After my initial escapades searching and enrolling at the Driving School, I was able to take the Entrance Ceremony, known as 入学式 (nyugakushiki) in Japanese! Schools in Japan are big on entrance ceremonies, and although it wasn’t quite the grand fanfare I’m used to witnessing at my High School, it was informative and quite the ride! Here’s how it went down.. (I’ll tl;dr at the end for anyone skimming!)
What happened in my 入学式
After I finally got my paperwork in order and processed, I was given my school study materials! Here’s what you need to take to driving school:
- The Master of Your Driving – Rules of the road text book
- The Master of Your Driving – Test book
- A First Aid road manual
- Practice Driving test sheets
I was given the option of buying the textbook in either Japanese or English, the English having a slightly higher price tag than the Japanese book. I guess this is to offset the translation costs, since I don’t imagine having English speakers attend school is too common! In any case I opted for that because I knew the lessons being in full Japanese would be a little tough, so at least I could read things and understand them myself.
I was also handed a disclaimer/kind of questionnaire asking about my current status in regards to driving, whether I had a license previously, any health conditions, or any convictions relating to driving. This was ALL in Japanese – I was able to muddle through by reading what I could and using Google Translate on my phone. I snapped a pic of the form and translated question by question. This worked!
After filling in the questionnaire I went up to the lecture room where I was told the ceremony would be in 3 parts – first, an explanation of how my school works, second an aptitude test and third the first class out of ten mandatory theory lessons.
I shuffled into my class early because I was nervous and wanted to make sure all was well. The lecturer asked me if I could understand some Japanese and we had a little conversation (the usual niceties – my home country, my job, where I live etc). He was really reassuring and gave me some initial pointers before the other students arrived.
The introduction lecture explained the process of the school – where to go to the classes and how many I would need to take, the school’s schedule and where to meet my instructor when I take practical driving lessons. It was really thorough – through to the school’s office hours down to where the toilets, vending machines and lockers were.
The most useful information to share here is that I was told I have 9 months from the date of enrolment to finish my classes and pass the test before it becomes invalid! So.. I have made up my mind to take as many classes as possible this year alone!
The Aptitude Test
Feeling great with my new found confidence (I really did not expect to understand so much!) – it was all crushed by the aptitude test. Oh my gosh, this part got me. My lovely kind lecturer wished us luck and said he’d see us after and in came another guy who simply passed out the test books and papers, told us when to begin and pressed play on an audio CD.
The aptitude test was a series of.. puzzles? The kind that people post on the internet to test your IQ or eyesight. I was quite slow because I was trying to process the instructions in Japanese at first. If you could figure out what was expected in the examples, the image based ones were easy enough without any language (except you had to work FAST).
However, there were a few parts where Japanese was necessary. One being those “psychological” ink blot pictures (if you can tell me the actual name please do!). You had to select what you saw from 3 different answers, in Japanese. If you can read basic Kanji and hiragana/katakana this is okay.
However the worst part for me with the language barrier was a series of statements which were read at a very high speed. You had to choose whether or not you agreed, disagreed or could not decide with them. They were read far too quickly for me to really get the gist of some, so the examiner probably thinks I am the most neurotic student they have ever come across..
I’m still not 100% sure if I passed this or whatever but.. I’m still in school and have taken classes so I am thinking that the 入学生 (new students) are given this to give them a taste of what to expect.
I am going to inquire whether or not an English version of this is available at a later date, so I will of course share that information.
Class Number 1!
After the Aptitude test finished I was *almost* deflated, convinced I would be turned away. But instead, the first lecturer returned and informed us that we were going to take Class 1/10 using our text book. This was a 50 minute lecture covering a couple of chapters in the book about rules of the road and safe driving. The kind of thing you study by yourself for your theory test in the UK! But instead we got to watch a funky video (with hilarious 3D animations) and an actress who I feel is going to be a recurring character in my training.
This again was of course all in Japanese! But having the English book to follow along was helpful. This lecturer was very kind and said the page and chapter numbers in both English and Japanese when telling us where to read – but not all of the teachers have done that so far so I recommend knowing your numbers well before!
And that was that! After the first Class, the entrance ceremony was finished. We were presented with our Student File (which we have to collect every time we go to the school so teachers can record our progress) and a swanky little student card!
Just as the ceremony finished, Class 5/10 was due to start and my tutor informed me we could attend in any order, so he walked me down and showed me how to sign up for the next one. I’ll go into what the classes are like next time!
- Google Translate’s Image translation app is helpful when filling in forms
- You can buy the standard text book in English (I recommend this!)
- Your school will have a time limit in which you can complete it all. Make a note of it!
- The aptitude test is HARD in Japanese.
- Knowing number vocabulary is very useful!
- You will get asked “日本語、大丈夫？” a lot.