How Old Do You Have To Be To Drive In Japan?

All over the world, there are different rules surrounding driving a vehicle.

The main rule that differs from country to country is the age at which you are allowed to drive. In the United Kingdom, you can learn to drive a car from your 17th birthday.

How Far Is Tokyo to Kyoto

Whereas in some American States, you can apply for your learner’s permit from as young as 14. 

As there are such great differences between the age of driving in these two Western countries, you are probably wondering how much the age of driving will differ between Western and Eastern countries.

Surprisingly, the difference isn’t actually that great. So, how old do you have to be to drive in Japan?

In this guide, we’ll be taking a look at how old you have to be to drive in Japan, including the legal age for driving a car, a motorcycle, and larger vehicles. So, if you want to find out more, keep on reading. 

How Old Do You Have to Be to Drive a Car in Japan?

So, first things first, how old do you have to be to drive a car in Japan? If you are interested in driving a vehicle in Japan, then the vehicle that you most likely want to drive is a car.

Unlike some American States, the age at which you are legally old enough to drive is older. Due to this, you are not allowed to drive a car in Japan until the age of 18

For those who live in Western countries, 18 might seem like quite an old age to drive. But, if you look at countries across the world, 18 is fairly standard everywhere except Western countries.

In Honduras, Costa Rica, Tunisia, Mozambique, and the UAE (United Arab Emirates) you must be 18 to drive a vehicle. In some countries, such as Niger, you have to be even older.

So, while 18 might seem like quite an old age to learn to drive, in East Asia this is the standard age at which teenagers are able to learn to drive a car. But does this differ for motorcycles? Let’s find out. 

How Old Do You Have to Be to Drive a Motorcycle in Japan?

As is the case in many countries, the legal age for driving a motorcycle in Japan is lower than the legal age for driving a car.

Most countries include this in their driving laws because motorcycles are considered easier to drive, and they are often seen as a stepping stone between not being able to drive, and driving a car. 

In Japan, you can obtain a driver’s license before the age of 18. That is because you can apply for your motorcycle license from the age of 16. Once you have learned to drive a motorcycle, you can then drive this around Japan.

Most people then choose to apply for their car driver’s license once they reach the age of 18. However, some people do choose to stick with a motorcycle, and do not bother applying for their car license.

However, cars and motorcycles are not the only types of vehicle that you might drive. There are also larger vehicles (including lorries and trucks) which would require a large vehicle license.

So, let’s find out how old you have to be to drive a large vehicle in Japan. 

How Old Do You Have to Be to Drive Large Vehicles in Japan?

As you would expect, the legal age for driving a large vehicle in Japan is older than the legal age for driving a motorcycle for a car. There are two categories of larger vehicles that you might drive in Japan.

They are medium-sized motor vehicles and large-sized motor vehicles. The legal age for driving both is different, so let’s take a look at how old you need to be. 

How Far Is Tokyo to Kyoto

The legal age for driving a medium-sized motor vehicle in Japan is 20. A medium-sized motor vehicle would be a vehicle that holds between 11 and 29 people, or a vehicle which weighs between 7,500 and 11,000 kg.

In contrast, a large-sized motor vehicle in Japan is one that carries 30 or more people, or a vehicle that weighs more than 11,000 kg. In order to drive a large-sized motor vehicle in Japan you must be 21.

These legal ages apply to anybody who wants to drive in Japan. However, there are rules that dictate whether, or not, residents from outside of Japan can drive on Japanese roads. Let’s take a look at what they are. 

Can an American Drive in Japan?

Yes, Americans can drive in Japan. However, Americans cannot drive in Japan on a U.S. driver’s license.

If you do this, then you could receive penalties, including a fine, the possibility of arrest, and even the risk of deportation. So, if you want to drive in Japan, it is important that you go down the correct routes. 

If you are visiting Japan for a short period, then you can apply for an ‘International Driving Permit’. This allows you to drive in Japan for a short period, without the risk of fines.

However, if you plan on staying in Japan for a long time, then an international driving permit will not be good enough.

Instead, you will have to convert your U.S. driver’s license to a Japanese license, or obtain a Japanese license by retaking your test. 

So, yes, an American can drive in Japan. However, it is very crucial that you pay close attention to the rules. When you first visit Japan, then you will be able to drive on an International Driving Permit.

However, if you plan to stay in Japan for any length of time, you will need to obtain a Japanese driving license to avoid punishment, and abide by the rules. 

Summary

In short, the legal age to drive a car in Japan is 18. So, you will not be able to obtain your learner’s permit until you reach this age. However, you can learn to drive a motorcycle in Japan from the age of 16.

This is why lots of people choose to drive a motorcycle before they drive a car, as it allows them to get on the road at a younger age. 

Aura Ruggeri
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