my place in japan

How to move into Japan

Driving Manners and the IDP! Driving in Japan part 1

Driving in Japan

  Getting your license in Japan can be one of the biggest ordeals of your stay in Japan (If you are from a country that needs more than an eye test that is!) and no matter any driver that you ask, they will most likely have a 'story' to share with you.  The road can be long, but with proper preparation, you can get on the road with the least amount of resistance. 

Traffic rules and manners in Japan

First of all, I would like to explain how people get their driver’s licenses in Japan.  Japanese natives usually spend a lot of money and time to graduate from their driving schools and take and pass the final written exam at the prefectural driver’s license centers in order to obtain a Japanese driver’s license.  Just to briefly explain, they have to be over the age of 18 to go to driving schools and then take the final written test at the prefectural license center. In general, they have to pay around 250,000 to 300,000 yen (roughly 2,700 US dollars) just go to their driving schools where they are required to take about 26 hours of traffic rule classes, and 34 hours of actual driving lessons (and they have to pass each driving lesson and get a stamp on their driving lesson sheet).  After graduating from their driving schools, they can finally take the final written test at their prefectural license centers.

So if you are planning to drive a car in Japan to commute to your workplace or school, you have to know what the traffic rules and manners are like in Japan.  If you don’t know the rules and manners, there is a big chance that you might get in a car accident or other automobile-related troubles.

In Japan, cars drive on the left side of the road and have the driver’s seat and steering wheel on their right by default.  As many of you know, Japan is a very small country with a high population density; therefore, you have to be very careful when you are driving because you always have to be alert not only for normal-sized vehicles, but also for lots of pedestrians, bikers, motorcycles, and other big trucks and trailers.  In many areas, especially in big cities, roads are very narrow, and there are so many signs, lights, intersections, and one-way roads. That’s why you always have to be focusing on driving because you never know when people (especially small kids and the elderly) jump into the roads all the sudden. Most of signs on major roads are both in Japanese and English, but sometimes, it is very hard to read the signs in English since the English signs are always right under the Japanese signs and tend to be in small letters.

JAF (Japanese Automobile Foundation) provides very useful and helpful information in English regarding the traffic rules and manners in Japan for overseas drivers, so please check out their website below!

International Driver’s Permit (License)

International Driver’s Permit (IDP) makes it easy for people from all over the world to drive in foreign countries while traveling or living there.  And yes, it is legal for you to drive a car with your IDP in Japan. I suppose that a lot of foreign people who are trying to live in Japan get their IDPs from their home countries so that they can rent or buy a car for commuting to their workplaces, schools, or traveling throughout Japan.  

However, it is very important to keep it in mind that your IDP is only valid for 1 year from the day your IDP was issued in your home country.  Let’s say that your IDP was issued on 1/May/2018, and you came to Japan on 1/Jul/2018.  In this case, you can only drive in Japan with your IDP from 1/Jul/2018 to 30/Apr/2019.  This means that you can use your IDP only for 10 months (not from the day it was issued in your home country), and your IDP can not be renewed in Japan!  So if you are planning to continue to drive your car in Japan after your IDP is expired, you must obtain a Japanese driver’s license before it gets expired.  It is recommended that you should start the process for obtaining the Japanese license as soon as you can. The sooner, the better. Please remember that there are a lot of things you need to bring in order to obtain your Japanese driver’s license at the prefectural license center.  For this process, I will explain to you in the next chapter. So stay tuned for some more useful information.

  Hopefully this article helped you gain some insight before you begin the journey to obtaining your Japanese driver's license!  Feel free to let us know what you think by shooting an e-mail to us at!

 Set sail to a new life, may ships take you on the seas, through the skies, and over the land towards my place in Japan.

Until next time, from all of of here at take care!

Kei & Phil