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Driving in Japan?

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Japan at a Glance

Japan: Car Import, Registration, Insurance

When thinking of driving in Japan, most of you might imagine congested highways in the megacities. While generalizations have to be taken with a grain of salt, this is actually a fairly accurate image of traffic in Japan. Read our guide to get a good idea of what driving a car in Japan is all about.

Car Import to Japan

Importing a car into Japan is rather expensive and, according to most expats who have tried it or toyed with the idea, simply not worth it. If you are very attached to your car and money is not an issue for you, contact the Japanese embassy in your country for more detailed information.

The process of getting the vehicle through customs, having it modified to fit Japanese safety and road requirements, and then paying for registration can result in a high sum. To top it all off, you will probably spend a significant sum on shipping it to Japan in the first place.

In order to bring your car into Japan for a maximum of one year, you can do so with the Carnet de Passage en Douane (CDP). This is a customs document identifying the owner of a vehicle. If you have a CDP, you can get an authentication of it from the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) in order to bring your car through customs without a problem.

The authentication is free of charge, and the application is quite simple. You need to fax the following information to a JAF office: a copy of the front and inside page of the CDP and an address list of all persons who will be driving the vehicle in Japan. The procedure and the corresponding fax numbers are detailed on the JAF’s English website. Be sure to apply for this authentication well before you move to Japan.

Buying a Car in Japan

Buying a car in Japan is relatively cheap, considering it is the home of Toyota, Nissan, Honda, and other top brands. Owning one is where the high costs begin. Your best bet is to buy a car from a dealer. Most will handle all the paperwork for you, which then only needs to be signed with your personalized stamp.

Once you have registered your car with the proper authorities, you will be met with numerous other annual expenses. A security inspection (shaken) must be conducted every two years, which costs anywhere between ¥70.000 and ¥200.000, plus a weight tax between ¥7.600 and ¥50.000.

In addition, an annual automobile tax will be due, and compulsory car insurance must be paid. To top all that off, you will need to have proof of a parking location where you have registered to park your car, as it may not be parked on streets.

Car Insurance in Japan

There are two types of car insurance in Japan. One is compulsory and only covers damage done to the vehicle, while the other is optional and covers injuries that you may incur or have caused. It is better to get this optional insurance in addition to the compulsory one, as accidents do happen and you will be grateful if you have protection.

The best way to go about finding insurance is to contact a provider and get a quote. If you do not speak Japanese, try to find someone to help you, as most insurance providers speak only Japanese. An English-speaking car insurance provider who is recommended by expats living in Japan is the Akasaka Agency in Tokyo.

InterNations Expat Magazine