(Very Trendy Driving School!?)
One of the biggest differences between US and Japan – Getting a driver’s license. You will see at least couple of “Driving Schools” like the one in the picture above in one town in Japan. Why? 95% of people go to driving schools in Japan! In addition, each driving school is BIG like the one above. Students learn how to drive (theory and actual driving skills) at driving schools. It’s a day school. You have to come and take required classes all day until you get a driver’s license. Usually it takes over 6 months for you to get a driver’s license (Since I was a car/driving idiot, it took me a lot longer!). And you are curious about how much it costs to go throgh this process until you get a license, right?
You can take as many tests as possible until you pass. You just pay twice or three times more than normal people. That’s all. Provisional license tests are supposed to be taken at your driving school while driver’s license tests are taken at regional governmental headquarters.
You can apply for the driving school when you get to the qualified age (18). So, notice this difference! In US, you can get your official driver’s license at the age of 16. You plan to travel in Japan, renting a car, by getting an international driver’s license. Don’t waste your money because you CANNOT drive in Japan if you are under 18. Good to know, isn’t it?
When you pay for the initial amount for the course, you are admitted to the driving school. Your 1st day over there is taking classes like at regular day schools. Learn the rules!
When you finish taking the mandatory classes, you are to be scheduled with one instructor until you “graduate” the school. Usually one instructor is assigned to one particular student, so you are lucky if you get a good one! I was a sucker there in those days (I don’t blame him just because he was an aXXhole.). I failed provisional driver’s test once and once more at the actual driver’s license test… I recommend you should ask the school to change your instructors if you believe you and your instructor are not on the same wavelength.
Again, a big difference between US and Japan! In the driving schools, all the cars , in which you drive and your instructor sits next to you (passenger’s side), are equipped with the blakes even on passenger’s side so your instructor can step on the blake in emergency when you screw up.
One thing I forgot to tell you! Driver’s side and passenger’s side is switched in Japan because they drive on the left! That’s why you see part of the shift on the instructor’s right side because he sits on your left side. Got it?
Once you pass both tests after a long time of practice with your instructor, you are ready to drive on your own with this sticker. It’s called “Wakaba Mark (Symbol of a ‘Newbie’ – a bud)” on the back of your car like this!
(The car in front of you says, “You’d better stay away from me!”)
After driving as a rookie for a year, you are considered as a decent driver (hopefully!). But be careful! Japanese roads are a lot narrower than ones in US. That’s why small cars are more popular than big ones. Also, you have to prove that you have a place to park your car. Either in your car port or rental space to park your car. It doesn’t matter. Unless you do that, you are not allowed to own a car. Unlike US, you cannot use an open space or streets to park. If you break the law, you are doomed!!
Basically, you don’t need a car in Japan. Transportation systems are well developed and they are so punctual. You can plan your trips from one point to another exactly. You don’t have to worry about a traffic jam. All you need to do is get on the bus (train, subway, or whatever!). Care free!
One big problem on the public transportation in Japan is “PERVERTS.” Be aware of those professional perverts, ladies!!