Officially Licensed


Today I passed my driving test and can officially drive vehicles:

  • Up to 8000kg GVW
  • Up to 5000kg payload capacity
  • Up to 10 passengers
  • Scooters and Motorcycles up to 50cc engine capacity
  • Small size special vehicles

Apparently small size special vehicles includes normal farm equipment and such. Just for grins I might borrow a friend’s combine and drive it through the licensing center parking lot everyday.

During my test the officer jammed his passenger side brake ‘to avoid imminent danger’. This is grounds for automatic failure, so I was pretty worked up over this, but stayed calm enough to complete the test smoothly. After testing they make everyone wait for about 45 minutes before announcing the results. I got to sit and ponder my fate which would presumably include waiting another five weeks to retest. I prayed for a bit of leniency on the officer’s part.

Result consultation takes place in order of testing, which put me seventh (last).  When I went in, the tester scolded me for the ‘dangerous thing’ I had done. I took a breath and prepared to explain why I thought it was safe, when he told me I passed the test. At that point I had achieved my objective and decided it would do me no good to essentially tell him that he was wrong.

My driving was amazingly smooth today considering I have no opportunity to practice – there being no such thing as a learner’s permit in Japan. Since July I have driven a total of 15 minutes under artificial test conditions. The most difficult part for me is shifting with my left hand; for some reason it feels awkward. Driving on the left and signaling with the right hand were a quick adjustment. Oh yeah, no free left turns here (the equivalent of free right turns in America): red light means stop.

My dangerous event was pulling out in front of a large truck on the cross street. Normally, I would consider that dangerous; however, the truck was in first gear, behind a construction obstacle, and all the way at the end of the road. There was no way the truck could reach my location before I could have cleared the intersection. Also, when the tester complained, I moved off the accelerator and was almost on the brake when he jammed his brake. Perhaps he was hasty.

During my consultation and when I asked how to start the motorcycle licensing process, I received a lot more discriminatory remarks about me and my country and the superiority or Japan and Japan’s people. My Japanese friends never believe me when I tell them the outrageous treatment received at the licensing center. However, every foreigner I know who has tested in the last three years has had problems; including a Bolivian who was told to go back to his country. (He finally managed to get his license and is still here; having a Japanese wife, children, and a permanent visa pretty much trump the jerks.)

From here my plan is to research motorcycle driving schools. Word is that driving schools are thousands of dollars and take a couple weeks of vacation time; however, only one or two tests are required to pass after that. If I try to convert my foreign license, I was told I would have to come more than 10 or 20 times. This would mean six months to a year and at least 500 bucks, but also might be meant to scare me off since they asked me, “Are you sure you want to try?”

I have noticed that the male workers at the licensing center are practically incapable of listening. They are only capable of telling. Today I tried to ask a simple question four times. Three times I said one or two words and the man created a sentence for me that had nothing to do with my request and then told me how wrong I was to say such a thing. Preceding my fourth request was my clear command for him to, “Please stay calm and listen to my actual question.”

Every female worker I have talked to has patiently listened to my questions and clearly answered them. Today the main troublemaker kept trying to sidetrack my discussion with his female counterpart.

New drivers are required to put a green and yellow arrow mark (called ‘wakaba maaku‘) on their car for one year. I was planning to buy about 20 of the magnetic signs and put them all over my car, but they acknowledged my 25 years of driving experience and gave me a waiver on this.

So, half a year, four days of vacation, and a little over one hundred dollars to ‘convert’ an existing license. I’m pretty ecstatic even though the system is so annoying. More posts to come as I undertake the motorcycle licensing. Akiramenai!


6 Responses to “Officially Licensed”

  1. erik Says:

    Good to know that 25 years of driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the counts for something, although having a car covered w/ wakaba maaku could be interesting.

  2. Keven Says:

    Congratulations! Glad to hear that you finally made it to the finish line!!

    Perhaps you should bring along a voice recorder and record your whole session and then when your Japanese friends don’t believe you, you will have proof!

  3. びっくり Says:

    I have driven in England/Scotland and Jamaica a few times, so I had a little time on the ‘correct’ side. After all this hassle, I was driving members of the photo society around and they were impressed with how I was a much better driver than any of them. Of course, at dinner I had a few beers so my driving experience ended there; the owner of the car had to drive on the way back.

  4. sunkissd1 Says:

    In Washington State you can now renew your driver’s license over the internet. They use the picture from the previous license. They ask a couple questions, one asking if the license holder has had a change in vision and the other if the driver had lost consciousness within a certain period of time (I can’t remember the timeframe). It takes less than 5 minutes from start to finish.

  5. びっくり Says:

    If I can renew online, I might not be visiting Seattle this summer, but don’t tell my family…

    Does passing out count as losing conciousness?

  6. Rice Harvest in Tsu « Neo-新びっくりブログ Says:

    […] combine is probably about the size of a Mini Cooper. Technically, my basic drivers’ license permits me to drive one of these on roadways. Someday I’ll have to give it a try – just because I can. The fancy combines will […]

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