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Chapter 4
The Written Test


  1. Introduction
  2. The Process for the Majority
  3. The Process for the Rest


Generally, only the "cursed" countries (U.S.A., South Africa, China, Jamaica, etc.) have to take the written exam. However, whether you have to take it or not, this is probably the least stressful part of the entire process. The written test is short and simple.


If you have a foreign driver's license that you are converting to a Japanese license and you drive an automobile, this is the process. (If you are getting a Japanese license from scratch or getting a scooter license, see below.)

Most of the questions on the written test are common sense. Don't try to interpret them to mean something beyond what is obvious.

A few of the questions take a little more thinking, but that is mostly because of the imperfect translation. Think about what they are trying to say; don't get hung up on the words they are using.

Reviewing the road signs in your JET Diary is not a bad idea.

The only complexity: You may have to put your answers on a different sheet than the test. That answer sheet will be in Japanese only. The tester will tell you which kanji means "True" (usually the first one) and which kanji means "False." Circle the one you want for each of the questions. Sometimes the test is on a computer but it will still be ten questions, true or false.


Scooter License
Getting a scooter license instead of a car license may be a simpler option for many people (especially if you do not have a driver's license from home.) Note that you cannot drive a scooter on your home driver's license (unless it is explicitly specified), even though you can with an ordinary Japanese driver's license.

The written test is difficult, however, there are no restrictions on foreigners. You can take it at any local driver's testing center if they have the test in English and most do. The questions are very specific and the translation is not perfect, so do not get too hung up on the wording. It is 50 true or false questions. You must get 45 right. It is somewhat difficult and well worth studying from the scooter book (available in English).

You may notice that many young Japanese are taking the tests with you. That is because the age to drive scooters (and small motorcycles) is age 16 instead of 18 as it is for cars.

Once you pass the written test, a 2 hour scooter lesson is required (it is given in Japanese). However, no practical exam is necessary. The total cost for the test and the lesson could be up to 12,000 yen.

A Full Japanese License
Getting a full Japanese car / motorcycle license from scratch the way the Japanese do it requires one to take the full Japanese written test, which is one hundred true or false questions. That written test is only available in English in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, Osaka, Kyoto, Aichi, Hyogo, Hokkaido, Saitama, Niigata, Shizuoka, Miyagi, and Tokushima. You must get ninety correct (90%) to pass.

Also required is the full Japanese practical test which is longer and more complex than the test for foreigners, can be on either a course or on the road, and is not discussed in this book for lack of knowledge about it. Many Japanese opt out of the practical test by graduating from an accredited driving school, which can cost 300,000 yen. However, one cannot opt out of the written test.


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