Driving in Japan

Obtaining your own set of wheels in Japan is not really a difficult task. Obtaining a Japanese license however, is sometimes a bit of a pain. Hopefully, the information provided below will ease your licensing woes.

International Driver's License

  • If you obtain an international driver's license before coming to Japan, it will be valid for one year from the date of issue. However, you must not use it more than one year after you entered Japan. The maximum validity is one year from the date of landing.
  • Contact your embassy for further details on obtaining an International Driver's License.

Japanese Driver's License

  • Countries that have a driving agreement with Japan
    • Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
    • By submitting the necessary documents shown below as well as an eye examination, your driver's license obtained outside of Japan can be switched to a Japanese one without taking the written or road examination.
  • Countries that don't have a driving agreement with Japan
    • United States, China and Brazil.
    • In addition to submitting the necessary documents shown below, the applicant must also take a written and road test conducted on the examination course to obtain a Japanese driver's license.
  • Scooters 50cc and under
    • Only the written test must be taken to obtain a 50cc scooter license. There is no road test required.
    • Having a Japanese Automobile license automatically covers the license for a 50cc scooter.
    • To obtain a license for a scooter and/or motorcycle that is above 50cc, you must take a separate written and road test. A normal automobile license will not cover it.

Necessary Documents Required for a Japanese License

  • The applicant's overseas driver's license must be valid (an expired licence cannot be transferred).
  • The applicant must be able to prove that he or she stayed in the country where he or she obtained the driver's license for three months or more after obtaining the licence.
  • License applicant forms and examination number (available at the center).
  • One identification photo (3cm by 2.4cm)
  • Certificate of Alien Registration
  • Driver's license from your country
  • Passport
  • ¥4,200 for the procedure free (¥2,400 for application and ¥1,800 for issuing) in case of the ordinary passenger car licence.
  • Your personal seal (signature is acceptable)
  • A Japanese translation of all the information that appears on your country's driver's license. Translation of your license MUST be done by one of the following:
      - Any Japanese embassy or consulate abroad
      - Any foreign embassy or consulate abroad
      - The Japan Automobile Federation (JAF, Nihon Jidosha Renmei)
  • Applications should be made to:
  • Change of Address
      If you change your name and/or address, bring proof of this change. Such as your amended Certificate of Alien Registration to the Ehime Driver's Center.

License Renewal

  • Your Japanese driver's license is valid until your birthday in the third year after its issue. You can renew your license beginning one month before the expiration date at the Ehime Driver's License Center.
  • Necessary Documents Required
      - Driver's License
      - One identification photo (3cm by 2.4cm)
      - Handling Charge ¥2,200
      - Instruction Fee ¥700, ¥1,700
      - If your name or address is changed, please bring the new alien registration.
  • Registration times: 8:00 - 9:30 / 13:00 - 14:00 daily (excluding Saturdays and national holidays)

Failing to Renew Your License

  • You may renew your license within six months after the expiration date at the Ehime Prefectural Driving Test Center by taking the appropriate tests. Bring the following items with you:
      - Expired driver's license
      - Certificate of Alien Registration
      - One identification photo (3x2.4 cm)
      - Your personal seal (signature is acceptable)
      - Renewal fee (Testing fee 2,400 yen and Handling charge 1,800 yen)
  • If you are seriously ill, are not in the country, or other circumstances prevent you from renewing your license within six months of the expiration date, bring the items listed above and evidence proving why you could not go to the center to renew (passport, doctor's note, etc.). When you are able to go, you must renew within one month and take the appropriate tests.
  • Registration time: 13:00 - 13:30 daily (excluding Saturdays and national holidays)

Owning a Car in Japan

  • Parking (shako)
      Before you can buy a car, you must provide evidence that you have a parking space near your home. If your residence does not have a garage, you must rent a parking space in your neighborhood.
  • Automobile Inspection (shaken)
      Automobiles and motorcycles over 251 cc must be inspected at regular intervals.
      You must always carry your inspection certificate when driving.
      Contact the Ehime Office of the Shikoku District Land Transport Bureau (Shikoku Rikuunkyoku Ehime Rikuun Shikyoku) at 089-956-1562 / 089-905-1000.
      For questions about "K" cars (cars with yellow licence plates) contact the Ehime Management Office of the Compact Car Inspection Association (Keijidousha Kensa Kyokai Ehime Jimusho) at 089-975-6730.
  • Insurance (hoken)
      Compulsory Insurance (kyosei hoken) - You must enroll in the compulsory automobile insurance plan when purchasing a vehicle or when having your vehicle inspected. Enroll where you purchase your vehicle or at a vehicle maintenance shop.
      Optional Insurance (nin-i hoken) - Compulsory insurance has only limited coverage. Optional insurance plans will cover accidents not included in the compulsory insurance plans. Furthermore, since compulsory insurance may not completely cover increasingly expensive damage awards, some level of optional insurance is recommended. Inquire about optional insurance policies when purchasing a compulsory insurance policy.
  • Vehicle Registration (sharyo toroku)
      Cars and motorbikes must be registered in the name of the owner and any change in ownership must be reported. Registration usually will be taken care of by the dealer when you buy a vehicle.

Japan Automobile Federation (JAF)

JAF is dedicated to providing auto users in Japan with services that enhance their safety and their sense of security while promoting the importance of road safety. Such services include:

  • Repairs and roadside assistance.
  • Japanese translation of foreign driver's licenses.
      This is available for English, Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, French and German. Bring your Certificate of Alien Registration, passport and driver's license.
      For driver's licences written in Persian, the applicant should take them to respective embassies for translation into Japanese. For more information, contact JAF personnel or Driver's License Center under the prefectural police department.
  • Publication of "Rules of the Road"
      Available in English, Chinese, Korea, Portuguese and Spanish. Price is 1,000 yen.
    Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) Nihon Jidosha Renmei
    15-32 Minamiedo 5 chome, Matsuayma
    (089) 925-8668

Drinking and Driving

  • Even if you have only one drink, it is ILLEGAL to get behind the wheel of any motorised vehicle. This also includes scooters as well as bicycles. DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE!
  • Daiko
      This is a special taxi service that brings you, your friends, and your car back to your residence at the cost of just over a taxi fare. Ask the local JETs for the Daiko number in your area.