Obtain My Japanese Driver License


The people around me rarely complain about Japan’s administrative processes, often making me wonder if I am overreacting. However, going through the process of renewing my Japanese driver’s license once again made me marvel at Japan’s ADVANCEMENT and EFFICIENCY.

Exchanging a Taiwanese driver’s license for a Japanese one is actually not that difficult. The official website clearly states what is required, including the following documents:

  • Taiwanese passport
  • Japanese residence card
  • Proof of entry and exit from Taiwan: To verify the period stayed in - Taiwan after obtaining the Taiwanese driver’s license
  • Taiwanese driver’s license
  • A Translation copy of the Taiwanese driver’s license: It’s most convenient to have this done in advance at a vehicle administration office in Taiwan

Not mentioned, but good to have: My Number card (I’ll explain why later)

My personality is a bit stubborn, which really doesn’t fit with the orderly Japanese way of life. The first time I went to the Koto Driving Licence center, I knew I should bring my entry and exit proof but thought it would be fine without it and went anyway.

“A NO NE~ take this, it’s a template for the entry and exit proof. Go to the Taiwan office to get one, then come back.”

The way the driving license guy spoke was just on the edge of being too direct, which could easily offend to the point of causing Japanese people to complain. However, for us foreigners, we had to watch his mood. But honestly, his straightforwardness made things clearer—what he said was final, with no room for negotiation.

That day was rainy, and it was inconvenient to carry an umbrella. I also traveled a long distance and changed trains because of my stubborn belief, wasting two hours going back and forth.

Today was also rainy. I clumsily held my documents and a wet umbrella in one hand while putting a cover on it before walking to counter No. 1. This time, I brought everything, including the freshly delivered proof of entry and exit from Taiwan.

“Your resident record doesn’t show your nationality.”
“… (I looked closely, and it was true, why didn’t the district office print it? I checked all the options!)”
“Did you bring your My Number card?”
“Go out and turn right to Lawson. Print it there.”

It was the same gentleman like last time. He was actually quite nice, telling me that they were open until three, and I should have enough time to return.

After submitting all the required documents, there was a long wait. Last time I came with Philip, I saw their logistic supports were manually calculating how long this person had stayed in the license issuing locality. Given my frequent travels, it must have taken them quite a while.

But the gentleman was very kind. He insisted on writing my name in Katakana and later, I found that he had also filled out the application form for me. More importantly, all their forms were available in Mandarin Chinese. I wonder if they would have sent someone who speaks Chinese if I hadn’t spoken Japanese?

It took another half an hour before my number was called to make the payment. After paying by credit card, I had to undergo an eyesight test.

I was worried about passing this stage, but fortunately, they didn’t scrutinize too closely, only testing for a few symbols and the colors of traffic lights. Then, I had to take a photo for the license. If I had known they would take it on the spot, I would have worn makeup. Before coming, all I thought about was bringing glasses for the eyesight test; I didn’t even draw my eyebrows or wear foundation.

(If you care about this, then this post was worth it.)

Finally, it was off to the fourth floor to wait for the license issuance. The waiting time was incredibly long, but fortunately, I brought my laptop to do some remote work. (You’ve been warned.)

From entering the driving school to getting my license, the total time was two hours. The process is simple, but you need to be mentally prepared. I heard that in other counties, you might have to come back another day, which made me feel much better about not having to make another trip.

With the license, I became a qualified person in Japan, which is important for things like applying for credit cards. And since I’ve spent enough time in Taiwan after getting my license, I don’t even need to display the beginner driver’s sticker, haha.

Japan’s Unique Approach to Problem Solving

By chance, working on products in Japan, I’m still amazed at how Japan manages to accommodate countless documents with extremely meticulous UI design. Japan is truly a nation that excels in document writing. Europeans should really come and see how Japan balances formal and practical conversational tones to guide processes, with system UI interfaces and paper procedures working together seamlessly.

For instance, using touch panels to let people set passwords on the spot, and then printing out a ticket with the number for them to keep is a prime example. (I hope you understand which part is the joke.)

After navigating Japan’s administrative processes multiple times, one will surely notice a pattern. They provide you with guides of all sizes, printed in black and white, telling you what to do for future related processes in detail beyond imagination. Every time you ask a question, they would pull out a drawer from a tall filing cabinet beside them, and fetch a manual in the language you need, essentially acting as a manual Q&A index.

No wonder their customer service Q&A is always so easy to find; they have everything filed away.

However, sometimes I’d rather they didn’t issue it; once issued, encountering a problem later might lead to blaming oneself, “The district office gave me a paper explaining what to do about taxes, but where did I put that paper?”

Now, I have another piece of paper in my hands, stating the validity period of the driver’s license and the dates it needs to be renewed—

“If you wish to change the address on your driver’s license in the future, you will need to go to the police station or driving school to process the change, at that time please bring __.”

I think when it comes time to move, this piece of paper might be gone as well. Oh, as I mentioned before, there’s another piece of paper, the one with the password I set for the driver’s license printed on it.

“Please do not store it together with your driver’s license.”

I think if one were to visit a traditional Japanese household, they might well find a folder filled with various passwords, something that detective novels could make good use of.

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