Basic Information for Driving in Japan
|For Those Who Plan on Driving in Japan||Things You Need for Driving in Japan|
|International Driving Permit||Foreign Driver’s License|
|Learn Traffic Rules Before Your Trip!|
In this compact country with a great rail network, the ideal way to travel is by train! Flying is also a fast and good alternative. However, considering the vast countryside of Hokkaido or the lack of trains in Okinawa other than the monorail in the central area, you may be thinking how convenient it would be to have a car?
（Source: パームツリー / PIXTA）
There is something unsatisfactory about just visiting major sites on tour buses or by tourist taxis! If you are a comfortable driver and you have a lot of places you want to stop by, then you might prefer to rent a car for your travels. If you are an experienced traveler who has rented cars and driven in many different countries, these things may seem like common sense to you. On the other hand, if this is your first attempt to rent a car and drive in Japan, this information is for you.
Read this article carefully so you won’t end up ruining your road trip plan by not being able to rent a car.
（Source: wavebreakmedia / PIXTA)
For foreign tourists to drive in Japan, you cannot simply use your usual driver’s license. You will need an International Driving Permit (IDP) or a qualified Foreign Driver’s License. Let’s start with the International Driving Permit.
（Source: Kzenon / PIXTA)
This driver’s license is issued according to the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic. To obtain it, you must apply while still in your home country using required documents such as your local license, a photo and your passport. Opening hours and processing time will vary according to the country so make sure to check in advance! Visitors coming from countries that are not part of the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic such as China, Brazil and some others are unfortunately not able to drive in Japan.
Major Countries Ratifying the Geneva Convention:
Philippines, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, etc.
Turkey, Israel, UAE, etc.
USA, Canada, Argentina, etc.
UK, Greece, France, Italy, Russia, Holland, etc.
Australia, New Zealand, etc.
South Africa, Egypt, etc.
-Special Administration Districts-
Hong Kong, Macao
*To see a full list of countries that are part of the Geneva Convention and issue the IDP, check out the Metropolitan Police Department’s website!
*Nevertheless, apart from the countries listed, there are cases in which foreign driver’s licenses are valid for short term travelers. Check with your embassy!
International Driving Permit is Valid for One Year
The IDP is only valid for a limited time. This period is one year from its issuance and another year on top from the day you arrive in Japan. In the case a foreigner is registered in Japan as a mid- to long-term resident and leaves the country after receiving a confirmation of departure or a re-entry permit, obtains the IDP abroad and returns within three months, the permit cannot be used.
If certain criteria apply to you, you do not need to have an international license. The Foreign Driver’s License is a convenient concept in which you can use your usual license from your country. These are licenses that are accepted as having the same standard as the Japanese one. If you are someone who loves driving, you will be glad you got your license in one of these countries!
You can drive in Japan with a foreign license if..
you fulfill the following criteria!
1. You have a driver’s license issued in Switzerland, Slovenia, Germany, France, Belgium, Monaco or Taiwan.
2. A Japanese translation is attached to the license.
The translation must be issued by the licensing department in the corresponding country or their embassy/consulate located in Japan. For Taiwanese, the translation must be issued by either an East Asia Relation Commission such as the ROC embassy in Japan or by JAF (Japan Automobile Federation). In short, a Foreign Driver’s License is your own driver’s license attached with a Japanese translation.
（Source: Left 台湾で企業 Right いざ海外へ）
Foreign Driver’s License is Valid for One Year
Same as the IDP, the translation attached to your license is valid for one year after your arrival in Japan. If you leave Japan and return within this period, it will be valid for another year from the day of your return. If a foreigner who is registered as a mid- to long-term resident in Japan leaves the country after receiving a confirmation of departure or a re-entry permit and returns within three months, the permit cannot be used. This is the same rule as the international license.
Now you’re finally prepared to drive in Japan. All there is left to do is to rent a car here.
Check out this article on how to rent a car: How to Rent a Car in Japan?
Aside from the license, make sure to also study about the driving rules in Japan.
（Source: まちゃー/ PIXTA)
In Japan, cars are driven on the left side of the road. The driver’s seat is on the right side in almost all cars. The roads in the city center have a lot of lanes so be careful not to steer too much to the left side of the road or mistakenly end up in a wrong lane when making a turn! For beginners, we recommend driving in Hokkaido or Okinawa where roads are wide and go on straight for long distances. Do not push yourself to drive in the city center. Accidents caused by foreign tourists have been increasing recently. Please learn and stick to the Japanese traffic rules so you won’t ruin your precious trip.
（Source: magicinfoto / PIXTA)
I am writing about a variety of topics regarding Miyazaki and Kyushu such as foods, tourism, travel, sports, and interviews with key people in the local industries and areas. My hobbies are making an eating tour, going around some castles, and visiting historic sites.