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[Initial D theme intensifies]

Picture this: you’re a new ALT fresh out of your home country and you find out you’ve been placed in Gunma. Gunma sounds lovely! It’s got mountains, lakes, shrines, and the 3rd highest rate of car ownership in all of Japan. Oh dear. Sounds like you’ll probably need to drive, and if you mean to stay for longer than a year, you’ll have to get a Japanese driver’s license.

Now, this can seem intimidating at first. You may have already heard that Japan’s licensing process is complicated, outdated, steeped in bureaucracy, and downright arcane. While all of that may be true, this guide will hopefully make this process as smooth, easy, and painless as possible. Nobody should have to be turned away from the window after taking a whole afternoon of nenkyuu. We’ve broken this guide down into three easy sections: the basics, the window, and the test.

Part 1: The Basics

Before we get to the licensing, there are 2 questions you should ask yourself:

1. Do I need a license in the first place?

In most cases, if you want to stay longer than a year or didn’t get an IDP on your way out of your home country, the answer is likely yes. However, if you are able to bike or are one of the lucky few that can take the train or bus to work and have it be practical, and don’t mind not having access to a car, then you’re in luck! You can probably stop reading this and move on with your blessed life. Go get yourself sakura-flavoured Starbucks with the time and money you’re saving, you monster. If you need a license like the rest of us then move on to the next question.

2. Need I suffer?

It’s a question one must ask themselves in daily life, but in this context it refers to whether or not you have to take the practical driving exams. If you meet the following criteria, you can skip the tests. You must: 

I. Be from one of the following JET countries:

1. Australia
2. Austria
3. Belgium
4. Canada
5. Denmark
6. Finland
7. France
8. Germany

9. Hungary
10. Ireland
11. Italy
12. Netherlands
13. New Zealand
14. Norway
15. Poland
16. Slovenia

17. South Korea
18. Spain
19. Sweden
20. Switzerland
21. Taiwan
22. UK
23. USA (only Hawaii, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington)

(The other non-JET countries that don’t require a practical exam are Czech Republic, Greece, Iceland, Luxembourg, Monaco, and Portugal.)

II.  Have a valid license from said country
III. Have lived there for at least three months after getting your license
IV. Be 18 years old or over
V. Have a valid visa in Japan
VI. Have a registered address in your city/municipality in Japan

If you meet all these criteria, great! You can stop reading this article after Part 2. Unfortunately if you’re from anywhere else, or haven’t ever had a driver’s license, it means you will have to go through the stringent Japanese examination system. Read Parts 2 and 3 of this article:

Part 2: The Window

This section covers the finer points of the bureaucratic hurdles you will have to face. Follow these steps and you’ll have your very own driver’s license.

1. Call and make a reservation!!!

This is really important and we can’t stress it enough. You’ll need to call and make a reservation several weeks in advance to book a time. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a balancing act, because you’ll usually only be able to reserve at least three or four weeks in advance, but at most only eight or nine. As a general rule, you can call and make a reservation for the next month without issue, any earlier or later and it may not work out.

2. Collect your documents:

You’ll need all of the following physical documents to transfer your license, and if you’re missing anything the staff are likely to turn you away and you’ll have to come back another time. That being said, copies can be made on site at the copying machines on the second floor for some pocket change in the back by the vending machines. If you have a flash drive handy you also may be able to print off certain forgotten files. You’ll need:

  • I. A driver’s license from your home country (original and copy)
  • II. Your passport (original and copy)
    • ○ If you come from a country that uses stamps for entry and exit, you’ll need copies of those stamps too.
  • III. Official license translations from the JAF (costs ¥2000-3000)
    • ○ Make sure you get this early. The translation could be available the next day, or could take up to 3 weeks. You can also opt to have it mailed to you.
    • License Translation Form – English 
  • IV. Driving abstract/record (Americans only)
    • ○ Obtainable through your state DMV. You can apply online or through mail in most cases; time to receive will vary by state.
  • V. A certificate of residence (original and copy) obtainable at your city hall for ¥300.
  • VI. License-sized photo (3cm x 2.4cm) This can be taken at the photobooth of any supermarket or on site at the traffic center for ¥800.
  • VII. Zairyu card (original and copy)
  • VIII. IDP 
  • IX. Proof of 3+ month residence in home country
    • ○ Credit card statements are safest. 3+ consecutive monthly statements from the same card will work fine in most cases. Barring that, things that have also worked or supplemented statements include:
      • a. Consecutive monthly timesheets from work in your home country (including address of your workplace)
      • b. Driving history sheets from your DMV or equivalent.
      • c. IRS residency record or equivalent.
  • X. ¥6000. This may be lower depending on the type of license you get. I got a medium sized vehicle licence (it includes pickups and moving vans) which is unfortunately the most expensive one.

3. Be there at 1pm or be square

Bring a Japanese speaker for extra security – you can get turned away if your Japanese is not proficient enough to communicate. It’s a good idea to check out local associations in your area to see if volunteer translators are available.

4. Register, process paperwork, and wait in cycles

5. If everything works out, time to pay and take an eye exam

6. Take the written test if you have to (see Part 3)

7. Take the practical test if you have to (see Part 3)

8. Go downstairs for a reflex test:

As part of the reflex test there is a depth perception test which can be particularly confusing at first blush. Essentially, you will be staring into a black bar moving back and forth between two lines, and you will have to determine when the three line up, either when coming forward, moving backwards, or both. It can be hard to tell they are even moving on the first try, but remember to pay attention to the center line as it appears to grow and shrink by moving closer or further away from you. 

9. Wait for the staff to print your license:

For this section, you will join a group of other people all waiting on the main floor right outside the reflex test; simply wait for them to call your name.

10. You’re done!

If you’re lucky enough to skip the tests, then congratulations! That’s it, you can breathe a sigh of relief (and remember to be kind to those that do have to take the tests). You can skip right to the end. 

Otherwise, here is what you need to know for the test:

Part 3: The Test

If you are from America or any other country not listed above, this is the part that everyone dreads. After completing the paperwork, you will take a 10-question written test about Japanese traffic law. This part is fairly easy and relies mainly on common sense. It is offered in English, so you don’t need to be too nervous about it.

