Driving a car in Japan requires a Japanese Driver's License or an International Driver's License (valid for one year from the date of issue). International Licenses must be issues by a member country of the Geneva convention. In Japan, drivers must be 18 years or older to drive a motor vehicle and 16 years or older to ride a motorcycle. A Japanese Driver's License is renewed every three to five years, and this renewal process must take place within a month of the driver's birthday (before or after). Details of the venues and times that a license can be renewed are listed on the postcard that is sent out by the authorities advising renewal of a license.

Exchanging an overseas driver's license for a Japanese license

People with a German, French, Swiss or Taiwanese Driver's License who have a Japanese translation of the license can drive for a year in Japan (check with your embassy: some conditions apply). After a year you must exchange your license for a Japanese license, and some requirements must be met, including undergoing an examination. License exchange procedures take place at the Sapporo Driver's License Examination Centre. A new license is not issued on the same day unless the application is completed in the morning. Licensed cannot be posted out. The documents required to make the exchange are as follows:
  • Your driver's license from your country of origin and its Japanese translation
  • Residency card
  • Passport
  • Two photographs (3cm x 2.4 cm) and a handling fee (4,150 yen for passenger cars)
  • Personal seal (signature acceptable)

Sapporo Driver's License Examination Center Akebono 5-4, Teine-ku, Sapporo Tel. 011-683-5770

Traffic safety

Obey the three traffic rules of fastening a seatbelt, avoiding drunk driving and driving below the speed limits. A fine is imposed on violators, and a notice of a fine or demerit is added to their license. Keep in mind that the standards for drunk driving are very strict in comparison with some other countries. There is blood alcohol allowance level is zero; even one drink can get you a drunk driving sentence. Road conditions in Hokkaido vary between summer and winter. Change summer tires over to winter tires before the onset of winter, and adjust your driving to the conditions of the season. Even with winter tires fitted and following safe driving procedures it is easy to slip on the roads. It is vital that you apply brakes lightly and use engine braking techniques to avoid dangerous, heavy or sudden breaking.


For inquiries in English

Niseko Town Council Tel. 0136-44-2121 Planning and Environment Division