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The top secret adventures of Tintin in Toyota land.

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Saturday August, 23. I arrived at 13:00 in front of the Koyama Driving School near the Tama river at Futago Tamagawa. From iidabashi, I just have to change once.
And the station Futago Tamagawa is the first open air station so it’s easy to wake up when arriving.

The building is brand new, superb architecture with apparent walls, nice materials, a cafeteria

Paperwork went easily. I created a small panic with my talent for miss reading color blind tests: I failed on the second picture 🙂 but quickly recovered the situation. For my eyes, I’ve been given a perfect score without my glasses. So I can drive with or without them. Cool.

I had an aptitude test. The focus is on ability to execute simple task very very quickly. Comparing set of numbers, figures, kanjis and hiragana. Kanjis were tough as i don’t have global reading ability and as I had to look at the detailed drawings. Then we had to draw lines (about 400 in 30secs), triangles (about 200 in 30secs), solve substractions (50 in one minute) and answer general questions about our social attitude to detect “unsocial attitudes”. Weird mix but well
managed by KDS support staff.

The first two “code” lessons (1 and 10) went OK, twice fifty minutes. General presentation of the school, of the rules, of the exam of the renewal, etc… I got a couple of 50 questions tests to train myself. First trial exam in 14 days. I’ve some serious homework there.

Sunday August, 24:

From 9:30, two lessons of codes: signs and rules & regulations

From 11:30, two hours of driving. A female teacher welcomed me at the gate, drove me to a remote, flat, simple road to learn the double pedaling, going forward and backward. I will learn to drive a manual transmission car.

First contact with the car was a little tense. I had some problem releasing the clutch correctly and the gas pedal was a tad soft. Then we went around the outside road to learn about the 2nd speed, then back to first after stopping, and back second and so on. After five minutes of rest, second round with a new instructor (24?). We tried the second, third in the right lanes, parking on the side of the road (30cm on the left, spot on for the front). Looking at my style, the instructor asked about my driving experience: 20 hours on Playstation with “retour de force” driving wheel 🙂 and 25 hours last century. I also have about 20 years of co-piloting.

From 14:30: Instructor Tomo who will be our examinator introduced AT speed management and the speed limits. Last section with the head of the foreign program on authorized and non authorized places to drive.

Overall first two days impressions: very serious and professional team.
Great infrastructure; building, circuit, learning material and learning presentation on large screen TV with an alternance of powerpoint presentation and small movies.
On driving: It was great. I’m learning fine. I enjoyed a couple of acceleration up to 40-50 km/h. Double clutching is not yet well managed. I was exhausted on Sunday evening, with tired legs and basin muscles. I’m discovering new muscles…

Saturday 30 August: Another code lesson and two driving lessons: I’m learning to turn left at intersection, using clutch release, double clutching and so on. Some rain but it’s fine. I’m not tired after the driving lessons. I changed my position in the car, easing the movement with the left leg. Changing speed with the left arm is so easy.

Sunday 30 August: Another training on basic code of the road and two fun training in the car. I tried turning left and right, as well as starting the engine in uphill position. I understand better the clutch system and my last instructor gave me a very good advice. I tried to pivot my left foot with the back on the ground. No good, I need to give more flexibility in the leg.

Saturday 6 September: Another quick code lesson then 2 hours of driving. Starting on the hill with hand brake, then without hand brake. Fun. Didn’t know it was possible without hand break. And we tried reversing and slow move in curvy road. Reversing is not so easy. Need practice.

Written exams tomorrow: I did four tests, with 8, 5, 5 and 6 errors. So, so… as I need a maximum of 5 errors.

Last code lesson for the first part. And the exam went well. First test 47/50, second 47/50 and third 47/50. I passed with the first anyway. The last hour was a driving lesson in the middle of a storm. Very strong winds, rain and lightening. Fun. The most difficult so far is starting on a hill. And remember changing back to first after stopping.

After 3 more couple of training lessons, I took on Sep 21 the driving test for the Learner Driver License that will allow me to drive on the road with an instructor. I passed the driving test with a 90/100: I turn left to widely. But it’s better than touching the sidewalk. So it’s fine. Writing test went OK, but for one answer where I’m sure to be wrong. Final results on Monday.

I passed the Learner Driving License exam. So cool. The circuit was fine but a bit crowded and repetitive.

I can now learn to drive on roads. Next Saturday, I’ll have 7 hours of lessons: mechanic, code, first help and driving.

Saturday 27 September: From 9:30, one hour of explanation on the final driving exam concept and how to drive on roads in Setagaya ku environment. Then three hours of CPR, first aid lessons. After an eventful lunch time (many interesting emails and phone calls), I got 100 minutes of driving lessons, then another lesson on parking and stopping. A long day, quite fun. Driving on the road is fine. I lost power twice and my line only once. Starting uphill is fine, if I’m ready. I’m looking forward to my next batch of lessons.

Saturday October 4th: Three code lessons, on accidents, insurances and numbers. Better have a good insurance in this country. Penalty are very very high.
Numbers: maximum heigth, width, speed, towing, signals, how many kids…
Too many numbers, but I do have a skill to remember them 🙂 So it’s a charm.
Driving 100 minutes, a little crowed again at the start, many poorly parked cars. I still don’t check behind me when stopping at amber light. I really enjoy driving. It’s really funny.

