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How to get a driving license in Japan

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

Do you know there are many ways to get a driving license in Japan?

In this blog, we will introduce some ways to obtain a driving license.


 

Many ways to get a driving license in Japan

First of all, you need to clarify if you have a driving license which is still valid.

A. Yes, I have a valid foreign driving license.

B. No, I do not have a valid foreign driving license.


If you have a valid foreign driving license (A), check if you are from one of the exam-exempted countries from below.

 

1. If you have a valid driving license and you are NOT from one of the exam-exempted countries 👉 Gaimen Kirikae (whole procedure)

Please read this page for all the info about Gaimen Kirikae


2. If you have a valid driving license and you are from one of the exam-exempted countries 👉 Gaimen Kirikae (exam-exempted)

Please read this page for all the info about Gaimen Kirikae

 

So what happens if you do not have a valid driving license? In this case, you need to get a license from scratch and you have one of 3 options.


Technically you can choose whichever option you want, so we assume you choose one of them based on the fees, the easiness of the driving tests, and the accessibility to school.


Before we look at each option (3, 4,& 5), let us explain a bit more about the process to get a license.


To get a learner's permit, you have to pass both written and practical exams. And to obtain a driving license, you need to again pass both written and practical exams.


Though the difficulty of the written exams (both for learner's permit and for driving license) are same, the the difficulty of the driving tests may differ depending on where you take exams.


If you take the option of "Shitei" driving school (3), you take both driving tests at that driving school, where your driving instructor will be your examiner on the driving test date. However, if you choose "Todokede" driving School (4) or no school (5) option, you take both driving tests at your local driving license center, where the staff (police officer) at this center will be your examiner.

Because instructors at driving schools are more lenient, it is considered to be easier to pass the driving tests at the "Shitei" driving school (3). than to pass at driving licence centers.


Having said that, the prices for "Shitei" driving school is much more expensive, so it is totally your preference.


Let's have a look at each option's characteristics.


 

3. "Shitei" Driving School (Accredited Driving School)

Fees: ★☆☆☆☆ (very expensive😱) 300,000 ~ 400,000 yen

Easiness of the driving tests: ★★★★★ (easy😀)

Accessibility to school : ★★★★☆ (easy to find😀)


"Shitei" driving schools are the first choice for most Japanese people when they start thinking about getting a driving license. This is because "Shitei" is dominant in this industry, and the nearest driving school is in many cases a "Shitei" driving school. In fact, more than 90% of Japanese people get their license by going to this type of school.


In addition, it is easy to pass the driving tests at driving schools. This is also why it is so popular.


Despite the easiness of the driving test and accessibility, the fees are quite expensive. It ranges from 300,000 ~ 400,000 yen (or it could be more if you live in urban city). This is due to the fact that you need to take both lessons for traffic rules (26 hours) and practical lessons (34 hours).


These 60-hour lessons (in total) are mandatory and this can increase lesson fees dramatically.


 

4. "Todokede" Driving School (Non-Accredited Driving School)

Fees: ★★★☆☆ (relatively cheap😀): 150,000 ~ 250,000 yen

Easiness of the driving tests: ★★★☆☆ (A little bit difficult😬)

Accessibility to school : ★☆☆☆☆ (difficult to find😑)


"Todokede" driving school is a different type of driving schools in Japan, where you learn how to drive (and ultimately how to pass the driving tests) and take both written and driving tests at the driving licene center.


Because there are much less schools like "Todokede" driving school, you may not be able find these schools in your local area. However, if the "Todokede" driving school is within your reach, you are lucky! Because there will be no classes or lessons for traffic rules, the fees are much less than those of "Shitei" Driving school.


Despite the affordable fees, driving tests at the driving is a bit harder to pass because the examiners will be the staff at the driving center (they are police officers) and they need to seriously decide if the test-taker will be able to follow traffic rules and drive safely.

In other words, they are more serious.


Having said that, most "Todokede" driving school will give you lessons that will guide you to pass much easier and the possibility of pass on a first try is around 30 ~ 40% (driving tests).


Here is a list of Todokede driving school available for training

 

5. No school

Fees: ★★★★★ (very cheap😆)

Easiness of the driving tests: ★☆☆☆☆ (very difficult😱)

Accessibility to school : -


This "No school" option is that you don't go to driving school and just take the exams at the driving license center. After you pass all the exams, you can receive a driving license.


Obviously this is the cheapest option among three. The fees you pay for this option is just the tests fees. So it could be as low as 25,000 yen or so in total.


However, don't ever think that you can pass the driving test on one go.

The possibility of pass on a first try is less than 5% (driving tests) if you don't go to any type of schools.


I have once met a guy who have fallen 15 times and still not be able to pass.


Tons of trials of taking exams can eat up your money a lot and the total fees for "No school" option (5) can be same as the "Todokede" driving school option (4).

If you want, you can try, but seriously we don't not recommend this option.

 

So in this blog, we cover various ways to get a driving license in Japan.

If you have a valid driving license, you are lucky. You can take the "Gaimen Kirikae" procedure.

If you don't, you need to get a license from scratch by one of 3 options.

Even though it is totally up to your preference, we recommend "Todokede" driving school (option 4) because of the affordable costs and relative easiness of the driving tests if you can access this type of school from where you live.




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