After trolling several websites, I dragged my ass to Fuchu one Monday to start the process of getting my Japanese driver's license. I've been driving with an International Driving Permit the whole time I've lived here, and illegally for the last almost two years, as you're only supposed to use one for the first year.
First, I printed a map from their website. The site instructs you to take the North exit from Musashi Koganei station, and to hop on the #X bus to the Driving Test Center. The bus is supposed to take 20 minutes. On the map, it doesn't look far, so I decided to try to walk and headed off in what looked like the right direction. After 15-20 minutes of walking, it became apparent that I wasn't going the right way, as I didn't seem to be hitting any of the landmarks shown on the map. I decided that I must be heading the wrong way, and started to look out for a cab.
A few passed, but none that were unoccupied. I finally jumped on a bus back to the station and started again. After I figured out that the map was oriented from the SOUTH exit of the station (not the north), I started to walk again and soon found my way. It only took about 20 minutes to walk (the same as the bus) and the center is located across from a large graveyard.
It was 3:30. I made my way up to the counter for changing a foreign license to a Japanese one. The gruff looking man behind the counter ignored me for awhile, then informed me that they were closed. Their hours are until 3:00, even though the center is open until 5:00 and there's no mention of the limited hours on their or any other website that I found. I informed him of this. If I hadn't gotten lost, I would have been there before 3.
Nevertheless, another man said he would at least look over my documents for me. It was here that I found that my hopes were in vain regardless of my tardiness.
First of all, my alien card was expired. Actually, it wasn't expired. Clearly printed on it is a sentence telling me to renew it in something like 2012. However, my "landing permission" date has passed. I had updated my visa at immigration, and had brought my passport to prove it. I showed this to the man, but he said that I had to take my alien card to the city office and have it annotated with my new landing permission date.
Next, my California driver's license was too recently issued. Though I've been driving for 13 years, my wallet was stolen last year and I had to have my DL reissued. The reissued date, not the original date, is printed on my license. Therefore, I need to have a record from the DMV saying that I've had my license and have been in the USA for a total of at least three months since the license was first issued. The three months don't have to be consecutive, but since my license is recent, I do need a record from the DMV.
I had ordered this record, having read about it on the forums, and got ready to produce it. When I looked in the DMV envelope, however, I found it empty save for a receipt. I had somehow vacated the envelope and left the prized document at home.
Not that it would have helped at that point. But it was one more chink in my armor.
At least the translation of my US driver's license, done by JAF (the Japanese version of AAA), was in order.
I left the office, defeated.