How to Get a Driver’s License in Japan Without Speaking Japanese

Source: Gaijin Pot
Getting your driver's license in Japan.

I’ll be honest, the thought of driving a car absolutely terrifies me. Since I have chosen to make a rural place like Nagano Prefecture my home, however, life would be a whole lot easier if I had a car. Walking 40 kilometers a week to and from work is getting a bit tiresome, to say the least.

My Japanese is conversational, though I’m by no means fluent. So, when it comes to official business like contract negotiations, legal issues, or getting a car on the road, I still prefer to fall back on my native English.

Like most things in Japan, getting your license is complicated, expensive, and involves a whole lot of paperwork.

This presents a problem for me in learning to drive. Yes, there are several driving schools available, and there’s even one about 10 minutes’ walk from my house. Unfortunately, nobody on their staff speaks any English, nor do they offer any information in English.

It quickly became clear to me that learning to drive in Nagano was not an option unless I could somehow drastically raise my level of reading and writing in Japanese. Before finding the proper English-speaking driving school (which I’ll list at the end of this article), here’s the process you’re in for if you decide to get your Japanese driver’s license.

Process of getting your Japanese driver’s license

This could all be yours.

Like most things in Japan, getting your license is complicated, expensive, and involves a whole lot of paperwork. If you already have a license back home, the process is much easier, although still annoying. We’ll look at both circumstances and you can use the links below to jump to the section that applies to you.

I already have a license in my …continue reading