Header image from the winner of the 2021-2022 Photo Contest.

Disclaimer: We are not automobile license experts. The information contained in this website is for general information purposes only. The information is provided by current and former JETs and while we endeavor to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to the website. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.

 

A driver’s license issued by a foreign DMV can be switched to a Japanese license (Gaimen Kirikae) by applying to a Driver’s License Center. To apply for a Japanese license in Niigata, applicants must fulfill the following conditions:

  • The applicant’s foreign driver’s license must be valid (expired licenses cannot be transferred).
  • The applicant must be able to prove that they stayed in the issuing country for at least three months in total after obtaining the license.
  • The applicant must be a registered resident in Niigata prefecture.

 

When should I start the Japanese drivers license process?

  • Please start the process as early as possible. Keep in mind that applications can only be processed at the Niigata Prefecture Driver’s License center at Seiro city.

 

What are the required documents needed?

  • Valid driver’s license
    (It must include an issuance date of at least three months prior to your arrival in JapanThis needs to correspond with your passport to prove that you resided in the country that issued your license for at least three months. If your license dose not include an issuance date, then you must also provide driving records from your issuing country proving that you resided in that country for at least three months prior to your arrival in Japan.)
  • Residence Card
  • Current passport
  • An official copy of your “Jumin-hyo” (Resident Record) issued by your municipality
  • A Japanese translation of your driver’s license from your home country
    (prepared by the embassy or the consulate of your country, or by  the Japan Automobile Federation(JAF).)
  • Photocopies of the following documents (on A4 sized paper)
    ● Driver’s license (front and back)
    ● Residence Card (front and back)
    ● Passport (all the pages which show your identity information, visa, and stamps)
    ● Other required documents specified individually
  • A passport sized photograph* (must have been taken with in the last 6 months)
    (3 cm × 2.4 cm wide, head and shoulders only, front-face, no headwear, plain background)
    *You can have your photos taken for ¥800 (2 photos) at the Driver’s License Center.
  • Additional documents might be required depending on individual cases.

Download the official list here

 

The Process

  • Translating your Driver’s License into Japanese at JAF
    • Bring the required documents to your nearest JAF Translation Office. (Application by proxy is accepted if the applicant is unable to visit the office.)
      • Application form for Japanese Translation of foreign driver’s license: The the application form is available at the JAF counter. If you do not have access to the Internet, please contact your nearest JAF office by telephone to obtain the form via fax or other method.
        • JAF Instructions (click here)
        • Application Form (click here)
      • A driver’s license (original, in principle): Your license will be returned as soon as we copy it. Photocopies are accepted if you are not able to bring the original license. In that case, please prepare clear photocopies of the front and back of the license, preferably in color, that allow the inscriptions on the license to be read clearly. *A Fukuye is only required for license issued by Republic of China. An Official Receipt is only required for license issued by Republic of the Philippines.
      • A photocopy of a residence card or a resident record etc: This is only required for licenses written in Arabic or Russian and licenses issued in certain countries, including the Republic of Korea, the Kingdom of Thailand, and the Union of Myanmar.
        Issuance fee: ¥3000 yen per license.
      • Days required for issuance
        The Japanese translation will be issued on the same day up to two weeks.  The processing time varies depending on the issuing country, condition, content of the driver’s license, and JAF Branch office.
      • APPLICATION BY MAIL
        • Applications via mail are also accepted when the applicant cannot visit the office
        • Send the application form and a photocopy of your license (preferably clear photocopies of the front and back of the license in color) with the issuance fee (3,000 yen) plus return postage (392yen) by registered postal cash envelope.
          *Photocopies of a Fukuye (the front and back) are only required for license issued by Peoples Republic of China. A photocopy of Official Receipt is only required for license issued by Republic of the Philippines.
          *For sending method of registered postal cash, please contact the Post Office.
        • Applications are only accepted from Japanese addresses, and the return address must be within Japan and match the address submitted on the application.
        • It takes approximately one to two weeks from application to delivery (about two to three weeks to obtain translations for the driver’s licenses).
        • Niigata JAF Branch Address:
          〒950-0965 11-6 Shinko-cho Chuo-ku Niigata-shi Niigata
          〒950-0965 新潟県新潟市中央区新光町 新潟県新潟市中央区新光町11-6
  • Day 1: Processing Documents at Seiro Driving License Center
    • Please be accompanied by your supervisor or a friend/coworker who can assist you with interpreting.
    • The waiting time will take as long as 2 hours. You will be given a number card at the counter in the order of arrival. Screening of documents start at 1:30pm. Each applicant will be called and have his/her documents screened in numerical order by the number cards.
    • Presentation of the documents for screening must be made by an applicant in person and must be accompanied by an interpreter if they have difficulties communicating in Japanese.
    • After officials have confirmed all the documents, they will give you two course maps and will ask you to schedule an appointment for the written and driving test (ALT’s exempted from the exam will only need to take an aptitude test followed by more waiting for same day license issuance).
      • The earliest they advise you to schedule your tests would be 2 weeks after the day you’ve processed your documents. But the appontments fill up fast, so you will likey have to schedule your next appointment a month out.
      • You may request to take your test at another Licensing Center near you.
      • Be sure to give yourself ample time to take and pass the test. If you fail your first time, the earliest they advise you to reschedule would be in the next 10 -14 days.
  • Day 2: The written and driving test
    • You do not need to be accompanied by anyone on this day.
    • Please bring with you the copy of the processed documents given to you by the officials.
    • You will need to pay a sum amount of ¥5000 – ¥6000 for processing your written and driving test fees.
    • This day will be filled with a whole lot of waiting. The estimate time you will spend on this day will be three to four hours.
    • If you’ve taken more than two lessons, memorized the courses and practiced, then there should be no worries for failing.
    • The written test is only ten questions long and is not very difficult, it will be very basic and common sense questions. The driving test however, is not easily conquered.
    • Countries exempted from taking both written and driving exams (Australia, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Korea, Luxemburg, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Taiwan)
  • License to be issued: All driver licenses, which are issued by the Niigata Prefectural Public Safety Commission, are embedded with IC chips.  You are requested to create two passwords to enter in advance. Each password must be a four digit number.