The practical test, however, is the biggest hurdle in getting your license. In almost every case you will have to come to the traffic center multiple times before finally passing the practical exam. 

The traffic center begins to check paperwork from 3pm each day, so make sure you arrive by 2:50pm to secure a place in line; the earlier you are, the faster you will go through the process. They will check that your paperwork is all in order, and then have you pay the test fee: ¥2550 each time. You will be given a number and sent to the testing location. 

The practical test checks your ability to do what the instructors want rather than your actual driving ability, so you need to know how the test is conducted. GAJET has made a step-by-step guide, which you can find right here.

After completing the test, you will then go back to the main reception area to await your results. They announce all results together on a whiteboard, and your number will be written here if you have passed. If you have passed, the staff will tell you how and when you can complete the process. If you have failed, you will need to get in line to register for your next test date.

Driving Schools

Driving schools in Japan can be expensive, but they can also be very helpful in learning the particulars of the test. These are some of the larger ones in Gunma that may be worth a try. 

Akagi Driving School

1-564 Akaboriimaichō, Isesaki-shi 
Phone: 027-062-0135

Minami Shibukawa Driving School

2700 Handa, Shibukawa-shi 
Phone: 027-922-1945

Yanasebashi Driving School

221-2 Morishinden, Fujioka-shi 
Phone: 027-442-0671

Ohwatari Driving School

1164-2 Sōjamachi Sōja, Maebashi-shi 
Phone: 027-251-4037

Maebashi Amagawa Driving School

1065-2 Amagawaōshimamachi, Maebashi-shi 
Phone: 027-261-0840

Isesaki Driving School

1499-1 Kamisuwachō, Isesaki-shi 
Phone: 027-024-1515

NOTE: Be prepared for the first time to be more expensive, as you might have to pay a registration fee in addition to the lesson fee.

After Passing the Test 

As the foreign license transfer test always takes place at 4pm, you will have to return on another afternoon to receive your license. Follow the instructions given to you by the reception staff after you have passed your test for when and where to return to.

You will do a few parts of the licensing process with the Japanese test passers; however, much of it will be separate, and there is quite a bit of waiting and wondering involved. For the entire process of receiving your license, you are looking at another 1-5 afternoon.


And with that, barring anything unexpected, you should walk out of the traffic centre with a new, shiny (if a little boringly designed), Japanese driver’s license. We hope this guide is helpful in your journey navigating the complicated world of Japanese bureaucracy, and that it will save you some anxiety and frustration in the future. 

Remember that you are not alone and hundreds of ALTs have gone through this same process before you. You are not the first, and you won’t be the last. Don’t hesitate to ask others around you for help, as there are many great resources to help you out, such as the Gunma ALTs Facebook page, LINE group chats, your GAJET representatives, and even your friends and coworkers. 

You can do this! Good luck, and we hope to see you out on the road soon.

Making Your Own Masks

April 29, 2020 | Guides | No Comments

“Do you want to buy some masks? It’s ¥5000 for a box,” the teacher said as they held the clipboard out to me with a smile. Er, no thanks. That’s ¥5000 I don’t have, and besides, let’s leave the medical grade supplies for the people who need them. Making my own mask seemed like the logical — and environmentally friendly — solution. It also meant I could get out of the absolutely-not-adhering-to-the-three-C’s staff room for a while. Hooray!


By Kei

We at GAJET are making a list of all the doctors, dentists, and eye clinics that you, our community, have recommended to us over the years. We are working towards making a comprehensive list of the best doctors in Gunma, based on English availability, location accessibility, and care quality and convenience. This list contains clinics that ALTs have recommended based off their own personal experiences. We hope that it will come in handy during a pinch.

Can’t find a place near you? We are updating our list of doctors as we find them.

If you know of a recommendable doctor, dentist or otherwise, please let us know at: [email protected].

If you are seeking more information about the GPs in your area, you can find information about English-supported clinics online at Some of these clinics may not have been tested by your fellow ALTs, so please let us know about your experience.

If you are seeking assistance in regards to COVID-19 (Coronavirus), then please do not go to a doctor. Instead, please call the number designated by your city and follow their instructions.


高崎市Takasaki (027-381-6112)

安中市 Annaka (027-381-0345)

富岡市 Tomioka (0274-62-1541)

藤岡市 Fujioka (0274-22-1420) 


桐生市 Kiryu (0277-53-4131)

館林市 Tatebayashi (0276-72-3230)

太田市 Ota (0276-31-8243)


前橋市 Maebashi (027-220-1151) 

渋川市 Shibukawa (0279-22-4166)   

伊勢崎市 Isesaki (0270-25-5066)


吾妻郡 Agatsuma (0279-75-3303)

利根郡 Tone (0278-23-2185)

沼田市 Numata (0278-23-2185)

These contacts have limited English support. If you are looking for up to date information, need a phone consultation, or help with other health-related issues, you can contact Gunma Onestop Center in English by email at [email protected] or through their Facebook page.

There is also English support regarding COVID-19 by the AMDA Medical Information Center in Tokyo. These phone lines will be running until May 20, 2020:

Phone Number 1: 03-6233-9266

(10:00-17:00 on weekdays, 10:00-15:00 on Sat, Sun, and holidays)

Phone Number 2: 090-3359-8324

(10:00-17:00 on weekdays)

自宅待機のイラスト文字「STAY HOME」



Makimoto Clinic • 牧元医院

Specialty: General

Address: 〒370-0064 群馬県高崎市芝塚町1845-2
1845-2 Shibazukamachi, Takasaki, Gunma 370-0064

Opening Hours: 9:00~12:00 and 16:00~18:00 (Closed on Saturday afternoons and Sundays)


  • • Dr. Makimoto speaks English and those who have visited him say he has a friendly attitude.
  • • A 20-minute walk from Takasaki or Kita-Takasaki station.


