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When to Renew
The date for renewing (koshin 更新) your drivers license (unten menkyosho 運転免許証) can be found on the colored bar to the left of your photo. The date is always printed in Japanese Emperor years (nengo 年号) so make sure you know the equivalent Western calendar years (or use an online converter).
The time between renewals is based on the color of your drivers license (indicated on the bar with the expiration date) which is in turn based on your driving history as well as your age. The categories are as follows:
- Green- Beginners (shoshinsha 初心者) license. This is the first license you get regardless of whether you have converted your foriegn license or started from scratch.It is valid for 3 years, always expiring a month after your birthday.
- Blue- A standard license. This can either be a regular license (ippan untensha 一般運転者) or, if you have more than 3 penalty points on your license and/or have been given a citation more than one time you are classified as "driver with violations" (ihan untensha違反運転者). This license is good for 3 years if you are over 70 years old or have less than 5 years of driving experience. 4 years if you are 70 years old and 5 years if you are under 70. If you are a driver with violations, it is only good for 3 years regardless of age.
- Gold- An exemplary (yuryo untensha 優良運転者) drivers license. This license is for drivers who have no record of violations for 5 consecutive years. In addition to simplified renewal procedures, drivers are eligible for insurance discounts.This license is good for 3 years if you are over 70 years old, 4 years if you are 70 years old, and 5 years if you are under 70.
All licenses expire one month after your birthday.
One of the nice parts about the Japanese license system is that they will always send you a postcard (koshin renrakusho 更新連絡書) listing the dates you can renew your license, where and when you can do it, the type of class you need to take (see below), the total cost, and what color your new license will be. Make sure not to throw this away! You will need it for your renewal.
Also, remember to change the address of your license when you move! Failure to do so means your post card won't come and you won't be able to complete the renewal process.
Finally, don't wait until the last minute! Go just one day over the expiration date and you will have to get a license again from scratch. If you find yourself extremely ill or happen to be going abroad, you can petition the authorities to have your license renewed a bit earlier or later, but this is not always successful.
What to Bring
Here are the essentials:
- Your drivers license
- The renewal notification postcard
- Glasses (no contacts)
- A 3cm x 2.4 cm picture taken within the last 6 months (not necessary if you renew at a drivers license center)
- Your alien registration card (gaikokujin toroku shomeisho外国人登録証明書) (*)
- Your seal (inkan 印鑑) (*)
- A black pen