Tokyo Blond Is Not Porn

Tokyo Blond is not a porn blog, about hair or even, as one pithy friend remarked, a micro beer or late 1980s glam metal band ("Dude, I just saw Skid Row and Tokyo Blond opened and played a killer set").

The purpose of this blog is to chronicle my experiences in Tokyo - poignantly, visually, irreverently - for fun.

Anybody can tag along...that is if I like you. This blog will endeavor to be entertaining and honest and frequent enough to keep those following interested including me.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Driver's Ed Part 1

Actually this post should be entitled,  The Quest, Adventures in Bureaucracy.  Getting a drivers license in Japan is like applying for citizenship in Switzerland - a lot of red tape and no smiling. There are forms to legitimize other forms and of course it can't all be done at the same time.   It's rumored they fail Americans on principle alone. Based on statistics it seems the rumors are true.  In Tokyo only 35% of Americans pass the drivers test the first time. One expat told me it took them six attempts.  Six!  You can actually hire a service here to help you get one.

Just going to the U.S. Embassy site will make you think twice about driving in Japan.

But why get one at all if the public transportation system is so good in Japan you don't need a car?  My thoughts exactly.  There's really no reason to own a car in Tokyo.  Owning a car here is like owning a vacation home.  It sounds great.  You imagine all the wonderful times you'll spend in it.  The road trips, the picnics by the sea, trips to Kyoto.  But how often do you really use it?  In the long run you end up spending a lot of money but not a lot of time and ultimately sell it for less than you bought it for when it seemed so exotic.  It's as bad as owning a boat, which we've already tried.  You know what B.O.A.T. stands for don't you?  Break Out Another Thousand.

Only the rich own cars here, which is probably why you see more Ferraris, Porsches, Maseratis and my personal favorite, Aston Martins, along with the a deluge of Toyotas and Nissans.  They won't even sell you a car if you don't have a parking space, which goes for $500+ a month,  and you have to get it smog tested not once, but twice a year. Seriously. Plus insurance, plus finding a parking space is harder than finding Bin Laden, plus, plus, plus.  You get the picture.

Even though Russell grew up in New Jersey, he acts like a true Californian.  Californians can't live without their cars, global warming be damned, why do you think Prius was invented?  He thinks we should own a car for the freedom.  Wouldn't it be nice to be able to take Ranger and drive to the country for a few hours so he can run?  Of course it would but the cost of freedom ain't cheap.  But renting a car here is.  You can rent a car by the hour here.  For roughly $75 you can get an economy car for six hours - which translates to a trip to Ikea or Costco and lunch, or in our particular case, a way to take Ranger the  Wonder dog to the Western style kennel for about a third of the price it would cost for a dog delivery service.  All this is a long way of explaining why he's getting a drivers license.

It's a two parter:

Part one consists of:

1) Filling out paper work downloaded from the website, which is not in English, which is so helpful.
2) Going to the DMV with every legal document you have proving who you are (alien registration card, passport, drivers license).  The difference between the Japanese DMV and the American equivalent is people are actually working at the Japanese version.  In America there are generally three to six government workers standing around bullshitting and drinking coffee while hundreds wait in line for assistance.  It's the American way.
3.) Going to the Japanese Automotive Federation (JAF), which seemingly is the Japanese version of The Automobile Club or AAA, to get your foreign drivers license translated officially.  Russell's assistant translated it but apparently that's not official enough.  Like I said they require forms to legitimize other forms.  Conceivably you could go here first if you filled out the DMV paperwork properly, a big if, and knew this was required in the first place.
4)Go back to the Japanese DMV before their less than convenient closing hours, they're open from 8-3 (closed for lunch between 11-1), to ensure the paperwork has been filled out and legitimized properly.
5)Take the eye exam which is the same as the U.S.
6)Take the written test which consists of ten logical questions.  I was very anxious about this part.  In America there is a twenty-five page booklet with rules and regulations for driving on U.S. roads that must be memorized before you take the written test.  I went to numerous windows to ask for an English version.  They don't have one.  I was frantic.  The DMV man assured us not to worry.  I shouldn't have.  The test was ten questions and you have to get seven correct.  The questions are true or false.  A three year old Japanese kid could pass it, even an American can pass it.

Some sample questions:

     If you're driving and you suddenly realize you're speeding the correct thing to do is immediately step
     on the brakes hard.   True or false?


      Only the passengers need to wear seat belts; not the driver.  True or false?

7)Make an appointment to take the driving test

Ok, so maybe I was a little over anxious about the written test.  I should really be saving all my anxiety for the drivers test.  I told Russell he should wear a suit, present his business card and over-exaggerate every blind spot check, mirror check, blinker, etc.  He's not sweating it.  But I am.

To be continued.....

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