Driving in Japan
For visitors, students, temporary residents from oversea
What you must know and prepare before you depart your country for Japan
For individuals with driver’s licenses issued in foreign countries →(A)
For individuals who wish to switch their foreign driver’s license to Japanese driver’s license →(B)
For individuals who don’t have driver’s licenses and wish to take driver’s license in Japan →(C)
(A) 3 items needed to safely drive in Japan
- Domestic Driving License
- International Driving Permit or Official Japanese Translation
Basing on your driving license issuing country, to drive in Japan you will need an International Driving Permit based on the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic or an Official Translation of your Driving License made by the Japanese Automobile Federation (JAF).
Riders coming from countries using the International Driving Permit have to make sure to have a stamp on A section for motorcycle riding, to be able to drive motorcycles over 50cc. For less than 50cc motorcycles a stamp on B, C, D or E is enough. Make sure the International Driving Permit is the one based on the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic. There is another one based on the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic which is not valid in Japan.
Japan only recognizes International Driving Permits based on the 1949 Geneva Convention, while do not accept IDP based on 1968 Vienna Convention, therefore once you make the preparations for your IDP in your country, please make sure to get it based on the right protocol. To make sure you will get the right document, check the front of your IDP, which must have CONVENTION ON ROAD TRAFFIC 1949 written on its front.
List of the countries which need the International Driving Permit to ride in Japan
Important points regarding the IDP (International Driving Permit)
To drive motorcycles of over 50cc you must check that the IDP has the stamp on the A section for motorcycles. For 50cc motorcycles a stamp on B, C, D or E is enough. Note that 50cc are not allowed to carry a passenger by law. The IDP should be a small booklet form, not a card type or paper type. Every time you ride on the road, please bring with you your IDP, domestic driving license and passport, as the IDP has no validity on its own.
Special Case: Countries signing both Vienna and Geneva Convention
Italy, Russia and Poland have signed both the 1949 Geneva Convention on road traffic and 1968 Vienna Convention on road traffic, therefore authorities of these countries have rights to issue IDPs based on both conventions.
However Japan do not recognize IDPs issued based on the 1968 Vienna Convention Therefore when making the issuing procedures,
make sure to obtain a 1949 Geneva convention based IDP.
Countries which need an official Japanese translation instead of the IDP
List of the countries which need the International Driving an official Japanese translation to ride in Japan
Belgium, France, Germany ,Monaco, Swiss, Taiwan, Estonia
To drive in Japan you will need to obtain an official Japanese translation of your home country driving license. You can request the translation at Japanese Automobile Federation （JAF).
(B) Switching a foreign driver’s license to a Japanese license
A driver’s license issued by a foreign administrative office can be switched to a Japanese license by applying to the Driver’s License Center.
(C) Obtaining Japanese Driving License
Applicants who do not have a driving license in home country could enroll driving school in Japan. After completing curriculum at school, applicants have to be successful the written exam.
Validity Period for driving in Japan
- Japanese driver’s license (Within the validity period of the license)
- International driver’s license (Until one year from the day of arrival in Japan or until the end of the validity period of the international driver’s license, whichever is sooner.)
- Foreign driver’s license with attached Japanese translation. (Until one year from the day of arrival in Japan or until the end of the validity period of the foreign driver’s license, whichever is sooner.)