Wednesday 20 May 2009

Buckle up people! No, seriously, the roads of Japan are no longer safe

So today was very tiring and long but I am pleased and a little scared to announce that I now am the proud holder of a brand-new, shiny Japanese drivers licence!
I've been meaning to get my licence here for a while now, seeing as though we have a car, MIL has a car I can use, and we have two scooters, it seems like a waste that I'm always being driven around.
It will be easier when I need to duck to the supermarket or someone needs dropping off/ picking up at the station or work.
I am however, a teeny bit scared of Japanese roads. They. Are. Tiny. And I don't mean like 'hmmm that's a bit of a squeeze....' I mean I think it's a footpath when it's actually a road meant for two cars.
Now I think I'm a pretty good driver, I've never had any penalties or accidents, (scraping a door in a car park soooooo doesn't count) but I have been known to panic when driving.

For example, when I was learning to drive I couldn't do a hill start and resolved the solution by bursting into tears and getting out of the car much to the dismay of my dad beside me and the line of cars behind. So I am a bit anxious about driving here. But the speed and aggression of other drivers isn't half as bad here as it is in Aussie so I think I'll be fine. Just in case, buckle up if you're in the kansai region!

The process of getting the licence was like most paper worky stuff in Japan; lots of waiting, checking my name was spelt right and a huge group of people listening to a lecture that nobody really understands or cares about.

I had to go to the foreign licence section so there was a few other people doing the same thing as me, and I think I got off veeerrrrryyyy easy. The paper I got off the internet was made for all foreigners getting a licence so it didn't specify whether a paper or practical test was needed, but I was sure I'd read on the internet somewhere that Aussies don't have to do any tests. So I was mighty relieved when I didn't have to. Especially since I'd been listening to the people infront of me and was shit scared of the staff by the time it was my turn, they sounded really scary! Lots of "...な!?"s and ".....やろう!?"s, in a tone of voice like, 'Do you get it or not foreigner!?' But it must have been the stock standard racist to other asian people but sweet as pie to whities becasue they were soooo nice to me.

The people infront of me were from the Phillipines and they were asking them questions like; "Have you ever caused an accident in Japan?" "You have to pay penalties in the Phillipines before you can get a licence here!" But this was how my application went:

Staff: So you'd like to get a Japanese licence?
Me: Yes please.
Staff: And you're from Australia?
Me: Yes that's right.
Staff: Wow!! Your Japanese is great! That's amazing! I guess seeing as though you have a baby you need a licence right, so just sign this paper.... Oh my! You can read Japanese too, that really is great!!
Me:........Thank you.

No grilling at all!

And another thing that puzzles me about foreigners getting a licence here is, I believe Americans (or some states at least) have to do a practical test! At first I thought it must be because of the different side of the road thing, but I think Canadians get off with no test too and Canada drives on the right, right...? Now as an Aussie, it's only patriotic of me to take the piss out of Americans, (hehe) but isn't that weird!? I think if I had to do a test I wouldn't bother.

So after the non-grilling, we had to pay and get the paid stamp, (still don't get the stamp thing either!) then wait a few hours so we had lunch, go back and take our pici, (which is terrible by the way) and then stand in the foreigner line by myself and pick up the licence. One card. Over 8 hours!!!

Ashton woke up at 2am and 4:30am so I am buggered but little Ash was a trooper all day and didn't cry (much) at all, he actually made all the nervous test-goers smile with his big gummy grin.
All in all a wasted but not bad day, one of the driving centre staff ladies came up to me in the line which is always dread for me because I think they're going to tell me something is wrong with my application and to vacate the building/area/country immediately but she enquired in a very tiny voice about the meaning of my tattoo! haha!

Road trip anyone...?


  1. My first time to comment here- but hey, I am Lulu, and a friend of Sarah`s!

    I have to apply for a Japanese licence when I return to Japan- Not exactly sure what it all entails but I guess we will be similar as we are both Aussies.

    Your hill start story cracked me up- I have a similar one. I also jumped out of the car- and it rolled back down a hill with my dad in the passenger seat panicking...Fun times!

    Roads in Japan are scarily narrow- I can not even reverse park without having a heart attack so not sure how I will go there.

    Oh and congrats by the way!

  2. Lulu~ Hi! I've read your blog before, again, congrats on your wedding!
    Don't worry, getting your licence in Japan will be really easy (just a little time consuming).
    hehe, Maybe Aussie girls have problems with hill starts??
    Me too, I'm going for my first drive today and am freaking out about the narrowness of the roads!

  3. Congrats on getting your Japanese license!! Aren't you glad that your Aussie? It makes it soo much easier to get your license in Japan. The only thing I had to do to get my license was explain to them about how getting an Australian license works (i.e. learners, P's and then your opens) and do an eye test! We were in and out in about half an hour!!

    Japanese roads are pretty scary but you will get used to them - trust me!! The narrow roads start to feel less narrow the more you drive on them... although I don't think I will every completely get used to driving on 'walkways' that Japan calls 'two laned traffic'!

  4. Nay~ I know, being Aussie is great sometimes isn't it! You're right, the narrow roads are quite scary but the more I drive the better it's getting. Ryota was a good teacher, he made me drive the land cruiser on the narrowest road where we live first so now everything else seems easy!