It’s like I’m 16 (er… 17) all over again

So on Monday I’m going to take the test to try and get a Japanese Driver’s License.



There are some countries, like the UK and Canada (DAMN YOU!), where citizens can just go into a neighborhood “DMV,” slam down their Gaijin cards and home country license, and leave (probably several hours later) with a shiny new Japanese one.  However, because America 1) makes Japanese people take tests to get an American license, and 2) has 50 states with 50 different regulations and 50 different traffic safety statistics, well, I have to go take a test.

This is a big pain in the ass.

First, I need to get my license translated into Japanese.  The Japanese government does not do this.  You have to go to JAF (Japan’s Automobile Federation) and give them a copy of your license (FRONT AND BACK) along with about thirty dollars.  However if, like me, you live on an island, you send the copies and the form and the money to the big city.  (This requires a special envelope for sending money.)  Then you get it back.

Then you make an appointment with the DMV.  They will speak to you in very polite Japanese despite you making it clear you don’t understand polite Japanese, thus necessitating you to inconvenience your English Teacher to make the appointment for you.

Next, harass all available foreigners who have taken the test for hints and tips.  Visit this amazing website and read everything that’s on it.  If you live on an island, like me, you’re going to have to fly in for the test because, hey, you have to take vacation days for this (DMV isn’t open on weekends!) and you don’t want to miss much school.  

The really SMART thing to do next is to take a practice lesson at a local driving school.  I wasn’t going to do it, but decided at the last minute that it might be a good idea.  

Thank GOD.  I would never have had a chance without it.  Here are my notes, hastily typed so I wouldn’t forget anything, with extra capitalized emphasis (and the occasional swear words) for things I was particularly bad at:

  1. Keep to the ****ing left!
  2. Starting
    1. よろしくお願いします the man.
    2. Foot on break
    3. Slide the seat forward (adjust)
    4. Adjust mirrors
    5. Turn on car
    6. Move car to drive
    7. Turn off emergency break
    8. SIGNAL
    9. Check left mirror, over left shoulder, back mirror, right mirror, over right shoulder
    10. Face forward and go
  3. Changing lanes:
    1. Signal
    2. Move toward the center line
    3. Check mirrors (back, R Side, over shoulder)
    5. Turn the wheel
    6. Straighten the wheel
    7. Signal
    8. Move toward the  center line
    10. Turn the wheel
  4. When slowing after 40 km/hr, break hard twice
  5. Turning past barriers
    1. Look over left mirror and left shoulder before the hood of the car blocks the corner
    2. Creep forward
    3. If I stop, look over the left mirror, left shoulder again, then creep forward again
    4. Back and forth checking oncoming traffic, the last checked should be left (before the center line if turning right) or right (if turning left)
  6. When turning right at any point MOVE TOWARDS THE ****ING CENTER LINE!
  7. Signal at the correct time (30m before turning)
  8. Backing in (to the left)
    1. Watch for the first pole to come to the center of the triangular back window
    2. Turn hard to the left
    3. Release break, check like a mad woman
    4. Halfway in, STOP and straighten
    5. Continue backing in until the fourth pole reaches me.
  9. Backing in (to the right)
    1. Watch for the first pole to reach the center of the main back window
    2. Turn hard to the right
    3. Release break, check like mad woman.
    4. STOP and straighten
    5. Continue backing in until the fourth pole reaches me

10.  Trains

  1. Stop completely (keep to the left!!!!)
  2. Check both ways
  3. Lower the window and listen for a train
  4. Turn forward, raise window, check, go.

11.  Finishing

  1. Signal to the left and check mirror/shoulder
  2. Pull as close to the left as possible
  3. Stop right when it looks like the pole is just in front of the car’s front lights (about to hit it)
  4. Park, emergency break
  5. Turn off car, slide back seat
  6. Check behind the car (over right shoulder)
  7. Peek through the crack for oncoming traffic
  8. Leave and thank the man.

12.  Remember you are driving in a much bigger car.  Stop before lines earlier! And turn accordingly.

13.  Learn the word for traffic light, damnit.  And watch the traffic light’s color, for god’s sake.

14.  S curve is not quite as frightening as it looks, but watch the signaling before and during and after… really, all the damn time

15.  Keep the km/hour around 20 when turning on curves.

16.  Don’t f***ing panic.

17.  Be as polite as humanly possible.  And wear sneakers.


Yeah, seriously.  That many notes.  

Please, wish me luck.  The plane ticket and the test together are gonna cost me around $200, which means that if I fail, I just wasted $200, and I’ll have to spend it again before July (when my International Driver’s Permit will expire).  Holy guacamole and a bag of parcheesy sticks, I’m nervous out of my mind.  Blaaaaargh.