I will go soon to Okinawa, Japan, and am planning to rent a car there.

I have a French driving license. Since France and Japan did not sign the same international conventions, an international driving license delivered in France cannot be used in Japan. What I need is an official translation of my license by the JAF (Japanese Automobile Federation).

My questions:

  1. The JAF website lists branches all over Japan, but not overseas. It also states that it accepts mail applications only from Japanese addresses. Is there any way I can apply from outside Japan (Japanese embassy,...) before my trip? I am currently in Busan, South Korea.
  2. If I have to do the translation in Okinawa, what is people's experience with the process? How fast and easily should I expect to get the translation?
  • I don't have the answer, but a quick Google returns this Japan Experience web site, which offers online services. It lists experts in Paris among its team.
    – Giorgio
    Jan 19 '18 at 18:17
  • I saw that website earlier. Unfortunately, it does not solve my problem, as I am currently in South Korea. You may turn your comment as a partial answer.
    – Taladris
    Jan 21 '18 at 5:23
  • Would an international driving permit work for Japan? It is mostly seen as an acceptable 'translation' but I have not read the Japanese requirements.
    – Willeke
    Jan 21 '18 at 9:33
  • @Willeke: Alas, no. Japan and France didn't sign the same international conventions, so an international driving license made in France (or in Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Taiwan, Monaco or Slovenia) is invalid in Japan. For people holding a license from these countries, only a Japanese translation made by the JAF is accepted. See the first link in the OP. (I don't know what "mostly acceptable" means though).
    – Taladris
    Jan 22 '18 at 1:48
  • You should add your solution as an answer. :)
    – Mcload
    Feb 13 '18 at 16:14

Note: as requested in a comment, here is how I solved the problem in my particular case. It is a workaround that hopefully will help others.

France and South Korea have an agreement and a French driver license can be exchanged for a Korean driver license. All you need is to go to a regional driver's license examination office, do a medical checkup (eyesight) and (depending on the country where the driver license was issued) sit through a written examination. See the official website of the Korean road traffic authority for details (in particular, eligible countries, processing fee, and required documents). It took me about an hour to do the whole process. When leaving South Korea, you can return the Korean driver license in exchange of your original license (though, in my own case, when I went to get my French license back, the employee let me keep the Korean one too). I guess this is possible to do this in other countries.

Now, Japan and South follow the same international convention about international driver licenses, and an international driver license issued in South Korea is valid for one year in Japan. It can be issued in a few minutes in the regional driver's license examination office, or a police station with a traffic affairs service. It got mine in 15 minutes.

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