>

   
 
Welcome to the online book for JETs and other foreigners living in Japan:

"Driving in Japan and Passing the Driver's Test"

Chapters (Chapters Updated: July 22, 2005)
  1. The Price of Freedom: Buying and Owning a Car in Japan
  2. The Written and Unwritten Rules of the Road
  3. So You've Been Here A Year: Getting a Driver's License in Japan
  4. The Written Test
  5. The Practical Test
  6. Driving School
    Appendices:
  1. Helpful Japanese Terms
  2. Additional Websites and Information
  3. Sample Driving Courses
  4. List of Prefectural Driving Centers

Download All Chapters as a PDF (Thanks to Brendan S.)

Download All Chapters in a .zip file (Microsoft Word)


Survey results from different prefectures
and
Advice from foreigners all around Japan who have passed



SURVEY RESULTS FINAL UPDATE: January 2008
(Thanks to everyone who has submitted)



RESULTS TO THE QUERY
"HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU TAKEN THE PRACTICAL DRIVER'S TEST?":

Aichi 1,1,1,2,2,3,4 Miyagi 1,1
Akita 4 Miyazaki 1,1,2,3,3,7
Aomori 2 Nagano 1,2,2
Chiba 1,2,4,4,5 Nagasaki 1,1,2,2,2,3,4,10
Ehime 1 Nara 2
Fukui 2 Niigata 1
Fukuoka 1,1,4,4,5,6,8,10 Oita 2
Fukushima 1,1,1,1,2,3,3,4,5,5 Okayama 1,2,3,4,4,8
Gifu 1,1,1,1,1,2,4,5 Okinawa 1,2,3
Gunma 1,1,1,2,2,2,2,2,2,2,3,3,3,3,3,3,4,5,9 Osaka 2,2
Hiroshima 1,1,1,3,3,3,3,3,4,5,6,6,7,9 Saga 2
Hokkaido 1,1,1,2 Saitama 1,1,1,1,2,2,2,2,3,5,8
Hyogo 1,1,1,1,1,2,2,2 Shiga
Ibaraki 1,1,1,1,1,2,3,3 Shimane 1,1,2,4
Ishikawa Shizuoka 1,1,1,3
Iwate 1,1,1,2,2,3,3 Tochigi 2
Kagawa 1 Tokushima
Kagoshima Tokyo 1,1,1,1,1,1,1,2,3,3,3
Kanagawa 1,1,2,5,5 Tottori 2,2,3,3
Kochi Toyama 1,3,3,3,4,4,5,8,11
Kumamoto 1,3 Wakayama 1,1,1,1,1
Kyoto 3 Yamagata 1, 1
Mie 1,2 Yamaguchi 1,1,1,2,2,2,2,3
Yamanashi 2, 3

AVERAGE BASED ON THE ABOVE: 2.375 TIMES

ADVICE AND COMMENTS:

CHUGOKU (Hiroshima, Okayama, Shimane, Tottori, Yamaguchi)
  • "The most important thing about the test is not to get frustrated with the ridiculousness of the test. There is nothing practical about the 'practical test' However, one can treat the test in a methodical fashion that will help you pass. You should be very respectful of the testers no matter how much you despise them. Begin by saying yoroshiku onegaishimasu. Also one should remember that you are being tested on how well you do on the test and not how good of a driver you may actually be." (Hiroshima)
  • "Changing lanes. It is a three step process: LOOK: rearview mirror, side mirror, behind your right shoulder, then turn on your blinker (count 1,2, 3) to yourself. Then look the three places again quickly and move gradually. I made it into a rhythm so I could remember more easily." (Hiroshima)
  • "Be humble. Speak Japanese. If you go in there with a 'I don't speak Japanese but I want a license anyway' you won't get a license. At least look like you're trying." (Hiroshima)
  • "Take driving lessons!" (Hiroshima)
  • "They offer driving practices on the premises. They will tell you all the little tricks why they fail you. It costs 10.000 yen for 1 hour." (Hiroshima)
  • "know the course! Take the course map beforehand, hold it like a the steeringwheel and visualise yourself driving. Look at landmarks on the course and use them to indetify at which points to indicate, look over the shoulder, turn,etc." (Hiroshima)
  • "I am one of the blessed few to pass the test on the first shot, but that is not because I am perfect driver. I had to take an hour driving course to prepare, which is what really made the difference. Most middle sized cities offer these driving schools and it is worth the 8000 yen to take one. It prepares you for just what the test is going to be like. The instructors are just like the guys that test you and it puts you into the mindframe of what you need to do to pass. If I had just taken the practical off the street, I would have failed in getting in the car (oh yeah, there is a proper way)." (Okayama)
  • "From my own experience on the track and from the extended time I had to talk with many others taking the test for the umpteenth time, this is the feedback we've come up with. On the two sections of the track where you have a long, straight drive, be sure to get your speed up to about 35-40kph. Keep your car as straight as you can while driving the long roads. Even the most minute movement of the steering wheel could be considered "swerving". You might not even notice the fact that you moved the steering wheel but they may call you out for unsteady driving. They want to see you handle the car at more than a crawl during that time. And by all means, stay as far left as is humanly possible ESPECIALLY when making a left turn, no matter how unsafe it feels. There are only two right turns and you should move to the right side of your lane a moment before that point and that's the only time. Finally, at the end of the narrow roads of the s-curve and crank, stop your car and begin looking both ways for traffic much earlier than you would ever do in the real world. " (Okayama)
  • "Follow rules stated in this website" (Okayama)
  • "Be very careful to look out of your side mirrors at every intersection. side mirror -> Rear view mirror -> side mirror -> then window" (Tottori)
  • "While bemoaning my upcoming third visit to the DMV, my friend gave me some excellent advice. He said I should wear a short skirt and if I made a mistake, I should start crying. Personally, I think I made the most mistakes on my third try but it worked! A little skirt and a few fake tears (after hopping the curb) and I walked away with my Japanese license! This advice only applies for the ladies. Sorry, guys." (Tottori)
  • "Written was easy, driving was easy, but the Japanese are picky so you have to pretend you are acting (driving test does not resemble real driving situation)." (Tottori)
  • "Don't be over confident, drive slowly but no too slow...look in the mirrors all the time!" (Tottori)
  • "It was easy as long as you ask around and find out what tricks you need to pass. Both my wife and I passed on the first try. ie, stop before every turn, no rolling turns ever, walk around the car before getting in, adjust everything before driving away, CONSTANTLY look around before changing lanes or turning, (say out loud in any language where you are looking and what you may be looking for so the tester knows you are alooking) don't leave space for a scooter on your side when turning. straddle the yellow line when passing someone, blinker well before your turn, GO SLOW, in fact, go so slow, you feel like you are going too slow, then slow down. If you are going to turn and you see a car coming in the lane you are turning into, wait for it to pass, even if it is very far away. go to google/yahoo search type in Japanese driver's license, read what other people have posted. Good luck, this is random, but I'm just trying to remember what I did." (Yamaguchi)
  • "If you drove really well, they will probably fail you. So, complain, and ask for the supervisor. They will say that nothing can be done. After they tell you "shouganai" tell them you will come back the next morning to take the test again. Thery will rememeber you well. Drive exactly the same way, or even worse and you will probably pass." (Yamaguchi)
  • "I asked a former student if her father (a driving school instructor) could teach me the ins and outs of the test and give me a chance to drive on their course! He did a great job and I passed on the second try. I had never driven in Japan prior to that!" (Yamaguchi)
  • "Remember, the way to pass the test is to follow the rules, even the ones that no one actually does follow in the real world. You may be an excellent driver, but the test is not there to gauge your competency, but rather your knowledge of the rules." (Yamaguchi)
  • "Keep left, not only as far as the side of the street goes, but also as far as which side of the lane you are on. The only exception is when you go to make a right turn, in which case you will check your rearview mirror, side mirror and over your right shoulder before moving to the right side of the left lane and making the turn. Go as slow as possible to allow you more time to remember all the minute details." (Yamaguchi)
  • "In the second test, I was lectured on being overly careful, but they passed me anyway. The first time I was told I was "looking but not seeing", which actually meant "be ridiculously over careful at obstructed views". For the crank, you really can just follow the tire tracks of the countless others before you and you'll breeze through. Verbalizing is a good idea, but if it's going to throw you off (as it did me) it's better to remain silent." (Yamaguchi)
  • "1. Take the practical test very seriously. This is not the same driving test you may have taken in your home country. 2. Go to a driving school at least once. There, you can receive helpful hints and exact advice on what needs improvement. 3. Be very methodical in your approach. 4. Get a map of the route you will take that day, and walk the course before your test. 5. Exaggerate your movements so the tester can see what you're doing. -Jonathan" (Yamaguchi)


