Recently, I got a Japanese driving license. It took me almost three weeks to complete the whole process. I started going to the driving school at the end of September 2020, learned how to drive, passed my exams, and finally got the license on 19th October 2020.
Here is the journey of how I got my driving license.
I had encountered some inconvenient circumstances because of not possessing a driver’s license. For example, there would be times when only few public transportation options were available in the cities I visited. It was also quite a hassle to always carry my passport for identification purposes when entering a bar. In addition, the fishing spots tend to be located on the outskirts where public transportation isn’t provided. Besides, I have been working from home since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Therefore, my life style has been pretty flexible, and I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to get my driving license.
To get a driving license in Japan, you have to join a driving school that the public safety commission has designated. The driving school curriculum consists of almost 60 hours of lectures. There are two standard options the school offers, commuting to the school or joining the short training camp.
This type of schedule is flexible, and your daily routine is only affected slightly. However, it usually takes longer than the training camp. This option allows you to choose only the nearby driving schools since you commute from your home. The tuition fee also tends to be more expensive.
2. Training Camp
You can finish the entire course in a short time, like in 2-3 weeks. The only shortcoming is that the schedule is already fixed. This option allows you to choose schools from all over Japan since you stay at a hotel near the school’s area.
I chose the training camp option because my schedule was flexible. I picked a rural area where it would be peaceful and relaxed since there aren’t many people. I would also still have the time to work remotely during the training camp.
I found the school I was interested in on the internet. At first, I submitted my application form via the online platform on the school’s official website. I had to fill in information like the date I wanted to start, chose between commuting or training camp, the hotel choice, what kind of driver’s license I was interested in, and my contact information. After the submission, I received an email response indicating that they had sent me a physical envelope that contained the school’s pamphlet and enrollment form. To complete the application process, I filled the physical form and sent the envelope back to the school’s address. To take precautions against COVID-19 disease, the school advised that I take daily body temperature readings for three consecutive days before joining.
I went to Obama Driving School. The school is located in Obama city, a rural coastal area in Fukui prefecture. The course is categorized into two parts, classroom lectures and driving lessons. The school building had a Japanese traditional style classroom. It reminded me of the one we had when I was an elementary school student. In this case, instead of the school playground, it had a driving course. The driving course offers beginners a chance to learn how to drive without disciplinary measures encountered breaking traffic rules on normal public roads. The school owns variety of cars that are guided by professional instructors who work for the school.
I stayed at a hotel called Yamane. Yamane hotel is located right in front of Obama Bay. The hotel room was a Japanese style Wa-shitsu that overlooked the full ocean. I was more than impressed with their pricing. The deal was excellent maybe because the hotel’s demand was very low due to the COVID situation at the time.
Also, I ate the local food, enjoyed some sightseeing, and luckily watched the fireworks that started this year for the local economic development.
The driving curriculum is divided into two parts. In both the first and last half, you learn the basic skills for driving in the classroom. This includes things like traffic rules, safety controls, car mechanisms, defensive driving, etc.
In the first half of the training, you can only drive in the school course. The instructor sits next to you, guiding you through the driving lesson. At the end of the part, you take both the written and driving exams. The written exam comes from the Japanese police department since they are in charge of permitting you to drive a car. When you pass the exams, you receive a provisional license and move forward to the next step.
In the last half, you can now drive on the public roads and streets. At this point, you can graduate from the school if you pass the final driving exam. However, you still need the final written exam to get your driving license. On normal occasions, the site of the exams is the central police office of your respective prefecture.
I initially anticipated I could work for 3-4 hours per day during the training. However, I found out I was too tired at the end of the sessions.
I booked the final written exam via phone call. It was a bit of a hassle for me to call, but the police didn’t have any online application options. The closest exam site from where I live was an hour away from the city center. I traveled there to take the written exams. If you pass, you can finally receive your driving license in a few hours after the exam.
By the way, I watched some useful driving school videos on YouTube channels. This would be helpful for your driving.