Driver’s Ed




Pop quiz!  Do you all know the difference between the four signs above? Just kidding!

I received a question from a reader regarding Driver’s Ed.

“My husband and I were in Oki from 2003-2006. Back then, the Driver’s Ed Class was only a day long. We had heard a rumor, shortly before PCSing that they were going to extend the class to a full week.  We are now trying to get back to Okinawa and are doing the prep work, just wanted to see if that rumor is true!”
Okinawa Hai’s previous posts about cars have thoroughly covered JCI, buying, selling, or junking your car.  But if anyone could give us some detailed information about getting their first driver’s license on Okinawa, we’d love to hear about it!  And I don’t mean the few hour long class/video with quick quiz at the end.  I mean the real deal driver’s ed course.  (Useful information might include: Are the driving school’s hours flexible?  How long is it? And how much does it cost?”)

And if you’ve stumbled across this website because you’ve just found out that you have orders to Okinawa, the following links can get your engines revving.

This is a link to a Marine Corps websites about driving in Okinawa.This is the Driving Manual.

Here is an Air Force’s site about driving on Okinawa.

And here is a past post regarding getting a license/driving on Okinawa.


  1. You will need to get a learners permit back stateside and then get a drivers liscense. If your child is 18 getting back to the states, they will not have to wait as long to get the drivers liscense. They also won’t have to follow alot of the new teen driver rules that california has.

    My insurance will count the Kadena driving course as a drivers saftey course which will reduce insurance cost. Just keep the paper work regarding the class and keep the sofa liscense as proof they have been driving for a year or two. Not being a totally new driver also helps with insurance rates, but not by much, as your kid is still a teen. But every little bit helps!!

  2. Can anyone who has PCS’s back to the states with ONLY a sofa license explain how this works for getting a stateside license? I have a teenager who will be sofa license here but will she need to complete Drivers ed in the states as well? Would it be as if she has never driven? If anyone can help I would appreciate it! thanks!

  3. Kate- I think so. From what I understand, it’s only good for here that even going to another overseas location a re-test is required. The transition should be easier (I’ve been told) so that all you need is to test as an adult instead of taking the stateside class in order to get your license when you get back stateside.

  4. I’d replied above in regards to how much and what’s needed for the class, but also you would need to call the Safety Office for the newcomer’s briefing. I think that was set up when I paid the $200. You watch the video, take a quiz at the end and pass with…I’m not sure the score. When you pass, take the test over to get your permit. Once you have your permit, you can practice with a licensed driver in the vehicle…doesn’t matter the age, its all a student driver ID.

    I’m entering day 3 of the class of the never been behind the wheel drivers and all I can say is its a quick class. I was told 6-9p, but it ends up 6-8 or 6-whenever they let you out. Those that are military personnel get first dibs and then everyone that has driven without a license gets next up for classes. I’ve seen those people drive alone. The rest get to drive in sets of two next to the instructor and pick a time before the class in 1-2 hour sessions. Raking up a total of 8-10 hours of drive time to test (was told both, but wasn’t sure which amount was current). The written, its 1 test the first Friday, the final test the final Friday and the test score is a 92 or above to pass. If you pass, you pick up your diploma and go from there…I’d suggest practice any chance you get. G’luck to any non driver taking this class.

  5. Thank you for that information. how about the written exam and the road test? does it cost anything as well?

    or does anyone know the phone number for the Community Center at Kadena I can call to get information of? Kindly please tell me. Thank you!

  6. Lyn, at the Community Center on Kadena, I was told $200 for the class…and I believe it takes 2 weeks…for someone who hasn’t had a drivers license. You fill out 2 sheets of paperwork and turn it in with the money upon signing up for a spot in a class. It’s afternoons from what I understood. I’m in a similar boat…never drove, not stateside, but I think it might be easier in Japan due to the lack of speed issue. Gets you comfortable behind the wheel and once you’re stateside again, you just change a bit and you’re already good. G’luck to you. I’m still waiting for a chance to take it, but I’ve got four kids keeping me busy.