CHUBU (Aichi, Fukui, Gifu, Ishikawa, Nagano, Niigata, Shizuoka, Toyama, Yamanashi)

  • "I cleared the test on second time with manual drive car. I was fortunate to get the same proctor on both occasions. In the first attempt, though I could pass through S-curve and L-turn smoothly, the engine stopped in the midway during changing gears and also had one or two turn signal errors. In the second attempt, though I was turning towards the other side of the course, the proctor corrected me. Otherwise, I followed the rules in accordance to what was expected of me. In general, the turn signals should be perfectly performed at all turns..which include looking back to the side of turn, glance the mirrors, put the signal on and then reconfirm by looking mirrors. The most important of all is to be calm even if you make minor mistakes. Don't ever show that you are NERVOUS. Try to the test perfectly in accordance to the rules that they mention before taking it. Also TRY SPEAKING IN JAPANESE with the proctor!!!" (Fukui)
  • "I failed for making a right turn into the left lane of a 4-lane "highway" as opposed to the lane nearest the center line. Perhaps a little strict, but fair enough. I took a class that was 5000yen for 50 minutes that helped me learn a few of the tricks and familiarized me with what the course was like and what was expected of me. TALK to other people who have taken the test in your prefecture. Pick their brains for any info they can give you to eliminate as many of the little unknown details as you can. I've found the test is quite different from prefecture to prefecture." (Gifu)
  • "Point to the mirrors as you look to them, say check check check, signal turn. That helped alot. Practice the test as many times as possible on the practice course. I went there and it was closed, so I walked the course two times, and pretended I was driving. Worked wonders. Signal as SOON as the instructor says to turn. Then do your mirror checks. That was the only part I had a problem with. Put on gas as you leave from the emergency brake test on the hill. Not just the foot break. It doesn't matter if you have an automatic. Don't hit the poles. ;)" (Gifu)
  • "Take the driving course. Speak out loud to the instructor to show that you are concientious about your actions. For example. When looking to the right, say "migi." And then when looking to the left, say "hidari." After that, when you know it's clear, say "O.k. desu." For all of the checks you do, say it out loud, your proctor (tester) will know that you are thinking about each move made. I know all of the mistakes I made. I think the driving course will help me pass." (Gifu)
  • "The practical test is passable on the first try, but I believe you must memorize the course, take a class and you must practice a good amount. Oh, and of course, you must be extremely anal and drive like a 80 year old obasan. I also reccommend wearing a skirt (for the women that is)." (Gifu)
  • "The examiner gave us instructions throughout the course, but it really helped to have the course memorized. I went there thinking I'd have time during lunch to walk the course, but they took us right out for the practical after we'd passed the written. Before making turns, be aware of where any traffic could potentially be coming from and look ALL around. The one comment the examiner had for me was that I turned too slowly. When you get to the site, be friendly to all who help you - my examiner turned out to be the man who cut out my picture at the front desk and administered the written test. Fortunately, he was a kindly old fellow!" (Gifu)
  • "Tips:
     a. Show your face a lot at the DMV before your test so they get to know your face (like politics, the more you look familiar, the more they are accepting of you)  
    b. Arrive one hour early to your appointment.  
    c. Chat it up with the cleaning lady  
    d. Go out to the course and watch the way the driving instructors drive.  
    e. Read the Driving Manual.  
    f. Smile, be friendly, confident but not over confident, try to speak Japanese.  
    g. Show that you have responsibility and you are not in the country to be a "burden" on society. (After waiting 3 hours, I asked them politely what time I would be out of there because I had a class to teach)
    **It is my hypothesis that I passed on my first time 1. because I look Japanese. 2. because my appointment was on a beautiful, sunny, relaxed day that wasn't busy. 3. because I was lucky to get a nice man to grade me on the course. Even if you drive the course flawlessly, they can always pick something to fail you on. So, on top of driving the course flawlessly, I believe that you need to use some PR skills and read the person who is testing you to decide what is the best way to act." (Nagano)
  • "Take a driving lesson! I took a one-hour lesson, and make sure the test-giver knows you took it (maybe bring a receipt or certificate of your taking it.) It helped me pass on try #1." (Niigata)
  • "No matter how many times you read the handbook you will probably fail. This is because many things that will be checked in the drivers test are not in the handbook. Talk to people who have taken the test before to find out about all these completely useless rules that will be checked." (Shizuoka)
  • "They must be alert, awake and aware before taking actual driving test..." (Shizuoka)
  • "1. Go there and get a map of the course.   2. Bring a lunch and walk the course before you actually take the test.   3. Remember to signal for 3 seconds before you move over to block the line to cyclists, motorcyclists, etc. before you turn.   4. Pretend the course is the street and drive like you would there.   5. Hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel.   6. Turn with both hands, not the Daniel Larusso Wax On Wax Off   7. If there is an obstruction in the road (cones, etc,) that you have to drive around, use your turn signal before and after.   8. Be attentive always. Pretend you're looking for a sniper. Your neck should hurt from looking around so much by the end!   9. May the Force be with you." (Shizuoka)
  • "You more or less have to take the lessons at the Practice Course next to the Driving Center. If you're a reasonably good driver, 4 lessons will be enough. Otherwise, go for all 7. As for the test, there seems to be an unwritten rule that good drivers have to the the test 3 times (minimum)." (Toyama)
  • "The most important thing is not to miss any of your 'checks' before changing lanes, turning, or going through intersections. Make sure you move your head and not just your eyes or you may fail because it wasn't obvious to the tester that you made the check." (Toyama)
  • "I took the test the first year after they changed the rules. So, there was no experience to read up on. Best advice? Try and learn something everytime you fail, and hope it applies to the next instructor." (Toyama)
  • "Learn all the rules (what you need to do - the guide on this website will tell you), and practice doing them. Try to get advice (and a course map) from someone who's done it before. If you understand the course and all the things you need to do on it, you can pass without taking lessons. If you do take a lesson or two, you'll be way more confident about the test." (Yamanashi)
  • "Do not get frustrated; be patient! When taking the test, do not get into the mentality that you just want to 'get it over with' because you'll just rush through the course and make fatal mistakes." (Yamanashi)


