There are two types of non-commercial driver's licenses. One allows you to drive motor vehicles with manual or automatic transmission and the other allows you to drive vehicles with automatic transmission. A non-commercial driver's license does not authorize you to drive while pulling a tow vehicle but it does allow you to drive motor scooters (less than 50cc).
You are required to pass a written (knowledge) test, road test and vision test in order to obtain a Japanese driver's license. Normally, people will enroll at a driving school to help prepare them for these tests. Driving schools provide classes to prepare you for the written test and offer driving lessons on a designed practice course. Once the driving school issues you a learner's permit, you will be permitted to take driving lessons on public roads. After successfully completing the written, road and vision tests, you will be issued a license at you local driver's license office. The written test is available in English, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean or Persian.
A driver's license is valid for three years following your birthday. All address changes must be completed at the local driver's license office of the new address or at a police department. Your driver's license and foreigner registration card are required.
Converting to a Japanese Driver's license
You are still required to take the vision, knowledge and road tests when converting your home country's driver's license to a Japanese driver's license. However, if you have a driver's license issued from one of the countries listed below, you will be exempt from taking the road test. An international driver's license cannot be converted to a Japanese one.
Countries exempt from driving skills test:
Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom.
- Driver's license issued by the government of your home country, a photocopy of the license and its professional Japanese translation (Translation is only accepted from the Japanese Automobile Federation JAF, Embassies or General Consulates.)
- Passport (if the passport is renewed, the original one with the stamped visa is required)
- Alien Registration Card
- Certificate for Original Alien Registration's Recorded Items.
- Photograph (30 mm x 24 mm), taken within the last six months (color or black and white). Two photographs are required to take the driving skills test.
International driver's license
International driver's licenses are valid for only one year after your entry into Japan. After expiry, a Japanese license must be obtained. If you return to your home country to obtain an international driver's license after you've completed your alien registration in Japan, you must stay in your home country for more than 3 months to validate the international driver's license in Japan. Please be advised that lost international driver's licenses cannot be replaced in Japan.