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Friday, May 17, 2013

Japan's Safe Driver Card


Safe Driver Card, Japan.

I recently had to go to the Fuchu Driver's License Center in Chofu City, a little west of Tokyo. I needed a certification of my driving record, called an Unten Kiroku Shomeisho, covering the past five years for a bureaucratic procedure I'm currently going through.

It took the best part of an hour to get out there from central Tokyo. I went to Musashi-koganei Station on the JR Chuo Line, took the South Exit, and caught the bus at stop no. 6, on the far side of the bus area from the station. The bus took about 10 minutes.

I got there a few minutes before the opening time of 8:30 a.m., asked one of the gruff old guides where to go, was told the 3rd floor, went up there, picking my way through the seething 1st floor crowd. Fuchu Licence Center is also where people go if they have to renew a driving license that has expired either because they forgot to renew it before it expired, or because they lost their license for an infringement and have to reapply.

On the very quiet 3rd floor, I filled out the very simple application form for the certificate, and waited along with the only other customer there - an old man.

The counter I was waiting at opened on the dot of 8:30 a.m., but on this particular morning they didn't have the right key to open the sliding windows, so an apologetic middle aged woman came out to where I was and took my form. I had been told that the certificate application would cost 700 yen, but it turned out that in deflationary Japan, this was now reduced to 630 yen.

I was also told that it would take up to three weeks for the certificate to be sent to me, but I received it today, six days later. The certificate is full of wonderfully blank lines, attesting to my very safe driving record over the past five years (during which time I've probably driven for a no more than about once every 3 or 4 months!). However, it also came with an unexpected bonus, a plastic, credit card sized SD Card, or Safe Driver Card.

The back of the SD Card states that I have a clean seven-year record (actually longer - but I moved to Tokyo seven years ago, so maybe that's why), and it was accompanied by a pamphlet that lists scores of businesses and services that I can get a discount with and on using my SD Card during the 12 months following its issue.

These businesses include moving companies (a very generous 20%, useful in December when my partner and I are to move apartments), the Miyazaki car ferry (10% off), Daito Group and Toto Nisseki gasoline stands (from 5% for car parts up to 66% off for tire changes), travel agencies, car and motorbike rental companies, Odakyu Department Store, hotels, and driving schools.

Safe driving really pays in Japan!

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