HOKKAIDO (Hokkaido)

  • "I made the mistake of taking the driving test without any preparation the first time and failed miserably. Ater reading the tips on this site and practicing myself on the actual course and incorporating feedback from the first proctor, I was able to pass on my second go around. As for tips, when changing lanes always do the full head turn with the mirrors and then look back before signaling and then do another check of the mirrors and blind spot before actually making the turn. When making the left turn, it seems unnatural to look over your left shoulder but you need to do this to look for the 'stray' bicyclist who may have just entered your turning area. At stop signs, wait for the full 3 seconds, confirm the intersection is clear to enter by looking right, left, right, and then proceed. During both tests, the proctors drove me around the course once and then they had me perform the test. I felt being able to speak Japanese helped to put the proctor as ease." (Hokkaido)


KANTO (Chiba, Gunma, Ibaraki, Kanagawa, Saitama, Tochigi, Tokyo)

  • "Chiba seems to be strict about hitting the curb in the elbow turns; everyone who did was failed immediatly. Of course hitting the polls is also automatic failure. You're allowed 3 backups, so use them if you need. Always respond with a polite "hai" when the instructor gives you a command. You may even repeat the command. Make sure on right hand turns you turn into the far lane. Also, when making a left turn, look in this order: right, rear view, left mirror, left behind you. Doesn't seem to hurt to repeat this before turning." (Chiba)
  • "Actually from my experience is all depends on who the tester is. In my case I had the same tester on the first two tries and a different one on the third time. The first tester was very austere and strict and seem to do everything he could to put me on edge. On the other hand the second tester was very friendly and put me as well as the other person in car with me at ease and did really engage in any commentary or anything until the end of the test. My best advice is do you best to evaluate the tester before hand and figure on taking the test without intending to pass just to get a feel for the course." (Gunma)
  • "Drive incredibly slowly except for the part where they want you to accelerate to 45 km/ph. Exaggerate your gestures, whether you're just looking for other traffic or stopping at the stopsign. (If you stop for less than a full three seconds, as I did, it's an instant fail!) Wear the proper shoes (no heels, no exposed toes, etc.). Don't fail on a technicality before even getting behind the wheel!" (Gunma)
  • "Remember it is testing your ability to pass the driving test, not your ability to drive." (Gunma)
  • "Drive smoothly and with confidence, and follow every single little piddly rule that you've read about. They all count..." (Gunma)
  • "The best advice I got was that when you turn, you have to be on the same side of the lane as the direction you are turning. Also, if you take the manual test, you will go first." (Gunma)
  • "Plan on taking it at least twice. The instructor I spoke with said he almost never passes foreigners on their first try." (Gunma)
  • "I was very lucky. I do recommend taking the manual test if you can, as I've heard (and maybe shown by my experience) that they are more lenient. Something to do with driving a manual being more difficult. I don't know, but I had no problems. On the other hand, everyone I know in Gunma had to take the test at least 2-3 times, so..." (Gunma)
  • "Attend driving lessons at one of the Japanese driving schools. In order to pass the Japanese driving test, one must demonstrate certain techniques that drivers in countries other than Japan don't do. Some of these techniques are not applicable to real world driving and in some cases my lead to more accidents instead of preventing them. One example is the instructor wants everyone to step on the brake 3 separate times instead of one smooth long stop after you accelerate to 50km per hour. Another is that when you are coming to a stop sign or turning, you are supposed to be as close to the line as possible. This makes it difficult to make tight turns. When you turn your car will be close to oncoming traffic in the next lane. This is very dangerous." (Gunma)
  • "Go to the practice course and practice on your own to get a feel for the course. Remember to follow their rules to a T, because you are playing their game for the test. i didn't pass the first time because i stopped before turning left onto a bigger street. In my neighborhood i always stop to look for bicyclists and little kids, but in the test i failed because i wanted to stop and look. The next time, i didn't stop, played by their rules and passed." (Gunma)
  • "Ask others who have taken the course for a brief run-down of the course. Go slow and be overly cautious, exaggerating over the shoulder looks, signaling, etc. The test is more about making your tester comfortable with you at the wheel than your actual driving skills." (Gunma)
  • "You will not pass the first time. It will probably be because of an incredibly minor error. Please don't think that it's because you're a foreigner--many Japanese people also have to take the test several times, even after spending lots of money on driving school! Just don't get discouraged. I've found that in most cases, they will pass you on the third or forth try, even if you make a minor error. (On my third try, I bumped a curb and still passed.) Talk to other foreigners who have taken the test in your area, because every driving center will have its own random red tape and protocol. Many of the driving centers give out maps of the course, so see if a friend still has one or if you can get the map ahead of time. There are alot of online resources to help you as well. Good luck!" (Gunma)
  • "Don't even get close to the poles in the crank. Even if you know the car is not going to hit them your tester may think otherwise and fail you automatically." (Gunma)
  • "1. Get a feel of the course. 2. Don't jump the side wall in the crank. (50% failures) 3. Try not to drive too slow. (be normal) 4. Don't stop at the T. (only stop at STOP sign) 5. Be careful to not swerve at the turns(2) after STOP. 6. Ignore the instructor." (Gunma)
  • "Attend Driving School at least a couple times!!!" (Gunma)
  • "Study hard and drive well. You can't over exaggerate looking right,left, and behind enough." (Ibaraki)
  • "Drive like your 90 year old grandmother is sitting in the back seat! You have to be extra careful and pay super close attention to the instructions. For example, don't go over 40 kmph when the tester says to speed up to 40, and take all curves at 5-10 kmph, no higher. And alway look over your shoulder before you switch lanes. That's what they got me on the first time!" (Ibaraki)
  • "Over-emphasize every movement or gesture (especially looking behind and under the car, looking both ways before turning onto a street - re: craning your neck in uncomfortable positions just the the proctor will be satisfied that you actually did look to both the right and the left)" (Ibaraki)
