The short answer is yes.
Initially, if a valid International Driving License is held, you can drive with that for up to 1 year. After the interim period, a Japanese driving license must be procured. If no International Driving License is held, then the law requires a valid Japanese license to be obtained before driving in the country. After arriving in Japan, it is difficult to obtain a valid International Driving License for this purpose, so it is recommended the license be obtained before leaving the home country location.
Depending on the country of the original license, the process for changing to a local Japanese license can vary in process and processing times. In general, foreign nationals will need to bring to the Driver’s License Bureau the foreign driver’s license, appropriate documents and fees in order to apply. Also depending on the country the current license was issued in, a practical and written driving test may be required. A vision and color recognition check will be required by all applicants.
If you are required to take the exams, don’t worry if you don’t pass initially. It is quite common to take the test more than once and to get some advance support. Services are available to assist with preparing for the written test ahead of time and for arranging for driver training.