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Getting a license from scratch

About Driving Exams

What are the driving exams for a driver's license in Japan?

If you are one of those who are willing to get a license from scratch (i.e. you have never got a driver's license in your country or your driver's license was not be able to be  converted to a Japanese one), you need to pass 4 examinations in total to get a driver's license.. 

These 4 exams consist of 

  1. A written exam for a learner's permit

  2. A driving exam for a learner's permit

  3. A written exam for a driver's license

  4. A driving exam for a driver's license

There are several different paths to get a license from scratch (i.e. Accredited driving school(Shitei), Non-accredited driving school(Todokede), or taking each exams at the driving center in your local area without going to any schools) and where you take each exam will be different.

Whichever path you choose, you are required to take and pass these 4 exams. (The order might be different). 

In the next section, we will look further into 2 driving exams (for a learner's permit and for a driver's license). 

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Driving Exams at the driving exam license center

in Detail

In this part, you will learn what the driving exams at the driving license exam center are. The figure below is the flow of obtaining a license from scratch at the license center. 

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Figure: The flow of obtaining a driver's license though the driving license exam center

You can obtain a driver's license without going to the driving schools and this process is widely known as "一発試験 (いっぱつしけん)" or "飛び込み試験(とびこみしけん)". 

You book for the driving exam in prior by yourself and go to the license center to take driving exams. 

Two driving exams you need to take

If you choose the take all the exams at the license center, you need to pass the Karimen and Honmen driving exams. 


Who is your examiner?

The examiner is the police officer and they will sit at the passenger seat during the exam and they will mark your driving. 

What is my exam course like?

There are usually 4 courses in each driving center and you can obtain a course map prior either by buying the course maps or getting them at the reception of the license center.

The course you drive on the exam day is usually announced in the morning of the each day on the board.

In some license centers, the courses of the exams in the morning and in the afternoon are different.

The length of the each course is about 2,000m. 

How will I be examined during the exam?

The examiner tests your driving based on predetermined marking criteria (this is very strict).


The exam consists of  

  • Starting a car 

  • Going through the intersection (+/- poor visibility)

  • Turning left/right at the intersection

  • Stopping and starting on a hill

  • Railway Crossing 

  • Narrow Roads (Crank and S)

  • Stopping a car 

And you need to perform safety checks and indicators properly in any tasks.

👮‍♂️"The driving exam is not just testing your driving skills. 

This is a comprehensive test that examines whether he or she can drive safely and smoothly by observing basic rules stipulated by the Road Traffic Act, etc., using accurate driving operations, and whether or he or she can drive according to road and traffic conditions. "



The important thing to pass these driving tests


Written exams can be the hardest part of the whole licensing process and some fail the exams more than 5 times.

Ok, actually the first tip to pass these exams is "Don't underestimate". 

So what else? 

Tips for passing the written exams

Here are some tips you should know to maximize your time and effort.

Tip 1: Be careful with words such as all, every, always, must etc.

Read questions very carefully and be careful when you see words such as all, every, always, must in the exam.

See the example questions below 

Question "When the signal ahead is a red light and a green arrow pointing to the left at the same time, all the vehicles may proceed to make a right turn. "

This is false.

Mopeds or light vehicles must not turn right if these vehicles are approaching an intersection where there are more than two lanes in each directions. 

Question "A vehicle must stop if there is an obstacle in front of you to give way to oncoming vehicles" 

This is also false.

You don't always have to stop in this situation. You may just slow down to yield to oncoming vehicles.

Tip 2: Remember the numbers precisely.

In order to answer each question, you must remember the numbers precisely. 
This is because some questions ask your knowledge about the numbers. 

An example for this is 

Question "You must not overtake a vehicle at an intersection or within 10 meters before one" .

This is again false.

You can answer this question correctly only when you know the correct numbers (30 meters, not 10 meters)

Tip 3: Remember the specific terminology.

If you don't remember the terms, you might be in trouble answering the questions.

Thus, you should learn the specific terms for Japanese Traffic Rules correctly. 

Key terms 

  • Vehicles and Similar 

  • Vehicles (Automobiles + Mopeds + Light Vehicles)

  • Specific medium vehicles

  • Side strip 

  • Intersection 

  • Roads with right of way 

  • Vehicular lane 

  • Park vs Stop 

  • Change Lanes (=veer)

  • Slow down

Tip 4: Get used to how the questions are asked.

Once you have done may exercises (practice questions), you will easily be able to grasp the idea of how the questions are asked and trick questions, and be able to confident in answering these questions without thinking. For this reason, you should do many exercises. 

The best study materials for written exams

If you haven't found the good materials to study for written exams, we offer a good one for you.  

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