My name is Kanai from ASAHI MOTORS. We provide long-term car rentals and car dealership services for foreigners in Japan.

    When foreigners stay in Japan for a medium to long term, they may need a car. However, purchasing a car can be challenging due to complex documentation and often failing loan approvals because of their foreigner status. Car dealerships typically only offer services in Japanese, and contracts are also in Japanese. Japan is still not fully internationalized in this regard.

    Foreigners have three options to own a car: “purchase,” “loan,” and “long-term rental.” Each method involves different required documents, languages, maintenance, and delivery times. Let’s explain each in detail.

    I will be staying in Japan for 1-2 years as an expatriate!

    I will be taking a long-term trip for several months!

    In that case, a Long-term Rental Car is perfect for you!

    I plan to stay in Japan for over 2 years

    I’m going to keep living in Japan from now on!

    If you’re going to keep living in Japan, should you buy or take out a loan?! Let’s break it down!

    Shaken・Car maintenance・Vehicle Tax

    First, let’s compare and explain the recurring costs such as vehicle inspection, maintenance, and automobile tax.

    BuyLoanLong Term Car Rental
    *Vehicle Inspection
    Automobile Tax50,000JPY50,000JPYIncludes
    Car maintenance20,000JPY20,000JPYIncludes
    Car insurance200,000JPY200,000JPYIncludes
    Tires, options150,000JPY150,000JPYIncludes
    Staff English××

    What is a Shaken? How much is automobile tax?

    What is a Shaken?

    A unique system in Japan that often confuses foreigners is the ‘shaken’ (vehicle inspection). To explain shaken briefly, it is an inspection, maintenance, and examination process conducted by the government to ensure that the owned vehicle meets safety and pollution prevention standards. Only vehicles that pass the shaken can legally drive on Japanese roads. The shaken period typically starts three years after new vehicle registration, followed by an inspection every two years. Since notifications are not usually sent, it’s common for people to realize their shaken has expired unexpectedly, which can be quite alarming.

    Another aspect often renewed alongside the shaken is the ‘mandatory automobile liability insurance’ (jibaiseki hoken). This insurance is legally required and covers only personal injury accidents. Therefore, most people also opt for additional optional insurance coverage.

    How much is automobile tax?

    Automobile tax is due by May 31st every year. A tax payment notification for automobile tax is sent to the address listed on the vehicle inspection certificate, but it’s in Japanese only. The amount of automobile tax varies depending on factors such as the vehicle type, usage, engine displacement, and year of manufacture.

    I was thinking of asking my Japanese colleague next time because I don’t understand what’s written in Japanese. But then I forgot to make the payment!

    engine displacementThe amount of automobile tax
    under 1,000CC25,000JPY
    over 6,000CC110,000JPY

    Car Insurance

    Since the rates vary by country, foreigners may purchase insurance without knowing if it’s cheap or expensive. Additionally, they might enter into optional insurance at dealerships without fully understanding the difference from mandatory liability insurance.

    You can purchase optional insurance with only an international driver’s license, but it can become expensive. You might also be upsold with various options, leading to annual insurance premiums of up to 300,000 yen before you realize it.

    That can be troublesome.

    Can the staff speak English?

    When foreigners go to buy a car, the biggest problem is “English”.

    Even at major dealerships, there are very few dealerships with staff fluent in English. This is true even at central locations with foreign car manufacturers.

    While using a translation device can help with understanding the basics of the car, the problem arises when dealing with the contract. All contract documents in Japan, which are typically lengthy, are in Japanese. These documents can be difficult for even Japanese speakers to understand, making it nearly impossible for foreigners unfamiliar with Japan to comprehend.

    Try calling the dealership in English. If there’s a staff member who can speak English, you’re lucky.

    Car Maintenance

    It’s best to get maintenance done at the dealership where you bought the car. Regular inspections, oil changes, tire replacements, and other maintenance tasks mean you’ll continue dealing with the dealership even after purchasing the car. For foreigners who don’t speak Japanese, finding a repair shop that warmly accommodates them is rare.

    Maintenance is crucial, sometimes involving life-saving procedures. While the reputation of a repair shop matters, the relationship with the actual maintenance staff is equally important.

    If there’s no trust with the repair shop, some companies might overcharge. Many dealerships focus on ‘improving the condition of the car,’ which can involve replacing various parts and even providing meticulous coatings. If you’re satisfied with this level of maintenance, then it’s okay. Otherwise, you should handle it carefully.

    Necessary Dicuments

    The required documents are completely different as well. It’s best to decide based on whether you need a car immediately upon arriving in Japan or if you’re okay waiting for a few months, taking such considerations into account.

    BuyLoanLongterm Car Rental
    Japanese Driver License×
    Certificate of Employment×
    Seal Certificate×
    Parking Certificate×
    Parking Contract×
    Japanese Bank Account×
    Passport/Residence Card

    It’s difficult to gather the necessary documents.

    A seal certificate can be substituted with a ‘signature certificate,’ which is commonly issued at embassies.

    • Japanese driver’s license: Necessary as proof of “long-term stay in Japan.”
    • Certificate of employment: Often required to prove length of employment at a company.
    • Seal certificate, garage certificate: Required documents for owning a car in Japan. For rentals, a “consent certificate for use of storage location” may be needed from the real estate agency for obtaining the garage certificate.
    • Japanese bank account: Often required for loans or leases. Some used car dealerships are also increasingly refusing “cash payment in full” for purchases.

    I’ll pay in cash upfront! That would make the car dealership happy, right?

    From a compliance standpoint, please transfer the funds from a Japanese bank instead of an overseas transfer.


    We, ASAHI MOTORS GROUP, offer services that allow foreigners living in Japan to enjoy a stress-free car life.”

    Long-term Car Rental

    For stays of one year or more, you can also choose your preferred car model. The required documents are minimal, and you can own the car just like a regular car. Our pricing includes everything from maintenance, optional insurance, to tax payments, making it a simple and straightforward package.


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