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Getting a license from scratch

About Written Exams

What are the written exams?

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. 

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, Non-accredited driving school, or taking each exams at the driving center in your local area) 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 written exams (for a learner's permit and for a driver's license)

Written Exams in Detail

In this part, you will learn more about each written exam. 

Karimen Written Exam​ is the very first exam you need to take. It involves 50 true-false questions (2 points for each question) and you need to get more than 90 points within 30 minutes. 

You take this exam either in the accredited driving school or at the license center in your local area.

Honmen Written Exam​ is the exam you take after obtaining a learner's permit (Provisional License: 仮免許証(Kari Menkyoshou)). This exam involves 90 true-false questions (1 point for each question) and 10 hazard prediction question (2 points for each) within 50 minutes. Again, you are required to get more than 90 points to pass it.


You can choose the language of the written exam mainly from Japanese, English, Chinese and Vietnamese when taking the written exams (If one of these languages is your first language, lucky you!). However, the availability of the language varies depending on your local license center (ex. Vietnamese is not available in some prefectures, school) and we really recommend you to check whether your preferred language is available or not at your local driving center or the school you are thinking to enroll.

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So what will be covered in each exam?

There are numerous study books out there for the written Exams thoroughly.

The book we recommend is 

Driving Rules & Theory Textbook (Consolidated Version) from TOYOTA Nagoya Education Center,inc

You can find this book on this page (Click this to visit)

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This book (or any textbooks) consists of 2 parts. The first half is Stage 1 and the second half is "Stage 2".

The Karimen Written Exam will be questioned from the Stage 1


The Karimen Written Exam will be questioned from the Stage 1 and Stage 2 (namely all pages)

The table below describes the areas of the questions you will be asked.


※Note that the for the Honmen Written Exam, questions regarding the 2 wheeled vehicles (motorcylces) will be asked and this consists of 11 points.

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Requirements (varies depending on each license center)

※Requirements can vary depending on your local license center, so please check the webpage of your local driver's license center. 

  • Official copy of your Certificate of Residence or "Jumin-hyo"(住民票)

    • 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. (Be carefully these offices are open only on weekdays so you cannot get it on weekends)

  • Residence Card

    • Bring your residence card if you are foreign applicants.

  • Passport

  • 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.

  • Writing utensils

    • Number two pencils (HB), an eraser, a ball-point pen

  • Glasses

    • if you need

  • Fees

  • certificate of graduation 

    • If you graduated from the accredited driving school. 

How Should I Study to Pass them?

Ok, so probably this part is the one you really want to know.

First of all, written exams can be the hardest part of the whole processes of licensing for many people.

We know many international students who have taken 7 ~ 8 times before they finally passed it. 

Preparing for these tests to pass is not something you can achieve over night.

Don't underestimate these written exams. You really need to study hard. 


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 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 good materials to study for written exams, we offer a good one for you.  

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