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Renewing a License in Japan January 5, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Renewing a License in Japan” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-iO

After getting my driver’s license converted from a Canadian license to a Japanese one in 2007, I had two years to keep it until it expired.  The following post is information about my trip to the Driver’s License Office in Toyocho, to renew my license.  Do note that a lot of my information is almost exactly the same as Japanese Pod 101 by Daniel.

The first thing to do when renewing your license in Tokyo is to go to the correct License office.  When I converted my license from a Canadian one to a Japanese one, I had to go to the Samezu Driver’s License Office.  This time, I had three options.  If you are renewing after the first time, you can usually head to around 17 different locations.  Many of them are just local police offices where they don’t need many staff to help you.  If it’s your first renewal, you only have the choices of Fuchu, Samezu, and Koto (Toyocho), as they are the only offices that conduct long lectures.

Upon arriving in Toyocho, you have to figure out what to do and where to go.  There are no English signs to be seen, so you are left to guess what to do.  The easiest thing to do is head straight for the information counter where they’ll instruct you on your first stop.  For me, it was “window 0”.  From there, I presented my renewal card, which I received in the mail, and my license.  From there, they print out a license renewal form.  I had to write down my name, address, birthdate, and phone number.  Incidentally, I didn’t add my phone number as I didn’t know what number they were actually looking for until later in the process.  After that was complete, I headed to the cashier’s booth, “window 1”.  4250 Yen lighter, I had my payment stamp and I was ready to complete my next task.  Rather than just rubber stamping the form saying I paid, they gave me a physical stamp which I had to moisten and affix to the back of my form.  Afterwards, I was off to “window 4”.

Window 4 is more of an area than a window.  This is where you choose your personal PIN number which is linked to your card.  You must choose two numbers, and they can be anything you’d like.  As Daniel mentioned, it could be the same number.  You’ll be given a “receipt” with your numbers on them and a barcode.  You should not throw this away.  You then head to a line-up which resembles entering a secured area of an airport.  You enter a door, from which you stand in front of an eye chart.  If you have glasses, they ask you to remove them and do some sort of test.  Since I had lasik surgery last year, this wasn’t necessary, although I had to inform them that I did have surgery.  They actual eye exam was simple.  Just look through the lenses for your eyes, and say which way the “C” is facing: up, down, left, or right.  It’s a Landolt C chart, but with only four options.  Once you are past “security”, you meet the inspector.  He will make sure you have your form filled out properly and stamp the appropriate locations saying you paid.

The next process takes a little more time for foreign nationals.  You line up and give your license and form to one officer.  He invalidates the old license by placing it in a small box which punches a hole through it, removing the IC chip embedded into the card.  From there, he does whatever paperwork is required.  In my case, he had to write my name, which took a LONG time as he probably writes English once a month, if at all.  He had to copy my Alien Registration Card information, including my visa information onto the form, which was then given to another woman who proceeded to input some information and print it out.  After checking that my name and address was correct, I was off to the photo “booth”.  At this point, they take the pin number receipt from me, take my photo, and instruct me to head to the second floor with only a small part of the renewal form left.  Note that this is your receipt saying you paid your fee and you went through all of the mandatory checks.

This is where things start to get boring.  On the second floor, they hand me a package of three books and an envelope.  They also instruct me on where my class will be held.  I believe they hold all classes on the third floor, in rooms 10 and 11, but don’t quote me on that.  Be sure to check with the person giving you the information.  I was in room 11.  By this time, I had spent about 15 minutes at the License Office.  I took my seat and waited for the class to start.  The class is two hours long.  The rough breakdown of the class is as follows.  15 minutes to instruct you on what you should have, what your renewal form should say.  The instructor pretty much went over basic procedures two or three times before he started the actual “lesson/lecture”.  I use this term very loosely.  He proceeded to inform us about the changes to the license structure, I think, and then showed us a video.  It was a heart wrenching video of what happens if you drink and drive.  The main character killed a little boy and severely injured his older sister.  He confessed after a few days and he was sentenced to five years in prison.  His wife had to apologise to the victim’s family, but they wouldn’t accept it.  She also had to get two jobs to support the drunk driver’s two children.  They had an older son who became a punk and disobeyed his mother.  In the end, the drunk driver’s wife killed herself and he was left alone.  The video itself has a serious message, but I had a tough time taking it seriously.  It felt like an after school special, or an in school version.  I’d hope that all adults know the consequences of their actions and don’t drink and drive.  After the video, we had a quick break to stretch and get a drink.  The last part of the lecture was a talk about recent statistics on accidents and deaths related to driving.  He also informed us to not use cell phones while driving, be attentive, and direct us to the important parts of the books that were handed to us before we entered the lecture.

Once finished, everyone rushed to the exit, unless they were half asleep, and up to the fourth floor.  This is where we could pick up our new licenses.  Since we had a two hour lecture, everything was ready for us.  Just hand over what’s left of your renewal form, pick up your new license and off to the card reading terminal.  Place it on the screen, enter your PIN numbers, and you are done.  Don’t forget to check that all the information is correct, but who really does that?

Please do note that many things are bound to change.  The window numbers themselves aren’t guaranteed.  The machines that I have described can change.  The floor where you pick things up, or take a lecture can also change.  The lecture itself will change as the statistics change, and what I have described is based on my poor ability with Japanese.  It can also depend greatly on who is giving the lecture.  They may feel seatbelts are more important, where another will talk about how women are bad drivers.  Mine decided that talking on the phone and highlighting defensive driving techniques were important.  I feel I have understood the basics of the lecture, but I am sure that many of the things that I described in the lecture portion could be wrong.  This is only a guide to give you more information on what to do and what will happen so that you aren’t worried if you ever have to perform this task.

