TELL help and driving licenses


TELL guide

Tokyo English Lifeline (TELL) has published their first directory of services for the Kanto region. “Tell me about Tokyo” is a compact guide to all the medical, legal and social services you might need living in the greater Tokyo region.

The book’s 12 sections cover everything from cultural associations to shelters for abused women, and art classes to migrant workers support.

The medical and legal aid sections are particularly comprehensive, with a wide range of organizations grouped by specialty.

You can pick up a copy of the useful guide in Kinokuniya and other major bookstores in Tokyo and Yokohama, order it online from TELL at www.telljp.com or Alexandra Press at www.being-a-broad.com, or call TELL’s business office at (03) 3498-0261.

Driver’s license

David wrote in asking how long he can drive here on an International Driver’s License.

The Traffic Act says that a person can only drive on an international license for one year — and people with French, German, or Swiss licenses can drive for one year with an authorized translation of their license.

Depending on where your license was issued, you may be able to simply have it converted to a Japanese license. The countries that have this agreement with Japan are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Everyone else, unfortunately, must take written and road tests.

Foreign residents who want a Japanese license must go to a government Driver’s License Center with their passport, alien registration card, and a photo taken in the last three months.

If you are getting your license converted then you must also bring in the license and an authorized translation. Your embassy or consulate will do it for a fee and the Japanese Automobile Federation (JAF) will also do a translation for 3,000 yen.

The license must be valid and you must be able to show that you were in the country for a total of three months after the license was issued.

If you are being tested, you can expect to have a brief physical exam to check eyesight and hearing, a written test, and a driving test.

Karolina Sobus, the manager of the drivers license conversion department at relocation firm ReloJapan (03-5575-6321), says that all regular drivers licenses cost 4,100 yen. If you are converting your license you will charged 4,100 yen up front. If you have to take the tests, you will be charged 2,400 yen on the first day that you take the aptitude and written tests and then 1,700 yen on the day of the road test — for which they will provide the car. You must pay 1,700 yen every time you take the road test.

David also asked about whether Japan would give him a license as he cannot see in one eye.

Sobus said he shouldn’t have a problem. David will have to take a special “shia kensa” eye test to check his peripheral vision. He must be able to see a minimum of 140 degrees to the left and right.