Shopping for a cell phone in Japan is virtually the same as in the United States. There is strong competition vying for your business and generally, very good cell reception. The main cell phone companies in Japan are NTT Docomo, au by KDDI, and Softbank. Just like the U.S., all of these companies sell the latest and greatest technology on a subscription basis. Single, family, limited and unlimited data plans are all available.
***One thing to keep in mind for iPhone users: FaceTime audio/video as well as iMessage is free internationally when you FaceTime (audio/video) or iMessage iphone to iphone
au by KDDI
Note: If you are not a smart phone user you may seriously consider making the selection while living in Japan. The GPS, maps, travel apps, translation apps, will be found to be quite indispensable and can make life in a country where you are likely unable to read, write, or speak the language much easier.
Driving in Japan
Obtaining a Driver’s License
US Commander Forces Japan Driver’s License requirements:
- Applicants must possess a valid (current) operator's permit issued by any state or territory of the United States or by the District of Columbia.
- Or a valid (current) international driver's permit
- Or a valid (current) GOJ operator's permit
- Or written proof that he or she has successfully completed a certified formal driving course
- Valid (current) operator's permit is one that is not expired.
Picture of a common mini-van that is sold in Japan. The Toyota Noah is an eight-seater MPV with two rear sliding doors built by Toyota and sold only in Asia. Used cars are plentiful in Japan and relatively cheap and in better condition than equivalent cars in the U.S.
There is a Traffic Safety Lecture that is mandatory for all personnel desiring a driver's license in Japan. Attendance at the weekly Area Orientation Brief/Intercultural Relations (AOB/ICR) program presented by the Fleet and Family Support Center is prerequisite to attending the Traffic Safety Lecture, which is conducted by the COMFLEACT Safety Office. Your Sponsor can sign you up for the class by calling:
DSN 315-243-3372, internationally at 011-81-816-3372 or visit the FFSC website to sign up for the ICR class.
315-252-2704, internationally at 011-81-816-2704 or visit the FFSC website to sign up for the ICR class. To drive any vehicle (private or Government owned) in Japan, you must be properly licensed. U.S. Forces, Japan (USFJ) requires that specific qualification and testing requirements be satisfied before installation commanders may issue these licenses.
Qualifications for being issued a motorcycle license are basically the same as those for receiving a motor vehicle operator's license. The requesting individual must have a valid stateside or U.S. Territory operator's license in their possession. They must have verification that they have attended a Motorcycle Safety Foundation Course within the previous three year period. Japan is no place to begin learning how to drive a motorcycle.
Driving in Japan is a very serious responsibility and a privilege our Armed Forces community members are granted under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). The Government of Japan views the operator of a motor vehicle as a professional and prosecutes unsafe or negligent driving behaviors, especially those that result in death or serious injury, very severely. Japanese laws treat anyone with .01 alcohol in their blood as DUI.
Motorcycle Safety Information
Fleet Activities Yokosuka Safety department offers Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) Basic, Experienced and Military Sport Rider Courses. These courses are mandatory in order to become properly licensed while riding in Japan. Rider Coaches are volunteers for the community and offer their knowledge of riding and the special conditions that are encountered while in Japan. Call 243-2370 for more information on motorcycle training.
Members of USFJ personnel and their family members assigned to FELACT, Yokosuka, tenant commands or any units or ships forward deployed to FLEACT, Yokosuka are eligible to register a bicycle provided requirements.
- Bicycle Registration Form (CFAY 5800/39 (Rev. 6-13)
- Proof of ownership of bicycle.
- An approved (e.g., CPSC, ASTM, ANSI or SMF) bicycle helmet.
- A bicycle with light, bell or horn, and reflector on the back.
* USFJ Personnel and their family members shall register bicycles within then ten business days after purchased or arrival to FLEACT, Yokosuka.
* All personnel that register a bicycle are responsible to deregister the bicycle prior to PSCing form FLEACT, Yokosuka. Immediately report to VRO or ISO for your status changes at FLEACT, Yokosuka.
Purchasing a car in Japan
In Yokosuka, the MWR car lot is located on-base near the Commissary. There is not a used car lot on base in Sasebo but finding a used car for an affordable price is relatively easy. The price range for vehicles is typically from $500-$5,000 and vehicles tend to be about 5-15 years old but generally have very low mileage as compared to the same age vehicle you would find in the USA. There are also numerous off-base used car lots and junk yards (they are different from U.S. junkyards). Before purchasing a vehicle please review the CFAY policies regarding the numbers of vehicles that are allowed per household. There are also local Facebook sites which may be used by private sellers and authorized dealers (Search Ikego Resale, Yokosuka Resale, Yokosuka Used Car Connection, Sasebo Car Resale). Some is always in the PCS process away from Japan and seeking to sell a vehicle. If you are patient you can find SOME REALLY GOOD DEALS!
Local Motor Vehicle Registration
Registration procedures vary and will be explained in detail by registration personnel after reviewing vehicle ownership papers. In brief, the following minimum requirements must be met to register a vehicle (purchased locally after arrival):
The buyer must have:
- A valid USFJ driver's license liability insurance in his/her own name, for a minimum period of 12 months. Minimum coverage limits have been set at 30 million yen for bodily injury and 3 million yen for property damage. Cost of liability insurance will generally run you $300 for one year. Insurance cost varies between agents and may be affected by other personal criteria.
- Japanese Compulsory Insurance (JCI). The cost is based on the size of the vehicle – typically range is from 1,900 to 7,500 yen. Insurance can be transferred between owners, but the transaction must be officially processed to be valid.
The following must be up-to-date and in effect at the time of registration transfer from seller to buyer:
- Road Tax for the current year. (Road Tax is paid annually and is based on the size of the vehicle's engine.)
- Japanese inspection card.
- A current NEX Garage vehicle safety inspection (every two years).
- There is additional paperwork which must be completed at the Yokohama Land Transportation Office (LTO). The new owner can do this, or he/she can hire someone locally to make the LTO run. There is no shortage of LTO runners on base, and they usually advertise their services and fees in the weekly base newspaper.
Additional important pieces of information:
- There are no provisions in Japan to obtain a driver's license for never before licensed individuals.
- All driving in Japan is done on the left side of the road. Japanese manufactured vehicle the steering wheels are on the right side of the car. Most people adapt to this change relatively easily. There are some US manufactured vehicles with steering on the right but they are not nearly as common.
- Hands free devices must be used while operating a motor vehicle on all military installations worldwide.
Rental cars, trucks and 8 passenger vans are available for rent. Contact information is below:
Phone – 046-816-4456
Phone – 0956-50-3576