1. License/permit required to drive a car in Japan
To drive a car in Japan, you need one of the following:
(1) A Japanese driver's license
(2) An International Driving Permit that is issued by a contracting party to the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic and that conforms to the format specified by the convention
* For contracting parties to the Geneva Convention, please refer to the website below.
(3) A driver's license issued in specific countries (Switzerland, Slovenia, Germany, France, Belgium, and Taiwan, monaco)
A Japanese translation of the driver's license is required.
- A Japanese translation must be prepared by the embassy/consulate of the issuing country or the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF).
For a driver's license issued in Taiwan, a Japanese translation prepared by the East Asia Relations Commission is also valid. To request JAF to prepare a Japanese translation, please contact its Hyogo branch office (TEL: 078-871-7561). Please note that translation fees will be charged for document translation services.
2. Period in which you can drive a car in Japan
(1) Japanese driver's license
Until expiration of the license
(2) International Driving Permit
One year from the date of entry to Japan, or until expiration of the International Driving Permit, whichever comes first
(3) Driver's license issued in specific countries, with a Japanese translation attached
One year from the date of entry to Japan, or until expiration of the driver's license, whichever comes first
- Why does the "date of entry to Japan" matter?
There are many foreign residents registered in Japan who drive their cars with International Driving Permits, etc. obtained in foreign countries.
Despite many years of stay in Japan, some foreign residents did not obtain Japanese driver's licenses. Instead, they left Japan just before the one-year period expired, and came back to Japan shortly with new international driving permits. It should be noted that these foreign residents took advantage of loopholes in the system of International Driving Permits, etc., violating traffic rules repeatedly in Japan.
To overcome this situation, the initial "date of entry to Japan" is set.
If a registered foreign resident re-enters Japan less than three months after leaving Japan, the date of re-entry is not deemed the "date of entry to Japan" applicable to the new International Driving Permit, etc.
What happens if I re-enter Japan in less than three months?
If you are a registered foreign resident, the date of re-entry is not deemed the "date of entry to Japan" applicable to the new International Driving Permit, even if the new permit is valid. In this case, you cannot drive a car in Japan. You are required either (i) to make an application for a switchover to a Japanese driver's license or (ii) take a driver's license test to get a Japanese driver's license.
3. Switchover from an overseas driver's license to a Japanese driver's license
If you have a driver's license issued by the government of a foreign country, you can make an application for a switchover to a Japanese driver's license (class 1 only) at a Driver's License Test Center. If you do not understand or write Japanese, please make sure to bring an interpreter with you.
You are required to set two PINs (personal identification numbers comprising four digits each) for an IC-embedded driver's license.
Counter No. 7 "Foreign License Examination Office" on 1F at the Akashi Driver's License Test Center
(1649-2 Niyama-cho, Akashi City, TEL: 078-912-1628)
9:30 a.m.–10:30 a.m. from Monday through Friday (closed on weekends and national holidays)
- * Inquiries are accepted from 2:00 p.m. through 5:00 p.m., in principle.
Items needed to make an application(* Please note that you may be required to submit additional documents depending on the results of examination.)
① Your driver's license issued in a foreign country:a valid driver's license issued in a country in which you stayed for a period of three months or longer in total from the date of obtaining the license (date of issue). An International Driving Permit alone is not accepted.
- * If you have two or more licenses (e.g., a class 1 driver's license and a two-wheeler license), please submit documents showing the dates on which you first obtained these licenses.
② A Japanese translation of your driver's license:
Please refer to 1. (3) * above.
Details of examination
③ Your Japanese driver's license you obtained in the past (if any)
④ Certificate of residence: The domicile of origin (honseki) must be enrolled. (Even if you have not acquired Japanese nationality, please show a certificate of residence enrolled your nationality etc.)
⑤ Your passport:Please note that your passport is required to show that you stayed in the country where the license was issued for more than three months in total. An old passport may be needed depending on the date on which you obtained the license. If you do not have an old passport, you may be required to submit a certificate, etc., indicating your embarkation/disembarkation.
⑥ Handling fee:The fee varies depending on the type of license you want to obtain. If you pass the examination, you are required to pay a fee for the issuance of a driver's license.
⑦ Your photograph taken within six months for the driver's license (size: three cm high x 2.4 cm wide):no hat, against a plain background, from the front, above the chest
⑧ Other: a black ballpoint pen and your personal seal
The examination process involves a questionnaire, document screening, aptitude test, written test, and a driving technique test.
- In the document screening process, additional certificate(s) may be required, or the application may be rejected, if documents you submit are found to be insufficient.
- You can take a written test in English, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Persian, Tagalog, Thai, or Russian. "Rules of the Road" is available in five languages (English, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, and Korean) from JAF at JPY 1,404 per copy (incl. consumption tax, excl. mailing costs).
- You will be required to take a driving technique test on a separately appointed date.
The translation is based on the data available as of July, 2016. Please note that new systems, system changes etc. may have been introduced after this date. Responsibility for the linked websites lies with their creators. Kobe City accepts no responsibility for their content etc.