Written by MATCHA_En
Driving In Japan - How To Get An International Driving Permit
Driving in Japan as a resident or traveler from abroad requires an International Driving Permit (IDP) or a driver's license translation for most countries. This article covers how to get an international permit, how much it costs, and what to expect when on the road in Japan.
How to Drive in Japan with an International Permit
In Japan, road trips and travel via car provides freedom and the chance to venture to places inaccessible via public transportation. Additionally, driving gives one an enclosed space to explore, ideal for avoiding crowds and the bustle of every day.
If you have a driver's license in another country, obtaining an International Driving Permit (IDP) will allow you to enjoy driving in Japan for up to one year. IDPs are not issued in Japan, but must be obtained from the country you have a driver's license in.
Continue reading to learn about how to get an international driving permit for Japan and things to know when on the road.
Countries with International Permits and Special Driving Agreements
Over fifty countries have agreements with Japan allowing international drivers on the road. This includes a connection to the Geneva Convention 1949, which allows drivers from certain countries abroad to use an International Driving Permit in Japan. There are also bilateral treaties with countries where a Japanese translation of their license is needed to drive in Japan.
Below is a partial list of these countries. We highly recommend double-checking with your Japanese embassy to confirm the requirements for driving for the latest updates.
|IDP Required||License Translation Required|
|United States, Canada, U.K., Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, India, Italy, Austria, Spain, Romania, Sweden, Denmark, Turkey, etc. (see complete list)||Taiwan, Belgium, France, Estonia, Germany, Switzerland, and Monaco (see more details here)|
Where and How to Get an International Driving Permit for Japan
Every country and organization has slightly different requirements for obtaining an international permit, including which documents need to be submitted. In general, though, you will need to submit your valid, unexpired driver's license, passport-sized photos (one or two), and a permit fee of less than 4,000 yen.
When visiting your country's international driver's permit issuer in-person, the entire process will take around 30 minutes to two hours, depending on how crowded the office is. You will be able to receive your permit on the same day you apply for it in many cases. Certain countries may allow you to apply via mail and online, as well, but the process will take longer to complete, and you may need to visit an office to pick up your permit.
Below are some of the requirements of different countries and where to get your IDP issued. If your country is not listed, please check your country's Japanese embassy website or call directly to get information on how to obtain an IDP or drive in Japan.
Submit your application form and documents to AAA offices in-person or via mail. Provide your valid, unexpired driver's license (a photocopy), two passport-sized photos, and $20 (USD) for the permit fee. Please confirm the process and requirements here.
Canadians can get their IDP by submitting their valid, unexpired license, two passport-sized photos, and $25 (CDN) to the CAA. Please confirm the process and requirements here.
The Post Office issues IDPs in the United Kingdom: to get one, submit your valid Great Britain or Northern Ireland license, a passport-sized photo, and the £5.50 permit fee. Please confirm the process and requirements here.
Australia's AAA handles the issuance of International Driving Permits. Submit your valid Australian driver's license, a passport-sized photo, and $42 AUD in-person to an office or online. Please confirm the process and requirements here.
For the Philippines, head to an AAP office or accredited travel agency with your application and show your valid driver's Philippine license, submit two ID photos in color (2"x2") and 3,920 Php. Please confirm the process and requirements here.
Submit your Singapore driving license to the Automobile Association of Singapore（AAS), along with your NRIC/FIN card and $20 (SGD). Please confirm the process and requirements here.
Things to Know When Driving in Japan with an IDP
Picture from Road Trip Safety In Japan - 5 Tips On Social Distancing And Driving
By law, you are required to carry both your IDP and your valid driver's license when behind the wheel of a vehicle. Driving in Japan with an international driver's permit means that you are subject to all local laws and regulations. If you are stopped by law enforcement on the road, you will need to present both of these documents to show that you are certified to drive legally.
Cars drive on the left side of the road in Japan, meaning if you are used to driving in the United States, Canada, and other parts of the world where traffic flows on the right, you will be operating the opposite way of what you're used to. Also, Japan's roads and cars follow the metric system, meaning that you will see speed limits and distance to your destination in kilometers.
Driving in Japan is generally considered safe,* making it a country relatively easy to navigate in, even for travelers and beginners to the Japanese system. Major signage on expressways and highways will be in Japanese and English, but minor streets and intersections are often unmarked completely. Use a GPS every time you drive to arrive at your destination safely.
The Road Safety Annual Report in 2019 by the OECD reports a decreasing rate of serious traffic accidents in Japan over the past decades. There is also a strict zero-tolerance policy for drinking and driving that has been in place since 2002, which may also be contributing to Japan's decreasing rates. View more information here.
What to Do After Your International Permit Expires
Photo by Pixta
The legal period of validity for International Driving Permits in Japan is one year from the day the permit was issued or the day you entered Japan (whichever length is shorter).
If you are still in Japan and wish to drive after the IDP has expired, you will have to obtain a legal Japanese driving license. It is illegal in most cases to drive with an expired international permit or one that has been re-issued (re-issuing and using a new permit is only allowed if you have been outside of Japan for more than three months).
Getting a Japanese driving license is a good investment if you're planning on driving in the country and staying long-term. Requirements for obtaining a license depend on which country you are from originally. For more information, see the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) website.
Drive the Open Roads of Japan!
An International Driving Permit gives the freedom and convenience of traveling via car in Japan, and comes in handy especially when outside of Tokyo, Osaka, and other major metropolitan areas, whether you want to drive in Japan for a trip or need it to commute every day. Follow the guidelines above to get your IDP to get on the road in Japan.
Remember to drive safely!