So, you've manage to convert your license to a Japanese one, and you've already been driving around Japan for two years or so. It's time for your first renewal!
When should I renew my license?
Your first driver's license should be valid for 2 years + until your next birthday. The renewal window is ±1month of your birth date (ie. 1 month before your birth date and 1 month after your birth date). Except for extraordinary circumstances (eg. overseas trip, stuck in the hospital etc.), you are expected to renew your license within that time period.
When the expiry date is approaching, your should receive a postcard informing you of the renewal. You should make sure your address on your driver's license is up-to-date in order to receive your postcard.
Where should I renew my license?
For first time renewals, you can only do it at the driver's license centers (運転免許センター untenmenkyo sentaa) in your prefecture, ie. the place where you did your license conversion. Note that not all driver's license centers offer license conversion, and there may be one that is more easily accessible to you that allows you to renew your license.
For subsequent renewals, you have the option to do it at a dedicated driver's license renewal centers (運転免許更新センター untenmenkyo koushin sentaa), which are generally more accessible than the driver's license centers; or even selected police stations if you have the gold license. Do note that these two options are only open on weekdays; only the driver's license centers do renewals on weekends.
What should I bring?
- Driver's license
- Renewal postcard (optional; you can still renew if you forgot to bring)
- Residence Card for foreign nationals
- Money (amount to bring is listed in the postcard)
- Passport photo (optional; if you want to use your own photo)
- Eyeglasses if you require them
I did my first renewal in the driver's license center in Koto ward. My experience with renewals is as follows:
- Enter 2 sets of 4-digit PIN codes on a terminal and receive a paper with a barcode
- [First station] Hand over your license + postcard and get an application form
- [Second station] Fill up name and other details on the application form
- [Third station] Pay the renewal fee that costs ¥3,850 (I paid by credit card)
- [Fourth station] Take the eye test
- [Fifth station] Submit your application form + driver's license + residence card. Driver's license will be returned with a hole punched in it
- [Sixth station] Scan the barcode issued in 1 and take a picture
- [Seventh station] Go up the second floor and the staff will hand you a packet, and tell you which classroom to enter
- Take the renewal talk/course (two hours for the first renewal)
- [Eighth station] Go up two more floors and collect your new license
- Scan the card at the nearby terminal and make sure your details are correct
- Try to avoid renewing on weekends if you can. I did mine on a Sunday and it was quite packed (I think there's around 2,000 people on that day itself). Steps 1 till 8 itself took 2 hours, which means the whole renewal process took 4 hours(!) for me.
- The course wasn't too boring to me. It wasn't about obvious things like don't drink and drive etc. The instructor pointed out a few unexpected scenarios where accidents may occur which I think was pretty interesting. There was some exaggeration at the parts where they explain the consequences of causing deaths in an accident (monetary compensation, job loss etc.) but it's justified? After all, it is a loss of life.
- Your new license should be blue, and valid for 3 years. If you don't have any traffic violations within the next 3 years I assume you'll get a gold license at your next renewal.