Kuri 2010-12-03 16:05:16
Just a quick note to let you know about a significant change in the regulations for driving in Japan. Previously you could use an international permit in conjunction with your normal drivers licence for up to a year. Now, only 90 day tourists can use the international permit. All others residing in Japan on any visa other than a 90 tourist visa, are required to get a Japanese licence asap. This means that despite having a "valid" International Driving Permit, if you are caught driving in Japan more than 90 days since first arriving, [i]you will be charged with unlicensed driving[/i]. This also voids all insurances and in the case of an accident means you will be entirely liable for all damages. This information comes from the Australian Government, but applies equally to other nationalities. Penalties for unlicenced driving are significant and include being disqualified from holding a Japanese Drivers Licence for a period of twelve months, a fine of ¥300,000. Below is a link to the Australian Embassy website which contains more detailed information, and includes information on how to change your Australian Licence to a Japanese one: [url]http://australia.or.jp/en/consular/driving/driving_in_japan.php  [/url] Don't get caught out. The Japanese police are famously polite in normal situations, but get on the wrong side of them at your peril. Ask around.
bull (2010-12-03 17:21:03)
it took some time to reach good old hokkaido ,i had some mates busted in tokyo 2 years ago for the same thing
Black Diamond (2010-12-04 08:39:12)
I suggest following the laws here in Japan. It's true, you do not want to mess with the authorities, you are a "gaijin" and they have very little if any respect for you. They will "humiriate" you by asking you personal questions that are totally unrelated and will have no issues wasting one or even two of your days doing so. I think it's a strategy to see if you're breakable or not.

However the three month rule or law (which I found out about the hard way) is not written anywhere official as far as I can find. In fact the Australian Embassy is taking the piss on this so called "law" on their very own web page.

Read carefully, "suggested" and "pefer" are great word choices for a totally "aimai" (unclear) rule or law.
Driving in Japan
Converting your Australian car licence to a valid Japanese licence
If you are residing in Japan, driving without a Japanese driver's licence is illegal.

Japanese transport authorities advised in December 2010 that they would prefer that only tourists on the 90 day temporary visitor entry visa use an International Driver's Permit (in conjunction with their Australian driver's licence) to drive in Japan.

Supposedly, Australians can drive in Japan on an International Driver's Permit (in conjunction with your Australian driver's licence) up to 365 days following their initial entry into Japan. However, local authorities have advised that due to abuses of this system, they now prefer that anyone who is residing in Japan drive on a Japanese licence, not an International Driver's Permit."

They do say it's illegal though


Of course the police want you to get a licence, it's more money for them and a whole lot easier for them to push paper. Have you ever shown an international permit to a cop here? It's like you just gave them a rubik's cube (which usually leads to them handing it back to you and say be careful). And there has been abuse to the system because of this, so I see where they are coming from, just need to see the law.

Can anyone find a real law written somewhere? I would truely like to get to the bottom of this.
Kuri (2010-12-04 12:29:53)
[b]Mr Black: [/b]You may well be correct, but if the police and courts in this country believe it's law, does it really matter where it is or isn't written down?

I'm putting this out there and strongly advise people to get a Japanese licence, especially given that it's often pretty easy if a bit annoying.

You may get lucky and only get a warning - I actually had a copper pull a yellow card out of his pocket once! My first reaction was to ask him if he had a red one in there as well but I decided perhaps that wasn't a discussion I needed to start - but you may not be so lucky. And as any long-time resident can tell you, if things go against you here they can go really bad...

[b]Mr Yellow: [/b]You're right, it is totally your choice as to whether you answer, and of course your home country's licence can't be taken. Though I'm not sure how much worth that will be to you if you're detained without charge for 23 days without even any legal right to a phone call!
Admin (2010-12-04 13:17:16)
knock off the racism ( violation of my "rules" ) and you have free reign, brother. thanks for using The Kutchannel.
Kuri (2010-12-04 14:43:31)
[b]Mr Yellow[/b]: That looks awfully like the US Constitution... Not sure how you'll go arguing US Law to a copper beside an icey road in Japan, but let us know how that works out for you...

And I'm not here arguing the rights or wrongs of this, all I'm trying to do help people avoid a potentially expensive situation. Feel free to use this information as you see fit.

