Every 5 years, if you have a gold license, you have to renew your driver’s license in Japan. Being the paper driver that I am, I had no problems keeping my gold status and it was a simple act of going to the office and doing the whole procedure. The only problem was that I am still not perfectly fluent in Japanese and even worse in these situations where I am doing things for the first time in 5 years. I often don’t have to worry about language in restaurants but renewing a license with a lot of words that I only hear once every 5 years is a lot of trouble.
While I always have a little trouble, the process itself is pretty simple. The Honjo Police Office is not really convenient, being between Kinshicho and Oshiage stations. I was very familiar with the location and it was interesting to see such a new police station. The Driver’s Licensing Centre was pretty easy to find and the information makes it pretty easy to understand. I parked my bicycle in the bicycle parking area and headed into the police office. I headed right and up the stairs and as all governmental offices are, things are numbered for your convenience.
The first step was going to window 1. I had to show my old driver’s license and the card that comes in the mail. They also asked to see my foreigner registration card. They then take the information and quickly print out an application for you. You then head to a little counter on the side and fill it out. Most of the information is printed for you but some things you have to do manually. Unless they change things, you just answer “no” to everything and sign and date the bottom. Be sure to use the current date, unlike me as I used my birth date.
From there, you head to the back corner of the waiting room where you use your license to check your password. For driver’s licenses in Japan, you need 2 passwords. You select two 4-digit numbers and you are done. For renewing you basically just enter your password and that’s it. Make sure you select the upper selection on the first screen. From there you bring everything to window 2 and hand everything to them. At window 2 they check your information, help you if you made a mistake and then ask you to pay.
After you pay, you go to window 3 where an officer will check your documents and make sure there are no problems. They ask if you wear contacts, if you have no glasses, and then you do an eye test. After the eye test you sit and wait for a minute while they finish the paperwork. They invalidate your license at this point and tell you to proceed to the photo booth. You put your things down, check yourself in the mirror and get your photo taken. Once the photo is taken you are given a package of books and instructed to either wait for the next lecture or to enter the lecture room. I was lucky to be one of the last people to enter the room before the start of the lecture.
The lecture itself is pretty boring and nothing different to previous years. They seem to update the video from time to time and they go over various laws that have changed. The most important ones are highlighted and the biggest problems of the previous years are mentioned. It is all boring but you have to suffer through it. I was basically ignoring almost everything and just turning to the pages that they told you to look at. Once that is done they hand out the licenses to everyone in the order they came and you can leave.
Going to renew a license is just as tedious as in any other country. It must be done and it is a very boring. It was a bit more stressful for me this year as I had forgotten what I did the previous time. I also had to go to a different place that was completely new to me. Hopefully I will remember exactly what to do and things won’t have changed at all next time.
- Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department (Official Site – Japanese)
- Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department (Official Site – English)
- Locations to Renew Japanese Driver’s License in Tokyo (Official Site – Japanese Only)