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I received a Japanese driver's license while living in Japan (conversion of my US license) but my US license has since expired. I would like to drive some while traveling in the future. I am now living in Germany and no longer have a Japanese visa. Is anyone familiar with the process of applying for a translation at Japanese consulates while not being Japanese? Is this possible?

Edit: As a follow up, the Japanese embassy in Germany will translate a Japanese license into German and give an official document. You can then take this to the driver's license office in the area you live and have your valid Japanese license converted to a German license. The German driver's license office will hold your Japanese license. If you wish to retrieve your Japanese license you must give your German license back. I successfully completed this process and know others who have as well in the NRW state of Germany. For expats in Germany with a Japanese license, this exchange may be advisable as the German license lasts for 15 years.

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    Isnt an international drivers license simply a booklet o translations in various languages? – Andra Mar 19 '14 at 21:37
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    Yes that is what I meant. I need the gray book that has various translations for the license I currently hold. The license is entirely in Japanese. – kerblogglobel Mar 21 '14 at 8:35
  • @kerblogglobel Thanks for coming back! You should post your follow-up as an answer to your own question and even ‘accept’ it. – Gala Mar 12 '15 at 8:28
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You don't need to go to the Japanese consulate, this document specifies who is allowed to translate your driving license:

Die deutschsprachigen Übersetzungen dürfen folgende Stellen fertigen:

  • deutsche Automobilclubs,
  • gerichtlich bestellte und allgemein vereidigte Dolmetscher und Übersetzer,
  • deutsche diplomatische Vertretungen,
  • Kapitäne deutscher Seeschiffe,
  • international anerkannte Automobilclubs des Ausstellungsstaates des Führerscheins,
  • amtliche Stellen des Ausstellungsstaates des Führerscheines.

The second of those means certified translaters under oath. You should be able to find one of those without too much of a hassle.

The above document also states that you can drive with an international driving license, so you could get one of those instead. Also note that if you take permanent residency in Germany (more than 12 months), you will have to get a German driving license.

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    the first point "deutsche Automobilclubs" should be even easier. Wouldn't that mean ADAC can do it for you? – Tim Seguine Mar 19 '14 at 21:25
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    I'd say they can theoretically do it, but I'm not sure if they actually do it. I couldn't find any information about that on their website: adac.de/infotestrat/ratgeber-verkehr/fuehrerschein/… – drat Mar 20 '14 at 7:16
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    Yes, what I was asking is how to get an international driver's license for a Japanese license while in Germany. Sorry for the confusion, the international driving license is an official form of translation. I am aware of how to obtain one in the US and in Japan. But I am trying to figure out how to get one for a language that isn't German while in Germany. – kerblogglobel Mar 21 '14 at 8:34
  • Here is a webpage from a local antenna of the ADAC providing more specific info. I don't know if it is valid nationwide but it does clearly imply you can get a translation for a foreign license, there is even a surcharge if it is from outside the EU or in a language written with another script than the latin alphabet! – Gala Mar 11 '15 at 9:53
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This is going to be difficult. From the 1968 IDP convention as summarized by Wikipedia:

an international driving licence shall only be issued by the Contracting Party in whose territory the holder has his normal residence and that issued the domestic driving licence or that recognised the driving licence issued by another Contracting Party;

The bolded bit there means the only body that can issue an IDP for a Japanese driver's license is the Japanese "Contracting Party" that issued your license in the first place, namely the Japanese police. Knowing how inflexible Japanese bureaucracy is, it will likely be difficult to impossible to get this issued overseas; my wife (who has a Japanese license) looked into this but gave up and got it in person when visiting Japan instead.

Now there is an escape clause there, "...recognised the driving licence issued by another Contracting Party". Unfortunately for you, while Germany accepts the IDP, it's not actually a signatory to the convention and thus not a "Contracting Party". This means you would have to convince the relevant German authority police that your Japanese license is valid and that they should issue you an IDP for it, which sounds like a pretty uphill fight to me.

Your path of least resistance is probably going to be to get a German driver's license and then get an IDP for that instead? Per table 2.1 in this doc, neither theory nor practical test is required to convert a Japanese license, it's just a matter of paperwork.

  • Are you sure about all this? The details are far from clear for me but it seems you can also get an IDP under the 1949 convention. Is it a different document? I also know the ADAC does issue IDPs, even for foreign licenses, which seems to contradict the convention you mentioned. So what's the basis for that and the legal value of those IDPs? Also, is it possible to exchange a Japanese license that was itself already obtained by an exchange? Finally, I think that in Germany the police does not take care of driving licenses, you need to contact some unrelated agency (‘Führerscheinbehörde’). – Gala Mar 11 '15 at 9:57
  • No, I'm not sure! This is a pretty unusual case. If ADAC does issue IDPs for foreign licenses, then problem solved, but as far as I can tell they only translate licenses, which isn't quite the same thing (= valid in Germany, not necessarily anywhere else). Re: the last point though, licenses don't say anywhere if they're 'converted' or not, so there's nothing stopping you from converting multiple times — my wife's onto her third already. – jpatokal Mar 11 '15 at 10:28
  • Mine does (through some codes). I also know some countries do not exchange converted licenses when they don't themselves recognize the licenses from the country that originally issued the license (although I imagine that if there is nothing on Japanese licenses that indicates they were obtained through an exchange, you could probably get away with doing it anyway). – Gala Mar 11 '15 at 10:49
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The ADAC solution is indeed valid, but you have to be aware that you cannot just walk into their office and get it on the spot. It takes for weeks for a license in a non-latin character language.

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