It’s not an exaggeration to say Japan has a well-developed public transportation system. However, cars are still often used in our daily lives (especially in rural areas, definitely we need them). Here in Japan, we have to spend a certain level of time and money on getting a driver’s license. In this blog, I’m going to share my experience at a driving training camp and you can learn what it is like to get a license in Japan.
Deciding where to learn driving
The first step to get a license is to determine where to learn how to drive. Basically, there are two options in Japan: driving school and training camps.
1. Driving school
People who have school or work during the daytime tend to choose this option. You can book classes around your schedule, so it’s possible to make progress at one’s own pace. However, it’ll be difficult to reserve classes if the school is popular. I often hear from friends that classes are fully booked for a few months. So it’s better to choose a school which is not so crowded.
2. Training camp
Especially university students tend to choose this option and go to a camp during a long vacation from school. It takes about 2 weeks to finish the camp, and during that period students stay a hotel. The average cost is ￥150,000 ~￥250,000 which is cheaper than the cost of driving school. These days, some schools provide a camp plan with special offers such as massage and hot spring. You’ll imagine busy days with classes and practice of driving, but actually we have opportunities to enjoy the time!
My experience at training camp
Last winter, I went to a training camp and succeeded in getting a driver’s license. The camp was held over 2 weeks in Yamagata prefecture, which is in the north area of Japan. I chose this camp because it’s not so far from my hometown and the cost was relatively cheap. However, after the camp begin, I realized I made a poor choice in timing and location.
Yamagata is known as a snowy place and last winter was especially cold. When I arrived in Yamagata, I saw roads were covered with snow and the view was fully white. At that moment, I felt certain that the camp was going to be really tough.
Of course, snow had built up at the camp and some staff were working on clearing it. The vision was not clear and the road was like the picture above. I could see no lines on the road and that made it much more difficult to drive.
I still remember (and will likely never forget) my first day of driving outside of the school grounds on the regular roads. It was dark and the road was icy. I was really scared but my instructor, sitting next to me, looked much worse. Who wants to be in a car with an extreme beginner driver on a snowy night?
After taking several classes, I took two driving tests (written and practical test) and passed them. I got a temporary learner’s permit and graduated from the school. The validity period of temporary license isn’t long, so I returned to my hometown and soon took a written test again. To my joy, I could pass it and finally received an actual license…!
All in all, it took about 3 weeks to get a license. I had to spend long hours studying for written tests and every practical lesson was tough for me. However, when I got my own license, I felt my effort had paid off.
This is my whole story. What do you think about it? My advice: if you have a plan to learn to drive and get a license here, DO NOT take lessons in snowy place.
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