Monday, February 18, 2008

J-DMV part yay

Several weeks ago, I finally submitted all my paperwork and passed the written (computer touch-screen) test for my driver's license, and made an appointment for the practical exam.

Having been to the test center twice before and walked there successfully, I decided to again go early and walk to bump up my step count. I got to Oimachi station and started walking in the direction of the center.

And got turned around. Inevitably.

I flagged down a cab and asked him to take me there. I had about fifteen minutes before my appointment, and they state very clearly that if you miss your appointment, you cannot take the test. Except the driver had no idea where it was; he was about 100 years old and was looking through a book of maps at green lights while the people behind us honked and glared.

Finally we pulled up at 12:59. I RAN inside and got into the room just as they were calling my name; I was immediately shuffled into a holding pen with three other girls. Upon further inspection, it turned out that I had been put into a group of people who were all in a similar situation as me: transferring an overseas license to a J-license. Two girls were from China; the other girl was Japanese but had a U.S. driver's license.

I was to test second, and ride in the first car. They test you in pairs, so there are three people in the car: the tester in the passenger seat, the testee (teste seems like it should be the singular of testes, but it's testis) at the helm, and a rider (yours truly) in the backseat. This was lucky for me, because I got to check out the course before testing and think about tricky spots.

Unfortunately, the girl I was riding with blew it. Part of the course is a narrow road with lots of turns and some yellow-and-black hanging doodads (think beaded hippie curtain, DMV-style), and she hit some of the strands, sending the caution curtain swinging. She panicked, asking if she could back up, but proceeded to do so without checking her rearview. The tester let her have it! "Dame!" he barked. "You have to look behind you!" Nervously, she nodded and finished the course. As we pulled up, he began to tell her about her mistake. "You can't drive like that in China, can you? Well, you can't in Japan either. Today, I'm afraid, it's impossible for you to pass the test."

She disappeared.

It was my turn. I moved up to the driver's seat, strapped in, and adjusted the mirrors. At the tester's cue, I pulled onto the course. I drove smoothly and slowly, exaggeratedly checking my mirrors and blind spots frequently, as I had been instructed by mom, sister, and various forums.

Basically, it was a breeze.

There's no traffic on the course, and though some spots are certainly tight, you can go as slowly and carefully as you like, taking time to plan out your moves and navigate accordingly. I made one small mistake, overshooting the line of a stop sign just a tad. I thought I saw my checker making a little check mark on his check sheet, but when we arrived back at the holding shack, he didn't say anything.

The other girls took their turns and then we were ushered inside to await the results.

After a few minutes of waiting, another bureaucrat called our names and congratulated us. I had passed!

After about another hour of paperwork and waiting, I had my shiny new Japan Driver's License in hand. I'm so proud. Now I can terrorize the roads legally! Look out Tokyo!

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