Global Training

Global Training

Driving in Japan and abroad

By Global Training GPOD

Japan has one the world’s most advanced public transport system which include taxis, trains, the subway and of course the infamous bullet train.

However as a foreigner living in Japan, there may come a time when one has to acquire a driving license while living here.

For those who have a driving license in their home country it may be as simple as taking a small test to convert your license over.

But in some cases, you may have to get your license from scratch in Japan.

Here we will discuss the important differences between driving in Japan and the rest of the world and what to expect as a foreign driver in Japan, or a Japanese driver traveling abroad.

Driving in Japan as a foreigner

art markiv zAm1sdicGXc unsplash

Traffic direction
Japan drives on the left. If you’re from a country where you drive on the right side, it will take some orientation to get used to changing sides.

This means the steering wheel will be on the opposite side and your turn signal will also be different.

Despite being one of the biggest differences when driving in Japan, it’s one of the least difficult ones to overcome.

Unique rules of the road
Most of the driving rules in Japan follow the same rules as your home country, but there are a few unique cases to be careful about.

Stopping at a railroad crossing is one of those rules. When coming to a railroad crossing you must treat it like a stop sign. Look both ways for traffic before continuing. There are a large number of railroad crossings in Japan so please be careful when approaching them.

People tend to drive slow and safe in Japan. This is especially true in comparison to America where residential areas are 10-20mph faster than in Japan.

Be very careful with your speed, and keep an eye of the speed signs around you.

These limits are in place as a precaution because Japan has a lot of winding roads.

There are also a lot of roads with two-way traffic despite only one car being able to fit, as well as many blind turns and hidden alleyways.

Traffic signs
Japanese traffic signs are often pictorial. Stop signs are triangular and you may often see English on them.

Other important signs are often round and can be found in red and blue.

Please familiarize yourself with them before hitting the road.

Driving abroad as a Japanese national.

Apply for an international license

The first step to driving abroad as a Japanese national would be to obtain an international driving license if you already have a license in Japan. This license will allow you to drive in up to 96 different countries. You should also look into getting an international driving permit (IDP), in Japan. This should be used in conjunction with your Japanese license and is usually valid for 1 year. To apply for one, you will need:
  • Your Japanese license
  • Proof of travel abroad and passport
  • Photo
  • Inkan
  • Fee (Which is usually under 3,000 JPY)
Language skills You would also need to have a basic understanding of the language needed for the country you are hoping to visit and drive in. At GDI communications we specialize in pre-departure courses for those who need to travel abroad for work or living, and can help prepare you to drive abroad. English speaking countries where you can drive with an international license and driving permit are:
  • United Arab Emirates
  • South Africa
  • United Kingdom
  • Ireland
  • United States
  • Canada
  • New Zealand
  • Overseas U.S Territories (Guam, Puerto Rico)
  • Australia
Many other countries use English as a second language and just like Japan, have road signs available in English. By acquiring a basic understanding of English road signs and rules, you can substantially increase your travel range and commute comfortably with your families by car. Contact us, GDI Communications for more information on driving abroad and moving abroad.