  • "Before taking the actual driving test, seek advise or actual lecture from retired inspectors" (Kanagawa)
  • "Read all the tips provided and make sure take at least one hour driving class on Saturday or Sunday before the actual practical test." (Kanagawa)
  • "Don't make any nervous/foolish mistakes. Every time I failed it was because I made a nervous mistake. Ignore the tester and focus on perfection." (Kanagawa)
  • "I believe following the turning procedure that they advise helped me. It's a pain- first look in the rear view mirror, then the side mirror of the direction you're turning, then the blind spot, then turn on the blinker, after 4 seconds check the blind spot again, look forward and then move to the left/right side of the lane. This procedure must be finished 30 meters before the corner you're going to turn at. Remember, even though it makes little sense when it comes to turns, that if you're turning left you need to move to the left side of your lane, and right side for turning right (30 meters before turn). Otherwise, travel just to the left of the center of the lane at all times." (Saitama)
  • "Exaggerate!!! Repeat commands." (Saitama)
  • "Be cool and patient" (Saitama)
  • "The test itself is easy. Turning and lane changing is where they mark you down the most so it's important you do it EXACTLY how the book says." (Saitama)
  • "In Saitama, they will give you a briefing before the practical test, that goes over every little detail of how to pass the test. They will run through the whole course and tell you what to look for and where you may slip up in each section. This is very useful! I read a lot of advice on this and other sites regarding how to pass the test, and all of it was good advice, but the most important stuff is the things that they guy tells you before you go to the course. It seemed like they actually wanted us to pass, although out of the 20 foreigners there that day, I was the only one who passed. On my first time. The most important advice they give you is regarding the procedure for turning right or left. Either direction, you have to signal your intention to turn, check the mirrors and blind spots, and then move to that side of the lane, at least 30 meters before the actual turn. Then check again when you are actually making the turn. For me, it helped to think of the test as being related to a lot of japanese platform video games, like MegaMan or Super Mario Brothers. On the surface, it seems vaguely correlated to the real world, but in fact it isn't. You are confronted with a series of obstacles which can only be passed if you jump through the right hoops in the right order perfectly. The driving test is just like this, although thankfully there are is no lava or mushrooms. There is a very specific procedure for passing the test, and it is well outlined on page five. Follow this procedure perfectly, and you will pass. Don't, and you will fail." (Saitama)
  • "Make sure you always turn into the left lane, even if the right looks more natural: e.g. the last straightaway. Stop at the hedges and look both ways TWICE before going on. Don't worry about backing up at the Crank or the S-curve, unless you do it more than three times there are no points off. Pay attention in the class after your true-false test, the guy telling you about the course really wants you to pass. Lastly about the T-F test remember in Japan, unlike Europe, Canada or the USA, there is no legal drinking limit. It is against the law to drive with even a single beer in you." (Saitama)
  • "Go to your local driving school to have them teach you what you need to know for the test. Will save you a lot of time, money and headaches. You usually need to have some Japanese ability or a translator." (Tochigi)
  • "Go to a driving school (trust me, it's worth it). at least 2 hours training (one hour a day), preferable a day before the road test. it boosted my confidence level. my advise is don't leave it to chance. i was able to do it on 2nd attempt. the driving school will tell you all your mistakes, and your chances to pass increases each time you practise with them. practise the S-curve and the Crank-curve many times until you have a feel for it. It is easy if you know the trick. the driving school will teach you the approximate measurements of how far you are from the left curb, or right center line, or nose of your car from the stop line as seen from the driver's seat. it is hard to describe here. for your 1st attempt, i would advise you to finish the course even if you have a lot of mistakes. just do not be overconfident. anything can happen while you are on the road test. if you fail the first time, chances are you will remember your mistakes during your 2nd road test attempt. after failing the 1st time, i think i became a better driver than i would have if i passed the road test for the 1st time." (Toyko)
  • "Surprisingly, during my practical test, 5 out of 6 testers were first timers, the other one was a second timer. I realized later -- almost everyone invested in a driving school. There they will teach you what the examiner expects, which is mostly emphasize how to change lanes, how to make turns, how to stop ... and of course how to pass the S and L curve." (Tokyo)
  • "Every test center has its own protocol I guess. I passed on my third attempt after doing a one hour practice at 10,000 yen on the course itself." (Tokyo)
  • "Just take the course slowly, it's pretty simple and easy. The entry into the S curve is tricky as it is from a sharp left turn. Both S curve and crank exit with a right turn. There is a red blinking light, one stop sign and a red light with green arrow in the direction you are turning (go). The obstacle is strange because it happens right after coming out of a right turn." (Tokyo)
  • "Before the test I approached the testing officer. I read his name tag and said to him 'Igarashi San, kyo wa yoroshiku onegai shimusu'. He looked at me and smiled. 'Gambatte', he replied. I bowed and said 'arigato gozaimasu'. The test began at 9:35 a.m.and to my deepest regret, I was the first. It was raining hard. I drove very slowly and finished the test without any major setbacks. It was my first time to drive since November 2005 when I took my practical test in Boston for my Massachusetts Driving License. I didn't attend a driving school in Japan either. Fortunately, I passed the test and got my Japanese driving license.It was my first attempt. In total I spent just 4,250 Yen. All the information I received to pass my test was from this web site. I strongly advise those hoping to take the test to read this site no matter which prefecture they are taking their test. The technique needed to pass the test is essentailly the same everywhere in Japan and thoroughly elaborated at this site. Thank You." (Tokyo) [Editor's note: You're welcome!]]
  • "Know your Street Signs. Use common sense." (Tokyo)
  • "YOU HAVE TO BE BEST ON TEST DAY IN ADDITION TO EXAMINER'S MOOD." (Tokyo)
  • "Take Lesson even if you are an expert driver. Fuchu Course is available for practice on saturday. So, do practice there for an hour before you take the test." (Tokyo)


KINKI (Hyogo, Kyoto, Mie, Nara, Osaka, Shiga, Wakayama)

