Getting a Japanese Driver’s License, Part 3: Failing

May 13th, 2010 in Daily

Yes! That red stamp means I passed! …the written (○ • ×) portion. However, that ice cold black stamp means I need to get up at 5 AM and drive the two hours back to the test center to re-take the practical test.

Not a total bummer though. I finished my test with high hopes. The instructor called me around to give his feedback while he sat in the passenger seat (protocol?) and told me that I was very skilled at driving manual (he clearly told me じょうず a number of times). Then he proceeded to stamp my paper and say “もちょっとですね” which, as anyone living in Japan will come to learn, that “chotto” basically means “no dice, kid”. When I asked further about where exactly the mistakes had been, he marked that I had just barely signalled too late before one turn, and that I should accellerate more quickly on two straightaways. Not so bad, I can live with that. Next time it will be Course #2 (I’m assuming they wrote 1コース on the sheet for a reason).

Here is a video they let me take so I could review my errors after the test:

I should mention that the first part of the day went smoothly. I arrived around 11 AM at the test center, only to be shown that they don’t deal with us foreigners until 1 PM. (note: you’ll want to go to the counter directly to your left when you walk inside, next to the green noren you’ll see a crappy word art sign that says 13:00-13:30. Yep, thats for you. Press the buzzer.) OK, time to review my maps and eat lunch. Not so bad. So I did just that. Even had time to walk the course again.

Back inside they had me site with two nice guys to make sure I had all the proper paperwork with me. This is the interview part of the process. My Japanese ability still isn’t remarkable, but I managed to answer their questions in a roundabout way. They were very patient and even helped write all of the kanji for my address on the multiple forms that are required for processing. He had some specific questions for me about my original license since I’d called before. After that was sorted out, they took the following documents to copy and process:

1. Valid US Driver’s License (plus in my case, my records from the NJ DMV proving my original license date of issue)
2. JAF Translation
3. International Driver’s Permit
4. Alien Registration Card (I brought a proof of address form too, but the card was sufficient.)
5. Passport

They kept the original copy of my JAF translation (I copied it for myself just in case), but I forgot to copy my US driving records… I trust that they won’t misplace them between now and next week for my re-test.

After a bit of shuffling about behind closed doors, the one gentleman came back out and asked me questions about how I got my license back home, if I’d gone to driving school and for how long, learner’s permits and so on. I’m guessing this is protocol. He asked a few questions about driving in America out of curiosity and asked me about when I started learning the language. For those who were worried about this part, just relax – they really do try to help you out with this if you are patient.

Also, they needed two photos from me, which I made sure to bring along. Unfortunately they were too big, so I had to run out and get some taken at a shop just in front of the test center. ¥500 later we were back in business. They had a meticulously filled out form and card with all of my information on it. I wrote my name, age, date and circled male on no less than 10 forms. The last paper I had to sign was a “promise” saying that when I obtain my Japanese License, that I would render the International Driver’s Permit invalid. Apparently, having both is not permitted. Done and done. Now for the first test (true / false … maru / batsu)

The Written Test

Super easy. Don’t sweat it. There are 10 questions, in (poor) English, and you need 70% to pass. If you want to sweat it even though I’m recommending not to, click here, learn the signs and take a practice test. Admittedly there was one question on the test I couldn’t be sure of but it was only due to the wording. Don’t read into it…

With that finished, they moved me over to Counter #3 where they check vision. Laughs about driving without my glasses, looked into their machine and told them “up, down, left, right” according to the lit C’s of the vision chart.

Finally, the driving test. The instructor rolled up proudly rocking his Kagoshima Police hat, asked “nihogo, daijoubu?” then rattled off a bunch of stuff that I just agreed with. Finally he understood that I had indeed studied and practiced, and we got in the car. He drove the course once to show how it is done (though I caught some mistakes if we are going by the book… I fail HIM.), so I watched diligently and took mental notes. Keep an eye for his shift points and all the mirror checks. A little different than what my driving instructor had me do.

Anyways, I thought I’d done well but got chotto’ed and have to come back.

So, this left me thinking in part that the re-test is kind of like an official slap on the wrist for us gaijin who think we are worthy enough to have a Japanese license. By any measure I did not make any glaring mistakes throughout the course, yet it wasn’t perfection. That, or I’m not Japanese. Whichever is an easier obstacle to overcome… time will tell. …Or, they just want more money.

Here is one more video. This time its just me leaving the complex and heading back home:

Yes, I actually drive the exact car shown in this video.

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