Wednesday, 14 July 2010

PostHeaderIcon The Death of a Kei Car

I'm getting a new car this weekend.  Well...when I say new I mean I'm buying a 15-20 year old Toyoto Corolla off my friend for a cheap price.  My current car is a 20 year old Suzuki Alto that sounds like a lawnmower and can just about fit two passengers.  I bought it three years ago because I was desperate for a car and so I got the first, cheap offer that came my way.  I thought the maximum time I would stay in Japan would be two years so I wasn't too concerned with aesthetics or the lack of speakers and radio.  I have renewed its life once before but there is a good chance it will be finally put to rest on July 22nd.  That is the day that its two year sha-ken finally runs out.  This is a compulsory vehicle inspection and it is often quite an expensive procedure to insure that your car is safe enough to drive.  They tend to be very pedantic about it and I had to buy four new tyres last time because the tread was about a millimetre over a red line despite them looking fine.  Anyway, this process generally means that old cars are pretty much worthless and the value of buying one can be reliant on when the sha-ken will expire.  This is especially the case for a car like mine, which is called a Kei Car or yellow plate.  This means that the vehicle is a glorified go-kart with a tinfoil shell protecting the passengers from certain death in a crash.  Also, I don't know if it is a law or something but every yellow plate car is only available in white.  The other type of car is called a white plate and is what any developed country would refer to as a normal car.  It's interesting that a country that is famous for its car industry has a population where the majority don't own a car and those that do are usually poor people in the countryside.

I hope I managed to explain the very exciting details well enough for you there.  The reason for this post was to complain about another fantastic idea introduced by some old men in suits.  These yellow plate cars tend to live a fulfilled life but eventually the time will come for it to be sent to the great parkingu in the sky... a magical, spacious place where it doesn't cost ¥500 an hour or few thousand a month to rent.  In the majority of places in the world you might expect to get a few pennies in exchange for some of this scrap metal.  At the very least you would expect the process to be free.  However, in Japan it will cost the owner about ¥10000 (£75) to get the vehicle destroyed and for someone to push the appropriate paperwork through.  It isn't the worst thing in the world but what I don't understand is that these skint farmers have been driving a cheap and efficient vehicle until the bitter end because they can't afford anything else.  Therefore, they are left with predicament to be a good citizen and dispose of their car in the proper manner at their own personal time and cost.... or they could abandon it in one of the many vacant areas of the beautiful Japanese countryside.  It is therefore no surprise that every spare patch of land in the small towns of Kochi prefecture are littered with the discarded, rusting shells of yellow plate cars.  The picture above is from a piece of open ground in my town between a community centre and a wonderful traditional style Japanese house.  If you drive along one of the numerous endless and unnecessary mountain roads then your journey will be peppered with some kei-car graves along with the trees, temples and shrines.

What I don't understand is why this problem has not been rectified when it became obviously apparent that a lot of people were not willing to pay to scrap their car.  The moralistic dilemma aside... the countryside folk will continue to dump their old trucks and cars all over Japan for years to come.  I just fail to see how this process can be justified any longer.  Surely removing the charge is worth the price in comparison to decades worth of metal and rubber slowly rotting away in the bosom of Japan's ever cherished mother nature.


Lt. Columbo said...

yet more proof that politicians everywhere are retarded.
zero common sense

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About Me

I am a 24 year old Scotsman currently teaching English to Japanese schoolchildren. I live in a small town on the east coast of Kochi prefecture.