Cars and Driving
Buying a Car
Living in the inaka (country side) can make getting around problematic. While the public transport system in the cities is second to none you are going to find yourself in situations where you wish you had a car. Of course you can always rely on a good friend who has a car to help you or public transportation but let's cover the basics on getting a car. We'll tell you all about public transport later on.
Before we go any further, as a reminder, the legal blood alcohol level for drivers in Japan is "0". If you drive under the influence and have an accident, the consequences will be very serious. Insurance will not cover alcohol-related accidents and there is a possibility that criminal charges and fines will be brought against you. Friends that drink with you prior to an alcohol-related accident may also by held responsible. Such an offense can/ will cost your license and a potential deportation.
If you are an ALT, you are a teacher, thus a role model for children and you will be totally screwed if you're caught drinking and driving. Japanese teachers lose their jobs immediately...so will you. If you want to drink but had to drive to the drinking location you can ask for DAIKO. This taxi service arrives with two drivers. One will drive you and the other will follow you while driving your car. So there is no excuse!
Okay, with that said buying a vehicle in Fukui can be a big decision with a lot of factors to take into consideration. However, Fukui JETs who have purchased vehicles have not regretted their decision. This section will enlighten you about the options available and things you should consider. For further assistance, seek help/advice from fellow JETs, Japanese friends or teachers.
If you buy a car, you should definitely buy “/nini-hoken/” (optional car insurance). Without this, you will only have your /shaken/ (inspection) insurance which won't be enough to cover you in an accident. Anyway, for yellow plate cars, the insurance is cheap. Your school may well prefer to sort all this out for you, if only for their own peace of mind. But if you have to do this on your own, ask your supervisor or other JETs of a few places you can call that has someone who speaks English. Ken-ALTs, by the way, are required by the Kencho to purchase this “optional” insurance with specific minimum coverage amounts.
What to buy?
Kei Cars (軽自動車)
These light weight vehicles are denoted by a yellow license plate. This is the most popular size of car with JETs. It is anything that has an engine equal to or less than 660 cc. They are small, cheap, do not require official paperwork regarding a parking spot and are good for getting around in Fukui prefecture.
Full Size (aka “white plate”)
This is anything with an engine over 660 cc. They have more room, are safer, and the associated costs are more expensive. There are some in the prefecture who have found that for our particular situation, the benefits of a full size (white plate) car are worth the cost. If your only concern with buying a car is the cost, save yourself some time and don't bother reading this section.
This designates various utility vehicles such as half-ton trucks, and some 4X4 vehicles not otherwise designated as wagons.
Although a white plate is certainly not a Mercedes in terms of safety, it offers significant increases over a K (yellow plate) car. Dents have been created in a K car's door simply by banging a knee into it. White plates have a significantly stronger body as well as greater weight, an important factor in snowy conditions. 4WD is available on both.
K-cars serve their intended purposes beautifully – to transport small people short distances on small roads without great cost. That being said, if you're over 6 feet/ 180 cm tall, a K-car might be a little tight. A full size offers legroom for front AND BACK passengers. Usually, 5 people fit very comfortably. It is also much easier to stow bikes, snowboarding gear, or friends. (A yellow plate van is also very useful for this).
A full size is much more comfortable on long trips. If you have 3 or more people in a full size car, the tolls and gas are usually cheaper than taking the train. Although it isn't great for the back, it is possible to sleep relatively comfortably in a full size. Another major benefit is the extra engine power of a full size when driving on highways and passing other cars.
Car Tax (/zeikin/) 5% of the official purchase of any car.
Luxury Car Tax (/Jidosha Zie/) This is mandatory and is done annually. It varies depending on the kind of car you are driving.
Residential Permit (Shako Shomei) You have to get this from your City Hall (Shiyakusho). It is an official document proving you to be a resident of Fukui prefecture. You must present it when you buy the car.
Name Change (/Meigi Henko/): This is highly recommended and you can be in big trouble if you are caught not having done this. It is required for the government to know where to send the annual luxury car tax bill. NOTE: This can be done incredibly cheaply, if the car is changing hands from one individual to another (NOT from a car shop to you).
To do the cheap name change, you will need:
a) your hanko and the previous owner's hanko,
b) a juminhyou (this is proof of where you're living). You can obtain it at your city hall (shiyakusho).
c) the shakenshou (this is the certificate to prove you car is roadworthy).
For kei cars, take these things to the Keijidousha Kyokai (Light-Weight Automobile Inspection Association, Fukui Office). Tel: 0776-38-1509 Address: 138-11-3 Asozu cho, Fukui city, 918-8181
For larger cars: Chubu Carrier Service Bureau, Fukui Land Transportation Bureau(Riku’un Kyoku) Tel: 050-5540-2057