I found to my horror two weeks ago that my Japanese driver's licence had expired back in June without my having renewed it.
If less than six months has transpired since expiry, it is not necessary to start from scratch again, you can apply for a new one quite easily, albeit not as easily as simply renewing one that is shortly due to expire.
The nearest driver's licence center to where I live is the Kanda Driver's Licence Renewal Center. However, since my case involved re-issuing a licence, I had to go all the way to the Koto Driver's Licence Testing Center in Koto-ku, Tokyo.
-my old licence
-my gaikokujin torokusho (alien registration certificate)
-a 3cm by 2.4cm photograph
-5,850 yen (4,150 yen as the processing fee, and 1,700 as a first-time safety lecture fee).
-about three hours, which included a 2-hour safely lecture.
(-officially, I also required the postcard sent to me to remind me to renew, however, I had forgotten to re-register my address when I moved a couple of years ago, so never got the postcard. It was not an issue.)
The office opened at 8.30am and closed at 2pm, so I made sure I was there about 8.10am so I wouldn't be too far back in the queue.
The process was very efficient, and the staff were generally friendly and helpful.
There were five steps involved:
-being issued with, and filling in, the application form, and then generating a PIN for the new-style digital licence (15 minutes, including the wait in line)
-paying my fees (5 minutes)
-getting my eyes tested (5 minutes)
-getting an official photograph taken (5 minutes)
-returning to the initial desk which had issued me with the application form. (10 minutes)
The application clearly showed the route to be taken, each desk to be visited being designated by a number. It couldn't have been more easy to understand.
At the final stop the application form was taken from me, and I was given a slip of paper to take to the safety lecture, which was up on the fourth floor.
The lecture was divided into two periods of an hour each. The lecturer was competent, if not particularly attentive to the class of about 15 people. The first part was largely emotive and social in content, illustrating graphically by way, mainly of a video, what grief and trouble dangerous driving can potentially involve for all involved. The most hard-hitting was an interview with a mother whose elementary school age son had been killed by a bad driver.
The second period was more technical, and mainly involved the lecturer talking us through various passages in the three booklets we had been issued with, and manipulating cardboard cutouts of cars and other vehicles on the whiteboard to recreate various situations that required care. By this stage he was on automatic pilot and jabbering, so the last 45 minutes saw a general descent into politely sustained poses of interest that masked fidgeting, dozing, and even a little surreptitious book reading.
The lecturer routinely stamped our slips of paper as we left, which we took to the final desk, one floor down, to be issued with our brand new licences. I went to one of the ATM-style machines nearby, entered my PIN, checked that the personal information that came on the screen was correct, and left.
It was now about 11:45, and I was qualified to be back behind the wheel.
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