Phone Number: 027-322-3623

Central Ladies Clinic • セントラルレディースクリニック

Specialty: Obstetrics and Gynaecology (OB-GYN)

Address: 群馬県高崎市東町80-7
80-7 Azumacho, Takasaki, Gunma 370-0045

Opening Hours: 9:00~12:00 and 14:00~18:00 (Closed on Thursday afternoons, and Sundays)


  • • Only a ten minute walk from Takasaki Station.
  • • Friendly and comfortable experience with a English-speaking, male doctor.
  • • The front desk has a translated sheet, explaining medical needs in English and Japanese. Remember to request an English-speaking doctor on your arrival.
  • • Walk-ins are welcome.


Phone Number: 027-326-7711

Nishimura Clinic • 西村医院

Specialty: Internal Medicine, Cardiology, Psychosomatic Medicine, and Psychiatry

Address: 〒370-0068群馬県高崎市昭和町 142-6
370-0068, Gunma Prefecture, Takasaki Showa-cho 142-6

Opening Hours: 9:00~13:00 and 15:00~18:00 (Closed on Wednesday afternoons and Sundays)


  • • English-speaking female physician at this clinic.


Phone Number: 027-388-1811

Kobayashi Ophthalmology Clinic • 小林眼科

Specialty: Ophthalmology (Eye Doctor)

Address: 〒370-0036 群馬県高崎市南大類町1292-3
1292-3 Minamioruimachi, Takasaki, Gunma 370-0036

Opening Hours: 9:00~12:00 and 15:00~18:00 (Closed on Wednesdays, Saturday afternoons, and Sundays)


  • • An eye exam costs around ¥2,500 with an insurance card.
  • • They don’t have the brand of contacts that may be available in your home country, so if you’re looking for a particular brand, research online first.


Phone Number: 027-353-4110

Eye City • アイシティ高崎モントレー店

Specialty: Optometry

Address: 群馬県高崎市の眼科 | 高崎駅けやき眼科
〒370-0849 Gunma-ken, Takasaki-shi, Yashimachō, 222 高崎モントレー 5F

Opening Hours: 10:30~13:00 and 15:00~18:30


  • • Easy access from Takasaki Station – located nearby in the Montres mall.
  • • Two doctors who speak good English.
  • • The first time you visit, you are required to do a full exam to check your current prescription is correct.
  • • Prescription can be collected from the shop next to the office.
  • • They often have sales: check the website. On arrival, show the website page to reclaim.
  • • Appointments can be made online.
  • • Shops also near Aeon Mall, Takasaki, and South-Maebashi


Phone Number: 027-310-5575

Takasaki Sato Eye Clinic • 高崎佐藤眼科

Specialty: Ophthalmology (Eye Doctor)

Address: 群馬県 高崎市南大類町1000-1
1000-1 Minami Daitaicho Takasaki, Gunma 370-0036

Opening Hours: 9:00~12:00 and 15:00~18:00 (Closed on Saturday afternoons, and Sundays)


  • • This is an excellent clinic and the doctor is practically fluent in English
  • • This clinic specialises in serious eye diseases. If you’ve looking for contacts or glasses, I would recommend going to a normal optician.


Phone Number: 027-352-8802

Sato Dermatology Clinic佐藤皮膚科医院

Specialty: Dermatology and Vaccinations

Address: 〒370-0837 群馬県高崎市下横町9-2
9-2 Shimoyokochō, Takasaki, Gunma 370-0837

Opening Hours: 9:00~12:30 and 15:30~18:00 (Closed on Wednesdays, Friday afternoons, and Sundays)


  • • Quite a bit of a wait, but well worth it for excellent medical care.


Phone Number: 027-322-2914

Tanaka Dental Clinic田中歯科医院

Specialty: Dental

Address: 群馬県高崎市宮元町109-3
109-3 Miyamotocho, Takasaki City, Gunma Prefecture

Opening Hours: 9:00~12:30 and 14:30~18:30 (Closed on Thursdays and Sundays)


  • • Good, English-speaking dentist
  • • Easy access from Takasaki City Hall and Takasaki Station


Phone Number: 027-323-8016


Kondo Dental Clinic • 近藤歯科医院

Specialty: Dental

Address: 〒375-0013群馬県藤岡市上戸塚124−7
124-7 Kamitotsuka, Fujioka City, Gunma Prefecture, 375-0013

Opening Hours: 9:00~12:00 and 14:00~18:00 (Closed on Thursdays and Sundays)


  • • Appointments can be made online.
  • • English-speaking doctor


Phone Number: 0274-22-8264


Wada Clinic • 和田クリニック

Specialty: Internal Medicine, Dermatology, and Cardiology

Address: 〒370-2343 群馬県富岡市七日市450-1
450-1 Nanokaichi, Tomioka, Gunma 370-2343

Opening Hours: 9:00~12:30 and 15:00~18:00


  • • One JET went to this clinic for skin condition, and recommended it highly.
  • • Easy access, quick entry, and a helpful doctor.
  • • There is a lack of English support.


Phone Number: 0274-67-5522



Tsukagoshi Clinic • 塚越クリニック

Specialty: Allergies, Internal Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Dermatology

Address: 〒377-0008群馬県渋川市渋川3902-5
3902-5 Shibukawa, Gunma 377-0008

Opening Hours: 9:00~12:00 and 14:30~18:00 (Closed on Thursday afternoons, and Sundays)


  • • Highly recommended, English-speaking doctor
  • • Bus stop right in front of the clinic, access from Shibukawa Station and Ikaho Onsen
  • • Walk-ins are welcome


Phone Number: 0279-60-7700

National Hospital Organization Shibukawa Medical Centre • 国立病院機構 渋川医療センター

Specialty: Multiple departments

Address: 〒377-0204群馬県渋川市白井383番地
383 Shiroi, Shibukawa-shi, Gunma 377-0204

Opening Hours: 13:00~19:00, 10:00~19:00 on Saturdays and Sundays


  • • This is a big hospital, covering lots of areas of health.
  • • Processes at this hospital can be very confusing, it is recommended that you bring your supervisor or a Japanese-speaking helper to guide you through the process.
  • • Very clean and efficient.
  • • Before receiving an appointment, you are required to register as a patient at the hospital. It is a quick process.


