How to Renew your Japanese Driving License

2020-03-06 LIFE

This post is also available in 日本語

When you acquire a driver’s license in Japan, it is necessary to renew that license at set intervals. If you forget to renew it, you will lose your license. Make sure you renew it within the stipulated period. On this occasion, I will introduce you to the validity period for your license and how to renew it.

You should also refer to “How To Drive In Japan” “How to Obtain a Driver’s License in Japan”, and “Method of Acquiring a Driver’s License in Japan – school or camp –“.

License type and validity period

There are three types of driver’s license, commonly known as the green, blue, and gold licenses, and this is written on the back of the license. You can distinguish the validity period by its background color. As the blue license can also be divided into three categories, in total there are five classifications, and each have different validity periods.

Green license [Acquirers of new licenses]
Validity period: Until 1 month after the third birthday following the date of acquisition
Blue license [First renewal]
Validity period: 3 years
First renewal after green license for drivers other than those with traffic violations
[Drivers with traffic violators]
Validity period: 3 years
Multiple violations or causing an accident that leads to injury
[Ordinary drivers]
Validity period: 5 years
Those people who have had their license continually for 5 years or more (4 years for those who become 71 and 3 years for those who become 72 during the renewal period) and have only had a minor violation (3 points or below) once during the past 5 years.
Gold license [Excellent drivers]
Validity period: 5 years
Those people who have had their license continually for 5 years or more and have had no violation or accident within the past 5 years.

Renewal period and renewal notification (postcard)

The period for renewing your driver’s license is the two-month period of “1 month before or after” your birthday in the year in which the license expires. If the final day of the period in which you can renew falls on a weekend or public or national holiday, this will be extended until the next business day.

When the renewal period is approaching, the renewal notification (postcard) will be posted to the address at which your driver’s license is registered. Be sure to confirm the contents and store without tearing off the recipient section etc. The postcard will be necessary for the renewal procedures. If you lose the postcard, the renewal procedures will take longer than normal, so take care not to lose it.

The postcard may fail to arrive because you have failed to register a change of address, due to moving, or for some other reason. Make sure you confirm the validity period on your birthday every year. Licenses issued until April 28, 2019 will have a validity date in the “Heisei” year format, but the validity of the driver’s license will not change as a result of the change of the emperor year. “Heisei” 32 shall be 2020, 33 shall be 2021, 34 shall be 2022, 35 shall be 2023, and 36 shall be 2024.

It is not possible for a representative to carry out the renewal procedures on your behalf. Whatever the reason, it is necessary for the person concerned to conduct the procedures. In case it is impossible for you to conduct the procedures within the renewal period, for an unexpected reason, such as hospitalization, childbirth, overseas travel or business trip etc., it may be possible for you to renew in advance of the period by submitting evidence. Be sure to consult the driver’s license test center, driver’s license renewal center, or police department in your jurisdiction in advance.

How to renew

When renewing, it will be necessary for you to take the designated classes. The postcard will describe the continuous period of the license and whether there are any violations and describe the lecture category that you need to take. The location for application date and time(day), lecture times, necessary documentation, handling charges, and method of issuing license shall differ depending on the region where you live and the lecture category. Do not forget to bring documentation that proves your residential status.

When renewing and changing your address at the same time, when changing your nationality or name at the same time, or when reissuing your license, the extra documentation required will differ. In case anything is unclear, enquire to the contact point described on the postcard.

If the renewal period has passed

If you fail to renew your license within the renewal period, you will lose be disqualified. It cannot be renewed or reissued, so if you wish to have the license again, you will need to go to the driver’s license center again and take a driver’s license test. Depending on the period after disqualification and the reason, you may be exempt from part of the test, so please discuss this with the driver’s license test center as quickly as possible.