Saturday, September 22, 2012


They have this new thing here in Japan that I just found out about when I got a multipart sticky postcard saying that since I'm over 70 and my drivers license is expiring, I have to take the Dementia Driving Test. That's my name for it.

They don't call it that, of course, they call it something like the Silver Driver Autumn Leaf Test with Hello Kitty, something more euphemistic, the card has all sorts of unnecessary information on its eight sides, with no map or directions for location or anything, just lists of fees and degrees of senescence plus some phone numbers. I had to phone them to find out where I actually had to go, in the physical form that embodiment imposes.

The card said come on Thursday Sept 13 and bring a lot of money with your imminently useless license and a bunch of other stuff, maybe a collapsible bicycle in case I had to pedal home if I knew where that was ha ha, but I use my dementia to perform complex tasks on Thursdays in the big city, so when I called them I said - exerting optimal coherence, which I can still manage at times, even at my advanced age - that since I was working on the 13th, Wed Sept 12 would be good, that was my day off, they said We don't have the test on Wed, (there's that old naivete again, thinking that public convenience was a factor) so we sumoed some dates around and finally settled on this coming Monday, which is good because usually Mondays are when I'm least demented.

If they asked me - but bureaucracies never do, for some reason - it would be a sufficient test to simply see if I could find my way to the Motor Vehicle Bureau on my birthday and stand in each of the many long lines in correct sequence, fill out all the complex forms, answer all the questions, sign my name, read the numbers, pass all the other tests that the younger, less experienced drivers have to pass and that I myself have successfully done many times, without strangling a single bureaucrat or even babbling upon exit, before I was as richly experienced at driving license obtainment as I am now.

However, the mandatory driving schools in Japan are big business, and the bureaucracy-tempered cynic in me figures that with fewer and fewer young people being born in Japan, and the expanding proportion of elderly Japanese simply renewing their licenses every 4 years or so (for a fortune each time!), the driving schools, once a cash cow for legislators' relatives (what a cynic), are no longer pulling in the cash as hand-over-fistly as they once were (a driver's license requires many hours of formal driver training at a government-licensed school, for a minimum cost of 300,000 yen (ca. $4000), and if you don't pass - like so many don't - you gotta do it all again, with instructors I suspect are retired drill sergeants. It's a tough few months.

So on Monday I go to take my DDT, with lecture, virtual driving test, actual driving test and discussion, 3 full hours in total, the whole morning shot, and if I don't run over any virtual grandmothers or try to convince the tester of my Napoleonhood, I should get permission to continue driving until I turn 75, when I'll have to do it all over again, at a higher price. 

Maybe I should emigrate before they come out with the Deceased Driving Test.


Ms.B.Really? said...

Please keep us updated on your results. As usual, you have brought reality to the irrationality of life.

Anonymous said...

How I wish they had that test in the 85 year old father is still driving, to my great concern.
I'm sure you will pass with flying colours though - 70 seems a bit premature!

Kalei's Best Friend said...

So, this is a virtual test??? why not a real, live test on the road? or are they too afraid to be the passenger? guess only damage can happen virtually....btw had no idea u were 70!.

Tabor said...

I am now wondering if we have this test.

gutscheine zum ausdrucken said...

very good post


Oh my, isn't that ageism in your country if you have to pay more for a drivers licence as you age? I paid about 10.00 to get my licence renewed and there is no gov't drivers training for new drivers.I don't think hardly anyone would pay 4000.00 to have their teenagers drive, quite a deterrent -- but maybe not such a bad idea.

althea arbues said...

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vegetablej said...

Congratulations on surviving yet another layer of bureaucracy still with your funny bone intact.

I would laugh but I remember how painful the process was, so never got to drive in Japan except for that first precious year when they still thought my Canadian/ International license was valid (despite 30 years of having it). Seems the longer I stayed in Japan the less capable and more senile I was presumed to be. Wonder what that says?

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I would love to take this kind of test too. Thanks for sharing this one. I enjoyed reading your blog. Thanks again!