Buying a Car in Japan

Japan does a lot of things well.  I am not convinced the whole ‘car’ thing is one of them.  I used to own a 50cc scooter, which was more than enough for the small island I lived on.  Now that I have supersized, I need a car to travel to the various schools I work at.  It was a simple matter* to actually buy the car.  I paid my predecessor and then filled out a form with my address and name that he had previously signed with the car’s information.  With my inkan (personal signature stamp) I was able to sign that and drop it off at the local garage where they registered it in my name.

Then came the more difficult, costly part.

In Japan there is something called shakken.  Part registration, part emissions, part maintenance, shakken lasts less and less time the older the car is.  The car I bought requires shakken every two years.  The process involves an initial check and estimate, then making an appointment for the maintenance your car will require.  On the up side this means even older cars have a good track record of oil changes etc.  It is even a good way to promote the car industry by making newer cars more attractive financially.  The environment gets a helping hand because older, less efficient cars become more expensive than a brand new car.  Newer cars are, of course, cheaper since they need less work.  On the down side, it is EXPENSIVE!

For my 10 year old plus mini car, I’ll be looking forward to an $800 bill.  One that will only increase in another two years.  Good thing I only paid $300 for the car.

If you are looking at driving in Japan, be prepared to jump through a few extra hoops.


*Some municipalities require more information when registering/buying a car.  Many in large cities require you have proof of a parking space since space is an issue.