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Driving in Japan

In order to drive in Japan, one of the following licenses is required.

1)Japanese Driver’s License

2)An International Driving Permit (IDP) based under the Convention on Road Traffic (the Geneva Convention)
- This must be issued by a signatory country to the Geneva Convention and in accordance with its provisions. Before acquiring your IDP, please seek an authorized agency in your home country to see whether your country is a signatory.
- IDP is valid for one year from the date of issue or one year from the date of your entry to Japan, whichever is shorter. In the case of loss, IDP cannot be reissued in Japan and driving without it will be considered driving unlicensed.
- If you are registered for alien registration or resident registration and leave Japan to obtain a new IDP from another country, the license will be considered invalid if the period between your departure and the re-entry to Japan is no more than 3 months.
- You must carry your passport or residence card when driving, as authorized officials may ask for these additional identifications.

3)A driver’s license issued from a region or country that does not issue IDPs but shares a licensing system similar to Japan's
- A license obtained in the countries or regions of Switzerland, Germany, France, Slovenia, Belgium, the Principality of Monaco, or Taiwan, is eligible (as of May, 2013).
- When driving with an eligible license, you must carry a Japanese translation issued by one of the authorized agencies noted below.
- The license is valid for one year from the date of issue or one year from the date of your entry to Japan, whichever is shorter. In the case of loss, it cannot be reissued in Japan and driving without it will be considered driving unlicensed.
- If you are registered resident of Japan and leave the country to obtain a new driver's licence from any of the countries or regions mentioned above, the license will be considered invalid if the period between your departure and the re-entry to Japan is no more than 3 months.
- You must carry your passport or residence card when driving, as authorized officials may ask for these additional identifications to verify the effective period of your license in Japan.

*Only a Japanese translation issued by the following authorities is valid:
The administrative authorities of the country that issued the license, foreign embassies or consulate offices in Japan (the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office for Taiwan), or the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF).

Japanese Driving License

License Types and How to Obtain Them
There are several types of driver’s licenses in Japan, and the vehicle you can operate vary depending on the license you obtain. For example, while you can operate a regular automobile or motorbike (50cc or under) for personal use with a class 1 regular license, you are required to have a class 1 regular motorcycle license for operating a motorbike that is more than 51cc and less than 400cc. A license can be obtained by passing an aptitude test, written test, and practical test at your nearest driving test center. In Japan, most people attend a driving school before taking these tests. The classes are taught in Japanese and if you successfully graduate, you will be exempt from the practical test at the driving test center. The fee varies with schools and the contents of courses, but it normally costs about 300,000 yen. For more information about driving schools, contact Fukuoka Driving School “Chayama Driving School” (Tel: 0120-386-455, 6-12-26 Tajima, Jonan-ku; http://www.kenjiko.or.jp/) or inquire at other schools in your area.
* Aptitude Test: Vision test, color blindness test, etc.
* Written Test: Knowledge required for driving (traffic rules, etc.); test is available in Japanese or English
* Practical Test: Skills required for driving (practical skills)

Renewal and Change of Address
A Japanese driver's license has an expiry date and must be renewed regularly. The first license is valid until the first month after your third birthday after obtaining the license. Afterwards, you can renew it every three or five years depending on your driving records and age. Your license can be renewed at a driving test center within one month ahead or one month after your final birthday before the expiry date. Please be advised that your license will become invalid if you fail to renew it within the effective period. If you move, you are required to change the address of your license. Bring your resident record or residence card with the new address to the police station of your new jurisdiction.

Converting a Foreign License into a Japanese License
A foreign license can be converted into a Japanese license. For conversion, you must prove that you have stayed in the country where your foreign license was issued for over three months. The foreign license must be valid at the time of conversion. You must apply with the necessary documents noted below. For details, inquire at the driving test center noted below.

<Necessary Documents>
- Application form (available at the driving test center)
- 2 photographs: length 3cm×width 2.4cm (color or black & white); taken within 6 months
- Valid foreign license
- Official translation of a Driver's License from one of the above countries: must be obtained by the above specified organizations
- Passport: a proof showing that you have stayed in the country for over 3 months after obtaining your foreign license
- Resident Record
- Interpreter (If you do not speak Japanese)

Venue for Driving Test, License Renewal and Conversion
"Fukuoka Driver’s License Test Center" (4-7-1 Hanahata, Minami-ku, Fukuoka)
Tel: 092-565-5010 (License Section)
Tel: 092-565-5109 (Test Section)
Telephone Service (guide for renewal procedures)
Tel: 092-565-5001, 092-565-5013
Public Transportation Access:
Nishitetsu Bus: take a bus bound for “Hibaru” or “Kashiwara.”
Hakata Station: take #50 from bus stop A, #65 from bus stop B, or #67 from bus stop C or D.
Tenjin: take #51 at bus stop 10 in front of Kyowa Bldg., or # 151 at bus stop 4C in front of Daimaru Department Store and get off at “Jidosha Menkyo Shikenjo-mae” and walk 5 min.

