In order for a license-holding American to get a Japanese drivers license it involves providing a pile of paperwork, taking a written test, taking a practical test, and retaking the practical test a few more times until you pass. (Foreigners do not have a very high first time pass rate on the practical exam). Only after you've jumped through these hoops, can you get your real Japanese drivers license.
We started the process back in September, to give ourselves enough time to do everything before our current international licenses expire. Little did we know, just to take the written test would take 3 tries.
The license center is an hour from us, but only 5 minutes from our supervisor's home. So, after a Bible study/staff meeting we went to the driving center with a pile of paperwork.
When we arrived, and found the right window, we were told that we need to make an appointment to take the written test. This didn't surprise us too much. We went in knowing this might be the case, but it's much easier to use our lame Japanese in person than over the phone.
What surprised us was when the lady told us we needed proof that Stephen had lived in the US at least 3 months after receiving his license. Apparently, she would accept my passport (issued after my license) as my proof, but Stephen needed something more.
Away we went, with an appointment, and a few more papers to find for the growing pile.
The day of our appointment, October 26, we got in the car early and drove the hour across town to the driving center. It wasn't until we were 5 minutes away that I realized ALL the papers I had gathered to qualify us for the test were sitting at home on the floor, organized in a nice little folder.
We went to the window, and explained to the woman that we forgot EVERYTHING at home, 1 hour away. Based on the look of terror and surprise, I don't think anyone has ever done that before.
We made another appointment for the next available time slots: November 21.
I should take a moment to mention that in addition to trying to beat the clock on our international licenses, we were also in a hurry to take the practical exam before it started snowing. Pushing the written test back to late November was not helping our cause.
November 21st, we awoke to find that it was snowing and had snowed the whole night before. That meant, the hour trip across town would now be an hour and a half. We got in the car and both made sure we had every single piece of paper needed. Yup, all there, and we were off like a herd of turtles.
At the driving center, we provided our paperwork, including 3 forms proving Stephen lived in the US, and were told to wait 2 hours while the processed everything. Rather than venture out into the snowy tundra, we opted to hang out at the driving center's coffee shop. (I suspect the /real/ reason they made us wait 2 hours was to get some more business for the coffee shop.)
The test itself was nothing too bad. 10 true/false questions, mostly common sense.
We passed and were able to make an appointment for next Wednesday to take the practical exam. We're praying there's no snow.
Oh, and of course, before we left the lady at the counter informed me that I too must find paperwork to prove that I've lived in the US since getting my most recent passport. Apparently she changed her mind and I'm being docked for not bringing my expired passport with me to Japan. Oh, well, such is life (in Japan)