Sunday October 5th: Two hours of driving in Setagaya ku: locals beware. I stopped at a corner when I tried to start in 3rd, and I once mixed 4th and 2nd. I really enjoy the chance of learning with good instructors. I progress every time thanks to their kind instructions. Today, I learned how I should release the clutch slowly. So cool.

Saturday October 11th: Two lessons and one hour of driving. One lesson focusing on the driver psychology and the detailed analysis of the aptitude test. Speed was not the best strategy :-). The errors were costly. So care was important. And all the questions were interesting. The result is that I am very Japanese. The results of the test were coded in the file I give to each instructor before each lesson. They can have a quick view and check my psychological profile. Sugoi! So, I understand why the first question is usually: how long have you been in Japan? 12 years!? Why? I now understand as my profile is so Japanese. No big surprise either.

Sunday 12th: Still lacking power on gas pedal on the first speed, many stops on the circuit. Learned parking from the right, from the left and parking on the side, on the streets of Setagaya ku. I should avoided the bushes though. I have understood the move. It will be at the exam. Another two lessons and three hours of driving. I progress well, with good progress. I also tested the ABS, and the sudden stopping to avoid an obstacle. Fun, Fun. Another 3 weeks and the final exam…

Saturday 18th: Run for the Cure. 5K race. No secret aventures.

Sunday 19th: My shortest lesson set up: Only two hours. Not really efficient, as I need
45 minutes to go and I need to be there 20 minutes in advance. I learn left side parking, le créneau. Rather easy. I can adjust my course, and I need to do it most of the time. Then some training on the written test on safety and blind spot. French and Japanese use the same terms for blind spot: dead angle, shi kaku, angle mort. For the test, just be ultra careful in answering as points are tough to gain.

Saturday 25th: Late sessions: 20 minutes driving in new Setagaya neighborhood, around the parks in the North of the ku. Then I switched with another driver and was asked to judge his driving on the same roads. Younger driver, better reflex, slightly less experience of driving. Anyway, fun to be a copilot, but I have 20 years of experience. Then we had one hour of map reading, selecting road game, then the last code lesson about dangers of alcohol, distraction, fatigue. They gave us special glasses replicating drunkenness. Impossible to go straight. Then we had a couple of other fun test. Late sessions but fun. Let’s go on the highways…

Sunday 26th: The Tomei highway. After a short session of navigation in Setagata, we move on the Tomei expressway towards Yokohama. No problem to navigate as I have an automatic BMW series 3, very similar to my Toyota Altezza, so it’s easy to judge the speed and the movement of other vehicles. I’ve 8 years of co-piloting on the Japanese highway system. I overtook one rather slow guy by the left on the acceleration line when leaving a rest area. Not a really popular move, but bold and efficient. After 15 km, we got out of the highway, changed seat and I got back to Setagaya with another student driving the way back. He got less traffic (from the suburbs to central Tokyo). We went through automatic ETC gate. Quite good. After returning to Setagaya ku, we had another one hour of driving. I need to be very cool, thinking of carrying a bag of eggs. Driving an automatic is anyway pretty easy.

Another two weeks before the exam.

Saturday November 1st: I forgot everything: first stop and I forgot the clutch and I stalled the engine. Automatic cars are so convenient. We have a lot of traffic on saturday morning. And so many badly parked cars. We crisscrossed the area to prepare for the conduct test. I went ok overall, forgetting only once to signal a left turn. Next Sunday, the Setagaya half will be run from 8:00, so streets should be clear of obstacle by the time of the exam. I drived in front of the school where I went in the morning for A. first French SAT. I did not recognize it immediatly. I was so focused… Parking is still a challenge as practice was may be not sufficient.

Saturday Novemmber 8th: I had a written pre-test and a driving pre-test. I knew in advance about the written test so I prepared it. I still made a couple of stupid mistake but overall it was good and I passed it easily. Then my last two hours of driving were in fact a pre test. I hate the small roads of Setagaya ku on Saturday morning with all those shoppers parking illegally in front of their favorite shops. It’s a constant struggle to avoid and pass them. I avoided a taxi that went wide and almost hit my car. Parking is a challenge as I don’t have enough practice but I manage to do it with one correction which should not cost me points. After tasting the automatic car, the manual car is quite painful, especially at slow speed in urban cycle, with slopes, pedestrian crossings and small roads without pedrestian pavement. Exam is tomorrow. I’ve three months to succeed. Then I’ll have to take more lessons to qualify again for the test. My instructor was more confident in my ability than myself. Stay tune.

Sunday November 9th: I passed the driving test: 85/100. Good as limit is 70/100. A missed light signal “clignotant” and a wide left turn. Parking was fine. Now, I need to pass the written test within one year. Et hop. I’ve a nice official certificate that I need to exchange for the official driving license after a 90/100 or better writing test.

Thursday November 13th: End of the journey: I passed the written test and I got my license to drive a manual car in Japan. 90 questions at 1 point and 5 questions at 2 points, minimum of 90 points to pass the test. Youpi.

Now I need to check insurance, then I can drive.

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