Want to drive in Japan? An international driver’s license is valid for only 12 months. After that time, you need to get a Japanese license. How do you do so? Read on.

Option 1: Convert your foreign license

You can switch your foreign license to a Japanese license by applying at a Driving License Centre.

There are two conditions that must be fulfilled:

1. The applicant’s foreign driver’s license must be valid (expired licenses cannot be transferred).

2. The applicant must be able to prove that he or she stayed in the issuing country for at least three months in total after obtaining the license.

*You may need to prove this, some people need a “proof of entering/exiting the country” paper from their home country

The procedure is as follows:

1. Submission of application documents

Documents required are:

  • Japanese Translation of Foreign Driver’s License issued by JAF
    • To apply for the translation, fill out this application form:
    •  Submit this form along with:
      • Your driving license (if in person, the original, copies of the front/back in colour if by post)
      • A photocopy of your residence card
      • 3,000 yen + plus 500 yen return postage by registered postal cash envelope
      • * For an Israeli driver’s license, an English certificate from the local driver’s license issuing authority or embassy is required.
    • The translation will be completed within two weeks. They encourage you to send the application by post due to Covid.
  • Passport
  • Foreign driver’s license
  • Residence card
  • Juminhyo (proof of residence)

2. Eye test

3. Traffic rule knowledge check

This is a test in English with 10 multiple choice questions.

4. Driving skill check (The applicant is asked to actually drive a vehicle at a course in the Driver’s License Center.)

5. Issuance of the Japanese driver’s license

People with a license from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, or the United Kingdom can skip steps 3-5, there is no need for a theory or practical test.

Option 2: Obtain a Japanese license from scratch

To get a license from scratch, you must first get a learner’s permit.

How to get a learner’s permit:


  • Juminhyo (residence certificate obtained from the ward office)
  • 2 headshots
  • Your residence card
  • 850 yen + 3,100 yen for the car rental for the test + the learner’s license
  • Passport

Schedule a morning appointment in advance by phone. On the day, take a theory test consisting of 50 questions, you need 45 to pass.

Then if you pass, take a driving test.

If you pass, you must practice for 5+ days (maximum 6 months) with someone who has a Japanese driving license (for 3+ years). You must keep records of this practice. You must display your learner’s permit on the car.

After the set time has elapsed, you must go for your full license.

How to get a full license:


  • Learner’s license
  • Residence card
  • 1 headshot
  • Practice report (record of driving)
  • Juminhyo
  • 2,200 yen for the theory test + 900 yen for the driving test + 13,700 yen for the lecture + 2,050 yen for the license
  • Passport

In the morning, register for then take a theory test consisting of 100 questions. You need 90+ to pass.

Then, take a driving test. If you pass you will also need to attend a lecture in Japanese (shutokuji-kosyu). You will also need to take an eye test. No Japanese is needed, just point up, down, left or right depending on where the opening in the circle is.

Do it yourself or attend a driver’s school?

A driving school costs around 300,000 yen, so it is quite expensive. However it is more convenient as they will teach you all the Japanese road rules, and you can sit the test for the learner’s license at the school. The driving school will also tell you all the tips and tricks to look out for in the practical exam, such as “make sure to keep 70cm from the curb at all times”.

However, if you already know how to drive then a driving school may be a waste of money. Just make sure you have someone with a Japanese license whom you can fulfill your driving practice requirement with.

Good luck! If you need help making a reservation, or need interpretation at the driving centre, we can help you!

Author: Dara Robinson
Dara grew up in New Zealand, Australia and the USA and has lived in Japan since 2014. She has experience with Japanese bureaucracy and has enrolled her three year old daughter in both daycare and kindergarten in Japan. She loves to travel and has been to all 47 prefectures of Japan.

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