There are few rules about driving in Japan. If you’re a foreigner looking to hit the wheels on the street of Japan, you will need to check out a few things. It is crucial that the international driver’s license from your country is recognized by the Japanese government. The countries where its international license is recognized by Japan are: Belgium, France, Germany and Switzerland. A recognized international driver’s license enables you to drive around Japan for up to 1 year before you have to get a Japanese driver’s license.
However, if you’re not from those four countries, you will need to get a Japanese driver’s license in order to drive in Japan. The process is relatively simple. Japan has an agreement with several countries around the world to ease the conversion to a Japanese Driver’s license. It enables a (valid) foreign driver’s license be converted into a Japanese one without taking any theory or practical exam. The countries are: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
So, if you’re from one of these countries, you are cut out for a Japanese driver’s license :) You just need to get your foreign driver’s license translated into Japanese before taking it to the local license counter. An eye test and proof that you have been living at least 3 months in the country your drivers license was issued and you’re good to go. If you’re not from any of the countries listed above, like United States, China, Singapore, Brazil, Malaysia, Portugal, Spain etc, you will have to take the practical and theory exam to obtain a Japanese Driver’s license.
However, driving within any city in Japan is rather useless because of the highly efficient public transportation that is offered. Most Japanese living near the city or in the city do not own a car OR a driver’s license. But I believe that it is practical to have it with you because you never know when you are going for a spontaneous trip off the beaten tracks :)