Crime Prevention - 13. "Driving a car in Japan" | Lectures for Foreign Students on Disaster Control | JPSS, the information site of studying in Japan

Crime Prevention - 13. "Driving a car in Japan" | Lectures for Fore...

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"Driving a car in Japan"

Please exercise extreme care when driving overseas, because the road traffic rules and regulations, and whether driving on left or right can differ significantly from those in your countries. We advice you to rely on public transportation as much as possible when abroad, but for the time when you need to drive, familiarize yourself with the general driving rules, types and functions of a car, and auto insurance system in Japan and be well prepared.

In order to drive in Japan, foreigners need to get a license by one of the flowing ways.

  • 1. Get a driver's License in Japan
  • 2. Convert a foreign driver's license to a Japanese one
  • 3. Drive with an International Driver's License
Getting a driver's license in Japan

Japanese people normally go to a certified driving school to get a driver's license, but which is not always suitable for foreign students. For one thing, you must be proficient in Japanese enough to understand the texts and courses, and to pass both the paper test and a driving skill test at a driving school. Secondly, it costs 200 to 300 thousand yen on average, and more if you do not complete the course within the set number of hours and need additional lessons. These days, however, some of the driving schools offer the course in English or any other languages. Inquiry should be needed.

Converting a foreign driver's license to a Japanese one.

A driver's license issued by a foreign administrative office can be switched to a Japanese one by applying documents and taking the exam at the Driver's License Centers.


  • - The applicant must be 18 years old or older.
  • - The applicant must be able to prove that he or she stayed in the issuing country for at least 3 months in total after obtaining the license.
  • - The applicant must have at least 0.7 visual acuity (in decimal scale) with both eyes, and besides, at least 0.3 with each an eye.

Required Documents:

  • - your driving license in valid
  • - an official Japanese translation of your foreign driver's license
  • - residence card
  • - passport (pages where they can find out that you stayed in the issuing country for at least 3 months in total after obtaining the license.)
  • - one photograph
  • - application fee

Location for converting or applying for the exam.
In Tokyo: Fuchu Drivers License Examination Office, Samesu Drivers License Examination Office, Koto Drivers License Examination Office
For information of the other regions and prefectures, please inquire at the nearest police station or Driver's License Centers.

You have to take the aptitude test (vision test and color recognition test), and the written test about traffic rules. If you pass, you can make an appointment to take a practical driving test (the applicant is asked to actually drive a vehicle at a course).

An international driver's license

You can drive in Japan if you have an International Driving License as issued by one of the countries participating in the Geneva Convention of 1949 and defined by the convention.

When the person who has been residing in Japan is going to get an international driver's license outside of Japan, he/she will have to be out of Japan for more than 3 consecutive months after obtaining a license.


All drivers are required by the law to buy "Automobile Damage Compensation Liability Insurance (jibaiseki)" in Japan. Compensation you ought to pay for the person who suffers an injury or death in a road accident can be covered by the insurance.

Optional Automobile Insurance needed also

Automobile Damage Compensation Liability Insurance compensates for certain damage or injury to the other party and has a maximum limit for it; the maximum of 1.2 million yen for a body injury, 30 million yen for death, and 40 million yen for a injury which has serious aftereffects. When the amount exceeds the insurance coverage, person responsible for the accident has to pay out of his/her own pocket.

Besides, the following items you damaged in an accident are not covered by the compulsory insurance; damage to the vehicle of the person involved, damage to buildings, telegraph poles, crash barriers, etc.

Therefore, it is highly recommended that every driver subscribes to the optional insurance which covers compensation payment exceeding the limit of coverage by the compulsory insurance, as damage compensation in Japan tends to be quite costly in the event of a vehicle accident. If the injured has to miss work after the accident, it might be you who pay compensation for income loss. And it might be you who pay for business suspension benefits if a damage to a vehicle or building causes bad effects on someone's business. Again, the obligatory insurance only compensates for certain damage within certain limits while optional insurance may cover what is exceeded.

Optional insurance is, of course, not mandatory. However, your car should be carried optional insurance as well as obligatory insurance without trying to save money for it.


Take the following steps if you are ever involved in an auto accident

1. Help the injured.
Give first aid as much as possible. If there is someone losing consciousness or having gotten seriously injured, keep him/her unmoved and call an ambulance immediately (dial number: 119).
2. Remove your car to a safe place.
Remove your car to a safe place in order to reduce the risk of further damage or injury.
3. Report to the police.
You ought to report the police right away (dial number: 110). If you don't, they won't issue a proof of a traffic accident that is required afterward to get insurance premiums paid.
4. Inform your insurance company.
Notify your contracted insurance company of the occurrence of an accident so that they can carry out the necessary procedures on your behalf with people involved. You must not make any promise on your own, some like paying medical or fixing expenses, before the insurance company agrees to pay the premium for it. It isn't guaranteed that they would surely cover it. Keep clear head and react calmly, although it is quite natural in the situation such as road accident that you get upset and can't even understand Japanese in panic. Tell people involved that you would contact and confirm your insurer about medical and/or fixing expenses later, or, that you make your insurance company call them to settle the matter on your behalf. Don't forget to note down the name, phone number, and number of people involved.

Without optional insurance purchased, you have to be troubled with these negotiation procedures and arrangements by yourself. It is most often the case that they settle how much fault you are blamed for, or the large amount of compensation in the others' favor without accurate knowledge and understanding on your side. Hence, when driving, make sure that your car is carried optional insurance as well.


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