23 April, 2012

A New Japanese Driver's Licence

Renewing my driver's licence today didn't seem as overwhelming as last time. Perhaps my Japanese is slightly better, perhaps because I've done it before at the same centre, perhaps because I didn't have a 2 year old with me! I did still ask a friend to come with me to help with the Japanese. I think I would have gotten in a much bigger tangle if she hadn't.

The process is rather dizzying, a bit like an obstacle course.

First is the registration desk, where they copy your current licence and give you a paper with it on, to make any necessary changes.
Then you go to window number 1 to pay for it (before you've jumped through all the hoops!).
Then station 2 which is the very short eye test.
I then had to choose a pin number, not sure why, but I did use it a couple of times during the process.
Then station 3 where they put a hole in your current licence and give you another piece of paper. They wanted to know how to pronounce my name here.
I think station 4 was where they took my terrible photo. I used the pin number here.
Then my memory starts to get a bit fuzzy. There were so many stations! Stations 5-8 I cannot remember what they were for . . . At station 8 they told me to go to lecture room 26.
Station 9 was an hour lecture. It would have been a half-an-hour lecture except that I got a ticket four years ago for failing to come to a complete stop before crossing railway tracks. A rule I had not known about before then. I have to say that an hour lecture in Japanese was a bit lost on me (they didn't even show a video). I did learn that if I serve someone too much alcohol and they go and have an accident, I can be called an accomplice! I learned that they are concerned about drivers over 70 years of age and have changed regulations on that. I also learned that I have to ride my bike on the road if there isn't a bike sign on the footpath (US=sidewalk). But aside from that I'm still a bit clueless.

I think that the last place was station 10, it was where you waited for your number to be called (mine was 10,333!!) and then you had to stick your new licence in a machine, enter your pin number and check a couple of extra details.

The whole thing took only two hours. I was prepared for it to take much longer than this. In fact the driving to and from took almost as much time as the process itself.

So, I'm licensed to drive for another five years in Japan. Phew. But to be honest, driving scares me a bit here. It seems to me the possibility of hitting someone in Japan is just higher. You drive slower in Japan, but there are so many more obstacles to avoid. The roads are skinner, there are more people walking, riding bikes (without helmets), and riding two-wheeled scooters. On many roads there are no footpaths, so everyone uses the road, including children kicking balls. Where there is no footpath, even the power and light poles are on the road, so you need to avoid them. Our road has bins that sit on the road too, they are fine unless you also have a pedestrian or a bike on the road with you, or someone is coming the other way. It can be challenging driving in Japan.

I'm just thankful I don't live in snow-country any more. Up there you have icy roads in winter and snow piled along the sides of roads that reduces visibility severely! But still, if you pray, pray for protection of missionaries as they make their way around every day. It isn't something we usually think to ask for prayer for, but the implications of hurting someone when I am behind the wheel makes me shudder.

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