外免切替:                        .。・Switching to a Japanese Driver’s License・。.

2015.08.12 (Wed)

This past June, I went through the process of switching my license to a Japanese driver’s license and wanted to make a post for anyone wanting to switch from a foreign driver’s license to a Japanese driver’s license. It may seem a bit daunting, but it is actually quite straightforward (and doable) once you get the ball rolling. Just as a disclaimer, this is based on my experience as an American switching my license in Tottori while holding a valid International Driving Permit. Your experience may be a bit different based on nationality, location, timing, etc., but overall should be about the same.

Japanese Translation

  • You can get this at the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF), foreign embassies   and consulates in Japan, or the licensing authority that originally issued your license.
      ※The translation must be issued by one of the above.
  • Your foreign license must be valid.
  • You must have held it for 90 days before coming to Japan.
      ※If you have to renew your license before coming to Japan, make sure you do so more than 90 days before your departure to Japan. Another option is to bring your expired license as well as the renewed license to prove that you held a license for more than 3 months before coming to Japan.
  • I got my translation from the JAF Tottori branch, so the details below are based on the current (2015) JAF requirements and process.
    • No appointment necessary.
    • ¥3,000 license translation fee
    • ¥392 postage fee
    • Processing could take 1~3 weeks
      ※Mine came the next day, so I think this depends on how busy the center is. Regardless, it is probably better to plan accordingly and leave plenty of time, just in case.
  • JAF (Tottori City, Tottori Prefecture):
    JAF Tottori Road Service Center
    2-13 Chiyomi, Tottori-shi, Tottori-ken
    TEL: 0857-31-4949


JAF鳥取ロードサービスセンターDocuments Needed JAF



  • After obtaining the translation of your foreign license, you are able to set up an appointment with your local driving center for submitting your documentation for review, as well as an interview concerning the process of how you got your license.
  • I set up the appointment for my interview/document submission at the Yurihama Driver’s License Center (it was held in the afternoon- there may be certain hours when the driving centers will hold the interviews, so please check with wherever you are applying).
      For anyone who does not speak Japanese, an interpreter is needed as the interview is conducted in Japanese (if you are a resident of Yurihama and need an interpreter for your driver’s license interview, please contact the Town Office Planning Division).
  • Appointment required.
  • You first submit the documents required (see below) and will wait a while those are reviewed before beginning the interview.
  • The interview is primarily based on the process you went through in getting your foreign driver’s license.
      ※You might want to take some time to recall the steps, dates, log hours, and other requirements you went through in getting your license. I found that I had forgotten a bit regarding my driver’s education course and the timing between the written and driving portions of my US driving exam.
  • When this is finished, you will wait a few days while a report regarding your license is approved.
  • Yurihama Driver’s License Center
    216 Kamiasozu, Yurihama-chō, Tōhaku-gun,
    Tottori-ken, Japan
    TEL: 0858-35-6110

Documents Needed Driving Center

Driving Test

  • After you hear about the results of the interview and document inspection, you are able to set up an appointment for your vision and hearing tests, the written portion of the examination, and the driving portion of the examination (if you have time and would like to, but you are not required to take it at that time).
  • I also set up the appointment for the examination at the Yurihama Driver’s License Center. As with the interview/document submission, this was held in the afternoon.
  • The application fee was ¥2,200. If you need to retake the driving portion of the test, you will have to pay the application fee each time you go.

Sight and Hearing

  • The tests run for the vision and hearing portion are the usual ones you would expect. Nothing too strenuous.

Written Portion

  • The written portion of the driving test includes 10 questions. You must get 7 out of 10 correct in order to pass.
  • Overall, it is not too difficult and is not the test that the Japanese citizens would take. While it is generally based on common sense and basic driving rules, it might be a good idea to review Japanese road signs and basic Japanese driving laws.
  • Useful Links


  • I chose to take the driving portion on the same day as my written exam. Before the actual test, they have you watch a video (it is a little under 30 minutes, if I remember correctly). It was in Japanese and a little bit dated, but still applicable and had some good reminders and tips for the driving test.
  • There will usually be another person taking the test who would ride along with you (and you would sit in the back while they take their test as well). I was the only one taking it in the afternoon, so they had one of the employees sit in the back of the car while I drove.
  • In Yurihama, the this portion is held on a driving course with two general patterns that the center alternates between. The test administrator will tell you what to do during the test, so you fortunately do not need to memorize these. You may have an interpreter, but I would also recommend at least reviewing common driving commands for turning right/left.
  • With the exception of the optional driving test following the written exam, the driving portion is held in the morning. You do not need an appointment, but it is a good idea to go early to ensure you are able to take the exam.
  • Your license will be issued on the same day you pass the exam. The issuance fee when I went was ¥2,050.


As you may have already heard, it is difficult to pass the driving portion on the first try- but not impossible! I think it is important to be aware of some of the habits you have formed over the years and recognize which ones you might want to avoid while taking the exam.

My general advice would be to be sure to check your mirrors and environment during the test and err on the side of caution. Check at the intersection for other cars and bicycles- even if you have the green light at the intersection. Also remember to check your blind spots and remember there is no need to rush.

You should use your blinker starting from 30 meters away and use the hand-over-hand method when making turns. Leave your blinker on for 3 seconds before changing lanes, and if you accidentally go up on a curb, stop and reverse.

It is all in Japanese, but this video has some great tips and gives you a good idea of what to expect: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KDJl_QeF3k

Best of luck to anyone looking to switch their license!☆

Just a reminder- you want to make sure that you apply for a Japanese license BEFORE your international driving permit expires (and with enough time left to allow for processing, rescheduling, or any possible hitches that could come up).




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