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The Japanese DMV

Zuba

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I went to the DMV today to take my behind the wheel driving test. Which I am happy to say I passed. Now anyone who has been to the DMV, at least in the US, knows the DMV is known for long wait times, lots of grumpy people, and staff that seems lifeless. Is the Japanese version of the DMV the same in Japan?
 

Mike Cash

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I went to the DMV today to take my behind the wheel driving test. Which I am happy to say I passed. Now anyone who has been to the DMV, at least in the US, knows the DMV is known for long wait times, lots of grumpy people, and staff that seems lifeless. Is the Japanese version of the DMV the same in Japan?
No.
 

Mike Cash

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I think OP went to the US DMV.
Since we don't do our drivers license stuff at the DMV here that was also my assumption.

His post did make me think, though. I realized I have never once renewed a drivers license in America. I have no idea what it is like.
 

WonkoTheSane

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Since we don't do our drivers license stuff at the DMV here that was also my assumption.

His post did make me think, though. I realized I have never once renewed a drivers license in America. I have no idea what it is like.
Awful, simply awful. Imagine the worst aspects of American customer service and compound them by the government employee factor.

I renewed my license while I was back in the states and it took 3 hours to turn in one form. There weren't even any smiling women or 80 year old guards in peppy little uniforms wandering around to point me to the correct counter, get forms for me, help me fill them out, and thank me for coming.

Savages, the lot of them.
 

Zuba

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Thanks for the info. Sorry I did not specify I went to the American DMV.
 

nice gaijin

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I renewed my license earlier this year (in California) and it was relatively painless. People love to complain about the DMV though, so fire away I guess.
 

Toritoribe

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Oops, I misunderstood the question, sorry. As Mike-san mentioned, vehicle registration and driver licensing are handled by different agencies here in Japan. The latter done by 免許センター, an organization in police department (strictly speaking, public safety commission).
 

Glenski

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Zuba, your profile says you are a 21-year-old American. I'm guessing you've never been to Japan despite your interests. If you are asking about the DMV here, that suggests you are planning to come for more than a tourist stay. You can drive on an international drivers permit for the first year, but after that you have to get a Japanese drivers license.

Doing that will require that you take a written and behind the wheel tests. Your existing US license at the time must have been valid in the US for the preceding 3 months, but if not, you have to take expensive long driving school lessons first. Heads up on that.

The "DMV" here is a typical government bureaucracy. Lines exist. Driving tests are scheduled and often crowded. There is an on-site place to take the needed photos. Probably the biggest difference other than language is that you have to get stamps from various windows to affix to the forms. Straightforward but a bit surprising if you aren't familiar with it.

Many foreigners (and Japanese, come to think of it) complain that they fail the behind the wheel test no matter how long they have driven in their home country (or in the case of Japanese, no matter how well they did in driving school). Those who pass will usually tell you it's only a matter of jumping through the hoops no matter how silly they may seem. For example, if you don't look behind and under your car before getting in, yes, even on a driving test, you fail. If you don't adjust the mirror and seat, and outwardly check the test monitor's seat belt to see that they are wearing it, you risk failing. You can pay 500 yen and run the course in a practice run if you like, and I highly recommend it (I did it). Feel free to ask the test monitor questions, too. They took me around the course first in preparation, and I asked a lot. I passed the first time.

The only other differences here are as follows (as far as I recall):
you have to sit through a boring hour or two of lectures and videos all in Japanese a year after your first license is granted, and
you have to indicate whether you are applying to get a license for a manual or automatic transmission.
 

Petaris

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and
you have to indicate whether you are applying to get a license for a manual or automatic transmission.
Is a Japanese driver's license only good for one or the other? For example, if I got a license for an automatic but a few years later sold that vehicle and got something with a manual transmission would I have to get a new license/take a new drivers test?

Edit: clarification
 

Mike Cash

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if I got a license for an automatic but a few years later sold that vehicle and got something with a manual transmission would I have to get a new license/take a new drivers test?

Edit: clarification
Yes.

The automatic thing is actually a restriction for "automatic transmission only" and holders aren't allowed to drive manual transmissions. Holders of licenses without the restriction may drive either.
 
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Toritoribe

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To supplement, there is no license "manual transmission only", so the ones who can drive manual transmissions also can drive automatic transmissions.
 
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