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Gaimen Kirikae

"Obtaining a driver's licence in Japan can be extremely frustrating"

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Getting a driver's licence in Japan can be a very frustrating experience. But if you hold a driver's license which was issued in your country, and which is still valid, things are much easier. All you need to do to get a Japanese driver's licence is to go though a licence conversion procedure called "Gaimen Kirikae".

What is Gaimen Kirikae?

If you hold a valid foreign driver's license, you can convert your licence to a Japanese one. This license conversion procedure is called "Gaimen Kirikae". By applying for this Gaimen Kirikae process, it will be much easier to get a Japanese driver's license. 

Are you eligible to apply for Gaimen-Kirikae?

If you meet all of these conditions, you can apply for Gaimen Kirikae.

  1. The foreign licence you hold is valid

  2. You can prove that you were in a country where you obtained your driver's licence for at least 3 months after obtaining the licence (Sometimes your passport (including old ones) is enough to prove this, but not all the time).

Procedure - What does Gaimen-Kirikae involve?

※ Detailed requirements or process might differ. Please check the official documents in your living prefecture.
At the bottom of this page, you can check each prefecture's official (or un-official) websites or documents.
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Exam-Exempt Countries and Region
(29 countries etc.)
Australia🇦🇺, Austria🇦🇹, Belgium🇧🇪, Britain🇬🇧, Canada🇨🇦, Czech Republic🇨🇿, Denmark🇩🇰, Finland🇫🇮, France🇫🇷, Germany🇩🇪, Greece🇬🇷, Hungary🇭🇺, Netherland🇳🇱, Iceland🇮🇸, Ireland🇮🇪, Italy🇮🇹, Korea🇰🇷, Luxembourg🇱🇺, Monaco🇲🇨, New Zealand🇳🇿, Norway🇳🇴, 🇵🇱, Portugal🇵🇹, Slovenia🇸🇮, Kingdom of 🇪🇸, Sweden🇸🇪, Switzerland🇨🇭, United State of America🇺🇸 (States of Hawaii, Maryland, Virginia and Washington only), and Taiwan🇹🇼

1. Gather all the requirements

A valid foreign driver's licence 
- Your foreign driver's licence which is valid at the time of the application.
- Bring your old ones if you have as well. 
- In some prefectures, additional documents such as a driving record may be required if your licence does not show the issuance date of your licence. 

Japanese translation of the license 

- A certified translation of your driver's licence, translated only by either JAF or foreign embassies. 

- Link: JAF (Transfer your country’s license to a Japanese license)

Official copy of your Certificate of Residence or "Jumin-hyo"

- An official copy of Certificate of Residence that shows your nationality. 

- Certificate must be issued within 6 months (In some prefectures, within 3 months is required).

- To get this copy, go to the municipal office of the city/ward/town/village where you reside.

Residence Card

- Bring your residence card if you are foreign applicants.

Passport

- This will be a proof that you were living in the issuing country where you obtained your driver's licence and that you stayed in that country for more than 3 months after issuing your licence.

- Bring your old ones if you have as well. 

Application's photograph

- Should be 2.4 W x 3.0 H cm.

- Showing you front-facing, from shoulders up, without a hat or cap, with a plain background.

A Japanese driver's licence

- If you hold one.

Please note that the most driver's licence centers ask you to bring an interpreter if you do not speak Japanese. So be prepared to ask someone who speaks good Japanese to walk into the driver's license center with you.

2. Screening

At some driver's license center, you need to phone in and make an appointment. Please refer to the official documents of your local driver's license center. Otherwise, you can just walk in and the staff will start your document screening. 

You may need to wait hours, so bring something you can spare time with.

Only if you pass this screening, you can proceed to further steps. 

3. Aptitude test 

After the document screening, you will be interviewed in Japanese

The common questions are 

  • How you acquired your driving licence

  • Whether you went to a driving school or not, if so what the school curriculum was like

  • What kind of test you took to obtain the licence

  • How often you had driven vehicles after obtaining the licence, etc

Be honest with your answers and you'll be fine.

An eye test will also be conducted. 

You will pass if 

  • 0.7 or more for both eyes and 0.3 or more for each eye.

  • you can discriminate colors of red, yellow or blue. 

