2021: Converting a UK driver's licence to a Japanese licence

July 23, 2021

So only a quick post, but I successfully converted my UK drivers licence to a Japanese one recently, and figured it might be valuable to share the experience, as although there is some excellent information out there (e.g. https://blog.ryanstenhouse.jp/swapping-your-uk-driving-license-for-a-japanese-one/) it’s all quite old now, so some recent coverage could be useful. This isn’t gonna be some deep dive, just a writeup of what happened when I as there.

For reference, this took place at Koto Driving Center.

Generally speaking, nothing has changed in recent years. A few things I found out:

  • Despite going there, asking and being informed that photographs/copies of my licence are sufficient, when I brought them in they were declined. You MUST have your original plastic licence.
  • The UK (currently) has an extension on card expirations of +11 months due to COVID. My card had expired by date, but was within the 11 month extension, and so in the UK is considered valid. This is also not accepted here. Basically, if the date on your card is in the past, then you need to renew it in the UK first (can do it online, if you can find someone to mail you the new card).
  • There is English support there, but if you have any common sense or reasoning abilities, you should be able to get by with even very basic Japanese; it’s a lot of back and forth with forms, but very few questions.

Koto Driving Center

It’s pretty easy to find, and not too complicated; when you go in, you can head straight to Window 1.

Step 1

Window 1 took my application. The staff asked me some questions about where my passport was issued, how long I’d been in Japan (i.e. were my stamps in my passport correct with when I last was in the UK). This I’m assuming is to verify that I had been holding a licence (note: doesn’t necessarily mean the current one) IN the UK for at least 3 months. Once questions were answered I was invited to sit and wait for them to process the documents I brought. 10 minutes later and they call me back to the window; give me my documents back, and a new sheet for my application. A few bits were required to write (literally just signature, date sort of things). Then I was instructed to go to window 0 (the form had a complete number flow stamped on of the order of Windows to visit, so just follow that.

Step 2

Window 0 is the window to pay the application fee. I was around 10th in my lane and there were 3 lanes. Each one was processing at about 2 people per minute so it was a short wait. Literally just give them my form, they ask for payment. Give them the cash (there was 1 lane that supported card payments), and they stamp your form and give you a receipt.

Step 3

Window 7 is the eye test. It takes around 10 seconds. They show you 4 circles each with 1 part cut away. You just say which part is missing (left, right, up, down). Then there are 2 different coloured lights arranged vertically, you just have to say what colour is at the top and bottom (this was a little confusing, but I just asked for clarification). Complete this and you flow straight to Window 8 where you pass the pass your form to the desk, where they stamp it immediately and return it. Then to Window 9, where they stamp the form again and you move straight on.

Step 4

Window 10 is the photo step. You sit down and have a standard photo taken of you. It takes seconds, and the staff will tell you what to do if you aren’t dressed correctly (remove bag etc). You don’t get to see the photo (so enjoy having a horrible mugshot!). Then its return to Window 1.

Step 5

Window 1 took my form again, then they invite me to take a seat again. Another 10 minute wait, then they ask me to come back to collect my form, and create a 4 digit pin at the machine next to the window. Literally just press the top option on the touch screen and type a 4 digit pin of your choice. It instantly prints a piece of paper with a barcode you pass back to the staff member. They will then direct you upstairs to Floor 4 to wait for your final license after returning your documents. By now your application form is just a thin strip on paper (the rest has been torn way by the staff member to be used to print your license I assume)

Step 6

There was no signage on floor 4, but its extremely obvious where to wait; big space with many seats and a service window with screens above it. No need to speak to staff, just go and sit and wait for them to call the number printed at the bottom of your application paper (it’s likely a 5 digit number staring with 5 or 6, based on all the numbers called while I was there). It was about a 30 minute wait. But you simply go up to the desk, pass them your papers and they slide you your license. Go to any of the machines all along the left wall and place your card on the IC reader. You can check if your details are right or wrong, then go about your way. It’s done!

NOTE: This is an experience for converting a UK licence only.