What to do if You're in a Car Accident in Japan - Part 2

Editor's note: I'd like to again introduce David for this week's guest post, part 2 of "What to do if You're in a Car Accident in Japan," a continuation from two weeks ago.


A few weeks had passed since the accident. The insurance company was handling everything related to damages and cost for the other party and I naively thought that everything was dealt with. Until I got this paper in the mail from the police department (translation is mine):

Before I continue with that story, let’s rewind a couple of weeks.

I received a rather confusing form from the insurance company in the mail. I read it over but couldn’t make heads or tails of what the form was actually about or what to do with it. I put the letter aside with the intent of asking one of my co-workers what to do with it, but never actually got around to it. Eventually, the insurance company called and asked if I had received the form. Then they asked if I knew how to fill it out and I told them, “no.” So they walked me through it (it was easy if you knew what you were doing…). The form was basically me giving the insurance company permission to pay the other party. Oh Japan and their obsession with paperwork...

That is aside the point. So I opened up the pamphlet I had received from the police department only to find this:

What does this mean? They were informing me that I was required to take a beginner’s driving class because I had been given five infraction points for the accident (will go into more detail about this in the next post). I only had a month in which to take it or else…. (also will talk about this in the next post)

Now, some of you might be wondering why I would have to take a beginner’s driving class despite the fact I have had a driver’s license for over 13 years. Well, if you remember back to when you got your Japanese license, there’s a requirement that says you need to have your license for 90 days in your home country before coming to Japan.

What they don’t mention is that if your license also doesn’t show you’ve had it for longer than a year then you are considered a beginner driver in Japan. Since I had renewed my license 10 months before coming to Japan and U.S. licenses typically don’t have the issue date of your very first license on them, I didn't have documentation that showed I had driven for over a year. You can use expired licenses as proof, but I stupidly didn’t bring them with me and wasn't able to locate them back in the US.

At first I thought, it’s no big deal. This beginning class is probably only a couple of hours and I could take it in the evening. So I let time go by until a week and a half before the deadline I started calling various locations printed on the back of the pamphlet.

And then.

I found out the beginner’s class was eight hours long and most places only offered it once a week on a weekday (meaning I would have to take leave from work). On top of that, the only place nearby that offered the class was on a day that also happened to be my busiest day teaching classes… Luckily, I was able to rearrange classes with my teachers but it was an inconvenience. Oh yeah, and did I mention it cost 16,000 yen.

(Note: If you don’t speak Japanese, you should have someone who does call the phone number on the front page and see if they have classes in English and if they don’t, find out what you need to do. I called our prefecture's Department of Licensing at the police headquarters and they said beginner English classes aren't offered and in that case the person taking the class must bring along someone to act as a translator. However, this likely varies by location around Japan.)

I called a local driving school where the class was offered and signed up. I was supposed to show up at 9:45am the day of with my pamphlet, money and writing utensils. After getting over my initial annoyance, I thought this might not be too bad and I would get a day off of work, but that didn’t last very long once the class started...

To be continued...

My last post on this series will be about this "fun" class and some useful tips and facts I was able to take away from it.

You may also want to read: What to do if You're in a Car Accident in Japan - Part 1

Have you had a similar experience? Please share it with us in the comments!


David Thompson is currently in his fifth and final year on the JET Program, teaching English at a technical high school. When he's not busy trying to convince teenage boys to pay attention in class, he helps coach baseball at the school (officially), helps Ashley with research and checking Japanese for accuracy, and takes care of baby Ai-chan. He's currently looking for a new, full-time career opportunity in Japan starting in August/September, particularly if it involves working with youth and/or non-profit organizations. You can check out his credentials and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I had a car accident in Japan. It happened in during the year when foreigners were just being required to obtain a Japanese driver's license. My international driving permit had not expired, but the date listed was more than a year since I had returned back to Japan. (I had been on the JET Program for 3 years then returned privately to teach). Long story short, I had to spend long hours at the police station giving statements that said I wasn't aware that the year requirement started when I stepped foot in Japan, and not on my international perrmit as I had believed.(All in Japanese) The last statement was given in Japanese to the district proscecutor. This was a very stressful situation that I wish on no one.

My insurance agent was great and my car was fixed. And on my 3rd attempt, I passed the driving test.

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