How to Get an International Driver’s License in Japan

Whether you are an expatriate living in Japan or a tourist planning a long-term stay, understanding the transportation dynamics can significantly enhance your experience in the country.

One aspect that often baffles foreigners is the acquisition of an International Driver’s License (IDL) that enables them to drive legally in Japan.

In Japan, driving with a foreign license alone is not permissible, and having an IDL is a mandatory requirement if you intend to drive. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you secure an International Driver’s License in Japan.

1. Determine Your Eligibility

Before applying, it’s vital to check if you are eligible for an IDL in Japan:

  • You must be at least 18 years old.
  • You should possess a valid driving license from your home country.
  • The home country driving license must be in English, or you need an official translation.

2. Gather Necessary Documents

Collecting the correct documentation will make the application process seamless. You will typically need:

  • Original and a copy of your domestic driving license.
  • Passport and a copy of the passport page with your photo and personal details.
  • Two passport-sized photographs.
  • Application fee (varies depending on the country and the issuing authority).

3. Find a Nearby Issuing Authority

Japan recognizes international driving permits (IDPs) under the Geneva Convention of 1949.

You must apply for an IDP in your home country, often through automobile associations or governmental road transportation agencies.

4. Fill Out the Application Form

Visit the designated issuing authority, fill out the necessary application form, and submit the required documents.

5. Pay the Application Fee

The fee for an IDL varies by country, but it typically ranges between $15 and $30. Payment methods may include cash, credit/debit card, or even online payment options, depending on the issuing authority.

6. Collect Your International Driver’s License

Once approved, you can either collect your IDL in person or have it mailed to you, depending on the options provided by the issuing authority.

Understanding the Limitations

It’s essential to understand that an IDL is valid for only one year and must be used in conjunction with your home country’s valid driving license.

Moreover, an IDL does not replace the requirement for a Japanese driving license if you become a resident.


Acquiring an International Driver’s License in Japan requires strategic planning and understanding of the process. By following the steps above and ensuring compliance with the Japanese driving laws, you can enjoy the freedom and convenience of driving in Japan.

For further information, always consult with the local authorities or the embassy/consulate of your home country in Japan to stay updated with the latest regulations and requirements.

Here are some general links that may assist you in getting an International Driver’s License (IDL) for use in Japan.

Please remember that the application process for an IDL is typically carried out in your home country, so the relevant authorities or organizations may vary based on your location.

  1. United States:
  2. United Kingdom:
  3. Canada:
  4. Australia:
  5. India:
  6. Other Countries:
    • Check with the local automobile association or governmental road transportation agency in your country.
  7. Japanese Driving Rules and Regulations:

Please consult these links or contact the relevant authorities in your home country for the most accurate and up-to-date information, as the process and requirements for obtaining an IDL may vary.

My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.