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Getting a Japanese Scooter License
I did it. I finally tricked Japan into giving me a scooter license. What an amazing feeling it was to know that I would no longer need to sit in a crowded bus or train and spend way more money than I should be.
Before getting this license, I had been in Japan for a year. I was walking anywhere from 2 to 8 miles a day. This is fine and all, but after a while, I just missed the freedom of going anywhere I wanted. Taking a path of your own choosing allows you to see so much more of japan.
So let’s get started. Here are some items you need to prepare before stepping into the driving center for the first time.
-Passport Photo (find an outside booth somewhere and get your photo from there. Around 700 Yen).
-Alien Registration Card and a photocopy of this.
-Around 10,000 Yen (should only cost around 7,000 but better safe than sorry).
-License application form that you will fill out when arriving.
-A friend (If you are like me and have terrible Japanese skills. A Japanese friend can help save so much time by helping to fill out your information for you)
Also, it is important to study for the test a little before taking it. I found practice tests online and many helpful pages that prepared many possible test questions with the corresponding answer.
The other item I would recommend is the “Rules of the Road” book. You can go to the Japan Automobile Federation website or buy it online from amazon japan and read it digitally. Trust me; this is a really good investment.
Learn About Traveling in Japan
Study Some Questions Before
This is important. Each time you take the test, it is around 1,500 yen. If you are looking to spend the least amount of money, study and pass on the first try!
Walking into the Driving Center
Okay so you have all your information. Make sure you get to the driving center around 8:00 am. It may or may not be crowded but better to not take the risk. In most cases the windows open at 8:30.
Alright, so now we made it inside. Go up to your first counter and ask for a license application form. This has basic information that you will need to fill out such as name, address, and various other obvious questions.
Next, you will have to go to another window and turn in your application form. Here is where you need to make sure to ask for the test in English if you Japanese ability is somewhat lacking. If you do not ask, they might give it to you in Japanese (although unlikely).
Next is the eye test. This is by far the easiest and least time consuming process of the day. But being me, I somehow manage to mess up in the beginning, making myself look like a complete fool. I gave the exact opposite of what the correct answer was. This is serious business guys. Listen to what the rules are for the test instead of flirting with the examiner.
All was corrected however, and after maybe 2 minutes, the eye test was done and then you will be told to head into the main room where all the test takers are.
So now you will enter the room where everyone will be taking the test. Anyone wanting a bike, car, scooter, big truck license, etc., will be in this room. I seriously do not know where all the people came from. There had to have been maybe 150 people in that room.
If you have social anxiety and don’t like being the center of attention, you may have trouble going through this process. Before entering the room you are told to sit in the back rows while waiting for everyone to file in.
Once everyone is in and sitting, the proctor for the tests will single you out and ask you to come to the very front row. Obviously, being the only foreigner in a room full of 150 people, there were some stairs.
But we do not run from awkward situations. No, what we do is fake our confidence and strut to the front! So now we are sitting down. The instructor will give you an English version of the instructions for the test.
Now it’s time for the test. Do not listen to what others say about the English translation if you chose to take the test in English. It’s not that bad… really! Although, one of the questions did feel more like a statement than a question, just try to look at it through their point of view and the questions become pretty easy.
There are 50 questions that need to be answered in 30 minutes.
After the Test
After the test, those that took the scooter test will be ushered into a separate room where they will be instructed what to do if they pass or fail.
Now go downstairs and wait for the television screen to display your 3-digit number. Alright, the time has come to finally get your scooter license! But… my number was not there. I ended up scoring an 82 out of 100 points. To pass, you need a 90% or better.
If you fail the first time, do not worry. Many people do! I studied the “Rules of the Road” book one more time and went in the next day. This time I got a 96% and it was time to ride my valiant steed into the hills to battle!
After passing the test, there will be around an hour break before the riding lesson begins.
Scooter Riding Lesson
Now some people may hate this. The lesson is well over an hour. If you are with a big group, expect a three hour ordeal. However, on this day, only one other kid passed with me.
Now this guy was hilarious. He was 18 years old, but just from the look on his face, I could tell he just did not want to be there. Is it wrong to get enjoyment out of others misery? All I know is that I was having a Blast!
Before riding the scooters, we go over and grab a helmet and a pair of gloves. We put all of our belongings into a locker, and the boss man brings us over to the scooters.
If there is anything to know about Japan it is that the oldies just don’t care. But they don’t care in a caring way. Kind of hard to explain, but this made the day a lot more fun.
So the old man asks me to turn on the blinkers and turn them off again. I walk up with the aura of a seasoned pro and perfectly execute the blinker mechanism. He was amazed at the level of intelligence that I had just bestowed upon him.
So anyways, after my show of dominance and intellectual superiority when it came to turning the blinker on and off, we finally went out into this huge parking lot to practice.
Since it was just me, the miserable kid, and the instructor, it was much more fun and enjoyable. During the riding lesson, you will have to go through a serious of difficult maneuvers such as going straight, turning left, and turning right.
Honestly, if you are nervous about messing up, do not be. Nothing you do will make you fail the driving lesson (but please do not test this theory).
So after an hour or so, my squad and I roll the scooters back into the garage and head into another room to watch a movie fit for Hollywood.
Grab some Popcorn
So this movie had quite possibly the best acting I have ever seen. It went over everything you should not do, as well as what to look out for when driving on the road.
After the video (which was around 15 minutes), the chief of police came into talk to me and mildly annoyed guy. The officer’s voice was that of a thunderous god. I swear I have never heard a Japanese person’s voice so low before (probably one of his job qualifications).
After the movie it is time to get your photo taken. Do not be upset if your hair looks bad. Wearing a helmet for hours doesn’t produce the best look.
Obviously mine was flawless, but we can’t all be winners!
Congratulations! You have just tricked them into giving you a scooter license. Now it’s time to carve the mountains as you go on your first adventure on a scooter in Japan.
Hopefully my experience helped you a little on you journey to obtaining your scooter license. In all honesty though, be careful out there. The scooter is not the safest vehicle, but can be really fun and is really rewarding.