 

Fees

Test and Issuance Fees Cost
Written/Driving Test ¥2200
Car Use ¥1550
Physical License ¥2050
*Driving Retake Test ¥3750

 

DRIVING LESSONS

It is highly recommended that you take lessons before the actual test.  The driving test does not only test your driving ability but it tests you on how well you can memorize and perform on the Japanese standardized driving course test.  There will be 2 courses that you must memorize.  You will be tested on either or.  The course will be chosen at random on the day of your test so be sure to have both courses memorized.  (Don’t expect your driving inspector to tell you when and where to turn)

Taking driving lessons will help you with all the minuscule parts you think wouldn’t count on the test like the exact timing of turning on your blinkers, how many meters from a turn should you start breaking, scoping out the area before getting into the car, etc.  Heed our warning take the lessons, it’ll be cheaper than failing your test 3 or even 7 times.  Many ALTs have taken lessons together to take down notes for each other.  We suggest you ask a fellow ALTs or even a Japanese friend to accompany you on your lessons.

Below are people/places you can contact to take private driving lessons.

  • Niigata Prefecture Driver’s License Center Seiro city
    Examination Unit
    Address: 7-1-1 Higashi-ko, Seiro-Machi, Kitakanbara-Gun
    北蒲原郡聖籠町東港7丁目1番地1
    Phone: 025-256-1212 Extension: 256
    Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm (Monday – Friday except on public holidays)

 

Other Driving License Centers

  • Nagaoka/Joetsu/Itoigawa
    Mr. Kanai (Private Instructor)
    Phone: 090-2525-9805

 

  • Nagaoka Driver’s License Center
    Address: 7-1 Nagaokashi, Kamimaejimamachi
    新潟県長岡市上前島町7−1
    Phone: 0258-22-1050

 

  • Joetsu Driver’s License Center
    Address: 1174-3 Kakizakiku, Nomihama
    上越市柿崎区直海浜1174-3
    Phone: 025-536-3688

 

  • Sado Driver’s License Center
    Address:  Sado-shi Nakahara 350 – 1
    佐渡市中原350-1
    Phone: 0259-57-5067

 

References and Resources

  • Niigata JAF (Japan Automobile Federation)
    Address: 11-6 Shinko-cho, Chuo-ku, Niigatashi, Niigata
    新潟県新潟市中央区新光町11-6
    Phone: 025-284-7664
    Hours: 9:00am – 17:30pm (Monday – Friday except on public holidays)
  • Rules of the Road Handbook

Updated as of June 2022