After passing your written test you will need to take a driving test. The test is conducted on a closed course in a mid-sized four door vehicle (when I say mid-size I mean a freaking taxi car). You will take the test on either an automatic or manual transmission (depending on which one you specify). Keep in mind that if you are licensed to drive an automatic you will not be licensed to drive a manual. If, however, you are licensed to drive a manual you can drive an automatic as well. Don’t take the automatic test if you ever think you’ll drive a stick.
Hopefully you will pass, at which point you will have to wait some more, go to a different room, and finally you will get your license sometime.
Most people fail the driving test at least once so allow time to make multiple appointments - you must make an appointment for the driving test before you go and sometimes the next appointment will not be available for a month or more, so be sure to allow enough time to change licenses well before your international license expires!
Warning: You do not want to be stuck driving without a valid license in Japan. The maximum penalties are extremely severe (namely, a year in jail and/or a 300,000 yen fine!) Worse yet, if you ever get in an accident while driving without a valid license, the accident is automatically your fault under the law, even if the accident was 100% the other party's fault.
If you prefer and would like to get a feel for what the Driving Test would be like, taking a lesson or two at a Japanese Driving School may help you gain some confidence and overcome any fear or jitters you may be having. While a 1hr lesson may be a bit expensive (4000-6000 yen), when you're an experienced driver, you tend to get into all kinds of 'bad' habits. Going to the Driving School helps you become more aware of some things.
On odd months, you will take the test on A course. On even months, you will take the test on B course.
Here is a map of B course
Step-by-step annotations for completing the course:
Here is a map of A course. There are no annotations, but the things you must do are the same, just in a different order:
When Entering the CarEdit
- Before entering the car walk around it, check the tires (sounds funny but trust me, do it!)
- Adjust the seat
- Adjust rearview and outside mirrors (even if it seems okay, make a show of doing it)
- Put on seat belt
- Make sure all passengers (including those in the backseat) have their seat belts on
- Adjust steering column if necessary
- Put foot on brake
- Check that handbrake is up
- Check that car is in park
- Turn on engine (foot on brake)
- Put car into drive
- Put handbrake down
- Put on indicator
- Check mirrors
- Look out the window
- When told to stop at a place on the left (for parking at the completion of the exercise/test), indicate, be in the extreme left of the lane and stop at the position told (ichiban, niban, sanban). The front of the car is to be directly aligned with the post that you're told to stop at - not ahead, or behind. Park straight...make sure that your steering column indicates this.
- Stop the car and pull up the handbrake
- With foot still on brake, put car in Park
- Turn off engine and remove key from ignition. Place key in slot where a radio would normally be (or hand to instructor?)
- Check mirror and look out window before opening door to exit.
- Know your road signs
- Keep to the extreme left (hidari) of the lane except when positioning to turn right
- When about to turn right (migi), put on indicator and position car as close to centre line as possible. Make sure to stop and check that the way is clear before proceeding.
- For spots where construction is taking place, reduce speed, put on indicator to go wide of cones, but do not go fully into the next lane (about 10 metres from cones). Indicate to pull back into lane.
- At the pedestrian crossing where a big coloured sign shows a child/ren, STOP at the white line before the crossing
- When turning at an intersection, look
- If you have already crossed over the white line when the stop light changes from yellow to red, proceed through the light checking that the way is clear.
- If you are behind the white when the stop light changes from yellow to red, stop!
- When turning, if you see a triangle in the road you're turning onto, make the turn on the side of the triangle nearest to you (i.e. do not go over the triangle)
- Accelerate for the straight (massugu) 40 kph stretch but decelerate before entering the curve. You're not allowed to use your foot brake to slow down while in the turn.
- At the train crossing, stop at the white line, roll down your window, at least 1/3 of the way, listen for any oncoming train; if clear, go. When you come to the next stop, roll up your window (do not use one hand to roll up the window when driving)
- For the hill, stop the car when told, using foot brake. Pull up handbrake. When told to go, accelerate a bit, release handbrake. Remember to check mirror/outside, before going.
- When entering and negotiating the S-curve, go very slowly. When taking the first right bend, steer car as far right as possible, without wheel going over the edge. Then, bring the car as far left as possible for the left bend. Make sure you end up on the left-most side of the lane, after completing the curve, look out the window, and indicate before leaving the S-curve to go onto main course.
- For the crank-curve, keep left. If too close to the barrier when making the right turn, stop (don't hit the barrier!) Put car in reverse, check your rearview mirro and over your shoulder, back-up and try again...you are allowed to do that.
- For both curve courses, enter the curve slowly and take your time. Your wheel must not go over the edge.
- When going around any bend on the main course, decelerate first, and keep to your extreme left. Only position right, for a right turn.
- When turning at the traffic light (shingo), if there is a diamond with arrows on its outsides, marked on the road, keep on the inside of the arrow pointed in the direction you're going (just like the triangle mentioned in 9 above).
- ALWAYS use mirror and LOOK over your left shoulder when making turns...especially left turns. This is to prevent you hitting a cyclist who might be on your inside, and that you may not have picked up in your mirror.
- Drive close to the left.
- If the S-crank is on your left, position the car more to the right of the lane you will be turning from (i.e. to enter the S, do not be in the extreme left of the lane you are turning from). Entering the S from this wider position, will give you enough room to make the first turn, without your back wheel going over the edge. You shouldn't have too much problem, if the S is on your right....i.e., if you will be crossing over a lane to get into the S.
- For the S-crank, you have 3 attempts to clear the barrier, so if you see where you are going to hit the barrier, reverse (use mirror and LOOK OVER SHOULDER) and try again. Don't hit the barrier!
Please note, that for the first attempt, they don't deduct any points, but for the second and third attempts, you will lose points. There is no 4th attempt.
Other Odd PointsEdit
- Saying 'shitsureishimasu' before entering the car couldn't hurt.
- Check that your back seat passenger and your examiner are in their seatbelts.
- Repeat/acknowledge the directions given by the examiner, eg. 'migi, hai'
- If possible, try to get any number from 2 up, in the sequence for the driving assignment. This allows you to drive in the back seat at least once where you can observe the mistakes of the person before you and note how you should approach certain areas.
- Drive confidently. Speed up on the straight, within the speed limit of course. Even though your heart may be pounding, make a conscious effort to will yourself to be calm. But still, don't get overly confident at the end and fail yourself. Take your time to align the car with the post told to you and park close to the curb.
- Walk the course before and deep breathe if that's what helps to calm your nerves.