Driving licence in Japan

In Japan, a driving license (運転免許) is required when operating an automobile, motorcycle or moped on public roads. Driving licenses are issued by the prefectural governments' public safety commissions and are overseen on a nationwide basis by the National Police Agency.

Contents

Required training

The Japanese driving examination consists of a written examination and a practical examination for each level of license. Most Japanese go to a licensed driving school prior to taking these examinations, and upon completing the course, register for the examinations in the prefecture where they are registered as a resident. The practical examination consists of driving a vehicle through a purpose-designed driving course while obeying relevant rules of the road.

Japan also allows Japan-resident holders of foreign driving licenses to convert their foreign license to a Japanese license through an abbreviated examination process. This consists of an eyesight test and, depending on the issuing country of the foreign license, may also require a short written examination and a practical examination.

Types of license

Japanese licenses are divided by experience level and by vehicle type.

  • Provisional license (仮運転免許): Issued to a new driver undergoing training for their Class 1 license. Requires the driver to display learner's black-on-white plates on the exterior of the vehicle, and to be accompanied by a supervising experienced Class 1 license holder while driving. This license is expired unless a learner driver gains Class 1 license within six months.
  • Class 1 license (第一種運転免許): The ordinary license for operating a private automobile.
  • Class 2 license (第二種運転免許): Required when operating a commercial passenger-carrying vehicle such as a taxi or bus. Driver must be 21 years of age or older and have at least three years of experience driving under a Class 1 license (relaxed to two years for members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces).

The vehicle type ratings are as follows:

Type of
Class 1 license
Vehicle type
Heavy car
(大型自動車)
Medium car
(中型自動車)
Ordinary car
(普通自動車)
Heavy special car
(大型特殊自動車)
Heavy motorcycle
(大型自動二輪車)
Ordinary motorcycle
(普通自動二輪車)
Small special car
(小型特殊自動車)
Moped
(原動機付自転車)
Heavy license
(大型免許)
Minimum age: 21
(20 for SDF members)
Permitted Permitted Permitted       Permitted Permitted
Medium license
(中型免許)
Minimum age: 20
(19 for SDF members)
  Permitted Permitted       Permitted Permitted
Ordinary license
(普通免許)
Minimum age: 18
    Permitted       Permitted Permitted
Large special license
(大型特殊免許)
Minimum age: 18
      Permitted     Permitted Permitted
Large motorcycle license
(大型二輪免許)
Minimum age: 18
        Permitted Permitted Permitted Permitted
Ordinary motorcycle license
(普通二輪免許)
Minimum age: 16
          Permitted Permitted Permitted
Small special license
(小型特殊免許)
Minimum age: 16
            Permitted  
Moped license
(原付免許)
Minimum age: 16
              Permitted
Trailer license
(けん引免許)
Minimum age: 18
Required to drive any trailer-pulling automobile in excess of 750 kg total weight (other than when towing damaged vehicles).

Ordinary, heavy motorcycle and ordinary motorcycle license classes are either "unrestricted" (i.e., the driver may use a manual transmission or automatic transmission vehicle) or "restricted to automatic".

The vehicle classes are as follows:

  • Heavy car: Any automobile which weighs 11,000 kg or more, has maximum capacity of 6,500 kg or more, or carries 30 or more people.
  • Medium car: Any automobile which weighs 5,000 kg or more, has maximum capacity of 3,000 kg or more, or carries 11 or more people.
  • Ordinary car: Any automobile outside the other classifications.
  • Heavy special car: Specialized automotive equipment such as tractors or cranes which are used for particular work and are not classified as small special cars.
  • Heavy motorcycle: Any motorcycle with engine displacement over 400 cc.
  • Ordinary motorcycle: Any motorcycle with engine displacement over 50 cc.
  • Small special car: Specialized automotive equipment with a maximum speed of 15 km/h or less AND no larger than 4.7m × 1.7m × 2.8 m.
  • Moped: Any motorcycle with engine displacement of 50 cc or less.

References

See also

  • Driver licence

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