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Sunday, December 11, 2011

If at first…

The ongoing struggle of obtaining my driver’s license continues. Last week, I went to Oita for the third time. It wasn’t to take a test. That came later. I went to get permission to take the tests. Yes, it took three times just to get permission. The person running the department section that takes care of those things kept telling me that he was not my enemy. He reminded me that we were on the same team. Yet, he insisted that the paperwork that I had given him was not enough to prove that I had been driving in Washington for at least three months. So, what’s the big deal? It would have been a simple matter of accessing my paycheck stubs on the internet and handing the copies to Japan DMV. The problem is that they do not accept copies. They require originals with signatures. Good grief! All of my banking, utilities, paychecks, tax statements…everything is online. The Japanese DMV requirements are ridiculously out of date and they admit to that. The long story short, Erika told them that I needed my license by January or I would lose a job opportunity in January and move back to the U.S. Amazingly, they accepted my paperwork and gave me permission to take the tests.
I took an eye exam and I needed my glasses to pass. The written test was ten true/ false questions. You were allowed to miss three. Fortunately, I studied the driver’s handbook and I didn’t miss any. I was directed to the practical part of the test. The person behind the counter assured me that I would fail the exam, so I failed. The examiner emphasized about how difficult the course was. I didn’t have a chance. The person behind the counter actually said that it would be a miracle if I had passed. How’s that for a confidence builder. The driving part was relatively easy. It was important to pump the brakes three times. Say, “Yosh” every time I looked in the mirror. Stay on the left side of the road. They had some narrow obstacles that required careful maneuvering. All of these things were not too difficult to follow. The problem was that they also required some Japanese rules that needed to be followed. This is where I had trouble. Before entering the car, the front, side and back required visual inspection. I had to pretend I was entering the car from a busy street which required that I look backwards before opening the driver’s door. I had to adjust the mirrors, seat and seatbelt before starting the car and within a certain amount of time. This was the first time I ever drove this car. Never brake in a corner. Drive 30cm from the centerline at all times. Look far ahead and “Yosh” at all of the appropriate mirrors. This was difficult to do since the course had many sharp turns and I did not memorize the course. Don’t drive too fast or too slow. Keep imagining that a pedestrian or cyclist could appear at any time. Blah, blah, blah…just when I thought the test was over, I had to park the car in a specific parking space. The car had to be precisely 30cm from the curb and 30cm from the face of a numbered sign to my bumper. Do you have any idea how difficult that is to do after taking a stressful test? Oh, he also tested to make sure that I put the car in “Park”, set the parking brake, and looked behind before opening the car door. I was mentally exhausted. That was last Thursday and I get to do it all over again on Wednesday. To make things worse, the test cost 4000 yen each time, and it takes 1.5 hours (one way) to get to the driving center from my house. I wonder how many times it will take to pass? I enrolled in a driver’s training course (which is booked solid till next Saturday) at a cost of 20,000 yen. I’ll take the practical again before I attend the course, just to make sure about what I’m confused with. My strategy for passing the driver’s portion of the exam is: If at first you don’t succeed, keep trying until they are tired of you. I heard that the record was 32 attempts. Stay tuned…          George


  1. Sometimes I am so glad that I come from New Zealand! I only needed to show my passport and after insisting that they bring me some scissors so I could cut up my international license (long story.... )I got my Japanese license. They definitely have some insane rules though. I hope it is second time lucky for you.....

  2. Hi Jo,
    The soonest I'll get the license will be three tries. I think it has something to do with being from the U.S. and for driving on the right side of the road. At least I'll appreciate having a Japanese license and maybe I'll think twice before speeding through a yellow light. George