Oita Department of Motor Vehicles (Oita Keisatsu Honbu Kotsubu Unten Menkyoka)
- 6687 Matsuoka, Oita City
- 097-536-2131 (ext: 702-245)
- Days and Hours:
- Monday – Friday 1:00 – 1:30 pm -- The actual processing and tests take much longer, of course, but you must check in before 1:30.
- For your first attempt at the test you will need to make a reservation. Subsequent tests require no reservation.
Here’s what you’ll need to bring:
- Valid home country driver’s license, received at least 3 months before you arrived in Japan. (If not, you should bring your old license, too.)
- As of 2011, you also need some sort of proof that you actually lived in your home country for at least 3 months since receiving your license. For most Americans, passports are problematic because the airport often does not stamp your passport (effectively denying you 'entry' and 'exit' dates from the US), so you need something else. School transcripts seem to be acceptable, as do old electricity or water bills. If you're concerned, bring many different documents and see what works. Passport did not work for me.
- Translation of your license. You can get this through JAF.
- Gaijin Card, i.e. Alien Registration Card
- Certificate of items in your gaijin card. Obtainable at any city hall. (外国人登録証明書 Gaikokujin Toroku Shomeisho)
- Photograph – 3 x 2.4 cm. Take it easily at those photo booths around stores, streets.
- Money – bring at least ¥8,000 to cover registration and application fee, etc.
- Interpreter – if you think you’ll need help with understanding Japanese. There is a short “interview” before you take the written test regarding your prior driving experience.
First, remember that “yoshing” at the appropriate times during the test
is mandatory. The point of saying “yoshi” (pronounced without the “i”) is so that the proctor can confirm that you’ve done your checks, e.g. checking your blind spot, right mirror, etc.
While driving, make sure you keep your hands at the "9 and 3" position on the wheel. When turning, never EVER pull the wheel from the inside (with your palm up); only turn it from the outside (palms down).
Before you get into the car, check under the front of the car, then under the driver’s side, then the back of the car. Yoshi at each of these 3 checks. Before you open the door, check around you and yoshi 3 times -- behind, front, and behind of you again. Then open the door about 10 cm and do the 3 checks again -- behind, front, behind -- yoshing each time. Finally, open the door all the way.
Step into the car by placing your left hand on the steering wheel and putting in your left leg first. Once you’re seated, close and lock the door and put on your seatbelt. Introduce yourself to the proctor. A simple “(Name) desu – yoroshiku onegaishimasu” will suffice.
Next, check and/or adjust your mirrors – left, right, and rearview mirrors. With the current vehicles, the left and right mirrors cannot be adjusted until you actually start the car, so pretend to adjust them. Also, adjust the seat. When you’re ready to proceed, put your foot on the brake and start the car. Adjust your left and right mirrors (for real this time). If it is raining, turn on the windshield wipers. Move the car into drive and release the parking brake (on some of the vehicles, it’s underneath the wheel, near your left knee -- on others it's the handle next to the selector lever as usual).
Turn on your right signal. Now, check your mirrors and blindspots (starting from the left blindspot, left mirror, rearview mirror, right mirror, right blindspot – you get the picture.) Remember to always yoshi at each “check.” Finally, before you start moving, do a final right check (yoshi) and left check (yoshi). Check your right mirror (yoshi) and right blindspot (yoshi). You’re now ready to roll.
Drive into the starting/merging lane, which is a short strip of lane right in front of you. Once you’re in the merging lane, you’ll need to make a right lane change. Right signal and check your right mirror and blindspot while keeping the wheel straight, so not letting yourself start to drift to the right, until you have finished yoshing at both times. Once you’ve changed lanes (do so before the merging lane ends), you’ll find yourself on the left side of a 2-lanes.
Ahead of you is a right curve. Do NOT brake during this curve! Doing so will cost you a 20-point deduction. Go slower before the curve, and you won’t have to worry about braking during the curve. (The proctor explained to me afterwards that braking during a curve is very dangerous. You shouldn’t be going fast enough to need to brake during a curve anyway…)
After you’ve cleared the curve, you’ll come upon a long, straight stretch of road. Accelerate to 50 km/h at this point. Don’t worry about being “exact” – the proctor’s not going to fail you if you only go up to 49 km/h. Just make sure you accelerate enough to about or slightly over 50 km/h. This part of the driving test allows you to show the proctor that you’re capable of driving well in a faster speed.
