Yesterday, Wednesday 27th of July, 2016, my husband and I went for a practical driving test at Fuchu Drivers’s License Center (they use American spelling here). Malaysian drivers are allowed to use international driving licence for only up to one year in Japan and after that we need to have a Japanese driving licence if we want to drive in this country. We arrived in Japan on the 26th of July, 2015, therefore we definitely cannot use the international licence anymore. We do not own a car at the moment, but even if we want to rent a car, we still need to have a valid driving licence.
The testing place is 24 km away from our house. It takes nearly one and a half hours to reach there because we need to change train at Shinjuku and then take a bus from Mushashi-koganei station to the centre.We left home before 6 a.m. to avoid the morning peak hours and to ensure ample time to be there before 8:30 a.m.. I was anxious the night before the test and could not really sleep. I prepared breakfast at 5 a.m. and even the kids woke up early to have breakfast with us.
When we changed train from Shinjuku-sanchome station and walked to Shinjuku station to take the Chuo line, it was rather confusing. There were rapid and local trains and we decided to be on the safe side and took the local train which stopped at all stations. The train was not too crowded and we could still find seats. We thought we could go direct to Musashi-koganei but the train that we took had a final stop at Mitaka. We had to go to another platform to find the train to go to Musashi-koganei. It turned out that we had made a mistake. The rapid train is the one that goes to Musashi-koganei and the local train only goes up to Mitaka. On the rapid train, there were many people, so we had to stand. From Musashi-koganei we took a cab to go to the test centre because taking a bus would be too confusing, we might get off at the wrong stop. The cab cost us 1,000 yen.
We reached Fuchu Drivers’ License Center at around 7:40. Before we went for the test, we had done a lot of research on the internet. We read tips and watched videos on Youtube. We had the general ideas on what to do but still I could not help feeling nervous especially because of my limited Japanese language ability. One of the tips we read suggested that we arrived early at the centre so that we could take a walk at the driving course (the test site). When we arrived, we saw a long queue of Japanese but only one other foreigner. We tried to take a peek at the driving course, but an officer said something to us in Japanese. We didn’t really understand what he said, but we could assume that he was telling us off, that the place was out of bound.
By 8 a.m., the door was opened. We went straight to the 3rd floor, counter 31 meant for matters relating to conversion of foreign driving licence. We joined the queue and when our turns came, submitted the envelope we brought with us. The envelope contained the translation of our Malaysian driving licence, juminhyo (a proof of address issued by the ward office), copies of our residence card and driving licence and application form which had been processed by Samezu Driving Test Centre one month earlier. (We went to Samezu back in June to do the first part of the application and to take a written test and vision test. The written test contained only 10 questions. We had to do it on a computer. Surprisingly, the questions were in Malay, rather than English. Then they gave the practical driving test for 27th of July.) The officer checked our documents and told us to have a seat and wait.
At 9 o’clock an officer came and gave a short briefing in Japanese. I thought we were ready to be tested, but no, we had to wait for some more. 2 more officers came. Officer 1 called out names of people and asked them to form a line in the order that he had told them. Those were people who were going to be tested by him. Then Officer 2 called out more names. I was no 4 and my husband was number 5 to be tested by this Officer. We also formed a line. Then he told us to follow him to go to another briefing room downstairs.
We followed him, told to sit in two rows of chairs, according to our numbers and then listened for another lecture. All these talks were in Japanese, I could probably understand about 5% of it, that’s how poor my Japanese is. We were told to turn off our phones. The talk ended at 9:30 a.m. and we were told to go outside.
This is already too long, so I’ll continue this tomorrow.