Traffic Rules in Japan
Foreign language versions (English, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean) of the JAF-published guide to Japanese traffic rules, "Rules of the Road", are available for purchase at the JAF Fukuoka Branch for 1,028 yen each (incl. tax). E-book versions (English, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese) can also be purchased from online book stores for 864 yen (incl. tax).
Japanese http://www.jaf.or.jp/inter/manual/index.htm
English http://www.jaf.or.jp/e/road.htm
The book is a useful resource for safe driving in Japan, and will help you prepare for driving tests.

JAF Fukuoka
Tel: 092-841-7731 (5-12-27, Muromi, Sawara-ku)

Auto Insurance

You must enroll in auto insurance when purchasing automobiles or motorcycles in case of traffic accidents.

Compulsory Automobile Liability Insurance
In order to provide all victims of traffic accidents with minimal medical coverage, all vehicle and motorcycle owners in Japan are obligated to enroll in compulsory automobile liability insurance, or they will be legally punished. Upon purchasing your vehicle, make arrangements to enroll in this insurance and renew it as needed. Never operate your vehicle uninsured.

Auto Insurance (Voluntary Insurance)
In the event of a traffic accident, it is not rare for your liability to greatly exceed the limit of compulsory automobile liability insurance coverage. In order to cover such shortfalls, it is desirable to enroll in voluntary insurance in Japan. A number of insurance companies provide various types of voluntary insurance. You can enroll in the type that meets your needs.

Regarding Bicycle Travel/Use

There have been over 3,000 bicycle-related accidents per year in Fukuoka in recent years, including life-threatening cases and an increasing number of accidents between bicyclists and pedestrians. When riding a bicycle, you should fully understand the possibility of being injured or putting others in danger and try your best not to get into accidents. Furthermore, bicycles are considered light vehicles in Japan and rules for their use are governed by the Road Traffic Law. Violations of these rules will result in a penalty.

Five Regulations for Safe Bicycle Riding
(1) Ride on roadways; riding on sidewalks are exceptions.
In principle, roadways must be used to operate a bicycle.
Penalty: imprisonment of up to 3 months, or a fine up to 50,000 yen.

(2) Ride on the left of the roadway.

When riding on a roadway, all cyclists shall ride on the far left side.
Penalty: imprisonment of up to 3 months, or a fine up to 50,000 yen.

(3) Yield to pedestrians on sidewalks and ride as near to the side of the roadway as possible at a reduced speed.
Penalty: a fine up to 20,000 yen.

(4) Follow the Safety Rules
◇ Drinking and riding a bicycle is prohibited.
Penalty: imprisonment of up to 5 years, or a fine up to 1,000,000 yen.
◇ Double riding on a single bicycle is prohibited except for cases when an adult cyclist is accompanied by a child riding in a child seat.
Penalty: a fine up to 20,000 yen.
◇ Riding two abreast is prohibited unless there are signs that permit “riding two abreast.”
Penalty: a fine up to 20,000 yen.
◇ Bicycle lights (or other reflective materials) on the front and the rear of a bicycle must be on during nighttime.   
Penalty: a fine up to 50,000 yen.
◇ Obey all traffic lights, make temporary stops, and perform safety checks. Obey all stop signs at intersections, reduce speed, and conduct a right-and left check when entering a wide street from a narrow path.
Penalty: imprisonment of up to 3 months, or a fine up to 50,000 yen.

(5) Helmet Requirement for Children
Children and infants under the age of 13 must wear helmets when they are riding by themselves or are accompanying the parent on the same bicycle.

*Talking on a cell phone or holding an umbrella while riding a bicycle is prohibited. Penalty: a fine up to 50,000 yen.

Bicycle Theft Prevention Registration
Registering your bicycle is mandatory under Japan's bicycle laws.
You can register your bicycle at the store from which you purchase it. For second-hand bicycles or bicycles bought online, etc., the registration process can be completed at the Theft Prevention Associations inside Police Stations, or at Police Boxes (Koban) or Police Substations (Chuzaisho). Bring your bicycle, identification, and bicycle guarantee, etc., with you when you go to complete the registration process.
The registration fee is 500 yen per bicycle.
Registration is valid for seven years, and must be renewed in the event that you wish to continue use of a formerly registered bicycle.

Cyclist Course System
Cyclists who repeatedly break traffic laws or engage in dangerous behaviour, such as running red lights or using pedestrian-only footpaths, will be required to sit courses to remin them of the relevant road safety rules.
Regarding Illegal Bicycle Parking
A neglected bicycle is one parked outside of designated bicycle parking areas that the owner leaves and cannot immediately move (illegal parking). As a general rule in Fukuoka City, bicycles parked in 45 parking-prohibited areas will be promptly removed and kept in one of 10 impound lots. Bikes illegally parked in other places beyond designated parking areas will be removed and impounded after three days. To retrieve an impounded bike, you must go to an impound lot with proof that you are the owner of the bicycle and pay a fee of 2,000 yen. Furthermore, bicycles not retrieved after roughly two months of being impounded will be disposed of. Please park your bicycle in one of 133 municipal bicycle parking areas. (Information valid as of 1 April 2016)
For details, refer to Bike Parking Guide (homepage: http://www.chari-angels.com).