Driving in Japan

It has been 4 years since I moved to Japan and during that time I have survived just fine without a car and a Japanese driver's license. Most of the time taking a train is far better than driving a car but there are some situations where I really wish I could drive. When I have to roll an 88 key digital piano half a mile to the train station and lug it on a big train is one of those situations. Also when I get the urge to go fishing having a car would give me so many more options as to where I could go.

So I recently decided to transfer my American license to a Japanese license and get a car. Sounds easier said than done. The written test was by far the easiest test I have ever taken. I finished the whole test in less than 5 minutes and I got a perfect score. Then came the driving test. After talking to a couple friends of mine who did the same thing I was convinced I could pass the first time. However what I didn't realize at the time is that I live in the prefecture with the strictest driving center in Japan. On the first try I got nervous and turned the wipers on instead of the blinker and started driving on the right side of the road. Understandably I instantly failed the test. The instructor told me that I had good driving skills but I just need to get used to driving on the left side of the road. So I felt confident that I could pass the second time. I imagined in my mind driving on the left side of the road and turning the blinker on the right. On the day of the test I thought I drove perfectly but to my astonishment I failed again and I didn't really get an explanation why. I talked to others who were also taking the test that day and some of them had taken the test 7 times or more. So I decided to do some research and found a DVD that gives very specific instructions on how to pass this test and what the instructors are looking for. Checking the front and back and under the car before you get in to make sure it is safe to drive is very important. Also leaning forward at stop signs and looking over your shoulder instead of using the mirrors. I tried to do everything exactly as they said on the DVD and to my surprise I passed the very next time. After the second time I thought it would take me 10 times to pass so I was so relieved that I didn't have to go backs there. If you have to do the foreign driver's license exchange test at Futamatagawa in Kanagawa Prefecture I highly recommend getting this DVD to save yourself lots of time, money and frustration.



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