  • "I failed the first time because the clutch was so different from the one I was used to and I stalled one too many times." (Hyogo)
  • "I attribute my passing to the fact that I speak Japanese and spoke to everyone in polite Japanese throughout the day. My instructor seemed to appreciate this tremendously. When I took the practical test I was overly cautious. I stayed a couple clicks under the speed limit the entire time. I know a lot of people who have been told "you drive too american" which I can only interpret to mean aggressively. It helps to just play the part of a passive driver for the few minutes you are testing. Each time the administrator gave me a command I answered with a "Hai" and he just nodded and smiled." (Hyogo)
  • "Walk the course before the test. Take notice of all the places you'll have to stop or slow down. The girl I was in the car with totally blew through all the stop signs and right over the railroad crossing." (Hyogo)
  • "Be patient and understanding of the day long process. If you go in with an attitude you can count on not getting your license!" (Hyogo)
  • "I passed the first time, though only because I knew from a friend who had taken it and failed to leave very little room on the lefthand side of the road (between the curb and the car) -- that way, bikers cannot get through." (Hyogo)
  • "Folks should read your website carefully, as it's a great help. If I had read through all the tips offered before my first test (and followed them), I might have passed the first time! But the problem is: If you're an experienced driver, you can't imagine a simple driving test being so ridiculous." (Hyogo) [Editor's Note: Thanks!]
  • "When turing left, be very close to the curb. When turning right, be very close to the center line. During my 1st test I was in hte center of the lane. Remember that in Japan it is ok for cars to pass another car that is turning. It is important to give them room." (Hyogo)
  • "If you read this entire site and remember all the weird little rules you should be able to pass on your first try no problem. I was worried about it but just make sure you are very cautious and check over your shoulder a lot. The person who tested me actually said that I looked too much and that if I drove like that on the road I would get into an accident, but she could tell I was trying hard. Also, definitely show up early to walk the course (I did it three times) and watch the video they show you. It will show you the proper way to do things. For instance, you don't have to look under your car before you get in at Akashi, at least when I took the test (in Feb '06). Remember you can back up a few times on the crank (the sharp turns), so take advantage of that. When you walk through the course imagine where you would drive the car. So just remember all the rules, relax, show up early, and you should be able to pass on your first try without taking any kind of training course." (Hyogo)
  • "Paying to take the practice at the center before the real test saved the day. They still failed me twice, but it really helped. They told me what to and not to do on during the real test. Also, look over the course map carefully b4 the test (that's what got me the first time.)" (Kyoto)
  • "The skills test is in itself is relatively easy, so don't worry so much about that part. Just develop a system or pattern to checking your mirrors and over your shoulder prior to taking the test. Also, study the course. With that said, I don't think I can stress this point enough - learn and use polite Japanese. If it's a system where the testee and the following testee are in the car at the same time, give the proper greeting of the day when you get in the back seat. When it's your turn to take the test, say "youroshiku onegaishimasu." From there, do all of your checks and ask "ii desuka" before you start the engine. Throughout the course, any command the proctor gives you, say "hai" or "hai, wakirimashita." I went as far to say "ikimasu" (we're going) before I stepped on the gas and also to confirm a turn he told me to make and that I already knew I was supposed to make by "migi desuka" (turn right). " (Mie)
  • "Always wait on oncoming traffic even if it's really far away. That's what failed me the first time." (Mie)
  • "In Wakayama there is only one place to take the test and that is in Wakayama city. Have your Board of Education call ahead of time to set up the appointment. It helps if they know someone there. My board of education mentioned that I needed the car for my work. I wasn't allowed to practice on the course but my test administrator drove me around the course once before my test to show me what to do and not to do. It is not hard at all and they are very nice. Just do everything slowly and make sure you do all the little motions to overly satisfy what they are looking for. Such as double check everything before you change lanes, make a turn, or even just driving straight ahead. Be courteous, smile and once again....drive slow!!" (Wakayama)
  • "A couple of days beforehand, I did a practice course at a driving center in my town. It wasn't the same test as the city I took the test in, but they showed me what to expect. I think the practice course is the reason why I passed, as the Japanese practical driving test is very different to that in America. I've heard some bad stories, but my tester was very nice, and even complimented me on my driving. (Oh - and before I took the test, I told the tester that I had practiced on a course. I wanted it to look like I had made an effort - don't know if that helped or not.) Also, I had to travel 3 hours on an express train to get to the testing center - cost quite a bit. I've also heard that they're a little easier on people who have to travel a long way. I could also speak a bit of Japanese. Not sure if that helped either, but at least helps to break the ice. I'd also recommend at least looking through 'The Rules of the Road' book, since some of the Japanese driving laws can be different from your home country." (Wakayama)
  • "Have someone walk the course with you and point out potential mistakes." (Wakayama)
  • "Take a short training course beforehand." (Wakayama)
  • "Go slow, just to give yourself enough time to check your mirrors and over your shoulder, and to turn your signals on in time. Ask your test giver to give you instructions as you go around the course." (Wakayama)
  • "There are four set courses on the same range. They run different people on different courses at the same time, so you need to watch out for other vehicles, including trucks and busses. A and B courses are the easiest.

    In the 'crank', the S-curve and the 90-degree narrow turns, if you hit the curb you're out. But, you can back up once without penalty. A second backup will cost you points but will not automatically fail you. You have to back up BEFORE you hit the curb--if you hit it it's an automatic fail.

    The 10 question written test comprises five pieces of cardboard with pictures and questions on each side. They're really dumb and obvious but I recommend reading the book through a couple times to get clear on the laws. You need 7/10 to pass. I passed with 9.

    They give you a map of the course marked with your route, down to the lanes you're supposed to turn into, and when you're supposed to change lanes. I speak OK Japanese, so when the guy was showing me the map for the first time I asked him if my test giver would be giving me instructions along the way. He said they could do it either way and I requested that they tell me where to go in case I forget. Apparently, generally if you miss a turn they won't tell you, but you can drive around the course and get back on track; this takes away from your points but as long as you don't go too far distance-wise to get back on track, you can still pass as long as you finish your course. I got the same guy in my car, so he just gave me directions as we went, even though I knew it pretty well.

    It helped to visualize going through the course a couple times during the lunch break, especially to confirm which lanes to turn into, which follows different laws from America.

    I kind of wish I had practiced getting in a car a few times too. This isn't anything official, but here's what I think they look for, with a few extras added in for safety.
    1. Check in front of the car for objects.
    2. Walk around the back.
    3. LOOK to your right (behind the car) before walking around to the driver's side of the car.
    4. LOOK to your left (toward the rear of the car) before opening the door and getting in.
    5. Check that the car is in Park and the emergency brake is set.
    6. Lock the doors.
    7. Ask your test guy to put on his seat belt. Put on yours.
    8. Adjust your seat.
    9. Adjust the mirrors.
    10. Ask if you can start the engine, and start it.
    11. AFTER he tells you to start, STEP on the brake, put the car in Drive, release the brake, and wait. LOOK in your mirror and over your shoulder before you pull out.

    Your test isn't finished until you're safely on the sidewalk, so stop the car, put it in park, set the brake, ask if you can turn off the engine, thank the policeman, and then LOOK in the mirror and LOOK over your shoulder before you open the door and get out. That's the last thing you'll be scored on.

