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Last week I lauded my local driver licensing center for their efficient processing of renewal applications. In a sea of a couple hundred other individuals, I got my whole application finished--including an eye exam and photograph--in under thirty minutes.

Because I was a first-time renewal (初回更新者, shokai shoshinsha), I was also slated to take a 120 minute drivers' education refresher course as part of my renewal process.


If you are getting married to a Japanese national and already a lawfully registerd foreigner with mid-to-long term residence, you may find it advantageous to take a trip down to the local immigratin authorities and apply for a so-called "spouse visa."

Among other advantages, becoming an offically registered spouse removes any working restrictions that a traditional visa carries. In addition, it is easier apply for permenent residency (eien jumin-ken 永遠住民権) when you are offically married to a Japanese national.


A couple months ago, I received a friendly postcard in the mail from my local traffic safety association. Turns out it had been a whopping three years since I made it through the ridiculously nitpicky Japanese driving test, and that meant it was time to renew my license.

You can see a picture of what one of those postcards looks like here.

As I looked online to find out more about what this process would entail, I discovered that the Internet has a pretty good collection of stories on this subject already. My favorites come from TokyoWriter and Yuttaring. And last year Dan quietly added a detailed guide to help you through your own renewal here on AccessJ.

So, if you're curious about what a renewal in Japan entails, you have a lot of options to look at. But just as an addendum to the inexorable electronic record, here's my own story:


I am sure that all you foreigners have been waiting with bated breath for the day when you can finally get your very own Basic Resident Registry Card (jumin kihon daicho kaado 住民基本台帳カード). Because if there is one thing you need in your wallet, it is one extra card. Luckily, come July 9th, foreigners will finally be able to get their very own card.


At the end of last year, Dan told us about Kenmon, or checkpoints set up on major thoroughfares in Japan to help catch drunk drivers. He mentioned that drunk driving is a serious offence in Japan, and it is. Here's how serious:

Legally there are two classifications for driving under the influence of alcohol in Japan: 酒気帯び運転 (shuki obi unten) and the more serious 酒酔い運転 (sake yoi unten).


As we covered last week, getting rid of garbage in Japan is a well known hassle. While we already covered the fine art of getting rid of consumer electronics, it is a well known fact that not all electronics in Japan are created equal. Desktops and laptops are no exception to this rule.

You may have heard that Japanese cities are legendarily picky about garbage sorting and collection. Unfortunately, this pickiness extends all the way to consumer electronics, some of which are especially difficult and expensive to dispose of. Let's take a look at how to get rid of some of you old, broken appliances.


Kitakyushu City is holding a Japanese speech contest in June this year. Applications are still open until April 14, 2013. (Your written speech and application must arrive at the specified address by that date to qualify.)

Any non-native speaker of Japanese who is at least 15 years old and who hasn't previously won the annual competition is eligible to participate. The speeches can be on any topic and up to six minutes in length.

Full details are available at the Kitakyushu City official homepage.


Eye exams (視力検査, shiryoku kensa) in Japan are pretty similar to those of other countries. You get them as part of a general physical check-up at the doctor's office and when you renew your driver's license.

The only thing that caught me off guard about eye exams here is the difference in design. In the US, I was used to naming alphabet letters (a Snellen chart). However, sometimes I would be presented with a chart of "E"s pointing in different directions and asked to point my hand in the corresponding direction (an E chart).

That second test is similar to the eye exams used most commonly in Japan. However, instead of "E"s, the Japanese chart uses circles with little sections cut out of them.