Drive in Japan: Tips and Tricks to Convert Your Foreign Driving License

Drive in Japan: Tips and Tricks to Convert Your Foreign Driving License



  1. Persistence is the key factor in getting a driving license in Japan.

  2. You don't need to speak fluent Japanese but basic Japanese related to the exam would be helpful.

  3. It is very important to focus on doing practice sessions on the actual exam track.

  4. Booking a practice session at Samezu track is a tricky part as it is very busy but calling 2-3 times a week or preplanning will help.

  5. You can practice driving on the Samezu track with the instructor. Instructors can be anyone who has more than 3 years of driving experience in Japan and has a valid license to drive the car to be used in practice sessions.

  6. You may have heard that Japanese driving exams are incredibly difficult, and to some extent, that's true. However, it's important to note that this is mainly because the exams place a strong emphasis on Japan's unique safety rules and regulations. The passing standard is set very high, and you can easily lose points for small mistakes, even if you think you're doing everything correctly.

  7. If you failed the exam then reattempting is much cheaper than doing one more practice session but getting the next slot for the exam usually takes more time in Tokyo.


Japan is well known for its efficient public transportation. Especially cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka have very efficient public transport. Public transport is more than enough to explore the main cities however if you are a fan of Japanese cars or you need to drive because of work or you want to explore remote locations of Japan, you may want to consider converting your foreign driving license into a Japanese driving license. Obtaining a Japanese driving license also grants access to car-sharing services like Times Car, providing a convenient and affordable way to experience a variety of vehicles. They have a very wide network all over Japan. The process of converting foreign driving license to Japanese driving is called Gaimen-kirikae (外免切り替え)

While there are many guides available to give you a basic idea about driving tests in Japan, this guide aims to provide additional insights based on personal experience.


  1. The mindset to speak a minimum of Japanese. You should at least understand the meaning of the following words. If you're not comfortable speaking Japanese, it's recommended that you bring an interpreter along with you to the driving test. However, it's uncertain whether the examiner will allow the interpreter to be present in the car during the actual practical test.

    1. 右 ⇒ migi ⇒ Right

    2. 左 ⇒ hidari ⇒ Left

    3. 突き当たり右 ⇒ tsu ki atari migi ⇒ Right from the end of the road

    4. 突き当たり左 ⇒ tsu ki atari hidari ⇒ Left from the end of the road

    5. 真っ直ぐ ⇒ massugu ⇒ Straight

  2. Last but not least you will need a mindset like John Wick. You will need to have focus, commitment, and sheer will.

Prerequisites are listed in detail on the following site.

Tokyo to's official document on how to convert foreign license to Japanese license (Japanese text)

List of documents

  1. Valid original foreign license

  2. Japanese translation of your foreign license

    1. For the official translation of your foreign license, you will need to use the translation provided by JAF (Japan Automobile Federation). The details of how to get this translation are well written here
  3. Minimum stay of 90 days (3 months) after the date of issue of the license in the country where the license was issued.

  4. A copy of your residence card

  5. Photograph (3cm X 2.4cm)

    1. A photo taken recently within 6 months of application is required.

    2. The detailed example of bad photos are mentioned on this page

    3. If you're planning to take your driving test at Samezu Driving Center, it's important to note that they have specific photo requirements for your application. To ensure that your photos meet these requirements, I highly recommend using the photo booth available at Samezu Driving Center. Alternatively, you can use any other photo booth that is available to you, but be sure to check that the photos meet Samezu's specific requirements before submitting your application.

My experience and how I learned

I got my driving license in India but did not drive for more than 5 years so I considered myself a beginner. Ever since I came to Japan, I was amazed by how the transportation system works so well here. Therefore I was very fascinated by Japanese cars and wanted to explore Japan to the fullest. I planned to get a license very early before the actual exam. Coincidentally I had to go to India a few months before my Japan driving exam so I practiced a lot in India. The driving experience in India improved my driving sense. But that is not enough to crack the driving license exam in Japan. I was not yet familiar with Japanese driving rules and how insanely they focus on safety. This is why I chose to do a practice session again in Japan.

Practical driving test


To learn more about the Japanese driving exam, I gathered information from the Internet and found very useful information from following youtube videos

The famous Youtuber John Daub also created a series explaining why he failed the test and share helpful tips.

Some guidelines shared by exam center

💡 Tips

For those who haven't driven in a while or lack confidence in their driving abilities, it is highly recommended to practice at one of the many available driving schools to improve their skills. A few of the schools I know are:

Kiki Driving School

Luce Driving School

Koyama Driving School

  • Focus on practicing directly on the exam track for a better success rate. In my case, I used Luce Driving School and booked an appointment at Samezu Driving Track for a practice session of one hour.

  • In the practical exam as there is no traffic, and no humans crossing the road so it is easy to forget the rule and make mistakes. To overcome this, go through practice sessions on the actual exam track and remember the mistake points.

  • Coming from a different cultural background you might find the exam's safety focus a little exaggerated but remember that you need to explicitly display by your actions that you genuinely follow safety first attitude while driving.

  • Securing a reservation at the Samezu Track can prove to be quite challenging. The new appointment slots are released one month before that day.
    For example, if today is March 28th, 2023, then you can book practice sessions for Saturdays and national holidays until March 28th, 2024

  • If your practical exam is scheduled for a later time, you can call the exam reservation center and check if someone has canceled their exam so you can get an earlier slot. I was lucky to get a reattempt appointment for my practical exam just two weeks after my first attempt because someone canceled their slot.

  • Unfortunately, appointments at Samezu (Tokyo) track center can only be booked through telephone number and the telephone is usually very busy in the morning so keep trying at different time intervals

  • If you failed the exam then reattempting is much cheaper than doing one more practice session but getting the next slot for the exam usually takes more time in Tokyo. (usually 2-3months)

    • Reattempt -> ¥2550 (approx)

    • One Practice Session at Samezu through driving school -> ¥8800+¥2200 (Approx)


In conclusion, obtaining a Japanese driving license can be a challenging but rewarding experience for those who are interested in driving in Japan. While the process may seem daunting, with persistence, dedication, and some practice sessions on the actual exam track, it is achievable. Remember to focus on safety and follow the rules of driving in Japan. Good luck on your journey to getting a Japanese driving license!