This week I renewed my Japanese driver's license. It is a bit more of a process than in Madison, SD! The last time I renewed my license in Madison it took about 10 or 15 minutes. On Tuesday, here in Japan, it took me 2 hours-and that was the short version!
In Japan there are different levels of driver's licenses. The first one you get is the 'green' license and lasts for two years. Next you get a 'blue' license which lasts for three years. In order to renew your license from green to blue you have to sit through a two hour lecture. I did this when living in Kyoto. Apparently, Kyoto has a high number of motorcycles and scooters. The lecturer must have told us every five minutes that it is our responsibility as car drivers to watch out for motorcycles and scooters, be careful of motorcycles and scooters, pay attention to motorcycles and scooters. You get the idea. (The license itself is actually just white but has a colored line highlighting the expiration/renewal date.)
This is my sister pointing out the interesting English on the back of my car.
If you don't have an accident or speeding ticket in the three years then you get to get a gold license! Renewing from blue to gold is only a 30 minute lecture. I guess Osaka is not as worried about motorcycles and scooters. I did not hear one time to watch out for them. Part of our lecture was taken up by the man explaining some recent changes in the laws, which pretty much don't affect me. I learned that after about 70 years old no matter what color license you have you have to sit through a 3 hour lecture since old people are involved in the most accidents. And, the most accidents in Osaka are rear-enders. We saw a video about this.
Since I have no tickets and have had no accidents, I now have a gold license! They call the person who has a gold license a "safety driver." I found out at the end of our lecture that there is a special card for safety drivers that gives us discounts at various hotels and amusement parks around Japan.
So, I am now a 'safety driver!'