    It's really easy. As long as you stay within the speed limit they can't really score you down; you do need to give yourself enough time to set your blinker before you change lanes, and to look in your mirrors and over your shoulders often. This is why you should go slow. If you don't check enough or at the right times, or if you set your blinkers too late, they can score you down. Go slow and do everything ahead of time. " (Todd from Wakayama) [Editor's note: Thanks for so much detail!]


KYUSHU (Fukuoka, Kagoshima, Kumamoto, Miyazaki, Nagasaki, Oita, Saga)

  • "I was told by a policeman that foreigners were not allowed to pass the test in my prefecture before failing at least twice. I also endured comments about my country to show me why I don't know how to drive in Japan. Some of the rules aren't things you would think would be on the test (at least not in the States)-you are judged on even just getting into the car (there are rules on which direction you go -front or back around the car- to open the door). If it possible to get at least two lessons from a driving school, it makes it a bit easier. My Board of Education was frustrated with me not passing, so they asked the local police man to help me get lessons and talk to the driving test site. I highly recommend going that route. The first time I took the test, the tester asked a Japanese person to sit in the back so he could comment on how bad I drove. Not the shot of confidence that I needed. I do not even know what I did, but I failed in the first minute. It is best to bring a translator with you. They seemed really resentful that I could not understand what they were saying, especially when they wanted to insult my country. One big thing for them is that I came an hour earlier to walk the course. It shows the dedication and drive that they love. Walk the course as much as possible, as you are to have memorized it by the time you get into the car. Even if they give you a map beforehand, walk the course if you get a chance." (Fukuoka)
  • "Don't expect to pass at all, because driving skill has absolutely nothing to do with the test itself. I've been driving for twenty years and was told twice that I needed to go to driving school. They were just trying to squeeze more money out of the foreigner. I did nothing different between the first and fourth times. The examiner even blatantly lied once while giving me my report, saying that I did something I did NOT do. Look in all three mirrors and over your shoulder ALL the time, every single time you turn, both before and after you turn on your turn signal. If you turn left, hug the left side of the road. If you turn right, hug the right side of road. Always be very conspicuous in which direction you are looking. Pray." (Fukuoka)
  • "I went to the Shingu driving school three times to practice the practical test specifically. They really helped me to know what to do every step of the way. The lessons were 6300 yen each, but well worth it. I also acted extremely polite and thankful to everyone at the driving test center on the day I took the test (just pretend it is your birthdayCand everyone gave you a nice thoughtful gift), and I said yoroshiku onegaishimasu when I met the examiner and tried to act as polite and Japanese as possible (arigatou gozaimasu, when I finished the driving test). And as stated by many other people here, there is no real practicality to the test, you just have to accept the rules and adapt. If you're asking why you have to do something at a certain place, you're not going to be able to do it. Just write it down, accept it, and memorize it; don't bother with why, or cursing "damn this is stupid." Also I was told that the examiner will grade most of your performance on the beginning two laps where you have to get up to 35km(no more than 37km) and then change lanes; two times. Remember to hug the left side when driving regularly, but when changing lanes or turning right, first look, then signal, then veer over to the right side of your lane and hug the line, then look again over your shoulder, and finally change lanes and brake, because by then you'll be at the bend. I also walked the course the whole time from 12:00 to 1:00 while it was open for just such a thing. Also signal at least 30 meters before your turn. Always check your blind spots in the direction that you're turning (in case a bicyclist is zipping past you in the real world). I'm sorry that I'm kind of jumping around here, but I'm typing it down as I'm remembering it. But the fact is, I passed it on my first try, and I fully know that I would have never done it without going to the driving school to get all of the facts, tips, and practice first. I would be on my 6th or 8th try now and still failing. You may not have to go three times like me, it may only take you two or even one time, but it's really good practice! and it still costs less (especially in time) to do some lessons first and then take a true crack at the exam. I even made a mistake in that I checked to make sure the emergency break was on when I got in the car, but I forgot to take it off when I pulled out and the car lurched and lunged before I corrected the situation. I thought I pretty much had already failed based on the severity of the grading I had read about here on this site. But I just politely acted sorry to the examiner and quickly resumed my serious driver composure. Oh, and don't forget to look both ways before going through an intersection, especially the one with the two grey brick walls blocking your view on each side, go SLOWLY through it looking back and forth like a cat watching a ping pong match. Take care! and Good luck!" (Fukuoka)
  • "1-check below of the car from back 2-check below of the car from front 3-check the street then take into the car 4-adjust the chair 5-fasten the sit belt 6-adjust the mirror 7-check the hand brake and make sure that gear is in PARKING 8-start the engine 9-check the room mirror 10-turn the right flash on 11-turn your head to your left shoulder, then left side mirror, then room mirror, then right side mirror, then right shoulder and check everywhere 12-change the gear to DRIVE 13-go straight ahead 14-first turn, turn on the left flash 15-after turning to to the right, check right hand road side 16-go straight ahead, accelerate to 35km/h 17-check the room mirror. 18-turn the right flash on. 19-check right hand side mirror, check over your right shoulder for motorbike. 20-change the line. 21- pump the brake.(pumping brakes means that hold the brake, then release it for a second, then hold it again, release it for a second, then hold it for a while ( the duration of releasing the brake should be very small)) 22-pump brakes until reaching 15-20 km/h. 23-Don't brake during the curve, Don't accelerate during the curve. 24-turn to right, and follow the center line, don't turn like snake, make a smooth beautiful curve 25-check the room mirror, turn right flash, check the right hand side mirror, look over your right shoulder, keep right near the center line 26-when you arrived at intersection, (a)-check your front road, (b)check right road, (c)check right shoulder, if there is no car, don't stop, make right turn 27-when making right turn, take care to don't overlap the triangle on the center of the road 28-accelerate, then if the signal is red stop before the intersection , if it is not red don't stop,(a) check the right hand side road and (b)then left hand side and go straight ahead. 29-when signal changed to green, (a)check the right hand side road then (b) left hand side road, then go straight ahead. 30-just after passing the intersection, check the room mirror, then turn the right flash on, check the right hand side mirror, look over your right shoulder, 31-change the line 32-when you arrived to the intersection, check the right hand side road, then left hand side road, then over your right shoulder, and if there is not any car, without stopping go straight ahead If there is a car, wait until it passes, then check again and make the right turn. 33-after turning to right, keep to the most left hand side lane. 34-check left hand side and turn right, go straight, 35-accelerate up to 35km/h, check room mirror, turn right flash on, 36-check right hand side mirror, check over your right hand shoulder, change lane 37-pump the brakes, until 15-20km/h 38-turn to right, 39-check room mirror, keep near the center line, check front road, check over your right shoulder. 40-if there is no car, make right turn without stopping. If there is a car, stop until the car go away, then check again and make turn. 41-accelerate, check the room mirror, turn left flash on, check left side mirror, check over your left shoulder. keep left. 42-stop before the stop line. don't go on stop line. wait 3 seconds. check right hand side road, then check left hand side road, check over your left shoulder(motorbike check). again check right hand side road and if it is clear make left turn, during left turn again motorbike check. 43-stop before the wall ends, go very slowly, check right hand side road, then left hand side road, again right hand side road, again left hand side road and pass the road. 44-check room mirror, turn left flash on, motorbike check from left, keep as left as possible. 45-In the entrance of the crank. motorbike check again.(In the crank make a beautiful S-curve as described in 46-48). 46-turn left into the crank, after entering into the crank , don't turn to the next left road very soon, go straight ahead and keep right until reaching the end of the springs, then turn the handle to the most left position and make the left turn. 47-keep as left as possible until reaching the end of the left hand side springs. make the right turn. but keep as left as possible, until reaching the end of the latest springs. 