Japan taxi, bus driver's license tests to go multilingual

Japan is set to offer tests for driver's licenses for taxis and buses in foreign languages amid a shortage of drivers in the country, with the police agency distributing sample questions in the coming weeks.

The National Police Agency will issue sample exam questions in 20 languages to prefectural police forces nationwide by the end of March, allowing them to formulate their own questions based on local needs, an official said.

The new multilingual approach for the class 2 driver's license comes after industry groups facing driver shortages requested more be done to enable foreign nationals to work in relevant sectors. The license is necessary to operate passenger transport vehicles, such as local buses and taxis, but the test has only been given in Japanese so far.

As of the end of 2022, foreign nationals made up just 5,189, or 0.6 percent, of the 880,536 registered holders of class 2 large and standard vehicle licenses, according to the agency.

Asian languages will comprise the majority of the 20 offered, including Chinese, Korean and Tagalog, but European languages, such as English and Portuguese, will also be covered.

The NPA said it had not previously provided tests for the licenses in foreign languages because it had not received a specific request to do so.

The changes will bring the testing system in line with that for the class 1 driver's license for private cars, motorbikes and other automobiles. The NPA has since 2009 distributed example questions for the class 1 tests in English, and the tests are already available in the same 20 languages.

Along with questions on traffic rules included in the class 1 test, the class 2 exam also tests knowledge of vehicle safety procedures such as brake inspections. It is a purely technical exam and has no questions on customer interactions.

© Kyodo News