Passing my driving test

Well for the past 9 months I have been riding my bicycle to work, traveling less on weekends and driving illegally in Japan. The reason for this is after 1 year in Japan you must get a Japanese license. A mix of repeatedly failing the test, giving up and starting to try again and other excuses means that until now I have failed to get my Japanese license. I suppose I have always been one police pull over away from deportation.

Well, now its all over. Today, on my fifth attempt I passed my drivers test. Yes, thats right I can legally drive in Japan now. I'll write more about how to pass at About Tochigi, this entry is just a personal reflection.

The whole thing is very much part of the bizarre Japanese experience. Out of the 20-40 people who show up usually one or two pass. Unlike western tests which test driving ability this test is more about adherence to driving protocol. I showed up on day 1 expecting to pass easily and was surprised to find that I got 0%. A little social community springs up amongst the people who repeatedly fail and show up the next week to try again.

The test takes the whole day. But its really only about 20 minutes of activity and a lot of waiting. 5 minutes where they check to see if your passport of driving record has changed since last time, 10 minutes of actual test and then 5 minutes of being failed and lining up to make your next appointment.

Waiting for our turn to be tested

Every time I have done the test to date I have expected to pass and thought I had passed only to discover I had in fact failed. This time I was so sure I had failed I was busy taking photographs when they announced me as a passer. I didn't even notice. Finally passing was a mix of reading on the internet, going for 4 driving lessons and talking with other foreigners. There is no official document that describes the rules or any real assessment of why you failed.

Lining up to make next week's appointment

I met some nice guys from USA working at Honda in Utsunomiya and a lady from Guam. I was almost sad not to be going back next week to sit and idly pass the time with them waiting for the next moment of activity.

The deal was, after I pass, I would instruct Cassandra how I did it so she could pass. So lets see if that happens :-)

Its possible I have set a new record for boring pictures with this event. A few more pictures are available at: Gallery


Indeed, I have heard that it

Indeed, I have heard that it takes foreigners many times to pass the test. I have also heard that they are harder here in Tochigi than anywhere else in Japan. I am not looking forward to the driving test (actually, posting advise would be super!) But, as a reply to your note, I grew up driving in actual countryside (I'm sorry but 200 people per square kilometer is not country lol). I found it easier to drive on WIDE roads that almost never had a blind corner much easier. As far as US city driving versus Tochigi driving... I don't think one is better or worse than the other, just different with their own sets of problems.

driving in Tochigi

Thank you for posting to my blog Sheenami. Its nice to have a fellow blogger in the neighborhood.

At some point Tochigi had the highest traffic fatality rate in the country. Perhaps it still does. Somebody I met at the test theorized that is the reason why its so hard. Anyway, I've nearly finished my step by step advice on passing the test, which I'll post on the Tochigi blog in the coming days.

Yes, the population density is rather high in Otawara, thats for sure. It doesn't really count as rural by home standards. As you say there is no equivalent that to it in the States (or anywhere that I have been).

Now picture this. There is a guy working at my company who drives a Hummer.