48-Now turn to right a little, because when you want to go out of the crank it is possible to go out of the road. Turn to right a little when you passed the latest springs. 49-check right hand side road, left hand side road, and motorbike check from left, again right hand side road, and then make the left turn. 50-go straight ahead, If the signal is red, stop before the intersection, if it is not red, don't stop, check the right hand side road, left hand side road, and go straight ahead. 51-before passing the intersection completely, check the room mirror, turn on the right flash, check right side mirror, motorbike check from right, change line to right, keep near the center line. 52-Check right hand side road, left hand side road, and if there is no car, make the right turn. If one car comes from very far away and its right or left flash is signaling, wait until it goes away. then make the right turn. 53-go straight ahead. check room mirror, turn right flash on, check right hand side mirror, check over your right shoulder(motorbike check from right). change line to right, keep near the center line. 54-when reaching to the entrance of the S-curve, check front road, and then motorbike check, then go into the S-curve. 55-when you want to go out of the S-curve, turn right flash on, check right hand side road, check left hand side road, motorbike check from right, make the right turn. 56-after making the right turn, check the room mirror, turn on the left flash, check left hand side mirror, motorbike check from left, keep as left as possible. 57-If the signal is red stop, if it is not red don't stop. check right hand side road, left hand side road, motorbike check from left, again right hand side road. 58-make the left turn. during the left turn motorbike check. 59-check the room mirror. turn on the right flash. check right hand side mirror, motorbike check from right. change line to right, keep near the center line. 60-when you arrived to intersection, don't stop if there is not any car, just check right hand side road, left hand side road and motorbike check from right and make the turn. 61-But if there was a car, stop until it goes away, check again and make the right turn. 62-check the room mirror, turn left flash on, check left hand side mirror, and motorbike check from left. stop before the intersection. go very slowly before the wall. check left hand side road. turn left. 63-go straight ahead, listen which color the proctor tells you to stop. the front of the car should be in one line with the rod. When you are parking the left hand side of the car should be as close as possible (almost 20cm) to the road. To have a measure for it, check that the left side windshield wiper end from your view, should be overlapped the rod. 64-before you turn left to park,your left flash should be turned on until you completely stop. If it goes off during park procedure, turn it on again. 65-change the gear to parking mode, pull the hand brake, turn the engine off. some notes: 1-when turning to left make a beautiful curve, don't follow a snake. 2-Don't turn the flasher on during the crank and S-curve 3-Turn the flasher on 3 seconds before 30 meters to the Curve." (Fukuoka)
  • "The policeman drives you around the course once. Pay close attention to what he is doing, how far before the stop line he is stopping, how he moves within the lane when approaching turns." (Kumamoto)
  • "Expect that you will fail once or twice (if you pass once or the second time, consider yourself lucky). The most important factor and the hardest part in the test is hugging the left side of the road to turn right and doing wide turns, and the constant, head spin check every time you turn the signals. I passed by correcting this small mistakes. Think of the road test as a real road in order to be in a more cautious mode." (Kumamoto)
  • "Take it very seriously, read up on it, take at least one lesson. There are detailed instructions your teacher will give you, so make sure you can understand them, or have a friend with good Japanese help you out. Memorize the course using whatever method works best for you. Study a map, walk the course multiple times, visualize the route in your head. Good luck." (Miyazaki)
  • "practice a lot before-hand and say the things you have to do outloud. Maybe your foot won't manage to "break, break, break" but your mouth can say it and the person judging your driving will know that you know what you should be doing." (Miyazaki)
  • "Lie and tell the examiner that you have practiced 5 hours, even if you didn't. I took the test 3 times. The first two times I told the truth and told the examiner that I had only practiced 2 hours. They found various small tiny reasons to fail me, ie my curves were not perfect etc. The third time i lied and told them I had practiced 5 hours, and I passed, despite being told that "this and that is wrong, please practice..." 3 times seems to be the going rate." (Miyazaki)
  • "Talk with veterans of your testing center. Make a list of points they failed on and work on all of them. You can drive with a friend and have that person check your performance against that list. Although it took me 7 tries, I didn't take any lessons and only had a homemade handbook to go by. I coached a colleague of mine and he passed after 4 tries and no lessons (my coaching was done after his 3rd try)." (Miyazaki)
  • "I had an advantage because 1) my wife is Japanese and 2) her father is a retired driving instructor. Even so, I didn't pass on my first go. I reccomend taking it slow. On my first try, the proctor told me, "You lack basic driving skills." Talk about kicking a man while he's down (I've been driving for over 15 years). The second time, I took the course much slower. The proctor was much more friendly; even using english instructions. He said I drove too slow in some sections (22 in a 30), but I was a very cautious driver and PASSED me. I think the overall feeling is that foreigners are overly confident and need to be "taught" humility (failing 1, 2, or 7 times). Although the proctor may have already passed or failed you before even starting the engine, take it easy, show you're a careful driver and you'll have a much better chance." (Miyazaki)
  • "Ask others. Some of the things you have to do during the test (such as position in the lane and checking your blind spots/mirrors) will be new to you. Start practicing these things well before you take the test so that you do them more naturally." (Nagasaki)
  • "Realize that it is in no way a test of your actual driving skill. Real life driving skills in no way come into play during this test. It is, simply, a test of your ability to remember a set order of events that you must play out. Ie, what order to get in and out of the car, and the VERY non-practical set of rules for their course. I was failed for "going too fast" on the straightaway (35kph) while my friend was failed for "not being over left enough while turning." They want a reason to fail you the first time out, so be careful." (Nagasaki)
  • "I was told that it paid to take professional driving lessons, so I spent the money and took the time to learn everything I could to ensure I passed the test the first time (as I was VERY low on nenkyuu!!). I did everything by the book, as my instructor told me, and it turned out fine. The best thing to remember is to talk yourself through the course, out loud, so the tester knows you are thinking and evaluating each situation." (Nagasaki - passed first time)
  • "I believe the exam was fair. I failed due to the following: i) not hugging the curb sufficiently on a left turn. I lost points on each left turn. In general my positioning at an intersection was poor. Examiner also commented on my checking the mirrors. ii) not using my blinker when starting out. The startout was similar to coming out of a garage (a single lane) and I thought it redundant to put on my right signal. Do not forget that to them you are a new inexperienced driver. As an experienced driver you will bring to the table tricks for seeing that the road is clear, quickly checking your mirror etc. You must return to a "hesitant" state of mind as it was when you first learned to drive. You must exaggerate your attention to safety." (Nagasaki)
  • "I took a one-hour, four thousand yen practice course first. I also asked everyone I knew who had taken it for advice. Look at all mirrors always and keep left-hand turns tight!" (Nagasaki)
  • "You will have to take it more than once, someone has to pretend to be learning from this right? In all honesty, ask questions to the dudes!" (Nagasaki)
  • "Nothing to say....no words...just awful!" (Nagasaki)
  • "Practise with professional driving school before examination. This due to several rules and procedures MUST be obey during the examination in Japan." (Nagasaki)
  • "It seems to be quite negative but really don't put high hope on passing in one go. This is because you could be failed by no reason at all. (what ever the proctor said after the drive, you had no chance of proving them wrong anyway!) Attend one or two lesson and pray for good luck during the driving test. Btw, try to please the proctor by being polite and learn up some japanese is quite helpful!" (Oita)
  • "Kiss ass!! Leave your arrogance at the door. Take someone who can translate for you. Pay the money to drive your car on the course to practice. I didn't bother taking the driving school and just practiced the course on my own with my JTE. Exaggerate every move--like looking in your mirrors. Don't forget to look over your left hand shoulder for pedestrians/bikers when making a left turn. And exaggerate looking for pedestrians when going straight through an intersection. Drive the course SLOWLY during the test. It's not a time test. Always always always use turn signals! Drive as close as possible to the left line--put a lot of room between you and the center line." (Saga)


