The Saga of the 50cc license (2007)

Getting on the road

I've been struggling to get a 50cc motorbike license since May. You would think it would be easy but the thing is that I was determined to take the test in Japanese like all the other Japanese people in this country. After I went to day school for the certificate showing that I had taken a 50cc driving course I felt pretty confident. I had been taking formal Japanese lessons for a few years added to my naturally acquired speaking ability from nine years as a resident.

In Japan, getting a license is a long process. You have to go to a license center which is often in a location that is as inconvenvient as possible. Why didn't I just transfer my foreign license? Three reasons: I'm from the U.S. so there are no deals as with other countries, my U.S. license had expired and I am a naturalized Japanese citizen. In the case of the latter the officials said I had to do it in Japanese. I searched the web and asked foreign born people for advice on taking the "gentsuki" (50cc test) in Japanese and to my surprise no one had done it. They all had taken a 10 question test in English.

The test I took was a 48 question test in archaic Japanese, all true/false. I got a 76% on my first attempt and you need 90% to pass. I said to myself, "Ok, I'm in contention and I'm scoring as well as the native speakers who failed and this is my third language!" The problem was that that I kept failing and failing. On my fifth attempt I scored 88%. I literally fell to the floor. Whenever I had a free day I went back and coughed up the 1650 yen+bus fare.

When I got to the license center today, the last day of the year that I could take the test, I felt a calmness. My feet were cold and wet from the rain but I made it through the test for the 21st time. There are 6 or 7 differents tests that they rotate so I didn't know which one I'd get. You have 30 minutes to finish and I was done 3 minutes early. I waited the usual hour until the results were posted and I looked for my number on the electronic board. If it's there you pass, if it's not you fail. I kept loooking because my number, 96, was there. Usually my number was a black space. I kept looking and it was still there. I passed!

Finally I could stay until three and get my license instead of going back to the city on the loser's bus. Later, I found out that on my passing attempt I scored 90%. Why didn't I get 90% on one of the five times that I got 88%? That question cannot be answered. Now I can speak from real experience about passing the 50cc license test in Japanese.

by Kenji