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 Road Traffic (1949) and hold both a valid drivers license from their home country and a valid IDP can drive in Japan for one year. This year ends one year from of date of issue of the international permit, or one year from your date of entry into Japan, whichever is earlier. Foreigners from countries that have not ratified the Geneva 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. Validity is contingent on your having been outside of Japan for a period of at least three months prior to your entry into Japan as a JET (easy for JETs if this is your first time ever in Japan!). If during this initial year you leave Japan for three months or more ON A RE-ENTRY PERMIT, then the one-year validity period of driving with an IDP resets at the date you re-enter Japan. In this case your IDP expiration date will probably come long before the new one-year validity period is up, so you would have to acquire another IDP while out of Japan to continue driving for that full year. 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. You will also likely face a period of time during which you are banned from acquiring a Japanese license (by any means; including, but not limited to, changing your foreign license to a Japanese license).
Procedures for Acquiring
- Where to get IDPs - List of agents authorized to issue permits, listed by country
|Traveling in Japan|
|Cars||Driving||Driving • Winter Driving • Speeding Tickets • Drinking and Driving • Roadside Station|
|Licenses||International Driving Permit • Japanese Licence Transition (Test Course Elements) • Renewing your Japanese License|
|Acquisition/Disposal||Buying a Car • Transferring Ownership of a Car • Disposing of a Car|
|Other Transport||Trains • Akita Nairiku Line • Shinkansen • Buses • Ferries|
|Airports||Akita Airport • Odate-Noshiro Airport • Narita International Airport • Haneda Airport • Sendai Airport • Kansai Airport|
|Leaving the Country||Residence Card • Visa Extension • Travel Insurance • Buying Flights & Travel Agents|
|Other Topics||Getting to Tokyo • Traveling in and out of Japan • Akita JET travel guide • Where in the World is Sugichi? • Quirky Japan|