Friday, May 22, 2009


Wednesday, we went to renew Satoshi's Japan drivers license so I wanted to share with you an email I sent to my family and friends in 2001 regarding my experience with Satoshi at the D.M.V.

"Yesterday, we went to renew Satoshi's drivers license. It operates from 8:30am to 10:30am and 13:30pm to 15:30pm. So we left home at about 7:00am, the bus to the station was PACKED!

After we got to the train station, there were so many "salarymen"(businessmen) travelling to work and coming to work. Cigarette smoke filled the whole station, even with all the windows open, it was pretty bad (kind of like Vegas, except the windows were OPEN!)

When we got to the destination by train, we had to catch a bus to the license office (this took about 20 minutes to get there).

We walked in thinking that it wouldn't be too busy (this was Satoshi's thinking) and it was PACKED! There were at least 300 people already standing in line! Japan is known for their lines so, Satoshi stood in line after line....

Line 1: Check to make sure that you are allowed to renew (only 1 month prior to expiration).
Line 2: Pay for license (about US$23 for 3 years).
Line 3: Make any address changes, etc.
Line 4: Eye exam
Line 5: Turn in forms
Line 6: Take picture
Line 7: Go to listen to a 30 minute lecture about safe driving.

After you listen to the lecture, you receive your new license. Amazingly, we were out of there in about 1 hour!"

UPDATE: A 3 year license with no accidents or violations, allows you to get a 5 year license, this costs 2800 yen (about US$28). The time that you can check-in is now shortened to 8:30-9:30am and 13:30-14:30pm. The rest of the drill is the same, including the lecture. Satoshi says that if you've had accidents or violations you need to listen to a l-o-n-g-e-r lecture (that should keep you violation/accident free).

It is Friday, hope you have a great weekend!


2kamuela47 said...

Maybe the USA should impose these rules too so that we deter drivers from violations and accidents.

Thistlemoon said...

It is always fun to see how government things work in different countries!

Rona Y said...

If you've had accidents or violations, or if it's the first time renewing your license you've got to sit in that loooooooong lecture. It was torture the first time I renewed my license! Two hours of a video and an old guy (I've got a theory that the older a man is in Japan, the longer and more boring his speeches are--so far I've not met a rebuttal to this) droning on and on about the new ETC chip you can get imbedded in your license (and other stuff that I couldn't understand).

After leaving that day, I definitely thought I'd never ever have a traffic violation, just because I didn't want to sit through that again. Good to know it'll be a shorter wait next time. An hour is a piece of cake!

K and S said...

Don't know if any one would follow this Laura.

It is isn't it, JennDZ??

Gosh,2 hours that is unbearable Rona! Hope the next renewal goes quicker!

Take care everyone.

Anonymous said...

LOL, there are so many lines?

And LOL again, the l-o-n-g-e-r lecture... Yup, that should keep 'them' out of accidents for a long time to come...

I still remember last time you wrote about buying stamps and the cashier was so super funny too! That's maybe what you would call "going by the book" huh? ;p

Hope to hear more funny stories about living in Japan from you!

Take care (:

KirkK said...

Hi Kat - So there's no written exam....with questions about different signs and signals that you'll never ever see????

Deb in Hawaii said...

That is a lot of lines--amazing it was only an hour. That many lines would take a week here. ;-)

K and S said...

Thanks DF, hope to share more funnies when I come upon them :)

For renewal, we don't have those paper exams in Hawaii either Kirkk :)

I tend to agree, it would take a week in Hawaii Deb :)

Take care.

Abigail (aka Mamatouille) said...

Oh man, I know this system well by now! :) Getting the license in the first place is also a big hassle! Even after driving here for a year on my international license, I then had to do the whole shebang to get a proper Japanese license. Then renewed when I was pregnant with #1, and renewed to get my gold license shortly after #2 was born! Long lines, hey.

You know, it's much easier for British commonwealth citizens to get a Japanese license in the first place than it is for Americans - my lucky hubby only had to have an eye test. That's all, can you believe it.

K and S said...

No way! Abigail, I am glad I don't have an international license or Japanese license here...

Take care.

Rowena said...

omg...just reading this. Aren't you glad that it's so much easier to renew in the islands? I don't drive here because the trouble you have to go through to get a license is just plain ridiculous. Driving school (lots of class time) and from what I hear, much of it has nothing to do with the act of driving itself, as in driving responsibly from day one. Lessons cost something like 600 euros! My husband said that he would buy me a Mini if I got my license, but unless I find myself a good-paying job, the thrill isn't worth it. I envy you that you guys have such great public transport, even if not always so comfy and convenient. Enough cars on the road in Italy anyway...and I can always rent a Mini if I want to be behind the wheel.

Rowena said...

I love that you have the word-of-the-day widget! I gotta put one on mine too.

K and S said...

I heard that the people wanting to drive in the Islands have to go to driving school now, Rowena, it costs $$...though if Satoshi offered to get me a Mini, I would seriously have to think about going to get my license here :)

Thanks for telling me about the WOTD for Japanese too :)

Take care.

OkiHwn said...

So Satoshi has a gold license now?

K and S said...

yup he has the gold one now Nate :)

Take care.

Melanie Gray Augustin said...

Wow, he got out in an hour? He did really well. At the Nagoya branch, I was there for hours even though I'd arrived an hour before they opened to get in line (I was still way back in line) and was lucky enough that the guy supervising the lecture took pity on a poor gaijin (who said that she couldn't understand Japanese that well) and let me skip the lecture.

K and S said...

I think Satoshi would be envious of your being able to skip the lecture, Melanie :)

Take care.

Unknown said...

Hello Kat, I've been following your blog for a little while now I think it's great since I learn a lot about the Japanese food which i am curious abot but not eager to try.
I think you and I were in the same place on Wednesday, as I am currently going through the process of getting the Japanese D.L. - what a nightmare! I will be blogging about it eventually.

K and S said...

We were at the one near Kyoto Anuan, I'm sure the experience was nearly the same :) Enjoy your adventures in Japan!

Take care.

Jenster said...

I will never complain about my own DMV again, Kat!

K and S said...

Thanks Jenster,
I think it is great for us to see other countries so that we can appreciate what we have :)

Take care.

manju said...

That's such a testament to Japanese efficiency that they could process hundreds of people in about an hour. I took 2 hours to transfer my Hawaii license to Maryland -- and that was 4 dozen people waiting in only one line!

K and S said...

The DMV here may have it down to a system, but the visitor visa office is definitely another story Manju :0

Take care.