Driving in Japan with an IDP

Disclaimer: 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.

Here are some road rules for those driving with an IDP for the first time in Japan. Road rules (pdf download)

You can only use an International Driving Permit (IDP) in Japan for a maximum period of one year from the initial date of entry (arrival in Japan), or until the expiration date on the permit, whichever comes first.** After that, you need a Japanese driving license. Getting a driving license in Japan is very difficult for Japanese people. The regulations and tests are very strict. Luckily for many JETs who already possess a driving license in their home country, it is simply a matter of exchanging your license for a Japanese one. There are some bureaucratic procedures you need to follow in order to do it though, and you will need to spend about a day at the licensing centre in order to get the license. This applies to all JETs from the following countries: France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxemburg, United Kingdom, Denmark, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland, Austria, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Canada. All other JETs (including US, South Africa and Jamaica) have to take the written (very easy, most JET participant native languages available) and practical test (available in English) too, which is extremely strict.

Do not expect to pass the practical test the first time. Here is more information about obtaining a drivers license before your IDP expires. As always, please also consult your JET General Information Handbook. Good luck!

Preconditions: You must make an appointment to visit the licensing center. Call the center and someone will confirm that you have all the necessary documents before they will schedule an appointment for you. Before you even consider making the call, ensure that you:

  • Possess a valid original license.
  • Have a valid translation of your driver’s license (see JAF or your country’s embassy for translations)
  • Possess a valid alien registration card.
  • Be allowed to stay in Japan for a specified period of time.
  • Have stayed in the country where the license was issued for more than 3 months since the issue date on the license, or that you were living in that country for at least three months prior to your arrival in Japan. If not, you have to order a license record or abstract (from your home state or province) that shows the date of issue and includes information regarding your driving record. Licenses from some states of the U.S. do not show the date of issue. If you have one of these licenses, you will also have to have a license record. If you have your old license, it would be best to bring that, too.