International Driving Permit
Before leaving your home country, get yourself an International Driver's Permit (IDP) if you want to be able to drive as soon as you get to Japan. You can get an IDP from your local automobile association (in America, AAA) for approximately ￥3000.
Foreigners from a country that has ratified the Geneva Convention on driving and hold both a valid drivers license from their home country and a valid IDP can drive in Japan for one year. This starts from the date of issue of the international permit, not from your date of entry into Japan. Foreigners from countries that have not ratified the Vienna Convention can't use an IDP and must obtain a Japanese license.
The international permit can only be used in your first year in Japan. If during this initial year you leave Japan for three months or more ON A RE-ENTRY PERMIT, then the period you were abroad is added onto your valid driving period. After that, you need to change to a Japanese license. You are required to have your IDP with you while you are driving any car.
Driving on an expired IDP
If you are caught driving with an expired IDP, you will be prosecuted as if you were driving without a license. This is punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a fine of up to ¥300,000.
Procedures for Acquiring
- Where to get IDPs - List of agents authorized to issue permits, listed by country
|Traveling in Japan|
|Cars||Driving||Driving • Buying a car • Winter driving • Speeding tickets • Drinking and driving • Roadside Station|
|Licenses||International Driving Permit • Changing to a Japanese license (Car Course Elements) • Renewing your Japanese license|
|Other Transport||Trains • Akita Nairiku Line • Shinkansen • Buses • Ferries|
|Airports||Narita International Airport • Haneda Airport • Akita Airport • Odate-Noshiro Airport • Sendai Airport • Kansai Airport|
|Leaving the Country||Residence Card • Travel insurance • Buying flights & travel agents|