These are some tips for getting your foreign license converted to a Japanese license in Mito:
The driving test Edit
- Before going, I read "Rules of the Road" (various languages available) which I bought at the JAF in Mito when I got my license translated. The test was pretty simple though so I don't know if it helped or not, but if you're going to drive in Japan you should know the laws anyway.
- When I went, about 20 people took the test, and about 16 failed. The reason that almost all of them gave for failing was that they didn't look around for "pedestrians/bicylists" (of course there are none on the test course) and "red-light-runners" when making a turn. I think the test proctor was especially looking for the turning of the head. He called it "kakunin".
- About 3/4 of the people were taking the test for the third or fourth time. I was lucky enough to pass on the first try. I read and followed all the info at Alien Times, and heeded the warnings to check both ways before turning, and it was OK.
- When you arrive, there are no signs or instructions anywhere telling you where to go. However, you can figure out the 'Information' counter which is just facing the entrance.The staff does not speak english. You can get an application form and fill you name and date of birth and date of application at the desk and take it with your other documents to the window for foreigners(no 14). The staff will ask you to write your name and date of birth on a specific place on the form in his presence and fix the photos at two places. I think, this is to verify the person identity. Then he will ask you to pay the application money (stamp fee) 2400 JPY.
- In general as I recall the officer doesn't ever tell you to wait somewhere until he calls etc. so just follow the crowd of confused foreigners all day and listen for your name. They all take a lunch break where no work is done so you can take a break too. They didn't tell me that either, but I figured it out since everyone disappeared. They don't tell you anything because for everyone except 2-3 people it's their 4th or 5th time.
- When I went, they went in the order that people signed-in at the window in the morning. Also, first timers went last (maybe starting around 4PM). If it is not your first time, and you want to go home before lunch break, get in line right away in the morning. If it's your first time, after finishing the written test and getting the result from the officer in the morning you aren't needed until your turn in the afternoon (when you sit in the back seat of the person in front of you), but you should sit outside and watch a few people anyway to see how the test works.
- You have to submit passport fotos in the morning. They are not for your license, only for your application, so no need to wear a tuxedo or fix up your hair. I even submitted B&W fotos from the shop across the street from the DL center. The color picture for your license card is taken after everyone finishes their tests and you have deep bags under your eyes from exhaustion.
International driving permitEdit
Under the "Necessary Documents" section, one's international driving permit is listed as a required document as part of the process to obtain a Japanese license by converting your home country's license. When I went through this process, I decided not to hand in my international driver's permit when I took the test. The reason being that it isn't a required document for this process. More importantly, if you do turn it in and you fail the driver's exam, you may not get that permit back depending on how the examiner feels. This means you not only fail the driver's test, but have no permit to allow you to practice or continue driving to work, etc. I recommend not handing in the international driver's permit. It's your valid official driver's license that you got outside of Japan that is required, not the permit.