City of Sapporo > Living in Sapporo > Driver's Licenses in Japan

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Update:April 2, 2018

Driver's Licenses in Japan

You may drive a motorized vehicle in Japan with a Japanese driver’s license, a valid international driver’s license or foreign driver’s license as outlined below.

Driving with an international driver’s license

Persons holding an international driver’s license in accordance with the Geneva Convention issued by a nation which ratified the same Convention are permitted to drive in Japan for up to one year after entering the country. However, your ability to drive is only recognized for as long as your international driver’s license is valid (one year after the date of issue). In addition, regardless of whether your international driver’s license is valid, your ability to drive is only recognized for up to one year after the day you arrive in Japan.

Driving with a foreign driver’s license

Persons holding a valid driver’s license issued in Switzerland, France, Germany, Belgium, Slovenia, Monaco or Taiwan may drive in Japan for up to one year after their day of arrival in Japan, so long as it is accompanied by a Japanese translation of its contents (created by the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF), or their country’s embassy, consulate, etc.). (Those from the Republic of Estonia will be eligible starting from April 1, 2018)  

Exchanging your foreign driver’s license for a Japanese driver’s license

Exchanging a foreign driver’s license for a Japanese driver’s license allows persons holding a valid foreign license to be exempt from a portion of the driving test (written test or ability test) in order to obtain a Japanese driver’s license.

  • Aptitude tests (vision, physical ability examination, etc.) are not exempt.
  • It is necessary to confirm that the knowledge and skill requirements for driving in the country which issued your license align with those of Japan.
  • You must make an appointment at the Sapporo Driver’s License Examination Center (Foreign language support is not available)

Eligibility requirements for exchanging licenses

  • Have an address within the jurisdiction of the Hokkaido Prefectural Public Safety Commission for the Sapporo Area.
  • Possess the ability to prove that you resided in the foreign country in which your driver’s license was issued for 3 months or more after its date of issue.
  • Your foreign driver’s license must be valid (applies to each type of license).

Required items:

  • Application form, questionnaire (found at the Sapporo Driver’s License Examination Center)
  • Valid foreign driver’s license
  • Photo for application (3.0cm x 2.4cm, taken within the past 6 months, front-facing with an uncovered head on a plain background) (1)
  • Certificate of residence (containing information such as your current address, nationality, etc. within 6 months of issue)
    For those to whom the Act of the Basic Resident Registers does not apply,  you will need to present a different set of documents.
  • A Japanese translation of your foreign license (created by the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF), or their country’s embassy, consulate, etc.)
  • Documented proof that you resided in the foreign country in which your driver’s license was issued for 3 months or more after its date of issue. (If you are already registered as an automated gate user, immigration records from a foreign government office or consular office will be required)
  • Seal (signature also accepted)
  • Processing fee

※ For more details, please refer to the website below or enquire at Sapporo Driver’s License Examination Center.  https://www.police.pref.hokkaido.lg.jp/guide/menkyo/gai_menkyo-kirikae.html (Japanese)


Sapporo Driver’s License Examination Center

Tel: 011-699-8654
Akebono 5-jo 4-chome, Teine-ku (approx. 15 min. by bus from JR Teine Station)

Translation of an overseas driver’s license into Japanese

A Japanese translation of your overseas driver’s license must be prepared by your country’s embassy or consulate or by the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF). The JAF also sells books on traffic rules in Japan in five languages (English/Spanish/Chinese/Korean/Portugese).