Getting a car is no way easy in Japan, and without the right help, things can and will get very expensive. Coming to my rescue was my good friend in Ibaraki, who works in the import/export automotive trade and possesses the power to buy from auctions around Japan. My friend began digging around the USS-R, a famous auctioning company for a car that fit my profile. Considering how complicated owning a regular can be in Japan, requiring you to apply for a parking spot, having it examined by police, and requiring it to be near where you live, I decided to buy a K-car. A K-car is as compact as you can get, usually small, these days boxy designs that run off engine smaller than 1L and usually packing a turbocharger (pretty cool). Everything else would cost less as well, including road tax, inspection, parts, parking and gasoline. After less than a month, we found a car that fit me well a Subaru Pleo, for under 200000 yen ($2000~), but it had high mileage, and the buyer cancelled the auction when all the was offered up to was 150000 yen. It was a disappointment, but my friend was back on top of it and found a Suzuki Kei Works (Works being a top sports model version) and I fell in love with it. He said it might be twice as expensive, but I set a cap of 300000 yen, and he some how managed to win it at just below that! I was going to be a driver in Japan! However, this is when things begin to get complicated.
Before I can have a car transferred to my name I need the usual documents, including the most important, at Jitsuin (official stamp) that is recognized by the city. After getting this stamp, you can get a piece of paper that confirms the stamp is legitimately yours, and is normally used to buy cars. The paper is cheap, about 300 yen, and the stamp is about 2000 yen at it’s cheapest and must have a name from your license or passport on it. The stamp takes about a day to make, so prepare in advance! And of course remember that having a Japanese driver’s license is a must.
After all was said and done, I did not have any paperwork from my friend yet, so picking up the car (which was still under his name) required my license, and my friend’s office’s confirmation at the USS-R, near the port. The walk was long, but once you arrive, you have to find the office. I got a bit lost and ended up surrounded by a lot of cars, including several American cars. I finally found the office and after a small talk, I got to see the car! This was one of the most exciting moments of my life in Japan. The car, my car, waiting for me to take it, and carry it off to far off adventures around Japan. I took a picture of everything before I drove off just for future reference and set up my dash cam. However, there was no power! I went back in and they told me to find a battery cart and jump the car. After a few moments, I was off. The most difficult part was getting use to the high clutch, which was located a lot higher than my RX-7 back in Canada. It was an hours drive, but I got home and parked it near my apartment. Everything felt great.
One of the most difficult points of car ownership in Japan was parking so the day before I picked up my car I went through a bit of a stressful search. My apartment was undergoing repairs and parking was forbidden, many parking places don’t want anyone who can’t speak fluent Japanese renting spots, even if you have a friend who can speak fluent Japanese. My friend who use to work in the apartment business began asking contacts and she was a bit unsuccessful in that search. She ended up finding a spot one station from my home for about 12000 yen a month ($120). A little steeper than what I wished, but an incredibly close and friendly place. We worked out the contact and everything was peachy!
The final two thing I was worried about was name transfer and insurance! We went to Sompo Japan and were able to acquire some good insurance for about 5000 yen a month after an hour of negotiating. The most difficult part was having the car transferred to my name before getting insurance. We had to go to the local Kei offices near the harbor and fill out 3 complicated forms! At some palces if you paid someone 1500 yen they would fill it out for you, but this place didn’t have such a thing. The lady was nice enough to help us through all of it. I was really thankful she was so nice. My roommate filled two sheet, and I filled the other. We had to give back the old license plates, and run around from booth to booth passing papers around over the course of two hours. It was really bureaucratic, but when I finally got my new plates, it was like seeing my car for the first time, this time she was really mine, all mine. I was really lucky to have 3 good friends help me do everything, without them owning a car in Japan would have taken a lot longer and things would have been really stressful. For those thinking about doing everything themselves I wish them luck with the challenge and can assure them it’s all worth it.