Slice of Life: Taking the Driving Test

Friday morning was the dreaded driving test that (among a group of about 100 surveyed foreigners) has an average pass rate of 2.5 attempts… some people passed on the first try, some took it as many as 11 times. Foreigners (Gaijin) from some countries don’t have to take it, but Americans are required to do the driving exam and short written test. We spent the last few weeks studying this route map like crazy and preparing for the test, including driving around empty Pachinko parking lots after work. We had copies of the map at work, in our pockets, on our kitchen table – basically there was always a map within an arm’s reach of us for whenever we had a few extra minutes free! Here’s the map we had to study: Japan Driving Test Course Map, Gifu Prefecture

Our test appointment was at 8:30am and we were a few minutes late due to traffic even though we left more than an hour before the appointment time… It was only 16km away from where we were staying! They luckily waited for us even though it’s not typical. We answered a few simple questions, then had a short & simple eye exam before heading up to the written test. We sat at tiny little desks and took a test of 10 questions, all with pictures. We passed & I got 90% – I am pretty sure I know what questions I got wrong (I think due to the translation…) and then waited for what seemed like forever even though it wasn’t that long. We went off, and walked out to the driving course where we were given a brief ‘class’ in which we were just reminded of the rules and what to do at a few key points.

The weather was really nice, which was great since we waited outside in a small group (the 2 of us, our company owner, and a 3rd person there to be tested). The other person was called to go first, and I would be 2nd, so I was allowed to ride in the backseat to observe! I am so happy that I got a chance to cruise the course again before driving it and it was very unexpected! When it was my turn, I checked everything outside, then adjusted my seat, mirrors, etc., seatbelt, then said ‘Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu’, put the car into drive, took off the hand brake, and off we went! There was a split second toward the end where I blanked on what the next turn was, but it lasted only a second before I remembered what it was. All the while Joe was in the backseat, also observing, and when my drive ended, I got out and waited with our boss and the 2 of us watched the car going around the course, freaking out the whole time when we couldn’t see it due to a built in structure!

Once it was all over, it didn’t seem like it was that big of a deal, but the fact that it was 2 hours from our house, and each time costs about $100 to take, and you have to wait almost a month between attempts (we only have 2 months left on our International licenses), and so many people fail, can make a person a little worried! Plus there are the stories of people getting failed just so they have to come back & pay to take it again since $100 is pretty cheap compared to Japanese citizens getting their first license at around $3,000!

Well, luckily we were not one of those people & it’s all over with!

After it was all over, we were each presented with our new Driver’s License (green stripe for ‘new’ drivers – never mind the last 12 years of driving!) and [CUTE!] little cardholder shown below:

Japanese Drivers License