You’ve submitted all the documents, passed the written test, and made an appointment for your driving test (if you haven’t, please read Driving in Japan Part 1 (Preparation and the written test). I wrote this section to try and offer the things that I learned while taking my driving test to obtain my Japanese drivers license. It took me two tries to pass the test and I will include my experiences with both test. First, let me start of by listing the process for those who pass.

  1. Take the driving test
  2. Pay 2,100 yen fee
  3. Submit documents and register pin code (needed for future use)
  4. Wait while they process your documents
  5. Receive ticket and have your picture taken
  6. Receive your drivers license

So let’s go through the process in a little more detail. I recommend that you arrive about 15 minutes early to go over the course and try to memorize it. Consider things like where you will stop, where you will turn, and so on.

At the designated time, they will open the doors and invite you to sit in a classroom setting where they break you into groups and tell you where to go depending on the type of test: manual or automatic and whether you are transfering from an international license or not. Once they call your group, they will ask you to write you name on a sheet of paper and tell you to go to a new room, one located in front of the driving area.

The drive instructor will come in explain which course you will be driving and things you want to pay attention to. It is VERY important to pay close attention to these things as they are the specific things they will be checking. Depending on the instructor, failure to do these things correctly could mean instant failure.

Before continuing on with the key points for the course, I would like to mention two things that made my first try much more difficult than the 2nd. The first was the instructor. The first instructor didn’t seem to like foreigners too much and spoke to us like children. Out of the 16 or so people he only passed 3, and only about 6 people in total were able to finish the entire course. He failed me at the first stop sign for not stopping long enough. The test itself is stressful, but that is amplified when you have someone screaming orders. The second instructor was completely different and treated everyone with respect. If you get a bad instructor, I would suggest setting your next appointment for a different day of the week.

The other is whether to choose an automatic or manual. I have almost always driven a manual, but had never driven a left handed one. That on top of thinking about all the other things made the test much more difficult. Most cars in Japan are automatic, so unless you have a specific reason for needing a manual, I recommend an automatic. So on to the driving course…

The driving test itself is actually pretty short and not too difficult, but there are a few points you must pay attention to when driving. Here is a Google map of Samezu Driving Course. The instructor will give all commands in Japanese, but they are very simple and even people speaking no Japanese can pass.

Unless you are the first person, you will have the chance to sit in the back seat, while the person ahead of you is driving. I recommend that you pretend you are driving the car and think about what you would be doing. When it is your turn, walk around the car and make sure there is nothing in front of the tires. Get in the car, adjust your seat, mirrors, and put on your seatbelt. Be very obvious about doing all of this and take your time. When you are finished, the instructor will ask you if you are ready and you can start the car. Before doing so make sure the emergency brake in engaged and that the car is in neutral (for manual) or parked (for automatic). When you are asked to go, lower the hand brake, and put the car in gear. Drive very slowly to the first stop sign.

The first stop sign is where I failed my first test. Be sure to make a complete stop and wait for about three to five seconds while looking both ways. Make a right turn into the far left lane and drive as smoothly as you can. Always error on the slow side. If you drive to slow they will tell you to speed up a little. If you drive to fast you will fail. You will drive once around the track (stay in the far left lane except for changing lanes to avoid the cone on the far side of the track) and on the second time they will ask you to speed up to about 45km. It is not important to actually reach this speed, but they want to see you control the car at a slightly higher speed and see you brake at the next corner. Just remember to accelerate and brake smoothly. You will make a left turn after the first corner and then need to merge tot he right lane to make a right turn. make the turn once the right arrow turns green (even if the others are all red) and stop before turning left. Make the left turn and then the next left towards the S-course.

The S-course is there to make sure you can navigate the car in narrow roadways. It is narrow, but is not too difficult if you just go slowly. If you think you will hit the curb, back up a little and go again. After finishing the S-course make a left turn and stop at the light if it is red. proceed to the stop sign and make a right turn (remember to stop for a decent amount of time). Pull back in the the original start point and your done. the instructor will let you know if you passed and give you any advice on errors you made.

If you passed, you wait in the room until everyone is finished. If you failed, you go the reservation counter and make a new appointment. Now it is basically a waiting game. One everyone is finished you will follow the instructor and he will submit your papers. Wait till your name is called and you will need to go to the “account” window to pay 2,100yen. Once you receive your stamp, go back to the international window and give them your paper. You will also need to create two pin codes for future renewals and identification. It will take them about an hour to do your paperwork and when finished they will give you a receipt.

Take the receipt to the picture room and get your picture taken. They will tell you to go to the waiting room and wait for your license. wait until the number on the sign gets to the number on your receipt and then ask for your license. If you take the morning test, the offices will close from 12:00-12:50 for lunch and you will get your card at about 1:00pm.

For those who passed congratulations. You won’t have to come back for 3 years until renewal. For those who didn’t pass, don’t worry about it. It takes many people several times to pass. I felt horrible after my first time, but I new what to expect and the different instructor made a huge difference.

Please feel free to comment on your own experiences or ask any questions you may have. Also, if you enjoyed the article please subscribe to my rss feed.