OKINAWA (Okinawa)


SHIKOKU (Ehime, Kagawa, Kochi, Tokushima)


TOHOKU (Akita, Aomori, Iwate, Fukushima, Miyagi, Yamagata)

  • "This site was very helpful. It's better to think that the test is like a game with the certain rules, and just follow them. When I first took the test I thought hey see how I can drive!! It was a wrong position, you have to think - see how I can follow all your silly rules!!!" (Akita)
  • "Take at least one driving course at Hatakeyama Driving School and closely study the map of the course with all the signals and head turns marked on it. Visualize driving the course until you feel you have it completely memorized." (Iwate)
  • "The test itself isn't really all that hard, it's just a lot of little details to remember about driving. What made it hard was that there's no really good English information out there explaining the rules of the road (at least the ones the driving center and driving school follow) and the Driving School's seem to explain how to drive in a purposefully confusing manner. There are a few differences in basic driving procedure between the US and Japan, but mostly, it's the same deal - just on the left side of the road." (Iwate)
  • "Go to driving school, and don't let them swindle you into more than 2 hours of lessons (unless, I suppose, you are a really horrible driver and actually need to learn some driving skills). Chances are they won't speak English at driving school, so bring a translator if you can't communicate at an intermediate level in Japanese. Paying for driving school sucks when all that you need to learn is a stupid way to drive that would actually be unsafe on the road (my driving instructor actually told me, straight up, "Don't drive like this on the road, you'll cause an accident."). But grin & bear it. I found it helps to just think of it as yet another driving tax. As stupid as driving school was, I actually did learn a little bit there, and might be a better driver now because of it. - Forrest in Taneichi" (Iwate)
  • "Take one, or possibly 2, driving lessons on an identical course to the driving test course... it'll help you know what to expect. Do this especially if your Japanese isn't perfect, because if you don't, during the test, the tester will just tell you where to turn, and you don't want to make mistakes while you try to figure out what he said. Although I don't think that the driving test is the best way to test driving skill, I think that, to an extent, it does test this. I also think that it is fair in the sense that Japanese people also have to take driving tests on the same course. I also like the fact that they DO try to make sure that people are good drivers before they just give them a license... I'd rather have it this way then have them just give anyone and everyone a license." (Iwate)
  • "GO IN THE WINTER ! less people and more likely to pass" (Iwate)
  • "Learn your shit and you'll be fine." (Iwate)
  • "Take a few lessons at a driving school. I never could have passed without the guidance I got there. The instructor did not attempt to re-teach me how to drive, rather he taught me how to drive for the test. I took three classes and paid over 5000 yen per class, but it was certainly worth it in the time and trouble it saved me." (Fukushima)
  • "I took the test 5 years ago. At that time, 5 tries seemed to be about the usual. Now I think it is lower. My advice would be to take one driving lesson (maybe costing about 5000 yen) before doing the test. Of course the skills you learn during that lesson will help you during the test, but also the fact that you can say "I took driving lessons" will impress the tester." (Fukushima)
  • "Don't get frustrated about not passing the first time. You won't. Period." (Fukushima)
  • "Research what you have to do before hand and walk around the course during the lunch break." (Fukushima)
  • "There is a police station in Aizu Takada that has a mock driving course. I went there with my kyoiikucho san and practiced for a couple of hours. I needed him to get the police to allow me to use the practice course. I think there are several of these around." (Fukushima)
  • "Take a driving course first with Showa or some other school. They can teach you the pitfalls of the course. It's not so much that the course is difficult... the driving examiners are." (Fukushima)
  • "Take a driving lesson before going. There are schools that will go through the whole test with you, it costs like 10000 yen for one or two hours. Bring along another gaijin (to split the cost) and a Japanese friend to help translate." (Fukushima)
  • "Take the class at a driving school. The testers don't care about how well you drive, they care about how well you try to be Japanese. If you put on the show they want to see, then you have a chance." (Fukushima)
  • "Relax, be copurteous, pay keen attention to the road rules, and, if you are already a driver, just drive! If you have little experience, try to get some practice before the test, maybe a few lessons at a professional school would help. Also, some courses allow you to actually practice on the course prior to your test, do that if you can. Good luck!" (Miyagi)
  • "I read everything on the website many times and it helped me to pass the test. I brought a friend to translate in the car to ease my nerves of having to understand the proctor's Japanese. Walk the course before you drive--it helps a lot. They told us on Sundays the course is available to drive through as well." (Miyagi)
  • "Walk the course before driving it. Keep your blinkers going. Keep looking at your blind spots. Imagine each lane has an imaginary right turning lane near the center line and a left turning lane near the curb. 3 seconds is the golden rule for length the blinker should be on before turning and the length of a stop before proceeding." (Yamagata)


Thanks to everyone who has submitted to the survey. I'm no longer collecting results.

Copyright M. Fedak 2004 - Hiroshima ALT