  7. i am 25 and never drive in my life. my husband is stationed in okinawa. he is working on getting me to live with him and waiting for his order to get change. is it advisable to get driver liscense in okinawa or in US? how much does it cost for someone who is a first timer like me? does anyone know the full cost and procedure of a full liscensing for a new learner like me? how long would it take???? any answer or website link with this info will be greatly appreciated! thanks guys!

  8. Army personnel do not have to take the newcomers brief before they get their license. I know for sure that the USMC personnel and their family members do have to have the newcomers done before they get theirs though.

  9. I’m not sure if this is what you’re talking about, but I have a friend that arrived here about 6 weeks ago. She’s from Manhattan, and was never licensed. To get your FIRST EVERY ANYWHERE license here on Okinawa, whether you’re an adult or teenager, these are the steps according to her:

    1. Attend a base driver’s safety course. These are held on Kadena on Tuesdays and Fridays, from 0900-1030. Tuesdays they’re at the Schilling, Fridays they’re at the Wing Safety Office. You take the same driving test that everyone else takes. When you take your test, orders, and ID down to the Pass & ID Center (Gate 1), they will issue you a Driver’s Permit instead of the SOFA license.

    2. With a permit, you can drive on base ONLY with a SOFA license holder in the car, for practice. You’ll also have to sign up for the ‘Driver’s Ed’ course. It is a month long, 3 or 4 days a week from 1830-2100 (I didn’t catch the exact days of the week it is held). The time of day sucks, but it’s to make the class accessible to adults who have to work normal duty hours, and teens who are in school. You receive your SOFA license upon successful completion of the month-long course.

    My friend said that there were about 10 people in the driver’s ed class total, including another adult, so she didn’t feel quite so silly. She also said that the classes fill up a couple months in advance–the October class is already booked up, apparently.

    I don’t know if there are alternate times for the driver’s ed course. I’m also not sure how it’s done on other bases–this info is strictly for Kadena.

    Hope this helps!

  10. Thank you for that question Mishka. I would like the readers who have been through the actual “driver’s ed” course (teenagers and under 25-ers) to give their experience and details. (Not just the two hour video and then 30 question quiz, as most people on island have done that.)

  11. First off, parking in Oki is really not too bad….I have been here for 5 years and park all over just following the rules in the book and have had no problems…but note that sometimes the no parking sign is on the block behind you and you really do have to watch for them because the signs can be hidden quite well…I feel your pain getting a ticket when you are sure you were okay.

    Secondly, the requirements for getting a license can be different for each service so those are the ones you have to check with. I was just at the Safety office on Foster a few days ago with a new driver to Okinawa and apparently some of the services do have a mandatory “newcomer’s brief” and/or have to have letters of approval before obtaining licenses….some do not.

    Furthermore, there is a difference between a new driver (someone that has never driven in the states, like a teenager) and a driver that is under 25. Even if you have a license in the States but are under 25, you will have to take a “driver’s ed” class before getting the okay to get a license. I am not totally sure which “driver’s ed” course the original questioner was referring to.

  12. Yes, we are newbies and no, I couldn’t remember all those signs! But seriously, the drivers ed course is no need for worry. We just got our licenses in July and were told the format had recently changed to simplify the test and basically par it down to include only questions that most previous students never missed! The “class” was a review and a 30 question test….15 questions and 15 signs….and a video. The questions were obvious, as were almost all the signs. DO know the basic parking/road closed to traffic signs and the bus exclusive lane sign. It really was far less than we worried it would be…classes are held every Tue./Thur. If…sorry, WHEN…you pass you may pick up your license afterwards if you have attended the required Wed. Newcomer’s brief(described so elquolently in Dante’s Inferno). If not, like us, you can rest in the knowledge that you passed and come back on Thurs. after your name has been recorded in the Book of Attendance for the Newbie brief. Then happy driving…and good luck keeping your windshield wipers off when you want to turn left. 🙂

  13. We got to Kadena (we’re AF) Nov. 2007-so almost a year ago. The licensing process was only a couple of hours, not even a full day. Now, that was for people who already had a valid stateside drivers lic. I do know that there were several people who had been in Oki previously that were told their licenses were still valid-so you’ll have to wait and see I guess-you might not have to do anything!