Please note: AT ALL TIMES, at ALL times during the test, STAY CLOSE TO THE LEFT OF THE LANE/ROAD you’re in. This means that you need to be about 50 cm from the left curb, or about 1.5 feet. You will be deducted at least 5 points every time you don’t! (The proctor has failed people for driving too much in the center of the lane. It’s the rule, regardless of whether it makes sense.) During this long stretch of road, make sure you stay close to the left.
At the end of this long, straight road, you’ll see in the distance a right curve. BEFORE you approach this right curve, make a right-lane change. Don't forget: make a right-lane change BEFORE you approach this curve! Reason? You’ll need to make a right turn just after this curve, but at the same time, if you wait to lane change after the curve, you won’t be allowing for 30-meter distance between signaling and turning. Thus, you need to already be in the right lane before you clear the curve, so that you’re ready to turn at the next right turn. Turn on your right signal, yoshi right mirror and yoshi right blind spot, then make the lane change. Again, this lane change should happen before you approach this right curve. You’ll now be in the right lane.
Right before this right curve (you’re still in the right lane), gently BRAKE 3 TIMES. Reason? It’s a “safety” signal to people behind you that you’re going to slow down and/or stop; thus, a mandatory part of the driving test. Pump your break gently 3 times before you enter this curve, then ease into the curve WITHOUT braking. Remember: NO BRAKING during a curve!
Right after you clear the curve, signal right. Once you reach where you need to turn right, do your yoshi’s – right mirror, right blindspot, then make the right turn. Turn INTO THE FAR LEFT LANE while avoiding the white diamond-ish marker on the road. The marker is there to “guide” you into the turn – do NOT drive over the white marker or after the white marker, but drive BEFORE it during your right turn. Driving over or going around the white marker will cost you 5 points, and turning into the right lane instead of the left will also cost you points. Be aware.
Once you’ve turned into the left lane (while keeping close the left curb at all times), you’ll need to make a right turn at the traffic light intersection. Drive straight for a couple seconds, then do the routine: signal right, yoshi right mirror and right blindspot, then make a right-lane change. You’ll arrive upon the intersection with the traffic light. Since you’re preparing to make a right turn, it’s now time to STAY CLOSE TO THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE LANE instead of the left! No joke: stay within 50 cm to your right.
At the traffic light (and by now you should be in the right lane) yoshi left and right to check for pedestrians at the crosswalk before you go over it. If the light is red, gently brake 3 times (same routine as before) and come to a complete stop before the first white line. If the light is green, slow down a bit before the intersection and yoshi right and left BEFORE making the right turn. Reason? You’ve always got to check right and left before you cross ANY intersection, just in case there are stray cars rushing through, etc. Note that the left and right intersection yoshi checks are IN ADDITION to the left and right crosswalk checks, so make sure to do both sets -- as well as your usual mirror and blindspot yoshis when turning.
Once the light turns green, turn into the RIGHT LANE along the center line. Yes – this time, you actually don’t need to turn into the left lane like before; according to the proctor, it’s because there isn’t enough distance to make your next right turn. Just this once, it’s OK to turn into the right lane. Stay close to the right.
Once you’ve cleared this turn, turn on your right signal again. Slow down by braking 3 times, and turn right (with routine yoshi’s) into a road without lines. There will be a curb island on your left; stay close to it. Your next turn will be a right turn at the next INTERSECTION, so turn on your right signal 30 meters before. Becuase it is an intersection remember to yoshi right and left before you turn right.
Once you’ve made that right turn (stay close to the left!), you’ll be making another right turn. Do all your routine turn yoshi’s. After making this turn, you’ll need to turn left into a S-shaped road (with the #1 sign post, I believe.) Do your routine left-turn signaling and your yoshing before you left-turn into this snake road.
Inside the S-shaped snake road, TAKE YOUR TIME. There are NO point deductions for going slow; it’s an automatic fail, however, if you hit any curb at any time. Therefore, don’t take chances and GO SLOW! When you’re halfway through the snake road and before you get to the exit of the snake road, turn on your left signal. (If it clicks off, turn it on again). Yoshi left and right and make your left turn exit from the snake road. Be careful not to be too close to the left during the turn – your left back tire may graze/hit the curb. Hitting the curb is an auto fail! Don't, however, overcompensate by making too wide of a turn, as you are also deducted points if you have to turn the wheel as far as it will go to make this turn.
