Thursday, May 22, 2008

So I finally got my driving license. Or rather, I finally exchanged my driving license. Since I have the fortune of having a driving license of a country with which Japan has a bilateral agreement I don't need to retake any tests but only exchange it. Now it sounds easy and in theory I reckon it is too. I shouldn't complain, as I said I didn't need to retake any test.

So what does one need? Well you need your original license and you need an official translation of the license from your embassy. With there two things together with your alien registration card, a photograph, your current passport and preferably any old passport(s) too. Why do you need the old passport(s). Well, in theory you need to be able to prove that you have been in the country of issuance for at least three months after getting the license. This can actually be rather difficult to prove especially if you live in a country where the citizens' passports are not stamped when leaving or returning to the home country. Now, I didn't have a hard time, probably most thanks to the fact that I got my driving license 15 years ago, but it might be trickier of your driving license is newer.

So I go the the driving license centre. Enter an anonymous looking building and inside it looks like something from the Soviet-era. It is grey and lots of different counters with only a few chairs, or rather black fake leather sofas.

I first go the counter which says foreign driving licenses in Japanese. After a short wait, the man behind the counter accepts all my documentation and tells me to wait, which I do for 45 min. He then calls me back and hands me some papers and tells me to go to a different counter to pay. I go to the specified counter, pay 4500 yen, and gets directed to some atm-looking machines where I choose a code after having shown a man that I paid my 4500 yen. He in turn directs me to a different counter to have my eyes checked out. This part I was actually worried about. On my original driving license it doesn't say that I need glasses while driving, however that was 15 years ago and I don't think my eye sight is as good as it was then. Fortunately however I pass the eye check and is just about to leave when the man calls me back and asks me about my arm and as you all know loyal readers I had a wee operation three weeks ago. So he directs me to yet another place for a health check-up or rather a consultation, but before that I have to get a stamp for what I don't know what but still, yet another counter.

After that I arrive at that health consulting room. An elderly woman asks what happened and then asks my why I didn't tick the box if I have ever experienced paralysis, convulsions or spasms. Well I said, all those actions are involuntary actions and I have complete control of my movements except for some temporary loss of muscle strength in two fingers. I see that "operation persuasion" is in need and I spend 15 min trying to get her to let me go without any terms stated on my driving license. At last she seems ok and lets me go.

I go back to the original counter, for something that I have forgotten now, and then quickly on to get photographed. This is quick and now all I have to do is get my driving license....for which I of course have to wait at yet another counter, this time on a different floor. I wait 30 min, get my license and now all I have to do is to go to a machine to..........I have no idea, but it seems that I need to activate it or perhaps it did something completely different, I still haven't gotten the foggiest.

So after a little more than 3 hours I am a lucky holder of a Japanese driving license. Now, as I said in the beginning, I got away easy.

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