Okinawa Hai fallback


There was much sweating involved in getting my driver’s license here. Aside from the relentless heat which made me cry at least twice, I was cast backwards in time to my school days when tests happened. Written tests. Tests with grades. Tests you could FAIL. And I was afraid to fail the driver’s test more than I was afraid to get behind the wheel. Maybe I just needed a place to focus all my neuroses but I got some kind of worked up about that old test. And then without any fanfare, I passed.

And so will you. Especially if you check THIS out. There’s even a free sample test.



  1. What about for kids? I have a 15.5 year old son who is aching to get his license. We are pcsing in about a month to Okinawa and I am debating getting him his drivers ed here or just waiting until we get there. Is it offered for teens? I have another child who will turn 16 while we are there too. I know they can’t drive off base until 18 but what about on?

  2. Courtney,

    It is just a simple written test, you will watch a video as well. The most important thing to study would be the road signs, since they are different from the ones we are used to. Other than that it is mainly a lot of common sense type questions. It really is nothing to be afraid of, and as far as driving on the other side of the road and the vehicle, I personally prefer it and find that I have much better visibility of the vehicles around me for some reason. Have a great trip.

  3. Courtney H.,
    The driving test is seriously easy. You’ll take it when you go to the Newcomer’s Orientation, which is held every Wednesday. I don’t personally know of anyone who didn’t pass the first time. In the meantime, you should be staying in TLF within walking distance of the bx, commissary, and restaurants. Your family should also have a sponsor within a month of your arrival date (or so) to help you get settled and answer any other questions you might have.

  4. Sorry to bump bump bump this a lot but I hope someone checks this after I post this but you only have to take a written test and then you get your license? I am just really confused at what everyone is saying right now. I have about 3 months to study study study before we find ourselves in Okinawa and just want to make sure I can get my license first try. I have a horrible problem with nerves and taking tests but anyways enough rambling, thank you for anyone who sees this post after a year of no one posting on this thread!!!

  5. Tara,

    We got here just a few months ago. Before we arrived, we got international driving permits from AAA back in the states. It was around $15 each. They are good for a year. When we were at the Shogun, we rented a car from their little kiosk by the front desk. It was affordable and let us “practice” driving around. Also, it made it so much easier to run errands and such. Best of luck!

  6. Tara, there are lots of “helpers” here on Okinawa Hai, after all we’ve all been in your shoes! Post a “help I need a ride” message and you’ll have a fleet of drivers offer to help. 🙂 I agree with Tara M, however, that your sponsor *should* be taking care of getting you to and from places, it’s their job to make your transition as painless as possible. Our sponsors were fantabulous, they drove us everywhere for two weeks. We had a ton of fun together, and became really good friends who still hang out! On the off chance you get a rotten sponser, well, that’s what Oki Hai is all about. 🙂

  7. Tara (it looks like there are 3 of us here now!?)-

    A stateside license won’t work alone for driving on base. You will have to go through the newcomer’s driving class… it’s a few hours long and has a written quiz at the end. If I’m not mistaken, it’s held once a week. Some folks say they don’t get their “license” until the day or two after, though I got mine the same day.

    As for transportation until you get that taken care of… your sponsor *should* be able to help some. Otherwise there are taxis all over, plus if you’re staying at the Shogun, the shuttle driver was super-helpful to a friend of mine.

  8. Does anyone know if you can drive on base with just an American driver’s license? We are moving to Kadena in three weeks, and we are wondering how we will get to the commissary, housing, etc. if we can’t drive or buy a car until we have a Japanese driver’s license.

  9. Does anyone know about drivers ed classes on Kadena? My son is 16 (no license and no permit) but is hearing from other kids at school that he can take drivers ed class at Kadena and receive his drivers permit.
    Any information on this would be great!!

  10. I like alot of people decided,”No Way” to driving on the opposite side of the road. I thought no way no how YOU CAN”T MAKE ME !!! I have been on Okinawa for almost 3 months,( was here 20 yrs ago w/o a drivers license) but one day my loving husband decided to go to the library and check out the driving manual( they are not given out freely anymore). So I studied for 2 days, and decided ok Monday I will go take the test, Monday came and went ,still no license,hehe Tuesday was here and I studied and decided ok Wednesday , I will take this test,(I am doing this for my husband ) if I fail thats it , I am not taking this test again.. Wednesday I found myself first in line at the building to take my drivers test, first to be given the test, and the first to finish, so YES it was very easy, although I am very glad I studied!! We had about 6 people taking the test that morning, and we all passed. Needless to say getting my Japanese driving license was a huge accomplishment for me, and how many people do you know in the states that can actually say they are an international driver and have the license to prove it? YAY ME!!! hehe
    So take the test, get your license, its not as hard to drive here as you think, it feels natural to drive on the opposite side of the road, since you are sitting on the opposite side of the car. Good Luck !!!

  11. Some friends of ours just got short notice orders to Okinawa. They will be arriving in just 2 short weeks (!). She is new to the military life, and grew up in Manhattan…therefore, has never driven (drove?) before.

    Does anyone know what you have to do to be licensed here if you’ve never been licensed in the states? I told her she was probably going to have to take the driver’s course with the 16 year olds…lol

  12. Ok, I agree the test is easy. no problem. The hard part is that once you pass the test they actually let you drive! Driving on the other side of the road is mind boggling at best. Amazing we don’t all run into a wall of traffic while madly trying to signal with our windshield wipers! The best advice I got was to “keep your butt on the yellow line”. If you’re not sure which side of the road you’re supposed to be on you can check by making sure you are sitting over/closest to the white or yellow line in the middle of the road. This handy tip actually works both for the US and Okinawa. That way when you find yourself driving into traffic on hwy 58 (you don’t even want to know how bad that was) you can silently scream to yourself that you should’ve checked to see if you were sitting on the line before you turned!

  13. I recommend not buying the book. The sample test is free which is fine. Here is a copy of the drivers manual and road signs at:
    (marines site with the whole manual and all the signs)
    (airforce info which is more of a summary)