Thinking of Changing to a Japanese Driving License?

As we all know, public transportation in Tokyo is very convenient and the trains can take us anywhere we want. However, sometimes when I travel to remote areas, I wish I could have a driving license so that I would be able to rent a car. So, recently I decided to get a Japanese driving license.

I got my driving license in China years ago and am an experienced driver, in my humble opinion. After researching the process of exchanging a foreign license for a Japanese one on the internet, I made a phone call to the license center to make sure that I would bring all the required documents. I was told that they needed first to check my passport, my Chinese license, and my Japanese residence card before proceeding with anything else. 

After the Bon vacation, I went to the license center. Here's another important thing to note, make sure to clear out your schedule when you plan to visit the center. What surprised me was that I arrived at the driving center at 10:30 in the morning but the staff told me that my number would only be called around 18:00 in the evening (why does it take so much time?!). Wandering around that district for a whole day, it was finally my turn for the document screening. When I was leaving the building, I was perhaps one of the few persons who were not actually working there. 

After preparing all of the necessary documents, I went there again for the “Knowledge Confirmation”. I was worried that the requirement would be very high because I heard that I would need to get 90 out of 100 points to pass the exam, only to actually find out that for those who have a license in other countries like me, only 7 corrects out of 10 would be required to pass the “confirmation”. It made me, however, question the efficacies of such assessments; would they really confirm that I was well-versed with the regulations in Japan? I strongly doubt that.

The next step is the "Skill Confirmation" which is also the hardest part for me. I am used to driving on the right side but in Japan, as you should already know, it is very much, and quite literally the opposite. Before I went for the confirmation, I practiced by driving my friend’s car in a parking area. I know this is not the best idea, and I wouldn't recommend this officially, but at least it gave me some sense of driving on the left. And with a substantial regaining of confidence, I went for the confirmation.

Get in the car, lock the door, set the seat and mirrors, fasten my seat belt, and go! In the beginning, everything went well. I kept on reminding myself to drive on the left, but when I was about to turn left, I turned on the signal with my left hand unconsciously – Voila! The windscreen wiper started working. It's quite a laugh, I know. Thankfully, the police officer didn’t take lots of points from that. He was really civil until I made a huge mistake. When I came out of the S-curve track, the officer told me to turn right. I did so, and I also kept driving on the left in mind. However, the real left was not “the left” I was driving on. “Did you notice that the centerline of this road is on your left?” the officer asked. Then I realized there were three lanes in total, and unfortunately for me, two of them were for oncoming traffic. By that moment, I knew there was no way I could salvage this. I was, however, not very upset, for I knew that most of the people failed in their first skill confirmation. (Another point you should remember, brace yourself for failure!) Calmy, I made another reservation for another skill confirmation.

This anecdote was in fact very recent; it all happened last week, so its relevance should be guaranteed for those who are similarly thinking of changing their licenses. I do really hope to get the license by the end of this year, so wish me luck!