Phone Number: 0279-23-1010

Hoshikawa Dental Clinic • 星川歯科医院

Specialty: Dental

Address: 〒377-0007 群馬県渋川市石原89-12
89-12 Ishihara, Shibukawa-shi, Gunma 377-0007

Opening Hours: 9:00~18:30 (Closed on Wednesdays and Sundays)


  • • A short walk from Shibukawa Station.
  • • The nurse was a medical interpreter and the doctor speaks decent English as well.
  • • This clinic can get pretty busy, so it is recommended to make an appointment. The nurse who speaks English is also the head of the front desk, so you can make your appointment in English if you’d like.


Phone Number: 0279-24-8835

Ishii Clinic (Shibukawa Ikaho Branch) • 渋川伊香保分院

Specialty: Dermatology

Address: 〒377-0002 群馬県渋川市中村116−1
116-1 Nakamura, Shibukawa, Gunma 377-0002

Opening Hours: 8:30~12:30, 14:00~18:00 (Closed on Saturdays and Sundays)


  • • No English here, but one ALT had a great experience receiving dermatology help.


Phone Number: 0279-30-3111


Mother’s Clinic TAMURA • マザーズクリニックTAMURA

Specialty: Obstetrics and Gynaecology (OB-GYN)

Address: 〒379-2121群馬県前橋市小屋原町584-1
584-2 Koyaharacho, Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture 379-2121

Opening Hours: 9:00~17:00 (Closed on Wednesdays and Sundays)


  • • There is a wonderful Gynaecologist: reasonable English, patient, and thorough in her explanations of treatment options.


Phone Number: 027-266-8803

Toyoda Clinic • 耳鼻咽喉科 とよだクリニック

Specialty: Otolaryngology (Ear, nose, and throat)

Address: 〒379-2122 群馬県前橋市駒形町557- 1
557-1 Komagata-cho, Maebashi City, Gunma Prefecture 379-2122

Opening Hours: 9:00~12:00 and 14:30~18:00 (Closed on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, and Sundays)


  • • Although the doctor doesn’t have much English, one of the receptionists is able to communicate in English.
  • • Thorough doctor
  • • There is a pharmacy next to the doctor’s office so filling out the prescription they give you is easy as pie.


Phone Number: 027-267-1100

Matsuyama Clinic • 松山医院

Specialty: Internal Medicine, Dermatology, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, and Medical Check

Address: 〒371-0023 群馬県前橋市本町1丁目1−3
1F 1-3-1 Honcho, Maebashi-shi, Gunma 371-0023

Opening Hours: 9:00~12:30 and 14:30~18:00 (Closed on Saturday afternoons, and Sundays)


  • • English available (an appointment is required)
  • • One of the few clinics in Gunma that does regular HIV testing (unlike other hospitals who have HIV testing on only certain days of the month)
  • • Friendly doctor who is about to explain most things in simple English and/or simplified Japanese


Phone Number: 027-221-5297

Forest Mall Orthopaedic Sports Clinic • フォレスト整形外科・スポーツクリニック

Specialty: Rehabilitation and Physiotherapy

Address: 〒371-0844群馬県前橋市古市町180-1
180-1 Furuichimachi, Maebashi, Gunma 371-0844

Opening Hours: 8:45~11:45 and 15:30~19:00 (Closed on Saturday afternoons and Sundays)


  • • Lots of English support: fluent receptionist staff, well-spoken physiotherapist, and doctors who will work hard in their communication with you
  • • Recommended doctor is called “Masa”, but may have since moved


Phone Number: 027-212-0888

Onozato Dental Clinic • オノザトデンタルオフィス

Specialty: Dental

Address: 〒064-0820札幌市中央区大通西23 丁目1-16 グリーンパーク23 2F
44-1 Maehakodamachi, Maebashi, Gunma 371-0835

Opening Hours: 10:00~13:00 and 14:00~20:00


  • • This is a pretty new clinic with up-to-date equipment.
  • • Although his English isn’t the best, he is a really good dentist.


Phone Number: 011-615-6480

Tashin Dental Clinic • 田新歯科クリニック

Specialty: Dental

Address: 群馬県前橋市紅雲町 2-28-11
2 Chome-28-11 Kouncho, Maebashi, Gunma 371-0025

Opening Hours: 9:00~13:00, 14:30~18:30 (Closed on Wednesdays and Sundays)


  • • Cleaning and small cavity recently and 3 visits were around ¥1,000, ¥700, and ¥700 each (with health insurance).
  • • The dentist is wonderful and speaks English very well.
  • • It is recommended to call ahead and make a reservation (ask a teacher at your school).
  • • 10 minute walk Maebashi Station


Phone Number: 027-221-3113


Akatsuki Women’s Clinic • あかつきウィメンズクリニック

Specialty: Obstetrics and Gynaecology (OB-GYN)

Address: 〒372-0817群馬県伊勢崎市連取本町20−9
20-9 Tsunatorihonmachi, Isesaki, Gunma 372-0817

Opening Hours: 9:00~12:00, 15:00~18:00 (Closed on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sunday afternoons)


  • • Akatsuki Women’s Clinic has an amazing female doctor, fluent in English, who went to medical school in America. Her handling of patients is similar to that of the gaikoku, very relaxed and professional.
  • • The reception staff don’t speak English, but some basic Google translate can support you through the sign-up process.
  • • Walk-ins are welcome.
  • • Open on weekends in the morning.


Phone Number: 0270-21-7000

Central Clinic Isesaki • セントラルクリニック伊勢崎

Specialty: Urology, Dermatology, and Internal and External Medicine

Address: 群馬県伊勢崎市粕川町1050-1
1050-1 Kasukawacho, Isesaki City, Gunma Prefecture

Opening Hours: 9:00~12:30 and 15:00~18:30, Saturday 9:00~16:00 (Closed on Sundays and Mondays)


  • • Doctor speaks near-fluent English.
  • • Nurses and thorough and attentive.


