Acquiring a driver’s license in Japan comes with a hefty price tag. The cost ranges between 280,000 to 350,000 JPY, approximately equating to 3,000 USD, and if you failed tests, it could cost more. This places Japan at the second-highest spot globally in terms of the expense associated with obtaining a driver’s license1. .
The primary reason for this exorbitant cost is the (almost) mandatory enrolment in a “driving school (自動車学校)” for practical driving lessons. These sessions are typically one-on-one, with an instructor accompanying the student, leading to significant labour costs.
However, this rigorous training has its advantages. Japan boasts a lower rate of traffic accidents compared to many other countries. For instance, in the US, 11.6 out of every 100,000 individuals succumb to traffic-related incidents, while in Japan, this number is significantly lower at 3.7.
Japan exercises caution when issuing driver’s licenses. Even if you possess a valid license from your home country, it might not be recognised in Japan. It’s advisable to consult the list of countries whose licenses are not accepted in Japan before planning a trip. This restriction means that renting a car in Japan without a recognised license is off the table, as rental agencies require a valid license.
Given the high costs in Japan, some individuals opt to secure their driver’s license abroad and later convert it to a Japanese one. This process requires the individual to reside in the foreign country for at least three months post-acquisition of the license. Despite the wait, considering the 3,000 USD fee in Japan, this alternative might be more economical and offers an opportunity for travel.
Having resided in Tokyo for eight years, I’ve never felt the need for a driver’s license. The city’s public transportation system is efficient and comprehensive, negating the need for a personal vehicle. However, if I were to relocate to the countryside, a car would become essential. Given the circumstances, I might consider obtaining my license abroad.
- Switzerland is the most expensive country to get a driver’s license.