Today I had the pleasure of renewing my japanese driver's license. Once you get your license, you have to renew it every third birthday afterwards (you have plus or minus a month from your bday). I received a random notification in the mail and all I could make out was the date March 15th (which I knew meant 1 month from my birthday, hence the license renewal). Did I mention that it was VERY stressful to get the license to begin with, let alone, having to go back to renew it and have everything be spoken and written in japanese with no translator.
We get to the building at 8:15 because we thought it started at 9 and in order to get a number we had to be there early. True and false, the part where they copy your old license onto the application for the new one starts at 9, being there early just meant being closer to the front of the line. Oh, the stations you had to go to to get to the room for the video/briefing were numbered (1-7)- HOLY CRAP! We got in line number 1, okay, why were all the japanese going to this machine and coming back with a barcoded ticket. Luckily, I knew how to say "kore wa nan desu ka" what is that in japanese. Turns out, we had to enter a pin twice and the barcoded ticket printed out (I am not sure what this code is for, but maybe if you get a ticket or in an accident you are expected to remember it- I hope neither of those happens to me). Why wasn't this number 1, I'm not sure.
Back to number 1, luckily in our same position. Get to the front, get an application, get our license copied onto it (after a 10 minute briefing all in very fast japanese of what the 8 stations were- great because I didn't understand anything. Get the form, go to fill it out, in BLACK ink only. First problem, what is the year in japanese, they don't use 2010 like the rest of the world, it is 22 because that's how long the emperor's been in power. ay ay ay. Then there were two blanks for the name, one for first, one for last, couldn't figure out which was which, two different japanese told us two different ways. They call each other by their last name for the most part (why do they bother having first names?). Then there were all these questions with difficult kanji, um yeah, if I looked clueless enough, I knew someone would feel bad and help me, didn't take too long.
Station 2, pay, get a stamp receipt on the application.
Station 3, get another little stamp (for what, not sure but seemed a complete waste of time to go to station 3 and maybe it was just to make you wait more and break the crowd up, seriously why was there a station 3?
Station 4, eye test, the letter c facing all different directions, answer in japanese. Took 3 seconds, not sure they even cared if you failed or not, just some weird formality.
Station 5, you get a number for which line in station 6 you will go to. Seriously, why was there a station 5?
Station 6, get your photo taken. Yes, I got to scan my barcoded ticket. Now I know it's linked to my license, please don't let me forget my code 0317, it's actually a highlighted number on my license, so if I forget it, I deserve it. You cannot smile in the photo, talk about bad license photos, come here (oh and there was a giant mirror outside, wish I brought hairspray and make up).
Station 7, get a number for which seat in the "video" room you will be sitting in for TWO HOURS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I got 23, my neighbor was 21, she had her daughter, so we luckily got to sit in the back (good thing because the chairs were attached to the desks and there was literally 6 inches in between, good thing japanese are so tiny. We had heard that throughout the entire two hours in the room a guard walked up and down the aisle and kept anyone from sleepign or doing anything else but paying attention. Luckily our guy was a gem. He put us in the back because of the little girl, but probably because he knew we'd understand nothing and our presence was just a complete formality.
Here's what we were given:
These five manuals are necessary for anyone to browse if they want to renew their license, I need a nap. The guy talked for about 20 minutes, then we had the video, which was only 30 minutes, but he left the room during it, which was a relief because I could barely keep my eyes open. The video was SO ANNOYING, they set it up like it was being narrated by an old japanese buddhist. He looked like he was 200 and sounded like a 200 year old that was constipated and going through puberty (NO LIE)! I just wanted to tell him to clear his throat. You throw that non-clear speaking voice in with the japanese I could barely understand and you have a video I couldn't understand at all.
Thankfully the japanese like cartoons and the manuals were full of some good ones, here's a few:
I think this means if you are not safe on the road you are going to be pulled into heaven.
I like the drunk car on the bottom right:
After the video, we had a ten minute break followed by 55 minutes of non-stop lecturing on the manuals. Good thing the cartoons were in there. What did I learn? Next time bring a book to hide in the manual so I can actually read something I understand.
Finally he's done talking and we go downstairs to get our new license. Wouldn't you know it, they are calling you in the order of which you were sitting in the video. Four hours later, I've got a new license and I'm still legal to drive in Japan.