Phone Number: 0270-30-8113



Kaigan Glasses • メガネのカイガン桐生店

Specialty: Optometry

Address: 〒370-0121群馬県伊勢崎市境女塚2-1
2 Chome-698-1 Aioicho, Kiryu, Gunma Prefecture 376-0011

Opening Hours: 10:00~20:00 (Closed every other Thursday)


  • • You’ll need a wee bit of Japanese for this clinic, but you can get your eyes checked and buy your contacts in the same place for a reasonable price.
  • • Walking distance from Aioi Station


Phone Number: 0270-74-1681


Ohkawa Dental Clinic • 大川歯科医院

Specialty: Dental

Address: 〒373-0802 群馬県太田市矢場新町118-4
118-4 Yabashinmachi, Ota, Gunma 373-0802

Opening Hours: 9:00~12:00 and 13:30~18:00 (Closed on Thursdays and Sundays)


  • • Friendly staff.
  • • Excellent dentist with good English skills.
  • • Appointments can be made online.


Phone Number: 0276-46-8750


Manaka Clinic • 真中医院

Specialty: Obstetrics and Gynaecology (OB-GYN)

Address: 〒374-0024 群馬県館林市本町3丁目4-5
3-4-5 Honcho, Tatebayashi City, Gunma Prefecture 374-0024

Opening Hours: 9:00~12:30 and 14:30~17:00 (Closed on Thursday afternoons, and Sundays)


  • • It’s a short walk from Tatebayashi Station.
  • • Open on Saturday mornings


Phone Number: 0276-72-1630



Emori Internal Medicine Clinic • 江森内科医院

Specialty: Internal Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Gastroenterology, and Cardiology

Address: 〒378-0042群馬県沼田市西倉内町588
588 Nishikurauchimachi, Numata, Gunma Prefecture 378-0042

Opening Hours: 8:30~18:30 (Closed on Saturdays and Sundays)


  • • Emori-sensei speaks quite good English, especially medical terminology, which really helps. He also increased dosages to meet Western standards.
  • • The nurses and reception staff are mostly only Japanese-speaking, but support you through the sign-up process.


Phone Number: 027-820-1001


Haramachi Red Cross Hospital • 原町赤十字病院

Specialty: General

Address: 群馬県吾妻郡東吾妻町大字原町698
698 Haramachi, Higashiagatsuma, Agatsuma District, Gunma 377-0801

Opening Hours: 8:00~11:00 and 13:00~19:00


  • • This is one of the closest recommended clinics to the Agatsuma area.


Phone Number: 0279-68-2711

Shimada Clinic • しまだ医院

Specialty: General

Address: 〒377-0423 群馬県吾妻郡中之条町大字伊勢町28-1
28-1 Isemachi, Nakanojo, Agatsuma District, Gunma 377-0423

Opening Hours: 9:00~12:30 and 14:00~17:30
(Closed on Thursdays, Sundays, and holidays)


  • • The doctor here was willing to work with an ALT to get a good substitute for an American medication that wasn’t available here.


Phone Number: 0279-76-3435


Takeuchi Clinic • 竹内医院

Specialty: General

Address: 〒379-1314 群馬県利根郡みなかみ町下津2095
2095 Shimozu, Minakami, Tone District, Gunma 379-1314

Opening Hours: 8:30~11:30 and 14:00~17:00 (Closed on Thursday and Saturday afternoons, and Sundays)


  • • This is a recommended local GP.
  • • The English level at this clinic is low, so potentially bring a supervisor to support your during your trip.


Phone Number: 0278-62-1677


American Clinic Tokyo • アメリカンクリニック東京

Specialty: Psychiatry

Address: 〒107-0052 東京都港区赤坂1-7-4 No.1ニイクラビル3階
No.1 Niikura Building 3F, 1-7-4 Akasaka, Minatoku, Tokyo, 107-0052

Opening Hours: 9:00~12:00 and 15:00~18:00 (Closed on Saturdays and Sundays)


  • • Dr. Andrew Kissane is a native English speaker, specialising in clinical depression and anxiety disorder.
  • • Mental health is not covered by your healthcare plan, and appointments costs approximately ¥15000 a time (not including medicine).


Phone Number: 03-6441-0969

Tokyo Mental Health

Specialty: Counselling

Address: 6F Urbane Mitsui Building, Shintomi 2-4-6, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Opening Hours: 9:00~21:00


  • • Mr. Ryota Sakurai has near native English.
  • • Mental health is not covered by your healthcare plan, and sessions cost approximately ¥11000 per hour.
  • • Appointments can be made online.


Email: [email protected]

So you need to get a background check, huh?

Maybe you’re moving out of the country, or maybe you just want a change of pace here when your contract is up, but either way, this is the place you need to go:


〒371-0846 Gunma-ken, Maebashi-shi, Motosōjamachi, 535−1


They’re open from 8:30 to 5.

It’s 1.4 km from Shim-Maebashi station, so you might want to take a cab. If not, there’s an underground walkway, but it’s kinda hard to get to from the station. Go straight out the main exit, turn right at the main street there (just past the restaurants and all that) and walk for quite a ways. When you get to where the karaoke place is just across the street from you, you can turn right and head into the underground area. This leads almost straight to the place, but I wouldn’t experiment with the route if you’re in a hurry. Honestly, from the outside, it doesn’t look like it’s going to take you anywhere other than an old warehouse in which to be murdered.

Once you make it there, you can talk to the receptionist. She doesn’t speak English, but she’ll call over a guy who will muddle through it with you. If you both do Japanglish, you can get the job done. He’s a jolly little guy with glasses.

Here’s the thing: the guy who does the fingerprints is very skilled with his machine. He will make some odd, “I don’t know about this” grunts as he does the job, but if you’re only after a Japanese background check, you’re gonna be fine. They have a form that has English on it, as well as a sample, pre-filled one for you to crib off of. It takes about ten minutes all told, you pay them, and then you’re done for the day. You will have to come back a week or so later to pick up your results (they can’t mail it, he says), but that’ll be that.

If you need an FBI background check, however… Well. That’s more interesting. I brought the FBI’s fingerprinting card that I printed out from their site.

