If you live in Nagoya itself you do not need much in the way of a car or scooter to get around-a bicycle would likely be more than sufficient. For those times when it is just a little too far, the public transportation system is pretty convenient and will generally get you anywhere you need to go.
There are times, even in Nagoya when a scooter is convenient, such as when lugging a weeks’ worth of groceries home on the subway, but if you live outside of the city, or far from the subway lines, a scooter can make a huge difference in your quality of life and the good news is; getting a 50cc or smaller scooter-only license is fairly painless.
If getting licensed to drive a car is your aim, this is not the article for you, but you can find more information on that subject at Japan Drivers License, If you are already licensed to drive a “regular car,” the standard driving license in Japan, you are already licensed to ride a scooter of the size discussed in this article; 50cc or less. Congratulations, you are now free to move about the country on your scooter.
If that is not the case, you will need to get licensed to ride a scooter.
For the purposes of Japanese law, a scooter is a two wheeled vehicle with an engine size of less than 50cc. Anything else is a motorcycle, and you need a separate license that is much harder and more expensive to get to ride one. The “large scooters” you see cruising the streets are not classified as scooters, but rather “automatic transmission motorcycles,” and you require a special license.
Getting a 50cc engine or below scooter license requires roughly 10,000 yen, and about a half a day of your time.
Getting a motorcycle license, will cost 10x that amount to start with, and increases in increments of time and money based on engine size.
To start with , you must take a written test at the Hirabari Driving Center. The test is not especially difficult, but a passing grade is 90% or better. The translations might be a little rough, but understandable. The best way to prepare for this exam is to read “Rules of the Road”, available from the Japan Auto Federation.
After passing the test , you will be taken to a classroom for the indoor portion of the Safe Driving Course. It is conducted in Japanese. Just nod and smile; they will probably assume you do not understand but it wont matter, this is not a graded exercise and as long as you stay awake you should be OK.
After the class you will be taken to a driving course for the outdoor portion of the Safe Driving Course, which is 2 hours and introduces you to the basics of the scooter: how to use the kickstand, start it, accelerate, brake, etc. At the conclusion of the class you will get your license if you have managed not to hurt yourself or others.
N.B. Heisei 27 = 2015, Heisei 28 = 2016, Heisei 29 = 2017, Heisei 30 = 2018、Heisei 31 = 2019
Good luck, and happy motoring!