While you can find the nitty-gritty details on the Kagoshima JET page , here is just a little bit of a personal insight into the process.
Japan is all about ticking boxes and following protocols. The driver’s license is no different!
Sure, there are the obvious rules you need to obey and safety protocol you need to adhere to show yourself a safe driver. But there are other hoops you need to be jumping through:
The first, saving: Apart from the test fees themselves, lessons work out expensive as well as getting to the venue (which is in Aira). Nothing less than \30 000.
The second, learning the course: The conversion test does not involve real-road driving. There is a course that you drive but you have to learn all the observations, when to put on your flickers, distance from the curb you have to drive, etc. Taking lessons close to where you live is fine but get at least 1 practice in with an instructor at the test venue. Your test adjudicator will ask and it is one of those hoops you have to jump though. If you skip out on this step, they are prone to see that as skimping on your preparation and can decide to fail you just on that.
Then you have to memorise the course that you can do it in your sleep for the rest of you life. A few friends and I found that the best way to get the course in our heads was with a group lesson – You split the costs of the lesson and while the one person drives, the others can study the map and/ or video the course for later study.
Then, on the day of the test, I would recommend walking the course through – pretend that you are in the car, miming the indicators and observations. The written tests are done in the morning, so the course will be clear until lunch time.
And finally, attitude: Be super respectful at all times. It is as much a part of the test as the driving. Dress fairly smart, lots of bows, よろしくお願いします and ありがとう.
Final piece of advice would then be when it comes to the actual test, do your best to relax. A stressed mind makes silly mistakes. I myself turned right from the far left lane. Obviously, I failed that first one… And if you fail, while it does suck, you have to pick yourself up as quickly as possible, learn from your mistakes – sometimes, you genuinely don’t know what you did wrong and I am afraid that this is one of those mysteries that we generally put under “the man being out to get us” – and get another date in.
Nicole Ehlers is a third year ALT in Minamikyushu.