If you hold a licence which was issued in one of these "Exam-Exempt Countries and Region", you will be exempted from traffic knowledge check and driving test. 
Exam-Exempt Countries and Region
(29 countries etc.)
Australia🇦🇺, Austria🇦🇹, Belgium🇧🇪, Britain🇬🇧, Canada🇨🇦, Czech Republic🇨🇿, Denmark🇩🇰, Finland🇫🇮, France🇫🇷, Germany🇩🇪, Greece🇬🇷, Hungary🇭🇺, Netherland🇳🇱, Iceland🇮🇸, Ireland🇮🇪, Italy🇮🇹, Korea🇰🇷, Luxembourg🇱🇺, Monaco🇲🇨, New Zealand🇳🇿, Norway🇳🇴, 🇵🇱, Portugal🇵🇹, Slovenia🇸🇮, Kingdom of 🇪🇸, Sweden🇸🇪, Switzerland🇨🇭, United State of America🇺🇸 (States of Hawaii, Maryland, Virginia and Washington only), and Taiwan🇹🇼

4. Traffic rule knowledge check

- 10 true (◯)/false (╳) questions that checks your knowledge about basic traffic rules and signs in Japan.
- You can take this written test in the following languages.
(English, Chinese, Spanish, Korean, Portuguese, Persian, Russian, Thai, Tagalog, and Vietnamese)
- 10-15 minutes 
- 7 or more out of 10 questions correct are required to pass this test.

Useful resources for "Traffic rule knowledge check "

- Japan Traffic Rules Training by JAF (Websites) (Link)

- Rules of the road by JAF (Book) (Amazon)

5. Driving test

- This is by far the hardest part of Gaimen-Kirikae Procedure. 

- This driving test does not only test if you can drive a car safely, but also test if you can safely and precisely perform many specific tasks (such as safety checks, precise timing of blinkers on and off, etc). This test also examines your ability to precisely navigate your car (such as going through narrow roads and park at the very left edge of the road). 

- If you do not know this specific and even strange rules applied to the mark deduction criteria, it is very hard or even impossible to pass this driving test

Pass-Fail Criteria

You have 100 marks at the beginning of the driving test.

In order to pass the test, you must have 70 or more at the end of the test.

When your mark is deducted

There are 4 different types of mark deduction (5, 10, 20 marks and Instant termination of the test). 

  • 5 mark deduction 
    - This will occur when you make relatively minor mistakes such as 

    • Poor timing of indicators or no indicators turned on when necessary ​

    • Turning too wide 

  • 10 mark deduction 
    - You will lose 10 marks if you do make these important errors like... 
    ​​

    • Poor or no safety checks ​

    • Sway when driving straight 

  • 20 mark deduction 
    - This happens when you make relatively big mistakes such as 

    • Going in an opposite direction 

    • Step over the left edge line.

    • Not slowing down enough when necessary 

  • Instant termination of the test
    - This occurs when you make serious mistakes. Some examples are 

    • Hitting things​.

    • Not stop when necessary 

660px-Regions_and_Prefectures_of_Japan_2

Some of the official documents can be found here. 

Note: Please make sure the links are still usable and relevant to you. 

Hokkaidō

Hokkaido (Japanese / English)

Tōhoku

Aomori (Japanese / English),, Iwate (Japanese / English), 

Miyagi (Japanese / English), Akita (Japanese / English), Yamagata (Japanese / English),

Fukushima(Japanese / English), 

Kantō

Ibaragi (Japanese /English), Tochigi (Japanese / English), Gunma (Japanese / English),

Saitama (Japanese / English), Chiba (Japanese / English), Tokyo(Japanese / English), 

Kanagawa (Japanese /English)

Chūbu

Niigata (Japanese / English), Toyama (Japanese / English), Ishikawa (Japanese / English),

Fukui (Japanese / English), Yamanashi (Japanese / English), Nagano (Japanese / English)

Gifu (Japanese / English), Shizuoka (Japanese / English), Aichi (Japanese or Japanese / English)

Kansai

Mie (Japanese / English), Shiga (Japanese / English), Kyoto (Japanese / English), 

Osaka (Japanese / English), Hyogo (Japanese/Non Official English), Nara (Japanese / English),

Wakayama (Japanese / English)

Chūgoku

Tottori (Japanese / English), Shimane (Japanese / English), Okayama (Japanese / English),

Hiroshima (Japanese / English), Yamaguchi (Japanese / English)

Shikoku

Tokushima (Japanese / English), Kagawa (Japanese / English), Ehime (Japanese / English

Kochi (Japanese / English)

 

Kyūshū

Fukuoka (Japanese / English), Saga (Japanese / English), Nagasaki (Japanese / English)

Kumamoto(Japanese / English), Oita (Japanese / English), Miyazaki (Japanese / English)

Kagoshima (Japanese / English), Okinawa (Japanese / English)