No, they don’t have copies of this card on site. Yes, you should bring your own. Yes, printing on regular old combini printer paper is just fine. No, it doesn’t need to be on cardstock. My suggestion: fill out the information at the top BEFORE you make copies of the form. (I checked with the pertinent authorities and the writing on the form doesn’t need to be fresh, just the prints.) The fingerprinting guy made a couple copies of my form for my own personal use after I got there because, well, I think he knew how it was going to go. (Hint: not well.)

If you’re in this predicament and not well-versed in fingerprinting, go on YouTube and learn how to take fingerprints. No, I am not joking. No, I am not exaggerating. Luckily, I’ve been fingerprinted rather often for my previous employers, so I knew what I was doing. The “fingerprint technician” did not. At all. After we collaborated in ruining two of my FBI printouts, I delegated to him the job of holding the paper still. I did the rest—rolling the ink, taking the impressions, and checking my work. Some key notes for you:

1) Get your whole finger print inked—go high enough up (practically to the top of your finger), and roll your finger left or right until you basically hit your nail on both sides. Get full coverage here.

2) If you were a little messy inking yourself, make sure you wipe off your finger below the first knuckle crease. I ruined one page because I was sloppy in the inking process.

3) Have him hold the paper so that the box you intend to fill is at the edge of the table. If it is, your other fingers will be out of the way (i.e., off the table) and it will be easier to roll them.

4) Test the mechanics of your hand before you put your finger down. Then, press your finger down and roll the way that your hand wants to roll. The left hand is generally easier to roll from left to right, the right hand is the opposite for me. Your hands may be different, though.

5) Use your opposite hand to apply pressure to the finger that you’re rolling. Generally, this means using your thumb and forefinger on the helper hand applied, essentially, to the nailbed area.

6) Don’t press too hard or you’ll just make a black smudge instead of a print.

7) Check the FBI guidelines on the printout—they tell you what’s good enough, so make sure you’re not making any obvious mistakes. If you did, start over.

8) Wipe off after each roll. The last thing you want is a stray print muddying up a good impression.

When you’re finished, they’ll want to make a copy for their own records. I’m not sure why, but it’s a thing they do. Lastly, there’s a spot on the paper for them to sign, but “Japanese police don’t sign things,” so they won’t be doing that, either. Honestly, if you’re after the FBI background check, you’re going to this place to make use of their stamp pad and that’s about it. Your experience may be different, but for me, it was a complete farce.

After you’re done with all of that, you’ll need to pay them. That means going to a driving school that’s outside, across the little river there, and giving them 400 yen for a stamp. Bring the stamp back, and they’ll finalize your Japanese background check. From here, you’ll wait a week or so for your Japanese results. Meanwhile, you’ll need to go and mail off your fingerprints to the FBI. I’m not including the address here in case something changes in the near (or far) future. You can easily find it on the internet.

Good luck, and my your fingers be flexible enough to face the twists and turns of a struggling middle-aged Japanese man.


Quick note about the FBI: they take forever. You can go through an FBI channeler, a service that will greatly expedite the process, but you should know that they don’t accept documents that aren’t signed by the place that did your prints, and they’re going to want to send your results to an address within the United States. (This was my experience, anyway—maybe you’ll find someone more lenient who’s willing to deal with the cultural differences. Truthfully, the FBI doesn’t care if that spot is signed or not, according to the research I did online, but the channelers have their own rules.) This is a problem, obviously, but I’m pretty sure nobody’s going to check if someone named Tanaka works at the Maebashi police station, if you catch my drift.

(Disclaimer: What you do with that line on the form is entirely your choice, please don’t consider this to be bulletproof or consequence free advice from a wizened older JET. You do you, and please don’t implicate me, GAJET or the JET Program if you get in trouble for what you do when you do you.)

Final Note: There are places in Tokyo that will do your FBI fingerprints and sign the document. They will charge you 20,000 yen for their services, though, so honestly, I didn’t even entertain the thought.

50cc Life: Get Your Scooter License in Gunma

September 7, 2017 | Guides | 2 Comments

If you’re new to Japan and have been asking around about how to get a Japanese driver’s license, you’ve probably heard some tales. There are some determined ALTs out there. Shrugging off the expenses and stress, they take the driving skills test over and over again until they finally pass.

If you’re looking for another way, a 50cc scooter license might be right up your alley. Getting one is actually very simple. No need to take a driving skills test. No struggling through a Japanese paper test.  Here you’ll find information on obtaining a scooter license the simple and easy way.


Step 1
Translate your home country’s license to Japanese at JAF (the Japan Automobile Federation)

First, check that you meet the following requirements: (1) you must have lived in Japan for at least three months. (2) your foreign license is not expired.

Documents to bring to the JAF office:

  1. Application form, direct from the JAF website.  外国運転免許証翻訳文発行申請書
  2. Your driver’s license from your home country. 外国運転免許2
  3. Photocopy of your residence card. (Also, bring your card just in case). 在留カード3
  4. 3,000

How to:

  • Prepare the required documents.
  • Check the location for your nearest JAF office.image2
  • Go there. You don’t need an appointment, but check their hours of operation beforehand.
  • Talk to an agent and submit necessary documents.
  • Receive the translation. Keep it in a safe place until you go to the Traffic Center.

For more information, check out Information on the Japanese Translation for Switch a Foreign Driver’s License to a Japanese License.

Step 2
Prepare Your Documents and Study for the 10 question English Driving Test

According to section 3 of the local Traffic Center’s Procedure for Obtaining a Japanese Driver’s License document, you must bring the following documents to the Prefectural Driving Center. You may need to go to City Hall to collect one or more of these.

(3) a. Your original driver’s license + a copy of both the front and back
(3) b. The Japanese translation of your license from JAF
(3) c. Your passport + copies of most of its pages
(3) d. Your resident card and certificate of residence
住民票5 + a copy of each

The Certificate of Residence is different from the document you initially received in City Hall. Take the attached original document with the Japanese to City Hall to make it very clear which document you’re requesting.

(3) e. Written application (the clerk will produce and may fill out on your behalf) + your 3 x 2.4 cm photograph.

