We have already written about how to get a Japanese driver’s license, so now we will talk about how to renew your driving license in Japan.
There are several places where you can renew your license in Tokyo.
There are the main driving centers:
- Samezu Driver’s License Center in Shinagawa
- Koto Driver’s License Center in Koto-ku
Or, you can go to a license renewal center:
- Shinjuku Driver’s License Renewal Center in Shinjuku
- Kanda Driver’s License Renewal Center in Shinjuku
You can choose based on which is closest to your house, or most convenient for you. The two main centers have more foreigners attending them so they have a bit more English signage, while the renewal centers may not be as English friendly.
I decided to go to the Kanda Renewal Center, which is a 10 minute walk from JR Kanda Station.
Finding the building:
I could navigate to the building easily enough using my smartphone, but I had to double check I was at the right place upon arrival, as the building name is listed only in Japanese, with no English signs at all. You should look for the building circled in the picture below.
Once inside the building:
Inside the building, all the signs are again only in Japanese, so simply proceed to the third floor. I went to the second floor first, but the guard told me to head upstairs, so they will guide you if you go to the wrong place.
The renewal process:
When you reach the third floor, you might feel a bit confused as there are many numbered counters, many people and no English signs at all.
DON’T: Waste 800 yen in the photo booth by the entrance getting an ID photo of yourself. I thought I would need it since it was right by the entrance, but actually I did not.
DO: Line up at counter 1.
Step 1: Line up at counter 1
At counter 1 they will give you a form to fill out, along with an English translation of the form. They will also take a look at your documents.
Step 2: Fill out the form that you just received
Using the English template, fill out the form. The front page has no English template, but you just need to write name, address, birth date, gender and today’s date. There was another box that I couldn’t read, so I left it blank and no one seemed to mind. This form is very short, it shouldn’t take more than two minutes.
Step 3: Line up at counter 2
At counter 2, just submit your form. It’s very simple, then move on to the next line. You will also pay for the new license here. You also need to confirm your name and birth date are correct.
Step 4: Line up at counter 3
Here you will take a quick eye test. For the eye test, just point in the direction that that opening on the circle faces. For example, if you see a U shape, point up. They will give you a receipt and tell you to wait for your name to be called at counter 4.
Step 4: Wait at counter 4
The staff will process your documents and call you to counter 4 when it’s your turn. Wait for about 10 minutes here. When they call your name, simply take all the paperwork they give you.
Step 5: Take your ID photo
Next you will take your ID photo. The place to do this is right after the counter, so it’s easy to find. Keep a neutral face, don’t smile. Once done, take all your paperwork and head downstairs.
Step 6: Go to level 2
On level 2, there is a desk in the hallway. Hand your documents to the people working this desk and they will write a letter on your paper. This indicates which room you need to go to. I had to attend a one-hour lecture, so I was sent to Room D. Go to your assigned room and wait for the start time. I arrived at 11:45 and had to wait for the 12:00-1:00 lecture.
Step 7: Attend the lecture
The length of your lecture depends on the type of license you are receiving. Beginners or people with infractions need to take a two-hour lecture. The one-hour lecture that I attended involved listening to a man speak and refer to several booklets (all in Japanese). I didn’t understand much of what he said, but I just turned to the pages that he referred to and tried to look engaged. After that, you do a quiz for which they will give you an English template. Finally you will watch a road safety video. The video has English subtitles so you can fully understand it. After the video finishes, you can line up to receive your new license. The instructor will call numbers in small groups in Japanese only, so either wait for your number to be called or just go up last if you don’t understand the numbers.
Step 8: That’s it, you’re done! Now you can go home
The process is a bit confusing if you don’t speak Japanese, but not impossible. If you follow all of these steps, it should be fairly straightforward. If you’re still nervous, Omakase Helper can provide an interpreter for you.
IMPORTANT – Make sure you bring the following documents with you:
- The postcard you received in the mail informing you that your license needs renewing
- Your residence card
- Money for the new card (between 3000-4000 yen)