Driving in Japan

Japan is of course a major car producing nation. Despite that, in the big cities, the quality of the public transportation system means that many residents do not own a car or have driving licenses.

But in the more rural areas, cars are a necessity and obtaining a driving license is usually seen as a rite of passage for the young people living there. There are also many so-called “paper drivers”, people who take and pass the licensing test, but never go on to drive regularly or buy cars, (thereby making them drivers on paper only).

Traffic rules and signs follow international standards in Japan, although with some local exceptions. It is not rare to come across temporary road signs written in Kanji and hiragana alone, leaving the foreign driver a little lost. Many countries have a mutual agreement with Japan to allow drivers with licenses obtained in their home countries to register as drivers in Japan without having to take a test.

In this Japanese learner's blog, Inada sensei, who lives in Tokyo, tells the amusing story behind her latest driving license renewal. You can learn Japanese for free with this audio blog, and listen to natural Japanese (read by Inada sensei) .

Renewing my driving license


By INADA Junko


先日運転免許の更新に行ってきました。 自宅から徒歩数分の地元警察署で手続きができるはずとたかをくくっていたところ、 更新のお知らせには遠方の免許センターまでくるようにとのお達しが。。。

そう、思えば1年ほど前に生まれて初めて、スピード違反で覆面パトカーにつかまり、 泣く泣く罰金を払ったことを忘れていました。 一度でも違反があると、地元の警察署では免許の更新ができないのです。

小雪の舞う中、行ったこともない町にある免許センターまで出かけ、写真をとり、視力検査をし、 講習を受け、(違反者は講習時間が長い!)無事、免許を更新しました。 そこには前の免許証より5年分年をとった自分がいました。(当り前か。。)

免許取得以来ずっと維持してきた違反なしのであるゴールドもはずされ、保険料も上がりそうです。 二度と違反はすまいと心に誓った一日でした。

To listen to this blog, please watch our Youtube video.


先日(せんじつ)運転免許(うんてんめんきょ)の更新(こうしん)に行(い)ってきました。 自宅(じたく)から徒歩数分(とほすうふん)の地元(じもと)警察署(けいさつしょ)で手続(てつづ)きができるはずと たかをくくっていたところ、更新(こうしん)のお知(し)らせには遠方(えんぽう)の免許(めんきょ)センターまで くるようにとのお達(たっ)しが。。。

そう、思(おも)えば1年(ねん)ほど前(まえ)に生(う)まれて初(はじ)めて、スピード違反(いはん)で 覆面(ふくめん)パトカーにつかまり、泣(な)く泣(な)く罰金(ばっきん)を払(はら)ったことを忘(わす)れていました。 一度(いちど)でも違反(いはん)があると、地元(じもと)の警察署(けいさつしょ)では免許(めんきょ)の更新(こうしん)ができないのです。

小雪(こゆき)の舞(ま)う中(なか)、行(い)ったこともない町(まち)にある免許(めんきょ)センターまで出(で)かけ、 写真(しゃしん)をとり、視力検査(しりょくけんさ)をし、講習(こうしゅう)を受(う)け、違反者(いはんしゃ)は 講習時間(こうしゅうじかん)が長(なが)い!)無事(ぶじ)、免許(めんきょ)を更新(こうしん)しました。 そこには前(まえ)の免許証(めんきょしょう)より5年分(ねんぶん)年(とし)をとった自分(じぶん)がいました。 (当(あた)り前(まえ)か。。)

免許取得(めんきょしゅとく)以来(いらい)ずっと維持(いじ)してきた違反(いはん)なしの証(あかし)である ゴールドもはずされ、保険料(ほけんりょう)も上(あ)がりそうです。 二度(にど)と違反(いはん)はすまいと心(こころ)に誓(ちか)った一日(いちにち)でした。

Renewing my driving license

The other day, I went to renew my driving license. I made light of the fact since I should have been able to do the application process at the local police station which is just a few minutes walk from my house, but the renewal notice was a public notice to go to the license center, which is a long way away.

Now that I come to think of it, about a year ago I was stopped for a speeding violation by an unmarked police car for the first time in my life, and I had completely forgotten that I had tearfully paid the fine. If you have a violation, even just once, you cannot renew your license at your local police station.

So off I went, in light snow, to a town that I'd never been to before where the license center was located, and had my photo taken, had an eyesight test, took a lecture ( the lecture for those with traffic violations is really long !) and renewed my license without incident. And there on my license card was the photo of me taken 5 years ago. ( I guess that is obvious...)

And the gold mark that shows that I had no violations, which I had maintained from ever since I had gotten my license, was removed. My insurance was sure to increase as well. So that was the day that I swore to myself that I will never make another traffic violation again.

更新(こうしん) to renew( a license)

たかをくくっていた to make light of

お達(たっ)し public notice

覆面(ふくめん)パトカー an unmarked police car

証(あかし) evidence