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Driving in Japan

Switching to a Japanese driver's licence

If you have a driver's licence issued by one of the following countries, you can easily switch it for a Japanese licence : Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and South Korea.

The procedures is called "gaimen kirikae" (外免切替). First, you must obtain a Japanese translation of your drivers' licence from JAF office or foreign embassy or consulate in Japan. The translation itself cost 3000 yen. You can also send a photocopy of your licence (both sides) to a JAF counter with 3,290yen (the 290 yen are for the return postage) by registered mail for cash (genkin kakitome). It only takes a few days to get the translation by mail. The translation is valid for as long as the driving licence.

Once you have the translation, you have to obtain a Japanese licence at a Driver's Licence Centre in the prefecture where you reside. You will need the following documents :

  • Your foreign driving licence (original)
  • The Japanese translation
  • Your passport
  • Your Alien Registration Card ("gaikokujin torokusho"), or Resident Card (with address).
  • One ID Photo (3cm x 2.4cm)

The application cost 4,150 yen for private vehicles.

The procedures for licence substitution is as follow :

  • Application for licence substitution
  • Aptitude Test
  • Check the applicant's knowledge of the road rules in Japan
  • Check the applicant's driving skills (the applicant will be asked to drive a vehicle at the Driver's Licence Center).
  • Issue of the Japanese driver's licence.

French, German and Swiss driving licences

If you have a driver's licence issued in France, Germany or Switzerland, you can drive in Japan without changing to a Japanese licence. Nevertheless, you will need a Japanese translation of your diving licence, using the procedures described above.

Once you have the translation, you are allowed to drive in Japan for a period of one year. After that, you can only continue to drive by getting a Japanese licence or leaving Japan for at least 3 months.

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