About motorcycle licenses in Japan
In Japan, there are seven types of licenses for riding motorcycles.
- Motorized bicycle (license to ride a motorized bicycle of 50cc or less)
- Small limited standard motorcycle license (motorcycle license for 125cc or less)
- Small-sized limited standard motorcycle license/AT limited (motorcycle license for 125cc or less/motorcycle without clutch operation)
- Regular motorcycle license (for motorcycles of 400cc or less)
- Regular motorcycle license/AT limited (motorcycle license for 400cc or less/motorcycle without clutch operation)
- Large motorcycle license (no displacement limit)
- Large motorcycle license/AT limited (no displacement limitation/motorcycle without clutch operation)
Therefore, when a Japanese citizen rides a motorcycle, he or she needs to obtain a license according to the displacement.
Many countries around the world have similar licenses (licensing systems), but not all of them have the same license (licensing system) as Japan.
Therefore, if you are a foreign visitor to Japan who does not have Japanese nationality, you will need to obtain what is called an “international driver’s license" in order to ride a motorcycle in Japan.
However, the countries where you can drive with an international driver’s license are limited to the countries that are members of the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic.
And the international license does not have the same displacement restrictions.
Strictly speaking, there are restrictions on weight, but there is no problem when it comes to riding existing Japanese motorcycles.
In order to get a motorcycle license in Japan, you can either “attend a driving school until you get a regular or large motorcycle license," or “go to a driver’s license examination center, take the test, and pass it.
It takes about 15 to 30 days to attend a driving school.
If you go to the Driver’s License Examination Center to take the test, you can get your license that day if you pass it in one sitting.
There is a written test and a practical test, but they can be completed in one day, so if you can pass the test in one sitting, you can get your motorcycle license in one day.
Even though it is possible to get a motorcycle license in one day, it is very difficult and almost impossible to pass the test in one go.
It is recommended to get your motorcycle license steadily and systematically.
International Driving Permit (IDP) for motorcycles
An international driver’s license is a license required to drive a car or motorcycle in a foreign country other than Japan.
The official name is “International Driving Permit," sometimes abbreviated to “IDP".
By carrying your passport and international driver’s license together, you will be able to drive in countries that are members of the Geneva Conventions.
Foreign visitors to Japan must carry both their passport and international driver’s license with them when riding a motorcycle in Japan.
The expiration date of an international driver’s license is set at one year after it is obtained.
Therefore, if you plan to stay in another country for more than one year, you will need to obtain a new license each time.
The minimum requirement for obtaining an international driver’s license is that you must have a motorcycle license from your home country before you can obtain an international license.
You can obtain an international driver’s license by simply going through the procedures, but you will not be able to do so without a motorcycle license from your home country, so be sure to obtain one.
List of Geneva Convention member countries (as of December 2020)
- European states
- Iceland, Ireland, Albania, United Kingdom, Italy, Austria, Netherlands, Greece, Kyrgyzstan, Croatia, San Marino, Georgia, Sweden, Spain, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Norway, Vatican, Hungary Finland, France, Bulgaria, Belgium, Poland, Portugal, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Romania, Luxembourg, Russia
- African states
- Algeria, Uganda, Egypt, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Tunisia, Togo, Nigeria, Namibia, Niger, Burkina Faso, Benin, Botswana, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Rwanda, Lesotho, Central Africa, South Africa
- Middle and Near East
- United Arab Emirates, Israel, Cyprus, Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon
- Asian States
- India, Cambodia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bangladesh, Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Laos, South Korea
- U.S. states
- USA, Argentina, Ecuador, Canada, Cuba, Guatemala, Jamaica, Chile, Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, Paraguay, Barbados, Venezuela, Peru
- Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Fiji
- Hong Kong, Macao, French overseas territories (French Polynesia, etc.), Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, Cayman Islands, Isle of Man, Guernsey, Jersey, Gibraltar, United States overseas territories (Guam, Puerto Rico, etc.)
- Driver’s License Division of the police station
- testing centre for driving tests
- Driver’s License Center
- Japanese driver’s license (within the validity period)
- Proof of overseas travel (passport or plane ticket)
- One certified photograph (5 cm (length) x 4 cm (width), no hat, front view, upper third of body, no background, no frame, taken within 6 months prior to application)
- An old foreign driver’s license, if you have one.
Where you can get an international driver’s license in Japan
In Japan, you can obtain an international driver’s license at the following places.
Please make sure to check with the following facilities in each prefecture before you go.
When obtaining an international license, you will need the following.
Before coming to Japan, please make sure that you obtain an international driver’s license in your country so that you can ride your motorcycle in Japan.