Photo booths are often located outside large chain stores or train stations. The Traffic Center also has a photo booth handy. No, these are not the fun purikura kind where you can add a mustache and place a ghost in the background!

(3)f. Bring your international driver’s license (if you have one) just in case.

If you are from a non-Western country, you may need more documentation (when I was waiting, I heard the Japanese clerk tell a Sri Lankan man that he needed additional papers)

To prepare for the 10 question English driving test, get to know Japanese road signs and regulations. Learn the 3-point turn that is specific to driving a 50cc scooter. Also, drive with friends and chat about driving with coworkers or other ALTs who have been driving in Japan for a while.

Step 3
Getting your Japanese Driver’s License at the Prefectural Traffic Center

Check the location and hours of Gunma Prefecture’s Traffic Center 総合交通センター6. It’s a ten minute walk from Shin-Maebashi Station. Bring more than enough cash to cover the fees (these total around 1 man yen 一万円).

Go to the Traffic Center right when they open because it will already be busy. In 2012, the hours were 1:00-4:30pm Monday to Friday. Expect to be at the Traffic Center until after 4:00pm. Expect to wait between the various steps and bring something to fill your time.

Follow the yellow line to the second floor. Stand in line for Foreign License Conversion (this was on the far right). Wait until it is your turn and, in Japanese, tell them you want a 50cc scooter license and that you aren’t going to take the driving skill test運転技術試験7 .

Provide your documents. They will check them, ask you clarifying questions, and maybe request more copies. If they need a copy of something, they will send you to the copier down the hall. (Interesting note, they asked me about the age restriction printed on my Wisconsin driver’s license. I told them it was to make it clear to clerks that I couldn’t buy alcohol and that it had nothing to do with driving.)

Take the vision test. When they’re ready, the clerk will direct you to the back of the reception area to complete an eyesight test視力検査8. You will be asked to look at circles and tell the vision specialist which direction the gap in each circle is facing. Make sure you know the Japanese for “up” “down” “right” and “left.” Then, you will need to identify colors. Be ready with your Japanese color words! Then, the vision specialist will sign your papers, and you will take them back to the reception counter at the front of the room. There you will pay for the vision test. Wait as they complete your paperwork and process the other foreigners in line.

Take the 50cc scooter 10 question paper test in English or Portuguese/Spanish. When called, follow the clerk to a nearby room. Each question of the test is accompanied by a descriptive picture, likely because the English is wordy. At the end of the test, the clerk collects your test and grades it. You’ll know right then and there if you passed.

Pay for the test at another counter. You will then be asked to enter two four digit numbers into a machine, which will print a paper you will need for the next step. Again, there may be a long wait at this time. Take out something to do, but pay attention to what’s going on.

Get your driving license photo taken. Finally, go with the other people who have passed the test to have your photo taken. After your license is printed, your name will be called, the clerk will ask you to check the spelling of your name and your address, and then you’re free to go– Japanese 50 cc scooter license in hand!

Step Four
Buying Your Scooter & Gear

You’ll Need:

  • Scooter
  • Mandatory vehicle liability insurance自賠責保険9
  • Helmet
  • Gloves
  • Windproof/waterproof coat

If you want to buy a used scooter and an ALT near you isn’t selling one, find a used motorbike shop (usually you can find these near a university). I bought my scooter from Tsukagoshi Motors塚越モーター near 高崎市経済大学校Takasaki Keizai Daigakko at 744-1 Kaminamiemachi, Takasaki 370-0801. Used scooters sell for between 50,000 -80,000 yen.

Shiny new scooters sell at any motorbike store. These are usually located on main roads and easy to identify because bikes and scooters are displayed in the windows. These run 170,000-200,000 yen.

For accessories and gear, go to a specialty shop. Takasaki’s Ricoland ライコランド高崎店image4

stocks helmets, gloves, and jackets. I recommend getting a helmet that shields your face. Bugs are real. Rain will also happen.

You’ll need insurance before you start driving. I asked the owner of the shop where I bought my scooter for a recommendation. He suggested an insurance company in downtown Takasaki called Zenrosai共済ショップ高崎店.image5

Insurance can run near 30,000 yen annually and may involve authorizing an auto-withdrawal from your bank account.

Stay Safe

Remember to keep in the left lane and do 3-point turns at intersections which are wider than 2 lanes (one way). Keep track of your mileage and when you’ll need an oil change. Know your route before departing, be aware of traffic, and try to keep at a reasonable speed.

Don’t hold a phone and don’t drive in the rain. Be safe. If you think you’ve missed your turn or it starts raining, just pull over, shut off your bike, check Google maps or wait out the downpour, and return to the road when conditions are right.

Good luck!

This guide was compiled by a former JET who completed this process in 2013. If you notice any errors or feel you have any important information to add, please contact the GAJET Editor, [email protected]


1. 外国運転免許証翻訳文発行申請書(がいこくうんてんめんきょしょうほんやくぶんはっこうしんせいしょ)foreign driver’s license translation application form

2. 外国運転免許 (がいこくうんてんめんきょ)foreign driver’s license

3. 在留カード (ざいりゅうカード)residence card

4. 外国運転免許証翻訳文(がいこくうんてんめんきょしょうほんやくぶん)foreign driver’s license translation

5. 住民票(じゅうみんひょう)certificate of residence

6. 総合交通センター6(そうごうこうつうセンター)General Traffic Center

7. 運転技術試験(うんてんぎじゅつしけん)driving skill test

8. 視力検査 (しりょくけんさ) eyesight test

9. 自賠責保険 (じばいせきほけん) mandatory vehicle liability insurance

About the Author

Terry Dassow is a former Assistant Language Teacher with the JET Program who lived in Takasaki from 2011-2014. Upon returning to the USA, she taught writing at a Hmong high school before entering the editing field. She is currently an Editor and Communications Specialist for an engineering consulting and design-build firm based in Milwaukee, WI.

