Switching Filipino Driver’s License to Japanese License

Information Acquisition

The first thing I did when I finalized my intention to get my driver’s license in Japan is to look for as many information as I can get from the Internet. Google is a very indispensable tool. Common Keywords were “Driving in Japan”, “Switching Overseas License”, among others. Everybody else should do the same.

Translation of Driver’s License

Next step is to have my license translated to Japanese. Since Philippine Licenses don’t have the Issue Date in the card (except for the year which is indicated in your license number), I also had to make sure I have the Official Receipt given to me when I got my card in 2001. I also have the Official Receipt when I first renewed my License in 1999.

Too bad I don’t have the original 1995 Receipt but my 1999 receipt will be sufficient to prove that I have been driving for at least three months in the Philippines before I came to Japan in 2000.

I had the option to either send photocopies of these items to the Philippine Embassy/ Consulate or to the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) to have them translated to Japanese. Since the nearest Philippine Consulate to Kagoshima is in Osaka, I chose JAF.

I could have just visited their office but since I’m always working during weekdays, I opted to send the documents by money mail (available at the local post office). I included JPY 3, 290 in the envelope. JPY 3, 000 was for the translation and JPY 290 was for the return postage so they can send the translation back to me.

Here are the contents of the envelope I sent JAF Kagoshima

  • A photocopy of my driver’s license (both sides)
  • A photocopy of my Official Receipts
  • JPY3, 290 – for the translation and the return postage

JAF Kagoshima
2-12 Shinei-cho Kagoshima-shi Kagoshima
+81 (99) 284-0007


I got the translation after a few days so I’m all set.

Visit to the Prefecture Licensing Department

After I got my translation, I’m all set to visit the Kagoshima Prefecture Driver’s License Testing Center (県自動車運転免許試験場) but before that, I had to have my picture (3 x 2.4 cm) taken. According to most websites, 1 piece was all I needed but it’s actually 2. I’m guessing one is for my temporary license and the other is for my actual Japanese Driver’s License, once I get it.

To really prepare for the exam, I also bought and read this “Rules of the Road” book from JAF. I visited their office in Kagoshima. When I was there, I realized I could have saved JPY 290 if I just had my license translated on the same day I bought the book. Then again, what is done is done.

By the way, the book costs JPY 1, 000 and it’s a very useful reference. I suggest you get it.

So here’s what I had to bring to the Prefecture Licensing Department…

  • Philippine Driver’s License (Card and Official Receipts)
  • International Driver’s License – for those who have it. I don’t.
  • Alien Registration Card
  • Passport – to prove that I’ve used my license in the Philippines for more than 3 months
  • 2 3×2.4cm picture – most other sources would say you need only 1 but they asked for 2.
  • JPY 4, 100 – money to cover the cost of conversion

Kagoshima Prefecture Licensing Department
3937 Higashi Mochida, Aira-cho
(20-minute walk from Chosa JR Station, I suggest you take the taxi)
+81 (99) 565-2295


I went to the Prefecture Licensing Department and presented the items I’ve listed above. Make sure you tell them you’re applying for Gaimen Kirikae (外免切替) because most likely, they don’t speak English. If you can go with a Japanese friend who can speak English, do so. Everything is in Japanese except the test, which I was able to take in English.

Then there was a short interview where they were just asking questions about when and how I got my license. I think they were just trying to confirm if my license isn’t fake and that I really did go through all the necessary steps (written and driving tests) before I acquired my license.

I think they believed me so onwards to the Eye Examination. It was like any other eye exam and you don’t really have to have perfect vision to pass. I got 0.7 (Japanese Scale, 0.0 to 2.0, perfect vision being 2.0) on both my eyes. It’s weird though because normally, I would get 1.5 or 2.0 but it seems like 0.7 is good enough so I didn’t complain.

Next is the Written Test. It’s a good thing they have an English version of the test so I can concentrate on the actual problems and not on the Japanese Sentences. It just consists of ten questions with a big picture on top and a short text at the bottom. I just had to determine if it’s true or false. The questions aren’t really that hard and I think the “Rules of the Road” book was very helpful especially for rules and signs that are only used in Japan.

Now for the scary part, the Driving Test. I chose the Manual Transmission Car because my friend told me that in Japan, if your license indicates that you can drive a Manual Transmission Car, it actually means you can drive both Manual and Automatic Transmission Cars. If it indicates that can drive an Automatic Transmission Car, it means you can only drive Automatic and not Manual.

At first, the person conducting the test made me sit at the back as he drives through the course, explaining what he’s doing. Then, it’s my turn to do exactly the same as what he did.

Here’s the bad news… I failed the Driving Test. He was nice enough to explain why I failed and I have to admit, I was pretty bad. I don’t want to think it’s because I don’t know how to drive because I know I can. I think it’s because I wasn’t able to follow some of his instructions. Either I was confused or nervous or my Japanese simply wasn’t good enough. Whatever the case, I failed and it was very humbling.

It’s a good thing I can retake the exam as many times as I want… at least before my Philippine license expires. That’s exactly what I’m going to do. But first, I need to take review lessons. They (Prefecture Licensing Department) offer lessons during Saturdays and Sundays and the lessons start at 8:00 AM. I’ll talk about that once I finished the lessons.

Eventually, I did get my Driver’s License but believe me, it wasn’t easy.


23 Comments Add yours

  1. vinelou yudo says:

    very useful thanks!