Once you’ve made your left turn out of the snake road, you’ll need to make a left turn at the next intersection. Turn on your left signal far enough ahead and do your left mirror and left blindspot yoshing before the turn.
After this left turn, you’ll go straight through an intersection. Before you enter this intersection, yoshi right and left (always do this check at every intersection, remember?) and proceed through it. Make the first left turn after the intersection, and do all your signaling/yoshi’s - you are turning at an intersection so remember your additional right and left yoshi.
Once you’ve cleared that, turn on your left blinker and prepare to left turn into a zig-zag road (#2 sign post, I be lieve.) This zig-zag tests your ability to make 90-degree turns in a tight road. Again, GO SLOW and don’t hit a curb or fence – both are automatic fails. About halfway through this zig-zag road, turn on your left blinker.
Before turning left, check right and left, then do your routine left checks and yoshing. Once you’ve cleared this turn, you’ll be going straight through an intersection (check left and right before going through it!) Turn on your right signal – you’ll be turning right after the stop sign. After braking 3 times, come to a complete stop at the white line before the stop sign. You’ll see two concrete walls to your left and right.
In order to make a safe right turn, you’ll need to slowly ease out into the main road until the concrete walls aren’t blocking your vision anymore and do a couple yoshi left and rights while creeping or easing out past the concrete walls. These concrete walls simulate the scenario in which you’re forced to exit from in between two buildings where there are no convenient view mirrors to reveal oncoming traffic. Just keep yoshing left and right until after you finish this right turn!
At this point, the worst is over and you’re almost done. Turn on your right signal again, and make the same right turn as you’ve done before: pass by the white marker (use it to guide you) and enter the left lane. Go straight (keep left!) until you reach the traffic light intersection. The proctor loves to stop here and check to make sure you are within 50 cm of the curb (they actually open the door to look), so be extra vigilant of that at this point.
Yoshi left and right to check for the crosswalk. If the light is red, you know what to do. If it’s green, make sure you yoshi left/right for your intersection check, and do your routine left mirror, left blindspot yoshi too before you make the turn. Note: during this left turn, make sure you’re not TOO close to the left curb; supposedly, you’re supposed to be 1 meter (not 50 cm) during left turns so as not to hit the anything on your left. However, make sure you’re not making TOO wide of a left turn, either. Just stay about a good 1 m from the curb during the turn. Depending on the proctor, you may be deducted 5 points for making too wide or too close of a left turn. Be careful!
Right after this left turn, turn on your right signal, do your routine right lange change yoshi’s, and change into the right lane. Keep your right signal on, as you’ll need to make your final right turn.
Before your final right turn, do your routine right/left check, then turn into the far left lane. Go straight for a little bit. There is a crosswalk here, so yoshi left and right to check for pedestrians before you cross over it. 30 meters before the curve, turn on your left blinker, do your routine left yoshi’s (left mirror, left blindspot) and turn off the course. Proceed slowly to the numbered parking spot that the proctor says.
Keep yourself parallel to the curb and make sure you’re parking AS CLOSE AS POSSIBLE to the curb -- it's okay to bump right up against it as long as you don't drive over it. Put your car in park, pull your parking brake, and switch off the car engine (but leave the keys). Say “arigato gozaimashita” to the proctor.
After you’ve turned off the engine and said thank you, unless the proctor starts talking, take off your seat belt, look out the driver’s door and yoshi. Open the door about 10 cm, look right and yoshi again. You’re done! If the proctor starts talking after you’ve turned off the engine, listen carefully to his explanation of your mistakes, etc. You may receive an explanation either in the car or inside the waiting area. Either way, if there’s explaining to be done, you most likely have failed.
If you’ve done everything right, you should be getting your brand new, shiny (and not quite cheap) Japanese driver’s license, which will last you 3 years. You’ll wait an extra half-hour to an hour, during which you’ll fill out a simple form with your name and address, pay a license fee, then have your picture taken. When you receive your license, return that form and you’re done.