Foreigners can drive in Japan with an International Driving Permit (IDP) for a maximum of one year, even if the IDP is valid for a longer period.
International driving permits are not issued in Japan and should be obtained in your home country in advance.
Japan only recognizes international driving permits based on the 1949 Geneva Convention, which are issued by a large number of countries. Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Monaco, Switzerland and Taiwan do not issue permits based on the 1949 Geneva Convention, but instead have a separate agreement that allows drivers from these countries to drive in Japan for up to one year with an official Japanese translation of their driver’s license.
A translation can be obtained from the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) or some of the respective countries’ embassies or consulates in Japan.
People from other countries whose international driving permits are not recognized by Japan and people who stay in Japan for more than one year, must obtain a Japanese driver’s license.
How to Exchange your foreign driver’s license to a Japanese Driver’s License
Japan has bilateral agreements with more than twenty countries, including Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan and the United Kingdom, as well as the US states of Hawaii, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, to ease the process of acquiring a Japanese license. If you hold a valid driver’s license from one of these countries you can get a Japanese license without taking a written or practical exam.
Instead, go to your local license center with an official translation of your license (obtainable from the Japan Automobile Federation), your passport, and proof that you held your license for at least three months in the issuing country before coming to Japan. Then, take a basic eye and physical test and you will be issued a new license on the same day.
If you have a driver’s license from a country or state which does not have an agreement with Japan, such as China, Brazil or most US states, you will have to take a written and practical exam in order to obtain a Japanese driver’s license. This process typically takes several attempts, even for experienced drivers.
For more information, visit the Japan Automobile Federation
Note: Information may not be up-to-date. Please check official government information for latest laws and regulations.