|Our "Noah" mini-van, seen from the living room window|
Though we went to the AAA in Tennessee last fall and obtained "International Driving Permits" that were good for a year, these became utterly worthless once we landed in Japan. Instead, we had to apply for a full Japan driver's license, a process that took approximately 6 weeks from initial application to the date of the road test. Stew and I went online and studied up on the licensing process. Kind friends took us on 3 separate excursions to the JAF (Japan Auto Federation): first to submit an application, then to return with a missing document, then back a third time to pay fees and take a written test. The written test was simple enough; we both passed, so we booked the date for our driving test.
|A "forbidden" photo of the driving course|
The driving test is the bane of an ex-pat's transition to Japan. Instructions are given entirely in Japanese. The cars are outfitted with seeming dozens of rear-view mirrors, all pointing this way and that. This myriad of mirrors exists for the examiner (versus the driver) whose job it is to catch the driver "out of position" at any point on the driving course: along the road, through the "crank" of simultaneous 90-degree turns, the narrow S-curve, and through intersections. Intersections are marked with white solid "stop" lines well before the actual intersection. In the middle of the intersection lay triangles or other shapes painted on the road, which the driver must proceed past/along/through in a precise fashion. Suffice it to say that the driving test involves a laundry list of anal-retentive driving protocol: one enormously intimidating challenge.
Stew and I were the last of 18-20 people to test that day. We spent the morning in a little booth, watching all of the other drivers attempt the test. Anticipation built as we watched others make their way through the driving course, and each time one returned to the booth, we craned our necks to see whether that driver earned a "pass" or the more frequent "fail" slip.
|Lissa's is on top; Stew's on the bottom.|
Thanks be to God, we are "mobile" now because one of us passed. This obviously boosts our morale, giving us the ability to go where we want to, when we want to, without begging rides, paying expensive train fare, or enduring motion sickness-inducing public bus rides. There was only one remaining hiccup to resolve at the end of the day.
|Had we mentioned that it's been cold here?|
The van's battery was rather "dead" and in need of recuscitation before we could venture out on a maiden voyage.... Ah well, after 3 months of sitting still in an outdoor parking spot, what could we expect!