I got my first car when I was 15 and it was damn near drivable by the time I got my license at 16. It was ugly and barely ran but I loved it. I owned 2 other cars after that and I loved them as well, not because they were flashy or fast (they weren’t) but because they were freedom. I’m an American and I don’t care about waving the flag around or bald eagles, cars are freedom. When I moved to Vietnam, after a month, I bought a motorbike. I owned 4 different bikes in my 6 years there, and yes, I loved them all. Freedom.
I’ve been living in Kobe, Japan, my wife’s hometown, for a little over a year now with every intention to settle down and make this home. Public transportation in Japan is great, it’s convenient, it’s easy, it’s reliable, but it’s not freedom. Sometimes you have to go somewhere far from a station, sometimes you need to bring home 3 4’x8′ sheets of plywood, sometimes trains aren’t practical.
I want to drive.
Problem: getting a license in Japan is notoriously difficult and expensive, even for locals, and I… barely speak any Japanese. I can make lots of excuses but you don’t want to hear them, it’s just how it is.
Most Japanese go to driving schools to learn all the in’s and out’s of the tests they will face, some schools even are allowed to administer the tests. My wife found a school that advertised a driving course in English with the test included for about $3000 (USD) it seemed reasonable so we started budgeting money to put towards that. When the time came to register, she called and they don’t offer the course in English anymore and haven’t for a year.
We looked some more and found a school that just offered driving instruction. 15 hours driving for about $900. When we showed up to register, they didn’t want to accept me because of my lack of Japanese. They grudgingly accepted once my wife convinced them that I could understand enough for driving directions and that when I have to do my first aid course and highway driving, my wife would attend (as a paid student).
I thought that because I can drive a manual, it would make more sense to get an MT license. My first time in the car with the instructor wasn’t great. Trying to cope with the correct order of doing things and shifting with my left hand, made my driving sub par. The instructor suggested that I try for AT instead and I concurred. They told us I wouldn’t be able to do my next round of driving until I passed my learners permit written test. More on that in the next post.