Trying to obtain a legal driver's license in Japan is absolute carnage.
The 57 point process is neither easy or quick, and begins long before new teachers arrive in Japan. The moment our positions are secured, we are asked to submit paperwork and copies of current licenses to our school secretary, so that as early as January (it was May for me), the conversion of paperwork and legal documents for the licensing process can begin.
Although I know how the story ends, my flair for the dramatic is now kicking in. Therefore I have to say that this story is so awful (which isn't far from the truth), that I can only bear to tell it to you in multiple parts...
On day one, myself and 4 of my coworkers headed down to the driver's licensing station, which is one hour from where we live, to turn in our paper work and take the written and vision tests that are required before we have to take the actual road test. I drove my own car with my pal Todd, and my other friends, Justin, Kumi, and Karianne drove in the car ahead. We made it on time, no problem.
The Japanese are very thorough about EVERYTHING, and Kumi, being Japanese/Venezuelan with three passports had issues from the start with her paperwork. We were told at first that Kumi would likely not make it through the paperwork process, but, being wrapped up in our own talk, we just gave an 'awww' and went on our way. When my turn at the window came, I was feeling good and ready to go. I mean, it's just confirming paperwork, right?
It turns out that when I was hired, in May, and sent a copy of my Iowa driver's license to the school, in May, they neglected to tell me that if I were to renew my Iowa driver's license before coming to Japan, which I did when I was home in June, that I would need to submit new copies of my new license. Since I didn't, the months of paperwork that had started in May, were invalid, since the license I showed (new Iowa driver's license, obtained in June) did not match the copy they had.
Wendy was done.
It didn't make me feel better that Kumi made it through just fine, no issues. I was the only one of the four who was told I couldn't get my Japanese license.
Luckily, by the good graces of other gaijin (foreigners), I was able to work with the HR lady to, that day, obtain the necessary translations of my current license, and made it back to the center on time, barely, to take my test. My friends, having passed the test three hours earlier, while I was making a wild goose chase around town, had left hours before I did, leaving me alone in the cold, smelly Japanese office that is the driver's license station. I was able to take the written test, and passed, but barely.
Needless to say, many tears were shed that day.