How to Get a Japanese Driver's License: All-Inclusive Guide

Updated: Dec 9, 2019

By Quilleran Cornwall

Published: November 11th, 2019

Now you’re settled into Japanese life, you want to travel around the country and see all that the land of the rising sun has to offer. If you’re going anywhere outside of Tokyo, then you’re going to want to have a Japanese driver’s license. Learn the quick and easy way to get your Japanese license!

Although Japan's public transportation system is one of the most efficient and comprehensive in the world, not everywhere in Japan is it convenient or cost-effective to ride the train. In many rural areas in Japan, the nearest train station might be kilometers away from where you want to go, and local buses may only run a few times a day. Taking a taxi is another option, but then a short ride of just 2km could cost over 1,000 yen! The best way to get around in the countryside is by driving yourself, and you can do this legally for up to one year with an International Driver's Permit (IDP).

International Driver’s Permit

International Driver’s Permits are valid for up to 12 months in Japan, but be forewarned that you must acquire one before arriving in Japan. After 12 months it will expire and then you must have a Japanese license to drive legally in Japan.

So how do you begin the process of getting your Japanese driver’s license? Let’s start with the easy way if you already have a license in your home country.


  • Your foreign license is not expired.

  • You have resided in the country of issuance for at least three months after obtaining your license.

  • You have a valid Japanese visa.

  • You are registered as a foreign resident at your local government office.

If all the above is true there’s a chance that converting your driver’s license to a Japanese one will be a breeze—that is, if you are from the following countries:

Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, The United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Taiwan, South Korea,