Life is ticking forward for us. Bit by bit by bit, we’re piecing our new lives together.
Arrived in Japan? Check!
All our luggage made it, too? Check!
Got Japanese driver’s licenses, designating Wil and I as “Professional Drivers”? Check!
Purchased car? Check!
Purchased second car? Check! (Although it’s really more of a tiny, bright blue golf cart than a car….)
Moved into house? Check!
Unaccompanied baggage arrived? Check! (That’s military-speak for a smaller shipment mailed to us by the government.)
Internet and landline for making phone calls to the States installed? Check!
Library card obtained? Check! (Hey, I have my priorities straight. Books are rather important in this household….)
Small boy made very, very happy by arrival of additional superhero toys? Check!
(Small boy’s mama made very relieved by very same arrival of toys? Double check!)
Mea culpa: We do have “Y” plates. My husband handled that part of the paperwork of our move in and I probably should have been more observant. As you can imagine, we’ve had a lot of details to pay attention to recently!
We were given SUICA cards by a family heading back to the States so that’s what we’ll plan to use for the trains, at least initially!
We lived in England for three years, so at least driving on the left isn’t quite as difficult for us. Our license, as you guessed, is indeed a piece of paper. No special plates, though, so we’ll be paying tolls with everyone else. Very interesting to read the process you followed. I think a bit more training for us wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. Road signs were a big part of our test, though, and we were actively encouraged to practice driving on base before venturing out into the wider world! Personally, I’m really looking forward to figuring out the train system….
>No special plates
Don’t you have “Y” plates? A license plate with the letter ‘Y’ instead of a Japanese hiragana character like most license plates here have?
The “Y” plates, I’ve heard, are for the U.S. military private vehicles.
(Foreign diplomats also have special plates on their cars.)
>I’m really looking forward to figuring out the train system
You should purchase an IC card (like “SUICA” or “PASMO”).
I wrote a bit about them on the end of this post:
Are you in the US military stationed in Japan?
Isn’t the license the US military use in Japan different from a Japanese drivers license?
Hi Tokyo5! My husband is stationed here with the US Air Force. (I’m civilian.) You are correct: Our license was obtained after one class session and a written test and only works in conjunction with a valid US state license. We weren’t allowed to drive here until we obtained that paper. I imagine your process was very different! What did you have to do?
>Our license was obtained after one class session and a written test
No driving test? Japan drives on the opposite side of the road from America.
I’ve heard that the U.S. miltiary in Japan have special license plates on their cars that allows them to drive on Japan’s highways without paying the tolls. And that they don’t have Japanese driver’s licenses, but rather a piece of paper issued by the U.S. gov’t written in English that gives them permission to drive here…a U.S. military overseas driving permit, I guess.
I was just curious about it.
Were Japanese road signs a part of your written test?
>What did you have to do?
People who have lived overseas (outside of Japan) for at least six consecutive months and have had a drivers license from that country for at least six months can transfer their license to a Japanese one fairly easily if the foreign license is still valid when they come to Japan.
When I came here, I had a valid Florida drivers license (it has long since expired)…so I got it translated into Japanese and went to the Japanese DMV, took the written test, driving test, eye test, listen to a safety lecture, paid the fee and got a “green” (beginner) Japanese license.
My Florida license expired, so I no longer have a U.S. driver license. If I go to visit America, I’d have to get an int’l license to use my Japanese one there.
I’ve been in Japan for a while now. So I now have a “gold” (safe driver) license. Whenever I have to renew it, I just have to listen to another safety lecture, take an eye exam and pay the fee (no written or driving test anymore).
Normally though, people in Japan who don’t have a foreign-issued license are expected (but not technically required) to attend an expensive, comprehensive driving school before attempting to get a license. That’s why they’re considered expert, or “professional” drivers.
My daughters had to go to driving school.
Sorry if that was too long!
i wrote a post after I renewed my license the most recent time two years ago:
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