I've been driving in Japan for about 10 years now and managed to keep a clean record with no road offenses which means that my drivers license gets upgraded to "Gold status."
A postcard comes through the letterbox reminding me that I should go and renew my license at the nearest drivers license center.
Drivers License Centers are run by the police in Japan. I didn't manage to see any Ingrams parked outside though.
If you read my previous post on getting a Japanese drivers license, you would have seen how this place looked like back then - while it was functional, it looked kinda run down which is why they decided to build a new one I presume.
Here I'm lining up to hand in that postcard to start the renewal process.
Time to head upstairs to take a few compulsory tests.
In my case, I need to take a test to ascertain whether I can still see at my old age. The test is simple - I look through a pair of goggles where I see a "C" shape that would appear facing up, down, left or right and I need to say which direction. The C shape appears pointing in random directions and in different sizes.
This Google Image Search shows you what a manual eyesight chart looks like in Japan.
Once the eyesight test is done, I head to a lecture room with a bunch of other folks. I was surprised at the sci-fi-ish font types they used inside - most government buildings are kinda plain.
This is our teacher for the next hour who reminds us that if we don't sit for the whole duration or fall asleep then we won't get a stamp saying that we attended his talk.
We get given pamphlets which outlines the rules of the road and statistics showing us how many people died in road accidents in the past year.
The stats show that 4373 people died in road accidents the previous year and that the Aichi Prefecture had the most deaths at 219 people. Tokyo had 168 deaths.
Actually, most of his lecture was about deaths ><
These pages outline the types of accidents that caused death - the first page tells us that 42.9% of deaths were of pedestrians, 18.5% were on a bicycle, 23.8% were on a motorbike and 13.7% were in a car.
The following page then outlines what sort of accident - head on crash, crash from behind etc.
These pages outline some of the causes of accidents including the number 1 in the top left - "driving-while-thinking-about-how-good-the-food-looks-like-in-that-restaurant-ooops-i-knocked-somebody-over"
I'm not sure what its like in other countries but even if a kid runs out in front of your car and you hit them - its the drivers fault.
Speaking of which, when I was in Taiwan recently, most of the Taxi's had a camera mount as it seems there are many cases of insurance scams - a bit like the one below I guess.
Up until last year, Roundabouts didn't exist in Japan - our teacher tells us not to be scared when we see one ^^
The video below teaches Japanese folks the concept of a Roundabout.
We have a load of them back in the UK - how about in your neck of the woods?
I managed to stay awake during the whole lecture which means I got a special stamp which I then use to get my new Gold drivers license.
While I wait with the others, I check out a display of Japan's history of drivers licenses.
These date back to 1907.
Japan drivers licenses dating from 1935 on the left to 1948 on the right.
Japanese drivers licenses have a chip inside - before leaving the building, we check that our details are correct by placing the card at one of the terminals.
When taking the photo I smiled and the guy taking it said "Dame!" (pronounced "Dah-Meh" meaning "No!"
From a few years back, passport and driver license photos prohibit the use of smiley photos ><
Japan is a hobby goods nation and there is no exception for the police force - here you can get exclusive goodies ranging from police badges to smart phone holders and even Hello Kitty warden keychains.
Lovely day - heading back to base.
The Japanese Police Agency from time to time use anime characters in their traffic regulations guides like this one that I kept from a while ago that features Chibi Maruko - how many of you watch it? I hardly ever see folks talk about it even though its one of the most popular anime prime time TV series.
Anime is such a big part of Japanese peoples lives that you even find it being used by the government.