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I suppose a typical Japanese person learns to drive when s/he graduates from highschool.
All my highschool friends did anyway.

To me, back when I was much younger, getting a driver's license seemed like a proof of adulthood.

I remember when Yukiko, a good friend of mine from HS got hers. Her parents bought her a small used car and one day, she drove all the way from Kiryu, where she lived, to Ashikaga to pick up a bunch of guys including me to go for a drive. Kiryu and Ashikaga are right next to each other and the drive takes less than half an hour, but back then, when we had to take a bus to the train station, then hop on a train to visit each other, Kiryu seemed much farther than it really was.

Anyway, it felt so strange to see her in the driver's seat. We were a bit nervous because Yukiko was this tiny little thing and she was like our little sister. Now she was going to DRIVE!! It was her first "long drive" after driving around her neighborhood for a couple of weeks, so she looked nervous, too. We kept asking her, "Are you sure you're alright?" to which she replied with very reassuring "I think so..."s.

Our plan was to go to Kusaki Dam, roughly an hour drive from where we lived. It was kind of like a rites of passage for young people of Ashikaga/Kiryu area who had just obtained their driver's licenses to visit Kusaki Dam. Ask people around here where they went on their first drive and many of them would tell you that they went to Kusaki Dam. lol It is located up in the mountains and there are stretches of narrow, winding road en route, which also attracts many speed freaks on weekends.

There we were, in this tiny red car, windows rolled down, Rebecca (a band Yukiko loved) blasting from the stereo.

We were having a grand ol' time... except everytime a large truck going the opposite direction passed us, she would let out a "Kowaiyo〜〜〜!!!" and swerves to the left getting dangerously close to the edge of the road! Imagine just how terrified the rest of us were! lol

Somehow, we made it to the dam alive. We took pictures, ate grilled ears of corn from a vender, bought keychains at the souvenir shop and headed back down toward Kiryu.

It was so exciting to be out there on our own.... to think if we kept on going, that very road would take us all the way to Nikko!
We could literally go anywhere we wanted. For the first time in our short lives, WE were in charge! I still remember that drive so vividly. I even remember the record that I bought at a record shop we stopped at on our way back ( it was "Policy" by Martha Davis ).

Within 3 months after that drive, the other two guys got their licenses and I was the only one without one. I was determined to attend a college in the US, so spending 250,000 yen + for the driving school was out of the question at that point. What was the point of having a Japanese license if you were moving to a foreign contry within a year, right?

I never got around to getting a license in the US either as I lived in a fairly large city and it just was not practical to drive....

Years have passed. I was back in Japan and after a couple of weeks of job hunting, I realised I needed a license to get a job here in Ashikaga. So, last July, I signed up for a driving school in town. The thing was, I had never pictured myself operating a motor vehicle. Ever. I had always ridden my bicycles, and to me, cars were nothing more than a nuisance that took up the space on the road leaving so little for us cyclists. Now, I am going to be one of them.

In the brochure, they said I would be driving in two and a half weeks! Everyone around me told me it wouldn't be hard but I was not convinced.
And I was right (as always).

To Be Continued....


ASHIKAGA san, nice to read your blog post! I was born in Kiryu and lived there until I graduated from high school! Reading your post brought me back so many memories, Kusaki dam was often our destination for a field trip.

The drivnig school you are going to has got to be the one I went to, I went to the one in Ashikaga because my mother's friend was one of the instructors. I finished my course in 2 months.

Good luck with yours and keep us updated!!
Did you go to the one by the river? That's the one I went to.

What can I say... I just love Kiryu. Sometimes I just drive to Kiryu, park my car on the roof parking lot of Nagasakiya, and look at the mountains..... lol I also like to drive past Umeda Dam and up into the mountains. In about 20 minutes, you find yourself in another world.
Probably not, I can't remember very well but the one I went to was like right next to a train station. I did drive by the river for a practice, though.

I now realize that you'd gotten your license. I really liked Kiryu, too. I used to go to Nagasakiya all the time, or just walked back and forth on Suehiro-douri and checked out little stores there. You're right, Kiryu has a lot of different faces. Ah~, now I can't wait to go back and see how it's turned out!

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