Nov 30, 2023

How to get an International Driving Permit in Japan

Before my trip to Ireland in the summer (of 2023) I had to get a brand new International driving permit / driver's license, because the one I got in 2019 had expired. The International Driving Permit in Japan only last one year. They are quite easy to renew, but there's a little more inconvenience in getting one the very first time.

International Driving Permit

This post contains information for people who hold a valid Japanese Driver's License and do not have a Driver's License / Permit in their home country and / or for the country they plan to visit. A new Japanese Driver's License / Permit can only be obtained at your prefecture's Driver's License Centers. However, they can be renewed, if they haven't expired, at your local police station.

The great news is: in order to get an International Drivers Permit (IDP) you don't need to do any sort of test, either on paper or in a car. Moreover, you physically get the license on the same day that you apply. It generally takes about an hour at the prefectural driving license centers. The most important thing to note is that you need to have proof that you are going abroad and in print form; they will not accept digital form. You also need a photo on the day, they say it should have been taken within 6 months and they might require proof of the date it was taken. The easiest thing to do is get the photo taken at the center. The vast majority of driver's license centers have a photo machine on site.

What to bring to the license center:

  • Your current valid Japanese Driver's License
  • Your Alien Registration Card (which you are supposed to carry with you at all times)
  • Proof of travel - a copy of your flight details is what I was told to bring
  • A passport size photo 
  • 2350 yen for the application form
  • Lose change for the photo machine if you are planning to get your photo done there. It cost me 900 yen for the photo at the Saitama Prefecture Driver's License center
  • If you are a Japanese national, you should bring your hanko as well 

At the license center

At the license center you need to get an International Driving Permit / License form. After you get the form you buy a stamp, which is the way they take the fee for the license, and they direct you to an area where you can fill out your form and attach your photo. After preparing your form, go to the international license / permit counter and hand it in with your proof of travel, current driver's license and your alien registration card. Then you just have to wait for them to prepare the permit! It generally only takes about 20 to 30 minutes. They will call you once to make sure that your details are correct on the permit, before giving it the Government stamp. 

You can not make an appointment in advance, so you need to check the hours of your prefecture's driving license center's international permit section. Arrive in plenty of time, because there is no way of knowing in advance how busy it will be on the day. In my experience, however, the international permit section is rarely busy. I am usually in and out within an hour. 

How to get an International Driving Permit in Japan photo



Former nickname was "Saitama". Changed it to save confusion on place review posts! Irish, 20+ years in Japan! I also write on my personal website: insaitama.com