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Get Your Driver’s License in Japan! 3 Excellent Driving Camps

福島

Translated by Greg

Written by Mizzochi

2022.07.26

An international driver's license is only valid for a year in Japan. Long-term visitors will need to get a Japanese license once this expires. This article introduces various types of Japanese driver's licenses, driving schools, and how to obtain one at driving camps.

Get a Japanese Driver's License for Extended Stays

Cars are Convenient for Daily Life and Travels in Japan

Driving in Japan, Osaka Area

If you live in Tokyo or Osaka, you may not require a car since the trains and subways are well-developed.

However, many areas are difficult to access without a vehicle when you step outside large cities. Although public transportation is inconvenient in these remote areas, there are many attractive features—including affordable living costs and abundant nature.

It's also convenient to have a car when traveling. In addition to seeing scenic spots not accessible by train, riding in a car with a group is much cheaper than using public transportation.

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International Licenses Have Limitations

International Driving Permit in Japan

Overseas residents can drive a car during their first year in Japan with an international driver's license. But if they want to continue driving beyond a year, they'll need to get a Japanese driver's license (*).

*Depending on your nationality, you might not be able to obtain the certification you possess an international driver's license in Japan. To find out which international driver's licenses are accepted in Japan, please refer to: International Driver's License Required in Japan.

How to Get a Driving License in Japan

Different Types of Japanese Driver's Licenses

Rental Car

There are two types of licenses to drive a regular motor vehicle in Japan: Class 1 Driver's License and AT Class 1 Driver's License (*).

Those with a Class 1 Driver's License can operate automatic and manual transmission vehicles. The AT Class 1 Driver's License limits drivers to only operate automatic transmission vehicles.

Currently, most cars in Japan have automatic transmissions. An AT Class 1 Driver's License is usually sufficient for daily usage or travel purposes.

*Motorcycles and large motor vehicles require a different type of driver's license.

The Steps to Getting a Driver’s License in Japan

Driving in Japan

Driving school instructors sit in the passenger seat while teaching students driving skills. Photo by Pixta

In Japan, the most common way of getting a driver's license is by attending a designated driving school.

Designated driving schools teach students how to operate a motor vehicle safely. This is done by focusing on the necessary knowledge and skills. There are a total of 1,340 such schools throughout Japan.

At these designated schools, a specified number of lessons (see chart below) are required to obtain a Class 1 Driver's License and an AT Class 1 Driver's License. One lesson is 50 minutes long.

For in-car road instruction, students will first practice on the school's driving course. After successfully advancing to a certain stage, they'll take a midterm exam to acquire a learner's driving permit. Upon successful completion, students will drive on an actual road and begin their in-car instruction.

Driver's License Type Classroom Instruction In-Car Instruction
  • Class 1 Driver's License (Both automatic and manual transmission vehicles)
  • 26 lessons
    (50 minutes each)
    34 lessons
  • AT Class 1 Driver's License (Limited to automatic transmission vehicles)
  • 26 lessons 31 lessons

    When students complete the required lessons, they will take a final exam at the school to evaluate their driving skill level.

    Afterward, applicants go to the police station's licensing center and take a written test. They will become proud holders of a driver's license if they pass.

    For your information, obtaining your license without attending a driving school is possible. Students can go directly to a licensing center and take a road and written test.

    However, this is very difficult and not recommended. Typically, this method is used by people who previously had a license in the past and would like to apply for one again.

    How to Get Your Driver's License Quickly and Inexpensively

    Driver's License

    A practice course at a driving school. Photo by Pixta

    Fees at driving schools differ slightly from place to place. It's often said to cost about 300,000 yen (about 2,165 US dollars as of July 2022) to get a Class 1 Driver's License. An AT Class 1 Driver's License is about 10,000 to 20,000 yen cheaper.

    Please note that if your road skills are deemed insufficient, you'll be asked to retake the course, and additional fees will apply.

    If you're commuting to a driving school, it usually takes about two to three months to complete the course.

    With an overall cost of about 300,000 yen and taking over two months until completion, some may think getting a driver's license in Japan is too difficult. For those people, we'd like to recommend a driving camp.

    Get Your License at a Driving Camp! Recommended Places to Apply

    Obtain One's Driver's License

    As the name suggests, a driving camp is where students stay in a dormitory-style accommodation and receive driving instructions at a nearby school.

    An overnight driving school might sound a little challenging and intimidating. However, many schools with driving camps are located near scenic spots. During breaks in your instruction, you can go sightseeing at nearby destinations!

    Your accommodation and meal fees are included, so a driving camp is often cheaper than commuting to school. If you register during a discount period, you can even stay at a driving camp for less than 200,000 yen.

    Likewise, the length of time is surprisingly short. An AT Class 1 Driver's License only takes 13 days, and a Class 1 Driver's License in as little as 15 days. If you have about two weeks available, getting your license at a driving camp is quicker and cheaper than attending school.

    Below are several companies operating schools with driving camps. We'll also introduce three companies offering big discounts on their services.

    Driving Camp Reception Center

    Driver's License

    Driving Camp Reception Center is affiliated with about 50 driving schools located throughout Japan. They offer many kinds of accommodation plans that meet the needs of students, including the "Cook for Yourself Free Course," and the "Single Student Course." There are also early bird and student discounts.

    Hotels, ryokans, and apartments often serve as accommodation facilities in addition to special school dormitories. Students can either share a room or choose a single room.

    ▶For additional details, please refer to Driving Camp Reception Center (Japanese)

    yi Driving Camp

    Driver's License

    yi Driving Camp is affiliated with a total of 47 driving schools located throughout Japan. They offer seasonal discounts and introduce schools featuring discounted courses that are easy to understand.

    yi Driving Camp also offers early bird, student, and group discounts. There are even discounts for those who apply online. Please check out the different options available.

    ▶For additional details: No additional fees with yi Driving Camp (Japanese)

    Driving Camp Dream

    Driving Camp Dream

    Driving Camp Dream is based in Osaka and proud of their 30-year experience in the field.

    Their website introduces schools located in all parts of Japan. The site also categorizes schools according to the region, indicating which offer summer courses and seasonal discounts. This makes it easy for students to select the perfect driving school!

    ▶For additional details: Get your license in just 14 days at Driving Camp Dream: The "Cook for Yourself Plan" is just 168,000 yen and up (Japanese)

    Driving Instructions Offered in Foreign Languages

    In recent years, the number of schools in Japan offering driving instruction in foreign languages has increased.

    In Tokyo, five schools offer instruction in English (including Koyama Driving School Futakotamagawa and Musashi-Sakai Driving School). Shintokyo Driving Academy provides instruction in both Chinese and Tagalog.

    For more details on schools in other parts of Japan, please see: Car License Web (Japanese)

    Paper Driver Training: When You Haven’t Driven for a Long Time

    As a side note, some people probably already have a driver's license. However, they may feel anxious because they haven't driven for several years.

    To help alleviate these concerns, many driving schools have a special course called "Paper Driver Training." In this course, students become refamiliarized with the road and gain confidence to drive again. This is done with a professional instructor during in-car lessons.

    Rent a Car and Embark on a Trip!

    road trip in japan

    After getting your license, you'll be in high spirits and finally able to drive a car. Next up will be a much-anticipated road trip!

    Please check the MATCHA articles below for more information on renting a car. Please drive safely and have an enjoyable time on the road in Japan!

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    The information presented in this article is based on the time it was written. Note that there may be changes in the merchandise, services, and prices that have occurred after this article was published. Please contact the facility or facilities in this article directly before visiting.