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What Tokyo Expats Should Know About Driving in Japan

Post: Thursday August 18, 2016

Driving in a foreign country may be challenging. In Tokyo, the traffic flows on the left and many foreigners might have the impression that the roads are extremely narrow. Road signs in Japanese can be confusing which could make you nervous while driving.



The following information will help you become more confident before getting on the road in Japan.




rules of the road

JAF (Japan Automobile Federation) publishes and sells the foreign language versions of the “Rules of the Road” to help foreign motorists understand Japanese Traffic rules in order to prevent the occurrence of traffic accidents. Digital Format and Printed Format is available. We strongly recommend to purchase one these books in your own language and learn about the road rules in Japan.



To Foreign Nationals Who Drive Vehicles in Japan

To understand more about Japanese Traffic Rules and regulations, please access the link below.

It is very important to know the basic rules before hitting the road for safe driving.





How to Drive in Japan


International Driving Permit

Kindly note that International Driving Permit (IDP) is intended for short-term visitors, not middle/long-term residents who have their address registered in Japan. Those who consider driving occasionally are also encouraged to apply for this license conversion at their earliest convenience.

IDP is valid for up to one year on the condition that:

1) Not more than one year from the date of issue

2) Not more than one year from your date of entry to Japan

The shorter period of the above is your permitted driving period in Japan



Valid International Driving Permit in Japan

(International Driving Permits issued by signatory to the 1949 Geneva Convention)

Valid Foreign Driving License in Japan

(For license issued in Switzerland, Slovenia, Germany, France, Belgium, Monaco, Taiwan)


JAF Global Support
(Please access here for Japanese Translation for your foreign license)




Japanese Drivers License

Foreign residents in Japan are expected to convert to a Japanese driver’s license.

Japanese Driver's License


How to Exchange Your Foreign Driver’s License for a Japanese One



License Offices in Tokyo

Samezu Driver’s License Testing and Issuing Center

Address: 1-12-5 Higashi-Oi Shinagawa-ku Tokyo

English Tel. Line: 03-5463-6000

*Samezu Driver’s License Testing and Issuing Center is under renovation until March 2017, some courses may not be available during this process. Fuchu Driver’s License Testing and Issuing Center will offer most of the required courses. Please confirm by contacting the license centers beforehand.

Fuchu Driver’s License Testing and Issuing Center

Address: 3-1-1 Tama-Cho Fuchu-shi Tokyo

English Tel. Line: 03-5463-6000

Koto Driver’s License Testing and Issuing Center

Address: 1-7-24 Shinsuna Koto-ku Tokyo

Tel. Line: 03-3699-1151


There are two country groups where your license has been issued; exam-exempt countries and others that have to go through all the tests. 

No tests required (eye test only) if your license was issued in one of the following countries.

Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, The United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Taiwan, South Korea, or USA (Maryland only).

Written, driving and eye test required if your license was issued in one of the following countires.
All the other countries that are not listed above. For example….United States, Hong Kong, India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia etc.




Tokyo driving schools that offer English-speaking services



If you are unfamiliar with Japanese driving rules or are otherwise unable to pass the practical driving test, you may want to attend one of the many driving schools in Tokyo. There are several that offer English language instruction, which are detailed below.


Kiki Driving School has staff dedicated to helping you get your Japanese license, whether you are exchanging your home license for a Japanese one or applying for one as a new driver. They offer instruction at the actual driving exam centers so you will be prepared for the exact test you will take to get your license.

Koyama Driving School supports students from registration through the receipt of a driver’s license. They are registered with the Public Safety Commission. As such, if you graduate from their driving school, they will issue you a diploma that exempts you from needing to take the driving test at the licensing center when you go to apply for your license.

FCA Driving School offers driving instruction in English, Chinese, and Korean. They have a 96.8% pass rate for driver’s licenses so you can have confidence that they will be able to assist you with acquiring your license.


Once your elation of having gotten your Japanese driver’s license has subsided, be sure to come back to our website and read more about tips on driving in Tokyo.




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