Information:

JapanesePod101.com Blog:  http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2007/03/24/samurai-theologian-in-tokyo-drivers-license-renewal/

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Converting a License in Japan December 29, 2009

Posted by Dru in Uncategorized.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Converting a License in Japan” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-iK

In 2007, I had become a legal driver in Japan. It only took 3 hours at the office, and 4 hours of travelling. My journey began almost a month before I actually headed to the Driver’s License Office. I had to go to the Japan Auto Federation to get a translation of my Driver’s License. This is mandatory. The Canadian embassy, which is closer to my home, doesn’t do it, so I had no other choice. I was well prepared. I had my money, my application, my Canadian license, and all the photo copies they required.  All of the information you need on what to bring is available on JAFs website. It only took about 15 minutes to get it and it was very simple and easy. The next week, I was supposed to head over to the licensing centre, but there was one major problem I have a motorcycle license.

Having a motorcycle license or an extra license other than a regular car license is a hassle when converting a foreign license to a Japanese one.  If you have a license without a lot of information, you will have to contact your home licensing centre.  I had to get a statement from my provincial license office stating the dates of when I obtained my car license, and my motorcycle license.  Both dates are different for myself, and can be different for other people, so they must know these dates.  I contacted the licensing office and after a few transfers and a lengthy explanation, I had my request processed. The letter only took two weeks to get to me.

My first trip to the Driver’s License Office was an adventure. There is only one office in Tokyo, located in Samezu, south of Shinagawa Station.  I got onto the right trains, and yet, I didn’t. It takes roughly 3 transfers to get to the License Office from my house. I made my way out, but as I was inexperienced with this particular train line, I made a terrible mistake.  My intention was to take the local train, as only the local train stops at Samezu Station.  I made a mistake and took an express train which went well past the station I wanted to visit.  I ended up adding about 40 minutes to my one way trip.  Once out of the station, I started to wander around until I found the Driver’s License Office. It’s not easy to find the Samezu Office and I got lost several times but I eventually got there. Once inside, I had to ask the front desk where to go, and I headed straight for the counter where I could convert my license. It’s located on the 2nd floor of the office, in the back corner. I got my number and waited. About 10 minutes or so later, I got called and gave all my details. Here’s the biggest problem, my passport is relatively new and after about 20 minutes of them counting how many days I’ve been a valid driver, I wasn’t “experienced” enough based on my passport. Since they couldn’t verify that I was in Canada before my last passport expired, I didn’t qualify for a regular license.  I would have to carry a beginner’s mark for the next 3 years. Since my old passport wasn’t returned to me, I had no way of confirming my residence in Canada before the issuing date of my passport. I was told that I would have to come back AGAIN, just to get my beginner’s mark taken off. I had to bring a copy, and original of my university diploma. This was bureaucracy at its best.

After the hassle of talking with the officer and understanding what I have to do, I finally get approved to get a license. I was told to go downstairs where I have to take an eye test, then come back up and pay for my license. It costs about 8000 Yen for a new license. I have to go to the special cashier’s window where I pay and in return they give me some stamps to prove that I paid. They proceed to place the stamps on the application form to prove that I have paid and I head back to the original window where I started my application.  Back at the first window, I’m told to wait again.  This is the story of the day.  Go here, wait; move here, wait; hold this, wait, and so on. Finally, they call me back and tell me to go downstairs, again, and then I can pick up my license. I go down, get my picture taken in under 2 seconds, and then I head up to the 3rd floor. The final procedure is where I have to wait as they print out my license and verify the information written on it. I get my license and finally, I can go home. I spent about 2 hours waiting and about 10 minutes of doing something. Thankfully, I caught the right train home.

A few days later, I head back. I have a copy of my diploma, my original, my license, my passport, and my Canadian License. I didn’t get lost this time as I knew where to go, and I figured out which train to take. I waited in line, as always, and one worker was kind enough to help me.  He looked at my documents and, gave me a number. I waited until my number was called, and I talk to a different worker, and the same guy. At first, he couldn’t help me as he was working at a “different window”, yet in the same room.  He just sat around doing almost nothing until the other worker was free. The worst part of it all was that he ended up doing my work anyways. They started to look at my documents.  They told me to sit, then they called me, then they told me to sit again, and then they called me.  This happened a couple times, and I had to tell them the date that I started University and the date that I graduated.

Finally, a third guy calls my name, and he brings me to the 4th floor. He takes my documents and license and we head he makes me sit down on a chair in the hallway.  He leaves for about 5 minutes before coming back saying that I should go back down to the 2nd floor. The only reason he brought me up to the 4th floor was so that I knew he had my license, which he was holding.  At least that’s what I thought.  I found it even more confusing for the fact that my passport, Canadian License, and university degree were still on the 2nd floor at that time. When we get back down, it took less than 2 minutes before he called me back and showed me my documents. He told me to check the address on my Japanese License. All okay. I took everything and went home. This trip took 1 hour of waiting, and 3 minutes of exercise.

Overall, converting a foreign license into a Japanese license is a great exercise in patience.  You will definitely learn the meaning of bureaucracy.  Hopefully those who need to convert their license can learn a little about it here, and avoid any and all of my mistakes.  It’s very hard to say what will happen, of if things have changed in the last two years, as of writing this.  If there is any tip I can recommend, bring a magazine to read, or a nice book.  You’ll need it to survive all the waiting you’ll have to do.  iPods would be good as well, but you might need to be aware in case they call your name or number.

Information:

JAF Information:  http://www.jaf.or.jp/e/switch.htm
JAF Application Form (English):  http://www.jaf.or.jp/inter/image/english_apli.pdf
JAF Rules of the Road (Guide to driving basics in Japan):  http://www.jaf.or.jp/e/road.htm

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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