search for "Kanda Driving License Renewal Center"
Most convenient for residents of the following wards: Chiyoda, Chuo, Minato, Bunkyo, Taito, Sumida.

Shinjuku Driving License Renewal Center
2F, No.2 Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, 2-8-1 Nishi-shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03-3343-2558
Hours: 8.30am-11.30am; 1pm-4.30pm; Mon-Fri (closed on public holidays)
Tokyo Map - search for "Shinjuku Driving License Renewal Center"
Most convenient for residents of the following wards: Shinjuku, Nakano, Suginami, Shibuya, Toshima.

Den-en Chofu Police Station
License Renewal Center, 2F (the building next door to the main police station, on Kan-Pachi Dori street) 1-1-8 Den-en Chofu, Ota-ku, Tokyo 145-0071
Tel (English-speaking): 03 5463 6000
Hours: 8.30am-11.30am; 1pm-4.30pm; Mon-Fri (closed on public holidays)
Tokyo Map - search for "Den-en Chofu Police Station Driving License Renewal Center"
Most convenient for eligible residents of the following wards: Ota, Shinagawa.
N.B. Restrictions (related to age, number of years driving, etc.) often apply to eligibility to renew a license at a police station driving license renewal center. Telephone first.

Setagaya Police Station
License Renewal Center (the building behind the main police station and facing the park) 2-4-4 Sangenjaya, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 154-8524
Tel: 03 5463 6000
Hours: 8.30am-11.30am; 1pm-4.30pm; Mon-Fri (closed on public holidays)
Tokyo Map - search for "Setagaya Police Station Driving License Renewal Center"
Most convenient for eligible residents of the following wards: Ota, Shinagawa.
N.B. Restrictions (related to age, number of years driving, etc.) often apply to eligibility to renew a license at a police station driving license renewal center. Telephone first.

Seijo Police Station
License Renewal Center, (the two-story glass-facade northern end of the main police station) 3-19-1 Chitosedai, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 157-0071
Tel: 03 3482 0110
Hours: 8.30am-11.30am; 1pm-4.30pm; Mon-Fri (closed on public holidays)
Tokyo Map - search for "Seijo Police Station Driving License Renewal Center"
Most convenient for eligible residents of the following wards and cities: Setagaya, Suginami, Chofu, Komae.
N.B. Restrictions (related to age, number of years driving, etc.) often apply to eligibility to renew a license at a police station driving license renewal center. Telephone first.

Itabashi Police Station
License Renewal Center, (the building across the road from the main police station and facing the park) 2-60-13 Itabashi, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo 173-0004
Tel: 03 3964 0110
Hours: 8.30am-11.30am; 1pm-4.30pm; Mon-Fri (closed on public holidays)
Tokyo Map -search for "Itabashi Police Station Driving License Renewal Center"
Most convenient for eligible residents of the following wards: Itabashi, Kita, Toshima.
N.B. Restrictions (related to age, number of years driving, etc.) often apply to eligibility to renew a license at a police station driving license renewal center. Telephone first.

Shakujii Police Station
License Renewal Center, (the single-story building 50m behind the main police station) 6-17-26 Shakujiimachi, Nerima-ku, Tokyo 177-0041
Tel: 03 3904 0110
Hours: 8.30am-11.30am; 1pm-4.30pm; Mon-Fri (closed on public holidays)
Tokyo Map - search for "Shakujii Police Station Driving License Renewal Center"
Most convenient for eligible residents of the following wards and cities: Nerima, Higashi-kurume, Higashi-tokyo, Kiyose.
N.B. Restrictions (related to age, number of years driving, etc.) often apply to eligibility to renew a license at a police station driving license renewal center. Telephone first.

Shitaya Police Station
License Renewal Center, (the building next to the main police station; the entrance is on the opposite side of the entrance to that of the main police station) 3-15-9 Shitaya, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0004
Tel: 03 3872 0110
Hours: 8.30am-11.30am; 1pm-4.30pm; Mon-Fri (closed on public holidays)
Tokyo Map - search for "Shitaya Police Station Driving License Renewal Center"
Most convenient for eligible residents of the following wards: Taito, Arakawa, Adachi.
N.B. Restrictions (related to age, number of years driving, etc.) often apply to eligibility to renew a license at a police station driving license renewal center. Telephone first.

