Tuesday, August 3, 2010

DMV in America vs. Japan

Today was the second time I attempted a road test for my Japanese drivers license. It was also the second time I failed the driving portion. Though I don't need a Japanese drivers license, it would be handy to have if I ever need to get a job in a different area.

Upon failing the level of frustration began to rise inside of me. Its hard to explain at the moment because I lack so many pictures to aid in the story. I will do as best as I can to break down how the driving system works here in Japan.

If you are a native Japanese, you will have to go through driving school. Its going to cost you about $3,000. It will take you the course of a few months. When you finally pass the course, you have to take the test. Generally the Japanese government passes everyone on their first try, partly because they paid $3,000 for a stupid driving course.

Stateside, for me, a driving course was taken when I was 15 years old. It costs less than $200 and I passed my drivers test first time at bat; just a few months after I turned 16. Now if you are older than 18 in the US, there is no need for a drivers course. Just go in and take the test until you pass. Its so amazing how much of a privilege driving is in the US. Maybe my next entry I will have to talk about the difference between the roads here in Japan versus back home. Such a huge difference.

Now, if you are foreigner in Japan, getting your license becomes a pain. If you aren't from Canada, UK, New Zealand, or Australia: be prepared to take the course more than one time. Three times is generally how many people have to take it.

First what you have to do is get your license translated. That means you have to blow $35 to get things like your name or numbers put into Japanese. No you can't ask a Japanese friend, you have to have it officially translated.

Upon receiving your translation, you have to take it to the Japanese Drivers place (I don't know what its called) along with your passport, alien registration card, and drivers license from your home country. You have to arrive before 10am to sign up to meet with some one.

YES! You have to SIGN UP TO MEET SOMONE! There is no 'take a number' which generally results in waiting anywhere from two minutes or less to an hour. This 'signing up' means you are now put on a list of other foreigners and will be called in order. You then have to come back to the licensing place at 1pm to speak with someone.

Then they look over all your paper work to make sure you can qualify for a Japanese drivers license. If there is anything that might conflict with your passport or drivers license. YOU WILL HAVE TO COME BACK AGAIN! Luckily, it didn't happen for me. Although my drivers license address has my address from when I lived in N. Bonneville and my passport has my address from Vancouver, WA... I didn't say a thing. I didn't tell them that the drivers license they were holding was my renewed one I got when I was 20 years old. Essentially, its best to keep your mouth shut and let them ask questions. If they don't notice anything, then thats great.

Now once you have done the step of making sure you are eligible to get a license, you have to sign up for a time to take a written test. Which means you have to come back again. DURING THE WEEK. They are not open on weekends. This makes it a huge hassle for anyone, even the Japanese who have difficulty asking for any time from work off.

A few days later you come back to the DMV or whatever and take the written. You again have to go though the same process to make sure you haven't left the country. Then you have to take a eye test. Then comes the written... Somewhere around 11am... Its all common sense but you have to decipher all the strange English they use on the test. After that test is complete you can take your first swing at the driving course.

Now let me tell you about the driving course. The test is easy. It really is. The test in the States is harder. Parallel parking, backing around a corner, and actual traffic actual make it much more stress full. In the US, the course is so much more practical. Its if you were driving around the city on any given day.

In Japan, the test is taken on a closed course. Its like a giant parking lot with little islands you have to navigate through. The reason I say the course is easy is because its like jumping off a diving board instead of the high dive. BUT the judging is much more strict.

Again, think about diving. The American course essentially is a tripple summersault, double pike, half twist; from the high dive. Because its so difficult, the driving instructor will cut you some slack. The Japanese course is like jumping off a normal diving board and doing a boring normal dive. Since the dive is so easy the 'judges' or 'driving instructor' is like a mean old British Nanny. Strict beyond belief.

Enough complaining. Lets just hope I can make it through on this third time.


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