Almost there!

It’s been exactly 1 month and 1 week to the day since I first started my driving lessons, and the end is finally in sight.  I signed up for driving lessons at the Koyama Driving school in Futagotamagawa during the last week of September, and started my first lessons on October 1st.  I chose to go for the manual (or otherwise known as “stick shift”) course at Koyama for a couple of reasons despite the cost.

The primary reason I went with Koyama is because I’ve heard that they are the only school licensed by the Japanese Public Safety Commission to offer a near all-inclusive driving courses – in English.  This means that one is able to take both practical tests and one of the written tests at the school itself.  I’m not sure if Koyama DS still retains this exclusivity, but to the best of my knowledge, other driving schools in Japan that offer English assistance are only able to help you prepare for lessons at a license center, but are not able to let you actually take/pass tests at their schools.  Since I’ve heard that there is a 90% fail rate at the standard license centers, I figured it would be less stressful and overall faster to sign up for a course.

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Another reason I chose Koyama was simply because I had a good impression of the school and staff.  Koyama DS has 4 schools around Japan, and the one that I went to (in Futagotamagawa, simply because it was the closest to my office) was in a pleasant location, had nice facilities, and the staff/instructors were extremely helpful and pleasant.

I would say the only major downside to the Koyama Driving School was the exhorbitant cost.  I’m sure their Japanese lessons are competitive in terms of cost with other driving schools around Japan, and I’ve even seen them running ads for campaigns/bargains.  However, none of those apply to the English lessons. 🙁
The total cost of lessons was just under 400,000 JPY… or just under $4,000.  Nope, I haven’t accidentally popped in one too many zeroes – it is just THAT expensive.  I’ve been saving up for a while, so this was paid off with cash, no credit, but seriously – ouch.  It is definitely easier/cheaper to convert an already existing license from one’s home country… or just stick with public transport if you’re looking to save money. (^^;

Overall though, I can thoroughly recommend Koyama DS.  They are very helpful and will work with you to arrange lessons around your schedule, and as quickly/slowly as you want.  I wanted to finish the course as quickly as possible so as not to drag things out and here I am, 1 month and 1 week later, at the last step.  The instructors are all very patient and willing to answer any questions you might have.  They’re also really friendly and though personalities differ (some are more strict while others are more easy-going), I think that if you (the student) also put effort into it, there’s no way you can fail.

I think it’s important to emphasize the above – I believe that pretty any foreigner trying to take a driving test will be frustrated by the nit-picky aspect of the Japanese tests.  For example: forgot to adjust your mirror before driving?  Lose points.  Forget to turn your head so that you can look over your shoulder when reversing?  Lose points.  Forget to turn on/off your indicator?  Lose points.  Forgot to put your gear stick in the reverse position before getting out of the car at the end of a test?  Lose points.

The written tests are even worse!  For example, I find it really difficult to notice the difference between something like “when doing xxx, you must do xxx and xxx” vs. “when doing xxx, you must do xxx or xxx” – .  Another sample practice question I put down below – reading that question just made me go, “….????”

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However, as I’ve mentioned, if you put in the effort to read your books prior to class, it will make things easier for you.  Likewise, ask questions!  The instructors were always willing to answer anything I brought up.  I think for someone like me, who has no previous driving experience, such lessons are beneficial.  I would guess though, that anyone with prior driving experience might be more than a little frustrated by the minutiae present in both practical and written tests.  Using a driving school, you get to bypass a lot of said frustrations.

And here I am – I was able to take 3 of the 4 tests at Koyama Driving school.  One was a written (T/F) test needed for getting a learner’s permit, and the other two tests were the practical driving exams – one for the learner’s permit, and the other for the actual driver’s license.  The final test has to be taken a test center, but even for that I have a number of practice tests that have been provided online by Koyama DS.

It has been a long and tiring period, involving my waking up at 0530 to head to work, and after work heading to classes, finishing my day by getting home around 23:00 – even on weekends.  But the end is in sight!  My final step will be to review the online practice tests as much as possible, then go in to the test center one weekday for the final exam.  I’m thinking of going this Friday – wish me luck!

One comment

  • November 10, 2009 - 07:18 | Permalink

    oh, aren’t you the brave one – Friday the 13th! Go for it 🙂 Actually some of the things you mentioned about losing points for are common to other driving schools – ditto for me when back in Africa. Maybe I’ll do a blog item tomorrow (we have the day off) about my experiences – it will make you feel better!

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