And that includes ignoring it...
Black Diamond (2010-12-04 14:46:23)

Agree 100%. If that indeed is the law, then it must be followed, especially by businesses. I would just like to have this info in front of me, that's all. Not trying to stir anything up just trying to figure this out. Called the police station to try to get some info but they asked me to call back on Monday...
That and yeah, racism does suck. No need for it on a forum or anywhere else. I hope I didn't sound that way but you can get a bit jaded after a while. I love this place though and just want it to get better for everyone.
eLovejoy (2010-12-04 15:56:38)
[url=http://abroad.driver.jp/license/#13]I looked around[/url] but didn't find anything that states the permitted term of use is limited to 3 months. I have heard that once you get your gaitosho (gaijin card) which you need to get in 3 months ([url=http://www.moj.go.jp/ENGLISH/information/tarl-02.html]ref[/url]) you can't use an international driver's license in Japan, but again haven't found anything in writing. Will keep looking.
Admin (2010-12-04 16:19:24)
Yella's use of the word "j*p" could be miscontrued, as could his username, and I'd prefer people to leave words like "f*ck" out of their posts. That's all. Common sense, no?

So apologies for creampuffing your posts, Yella. Agree that active moderation compromises the "integrity" of the site.

I agree with Black Diamond that the "rules" we're told about don't always have a "law" to back them up. Would love for the Kutchan police to explain [b]exactly which law[/b] is being violated by drivers who have valid international driver licenses. Please let us know what they say on Monday.

[i]That Rubik's Cube comment was priceless. Happens just like that.[/i]
Admin (2010-12-04 18:32:03)
Had to ban "YellowPeril" for posting porn etc :blush: Funny how some people sh*t themselves when they're politely asked to observe some basic rules of human interaction.
jagatakun (2010-12-04 18:42:32)
I remember being told about the 3 month limit on international permits years ago when i first got mine in Oz... the lady told me that if i was in the country for more than 3 months i had to get a JP licence... she also mentioned that it was unwritten law... but had heard of people getting into trouble for driving on an International permit after being in the country for more than 3 months...

also good work on banning yellowperil... we don't need fools like that, posting obscenities, messing up the K-channel... way to go Admin!!
Pow!!! (2010-12-04 19:23:06)
its easy to get a japanese driver license. all you need is a drivers license that was issued more than 3 months before coming to japan, a translation from JAF, and your passport and gaijin card. citizens of some countries need to take the road test, but certain that aussies don't.

here's a semi-official looking document http://www.keishicho.metro.tokyo.jp/foreign/kokusai_m/pdf/koku1eng.pdf don't know if it mentions specific laws or not
Black Diamond (2010-12-08 13:55:21)
Figured I should get to the bottom of this seeing as how this could possibly affect (is it affect or effect?) our business www.nisekoauto.com (sorry, had to do it).

Here's the deal. I believe they changed the law several years ago (not sure how solid the law is but...) to stop people who live here from getting a new international drivers licence every time they went back home for a visit. And in fact what Powelz linked us to says just that (thanks for the info btw...gone but not forgotten). According to the document you have to have left Japan for at least three months in order for your international drivers licence to "be valid" in Japan again.

So if you are here for less than a year and then gone again for at least 3 months I'm pretty sure you're sweet.

I contacted the Teine drivers licence issuance office and they confirmed the one year validation (he had no idea of how it linked to residency or not...must not be his department). Then I went to these two sites.
www.japandriverslicence.com and the Tokyo US embassy site (which had the same link as powelz)

Don't listen to what some cop thinks he read somewhere or what he want you to believe. I still haven't seen the actual law so don't take my word for it, but it sure seems like the fuzz are using good old fashioned scare tactics which usually work on 99% of the population...god bless them.
Kuri (2010-12-08 16:49:59)
Curiouser and curiouser...

It may indeed not be law. And yet I know of people being ticketed & losing their right to even apply for a Japanese DL. So where do you stand? Does anyone feel like testing this in court? No thanks! I have neither the funds nor the time to go tilting at that gigantic and lopsided windmill...

So whether Johnny Law has a right to or not, there seems little doubt he is willing and able to impose this upon people.

So where does that leave someone just arrived on a working holiday?

Whether there truly is a legal requirement or not I think it may be the prudent course of action to bite the bullet get a Japanese DL as soon as possible anyway and save yourself the pain!