Takenotsuka Police Station
License Renewal Center, (through the main entrance of the police station, the special entrance to the left, and up the spiral staircase to the second floor) 1-16-4 Hokima, Adachi-ku, Tokyo 121-0064
Tel: 03 3850 0110
Hours: 8.30am-11.30am; 1pm-4.30pm; Mon-Fri (closed on public holidays)
Tokyo Map - search for "Takenotsuka Police Station Driving License Renewal Center"
Most convenient for eligible residents of the following wards: Taito, Arakawa, Adachi.
N.B. Restrictions (related to age, number of years driving, etc.) often apply to eligibility to renew a license at a police station driving license renewal center. Telephone first.

Honjo Police Station
License Renewal Center, (inside the main police station), 4-29-5 Ryogoku, Sumida-ku, Tokyo 130-0026
Tel: 03 3634 0110
Hours: 8.30am-11.30am; 1pm-4.30pm; Mon-Fri (closed on public holidays)
Tokyo Map - search for "Honjo Police Station Driving License Renewal Center"
Most convenient for eligible residents of the following wards: Sumida, Koto, Edogawa, Katsushika.
N.B. Restrictions (related to age, number of years driving, etc.) often apply to eligibility to renew a license at a police station driving license renewal center. Telephone first.

Oume Police Station
License Renewal Center, (next door to main police station), 4-6-3 Nogamicho, Oume-shi, Tokyo 198-0032
Tel: 0428 22 0110
Hours: 8.30am-11.30am; 1pm-4.30pm; Mon-Fri (closed on public holidays)
Tokyo Map - search for "Oume Police Station Driving License Renewal Center"
Most convenient for eligible residents of the Tama area.
N.B. Restrictions (related to age, number of years driving, etc.) often apply to eligibility to renew a license at a police station driving license renewal center. Telephone first.

Tachikawa Police Station
3233-2 Midoricho, Tachikawa-shi, Tokyo 190-0014
Tel: 042 527 0110
Hours: 8.30am-11.30am; 1pm-4.30pm; Mon-Fri (closed on public holidays)
Tokyo Map search for "Tachikawa Police Station Driving License Renewal Center"
Most convenient for eligible residents of the Tama area.
N.B. Restrictions (related to age, number of years driving, etc.) often apply to eligibility to renew a license at a police station driving license renewal center. Telephone first.

Takao Police Station
License Renewal Center, (across the road from the main police station), 23-34 Higashi-asakawamachi, Hachioji-shi, Tokyo 193-0834
Tel: 042 665 0110
Hours: 8.30am-11.30am; 1pm-4.30pm; Mon-Fri (closed on public holidays)
Tokyo Map - search for "Takao Police Station Driving License Renewal Center"
Most convenient for eligible residents of the Tama area.
N.B. Restrictions (related to age, number of years driving, etc.) often apply to eligibility to renew a license at a police station driving license renewal center. Telephone first.

Machida Police Station
License Renewal Center, (around the corner from the main police station), 3-1-3 Asahimachi, Machida-shi, Tokyo 194-0023
Tel: 042 722 0110
Hours: 8.30am-11.30am; 1pm-4.30pm; Mon-Fri (closed on public holidays)
Tokyo Map - search for "Machida Police Station Driving License Renewal Center"
Most convenient for eligible residents of the Tama area.
N.B. Restrictions (related to age, number of years driving, etc.) often apply to eligibility to renew a license at a police station driving license renewal center. Telephone first.

Nagoya License Center

Nagoya License Center
2845 Kuroishi, Hirabari, Tenpaku-ku
Tel: 052 801 3211

Kyoto License Center

Kyoto License Center
647 Furukawa-cho Hazuka-shi Fushimi-ku
Kyoto 612-8486
Tel: 075 631 5181

Useful Driving-Related Links & Addresses

JAF - (Tel: 0570 002811) Japanese Automobile Federation
Globalcompassion - Japanese Driving Test Tips
US Embassy Tips For Driving In Japan


Guide Books on Japan


Goods From Japan to your home or business.