  2. Anonymous says:

    so.its true obtaining japanese drivers license required must stay in home country for atleast 3 months for driving experience,this is a long shot,i know,thanks anyway


  3. That's true unless you plan to get your license by enrolling in a driving school in Japan.


  4. Anonymous says:

    Hello! I got some questions. What if I renewed my driver's license in our country staying only few days less than 3 months of staying, cause obviously 1 day is enough to renew our local license in Philippines right? To be clear here is my case. I have my local and international license that just got expired last year, so last January 2013 went back to Philippines and renewed it. Good thing is I kept my official receipts that proves I been working for more than 10 years already back in our country.So would I be able to translate and be able to switch my Local to Japanese license?


  5. I believe they count from the day you got your first license, so you should be good.


  6. Anonymous says:

    what are the questions ask on interview? can u detail all ur answers….? tnx!


  7. yen yang says:

    Hi I came back in Japan now after 3 months of staying in philippines last Monday I did pass all the documents needed ,believe it or not I bought with me driving record with red ribbon from Manila LTO branch and it costs me high money because I was in Mindanao ,they took a copy of my old drivers license with receipt from LTO both old and new ,juminhyu,IDP , passport copy old and new indicates my immigration stamp proof that I'm out of Japan getting my philippines drivers license,this Monday I undergo of interview and passing all the documents they needed at driving license center , this upcoming Monday I'm gonna take my aptitude test,and same day written exam ,I would like to say thank you even if its not yet finish ,your page really helps me a lot after knowing that its really risk but I be got lot knowledge here.


  8. Glad to be of help. 🙂


  9. yen yang says:

    I'm very happy today I've passed the written test, and I can't wait till driving test here I go….. Proud to be Filipino ,mabuhay !


  10. Anonymous says:

    I failed the interview on how i obtain my non-prof license, they dont tell what is wrong. They just tellimg me that there is wrong on my procedure, pls help me guys!


  11. Anonymous says:

    Maybe your non prof has restrictions 1 and 2 they only allow restriction2


    1. Tommy says:

      This is both street smart and integlilent.


  12. Anonymous says:

    Hi, This blog is very informative!!
    But i have few questions mr.pangan. I have phil. Driver's license since i was college. Last year, i went home and renewed it for the first time. They took the original copy of my old license and receipt. And now i figure out that i need to present the old receipt to prove that I have had license for 3mos or so. I ask my brother to get me a certificate of records in LTO main but only the year you first took your license is written on it. Will they honor that certificate or im already lost? Im also planning to have my license translated by JAF. Should i translate both the certificate and my license? Hope to hear from you!


  13. Anonymous says:

    What do you mean they only allow restriction 2? My license also has restriction 1 and 2.does it mean i cannot use it to convert to japanse license? Thank u!


    1. Yin Yang says:

      You should backed in the Philippines LTO in which you lived or prefecture you currently residing in your home address or nearest LTO to changed it to restriction 2 for it is required to switching your Philippine drivers license into Japanese drivers license .Japan has different kind of automobiles drivers license like busses,mopeds,truck drivers or even 50cc motor bikes it is considered as by each drivers has written which or which are you going to drive both manual or automatic also.Thats why you need to changed it to restriction 2 if you’re going to drive exactly your owned vehicles and not public transportation service like taxis, bus.When youve doned your interview and passed all the required documents the police traffic officer will asked you if what mobiles you’re going to drive and what toned,etc.If you want to drive trucks then it is different licenses because Philippines is not accredited under the institution to drive and used our own drivers license to other countries and only our IDP is allowed and valid for one year .Since Japan don’t allowed after a year of using IDP ,we have to follow the rules and regulations of driving or as being a holder of foreign drivers license which is switchable then.


  14. It may depend on the center where you're applying but when I applied, I didn't have to show the original first “receipt”. But they did ask me questions about my licence like when I got it originally, etc. I'm lucky I've been driving in the Philippines years before I moved to Japan.

    Might be best to ask the center you're applying at exactly what they need. I think as long as you can prove (using whatever document you can get) you've been driving in the Philippines long enough, you should be fine.

    But don't take my word for it. 🙂


  15. Yin Yang says:

    Hello Mr.Pangan
    It’s been a years from now since I’d visited you’re blog and I’m so happy that it’s still there knowing that it’s been passed so many years .I would like to say Thank you to you .I have already my JDL and eventhough it’s automatic it’s useful especially applying job and to my daily activities.How are you?Hope youre doing fine and your family too.God bless always.


    1. Thanks Yin Yang for the warm message! Still in Tokyo, and still writing once in a while. Thanks to Japanese trains, haven’t been driving much lately so when I renewed my license, I got me a gold license. Hahaha!


  16. mark josephlumba says:

    hi can anyone answer my question..last week i try to apply for japanese license but the sad things is they disapproved my application they said that my original receipt is fake but my license card is ok…how come they say that…and i also have a PIDL please help me what to do thanks in advance


    1. Hmmm. Your only option might be to convince them it is real. Not really sure how they determine a receipt is true or fake, but unfortunately in this case, they have the privilege to make that judgement.


  17. john says:

    sir, tanong ko lang po kung okay lang na wala yung resibo ng lisensya ko.pero nandun naman po sa baba ng picture ng lisensya ko yung date of issue.ipapatranslate ko po sana tong lisensya ko sa JAF para makakuha po ako ng lisensya dito sa japan.
    salamat po.


    1. It might differ where you apply, but in most cases I heard, including my own experience when I applied, they need the receipt.


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