Monday, February 08, 2010

Indian Driving License in Japan

Q - Is an International Driving License (IDL) issued in India, valid in Japan?

A - Technically, maybe. Practically, no.

For the past one year, I have been using the IDL issued by RTO Delhi because Japan is clearly listed among the countries where the document is supposed to be valid, as per bilateral agreements. Since the document is valid only for one year, I went last week to the Unten-Menkyo (Driving Licence) office at Mito, to get it `converted`, as per the local requirements.

As per the rules, you are required to submit, along with the application form -
  1. Driving License
  2. International Driving License
  3. Japanese translation of DL (either by Japan Automobile Federation or by the Indian Embassy)
  4. Alien Registration Card
  5. Photos (2)
  6. Processing Stamp-fees (Yen 2400)
My driving license had been issued by RTO (Sarai Kale Khan, Delhi, 1994), and my IDL (Black booklet, RTO Delhi, valid till 22 Feb. 2010) was issued by the same office in March 2009.  When I contacted the Indian Embassy for the translation they said, `You bring a translation and we`ll attest the document`.  Sure enough, when I submitted my documents on 5 Feb. 2010, they examined the originals, found it in order, and attested the translation (Charge - Yen 1400).

The next day, regrettably, my application was rejected. What was surprising, however, by the reasons given by the officer at Mito for doing so -
  1. The International Driving License issued in Delhi does not conform to the `Geneva` format. Hence it is not recognized in Japan;
  2. The Delhi driving license does not specify the date of issue.
  3. The Delhi driving license is not in a format recognized by Japanese authorities.
The IDL issued by Government of India clearly specifies that the document is valid in Japan. If the Japanese authorities do not share this understanding you may have a situation where Indian citizens using Indian IDL`s are being penalized or harassed for using what they think is a valid document.

I had conveyed this concern by email to the Indian Embassy in Tokyo (,,, but there has been no acknowledgment or response from their side. I guess they are all too busy finalizing the FTAs to bother about such mundane issues.

So if you're planning to get an Indian driving license "converted" in Japan, please make sure it is a new one.  And don`t expect any help from the Indian Embassy in Tokyo.


Pat said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. Certainly helpful!

Rishi Kaul said...


Thanks a lot for the update. We are in similar quandary. My wife and I both both live out here in the sticks (north of japan, Miyagi). We were thinking of purchasing a car but need a licence for that. We were both thinking of getting an international Licence from Delhi but after reading your blog, I wonder if it will be any good? Do you reckon we could still drive on the road with the international licence or should we just give the local driving test instead?

Dinakarr said...

Hi Rishi,
The safest thing to do is to check with the Miyagi Unten-menkyou office before you hit the road.
In any case the IL is valid only for one year. So if you're planning to stay in Japan for a longer period, its better to start with the local DL test immediately.

Unknown said...

Same thing happened with me 7days ago. Indian system is completely corrupted. As you did I did same but embassy officials said hahahahaha if you want to know anything beyond this matter,you can ask like visa, lost of passport, or any other help regarding passport and visa only. Very shameful act of government of India.

Dinakarr said...

Well, what can i say...
I had hoped that things would have changed for the better after five years, but I guess the same lackadaisical attitude continues at the Indian Embassy in Tokyo. Government departments continue to work in silo's while the citizens suffer :(

Shashank said...

Hello Dinakarr, it's been 5 years, I was wondering if you received any updates on this?
I got an IDL issued from Lucknow and tried to book a rental car through Nippon and facing the same challenge. Tried contacting the embassy but no answer(email or telephone).

Dinakarr said...

Hi Shashank,
I am now back in India but the feedback i receive from friends in Japan indicates that the situation has not changed much. So please do not count on getting a response from the Indian Embassy in Tokyo. We never heard from them during the "Triple Disaster" in 2011 so i would be surprised if they responded to mundane (for them) things like driving licenses.
My suggestion is that if you plan to stay for longer than a year in Japan, and if the public-transport system is not a viable option for you, it makes sense to invest your time & money for a DL in Japan.