Finding music gear in Gunma

January 27, 2017 | Guides | 1 Comment

Finding music gear in Gunma

by Neal Beaver


New Year’s resolution is to get a new hobby? If you’ve set your heart on learning a musical instrument, but don’t know where to get one, this guide is for you! I used to trek all the way to Tokyo, thinking the big city would have the best deals, but I learned that Gunma has hidden gems of its own. There are plenty of music stores in Gunma that didn’t make this list. If you had a great experience somewhere, please share in the comments!


For beginners and bargain-hunters

Hard-Off recycle shops (many locations in Gunma)

Gunma locations and hours (Japanese):

Hard-Offs have all kinds of gadgets, and the inventories vary from location to location. For example, there are two in Kiryu, but I’ve found the western one is always better than the eastern in terms of musical instruments. If you’re looking for a good, cheap acoustic guitar, Hard-Off is the place to go. Unfortunately the staff may or may not know anything about musical instruments (may explain the cheap prices…). More specifically, I find they don’t bother keeping the instruments in tune, sometimes to the point where the strings are almost falling off and you can’t even try the instrument. BUT you can ask them to tune it and they usually have a little practice amp/space for you to use. Don’t be shy! Hard-Off is also especially good for effects pedals. I bought a Vox Pathfinder 10 practice amp here, an affordable choice if you’re looking for a small amp to practice on without terrifying your neighbors. You can also find appropriate amps if you want to terrify your neighbors.


Or maybe you’re looking for an upgrade


Dust Bowl (Multiple locations; guitar, bass, amps, effects)

Transit: Takasaki, Maebashi, and Shin-Isesaki stations, walking distance from each


With locations in Takasaki, Maebashi, and Isesaki (Shin-Isesaki Station), Dust Bowl is one of the better “chains” in Gunma. I put chain in quotations because this shop has a more down to earth, less commercial feel than the type you’ll find in AEON or SMARK. The location in Takasaki has great deals. I’ve seen a 100 dollar Orange Crush 12w for 5,000 yen in here. The Takasaki location especially has a large inventory of guitars, including used and vintage guitars. They also offer lessons (Japanese only). The Takasaki and Isesaki locations even have live venues.

Dustbowl Maebashi


A hidden gem in Midori: Slow Hand (Omama, Midori City)

Transit: walking distance from Akagi Station

Address: 〒376-0101 群馬県みどり市大間々町大間々2418 スナガビルA 1F
Phone: 0277-73-2373
Hours*: Mon thru Sat :15:00~23:00 Sun and holidays日曜・祝日 13:00~23:00

*I would call ahead; I’ve seen his shop closed multiple times during his open hours.


Nestled away in the quiet town of Omama, Koshiba-san at Slow Hand sells some of the best guitars I’ve seen in Japan, including Tokyo. His shop is quite small and the inventory is always rotating, so you never know what he’ll have. He’s always good for at least one drool-inducing Fender; lately a golden, vintage Musicmaster has been hanging in his shop. I bought a custom reissue Japanese Fender Mustang from him and couldn’t be happier. The price was unbelievable. He does my repairs, and even took me out to dinner once. He has a nice balance of insane vintage guitars and affordable used ones. He plays in a local jazz band and offers lessons if that’s what you’re after (probably Japanese only). Practice space is also available (covered in Beatles LP covers and tabs for blues songs named stuff like “Give Me Back my Wig”). His hours are kinda weird, so I recommend calling ahead. My personal opinion; buy a guitar from a cool local guy like this, not a chain. It makes a better memory anyways.


Amazon, something for everyone:

Amazon is a great resource for musical instruments. Especially the smaller stuff like pedals and cables. It’s also great if you’ve got questions but can’t get past the language barrier, as it is offered in English. Payment options are also easy; you can either buy a gift card at the conbini or more recently you’re able to simply add your foreign credit card and pay with that (international bank fees vary on your bank, of course) with their currency translation (Bank of America charged me about 1.35 USD for a 40 USD transaction).




I bashed Tokyo a little in the intro, but of course the mega-city is a great source for musical instruments. The point of this guide was simply to show that you don’t have to haul down to Tokyo just for instruments, but of course tossing a little gear-hunting into your weekend trip to Tokyo can be a lot of fun.


So where to go? Most people start in Ochanomizu, walking distance from Akihabara (don’t forget the Hard-Off in Akihabara either; they have a nice pedal selection and usually several sub-50,000 yen reissue Fender Strats, Teles, Mustangs, ect.). Ochanomizu is a big clump of music stores (several stores are owned by the same people). I made the mistake of letting my first impression of these stores turn me off; I didn’t like the chain-feel and was disappointed I wasn’t finding the kind of boutique shops like back in the States. But I found out that while the feel of the shops is rather commercial, the inventory can be quite good. There are some super vintage guitars nestled in those bright lights and uniformed goons. If you want a sneak peek at the inventory of the largest store, Shimokura, take a look here:


And there’s a Japan-Guide page for Ochanomizu:


The Akihabara Hard-Off has a great inventory.


A typical shop on Ochanomizu’s famous guitar street.
Shibuya – Niconico Guitars

Transit: Shibuya or Omote-sando Stations

Niconico Guitars



Shimokitazaka –Tokyo’s favorite hipster neighborhood, Shimokitazawa is an important place for Tokyo’s music scene. This includes guitar shops. (Bonus tip: head over to Bear Pond Espresso for some good coffee!). This is one cool shop:

The Guitar Lounge

Transit: 池ノ上駅 Ikeno-ue Station

The Guitar Lounge

Your school

It’s possible your school will have musical instruments you can use, especially piano and drums. If you teach at a high school, it’s almost guaranteed that your school will have both. My school has four pianos in four different locations and one drum set, and I’m always welcome to use them when the music club isn’t busy. Ask your music teacher for permission first, especially when it’s OK to play a noisy instrument liked drums! In my experiences, music teachers are among the friendliest teachers and will be glad to have you on board. But music clubs are also very busy, so be sure to only go when you know you’re not interrupting something! Sometimes the students use the pianos during lunch, so make sure you’re not stealing the piano when they want to use it. And be sure to check surrounding rooms for classes before you blast the drum solo from “In the Air Tonight.”

piano drums

Know of anything other great music shops in Gunma? Post them in the comments!