Category Archives: driving

Jigokudani Monkey Park

With Spring sneaking up on us, we took a day trip up to Nagano prefecture to see the onsen monkeys! Even though most of the snow was gone, there were still plenty of monkeys to see. These are the ones  on the monkey cam so it was neat to see them up close.

Driving to Jigokudani Monkey Park

Driving to Jigokudani Monkey Park


1.6km walk to the park – covered in ice. Guess it keeps the tour groups out.


a monkey! in the snow!

No running by the pool!

No running by the pool!


wet monkey

Hanging out

Hanging out


monkey business behind the scenes


having a hot drink of water


but Mommmmm you checked for mites yesterday.


Japanese macaque


little monkey



Cycling in the snow

Pedaling in the snow #NBD

Japanese driver’s license


I’m Official













FINALLY made it back to Gifu to take “the test” after having the initial document review last October.

Left Gero around 6:00 am, made it to the Gifu Police Station for the 8:30 appointment. It started with document submission, vision test (had to take off eyeglasses – what?!), and a 10 question written test (very basic, need a 70% to pass). Then came the driving portion. The course had to be memorized, and to paraphrase the Gero Driving instructor “forgetting the course doesn’t necessarily fail you, it only gives you more opportunities to fail”. That was the information the universe needed to hear because RC missed a turn. There was an audible gasp from the viewing gallery. The car stopped. He looped back around and continued on the test.  Soon after that, the instructor got out of the car to check his tire at a stop sign. Another gasp from the crowd. “He walked back into the car smiling and shaking his head – I was 1″ away from the line.” There isn’t any parking portion of the test, though RC is pretty fabulous at parking “Japanese style” (reversing backwards into really small parking spaces).

After the test was over the test-takers (RC + two others) were ushered back into the waiting room.  10 minutes later Camacho-san was having his picture taken for his Japanese Driver’s License (the picture looks like a mugshot “they told me not to smile”). A few minutes later he was listening to a brief “Rules of the Road” talk and then he was official. Whoo-hoo!

Thanks to Narita-san for all of his help with the studying and preparation! As a side note, failing it would have really sucked. It’s another $100 or so for the test and a 4 hour round trip from Gero to Gifu!

Gero Driving School

The course

From all accounts on the world wide web, passing the driver’s test the first time doesn’t seem to happen all that often. “Driving Schools” are a HUGE business in Japan -around $3,000/person. (Of course, you wouldn’t know that there were such high standards for getting a driver’s license because the general population of this island doesn’t drive any better than the US). We didn’t go to the driving school, but we did spend an hour at the Gero Driving School driving around on a course “similar to the one in Gifu”.

Takeaways from the Gero Driving School:

  • Drive slow on the inside of the course, but not too slow on the outside.
  • Pump the breaks (3x) prior to reaching a turn. (?!)
  • Exaggerate your mirror check/blind spot checks.
  • Don’t hit things. You immediately fail.
  • It’s OK to drive with your blinker on if you are going to turn in the next 3 minutes.
  • If the test administrator has to use the emergency break you fail.
  • There is a specific order for moving the seat, locking the door, adjusting the mirrors, and putting on the seatbelt… but I can’t remember the order…hmm.


Q: “What happens if you miss/forget a turn during the exam?”

A: “Nothing. Loop back around and try again. It only gives you more opportunities to fail”

If you are interested, check out the Japanese road signs. Word on the street is that the not-as-populated prefectures are more lenient, so I guess that’s another plus for living in GP.

Taking the car for a spin

DL – Document Review

It sure isn’t easy to get a Japanese driver’s license. We took this information to Gifu for a “document review” so we can  schedule the test.

  • Proof of residence from city hall
  • US license + certified translation of license
  • Driving Record (including original issue date)
  • Passport with Valid Visa
  • Alien Registration card
  • Picture of yourself
Work is about to get cRaZY so we might postpone the test until the new year… stay tuned.

Mr. Bolt

We got a up close look of the Nissan GT-R. Very Shiny.. Very Fast.














Check out the guy on the bench, he was obviously blown away from the grand viewing.


Biker dog

Even bikers like to have pets.

Hope that strap holds


The final visa paperwork arrived this week (Certificate of Eligibility, etc) and after a quick trip to the immigration office in Gifu our status has officially been upgraded to “intra-company transferee”. It only took months and months of paperwork but I am glad it was successful. Sitting in a room at customs after a 14 hour plane ride is not a fun experience…

Here are some pictures from the big city of Gifu.

Fields in Takayama

Found some pictures from the May visit to Takayama. More rice field planting (cont’d)

The drive to Takayama

Fields in Takayama

Grow food instead of yards.


The continuing timeline of the planting season. Flooding the fields, standing in mud, planting the seeds, and wearing utilitarian (but awesome) hats. (cont’d)





Lots of fields

Not a Chevy

A Skyline parked in Gero


My new Chevy

Genuine Chevrolet