So you’re coming to Ishikawa and you’re trying to decide what to do about transportation. Here are a few general tips, and a few more specific ones for those who will definitely be driving, on what to expect.
- Get your International Driving Permit. Whether or not you think you will be driving, everyone who already holds a license in their home country should get the IDP. Ishikawa isn’t the most rural prefecture in Japan, but you may find that a car makes your life significantly easier or more fun once you get here. Getting your IDP should be cheap–about $15 USD–and easy; Google for procedures specific to your country.
- Budget for a car. Whether you inherit a car from your predecessor, buy a used car, buy a new car (you rich thing, you!) or lease a car, be prepared for the worst cast scenario in which you have to pay for a car outright when you arrive. Although this situation is highly unlikely, put aside as much as you’re able before you arrive in Japan. You can buy outright a used car for as little as ¥150,000 (or less if you’re buying from your predecessor) or you may find a good deal on a lease. Whatever the case, the sooner you have the money, the sooner you can start enjoying the benefits of driving.
- Get insurance. Municipal employees may be able to join the city’s inexpensive insurance plan while prefectural employees will have to find private insurance. Ask around to your Board of Education, co-workers and neighbors. You could pay as little as ¥1,200 a month or as much as ¥30,000 depending on the plan you get.
- Secure a parking spot. In order to get a car you will need paperwork guaranteeing that you have a parking spot. Many apartment buildings offer you a spot, possibly at a cost, with your room; in that case, you only need it in writing that you have a spot. In some cases you may need to rent a spot near your house/apartment; start by asking your landlord, realtor or supervisor.
- Register your hanko and confirm your address. Japan loves paperwork! In order to get a car you’ll also need a piece of paper that confirms your address. In some cases you will also need to bring the document that confirms that your hanko (personal seal) has been registered with the city. Because the hanko serves as your signature on important paperwork, it’s not uncommon to need this certification. You should be able to get it at your city office (shiyakusho or chousha).
- Wait. This procedure will vary depending on where and from whom you’re getting your car, but there’s likely to be a waiting period, even after you’ve picked a car and filed all the necessary paperwork. Expect the process to take at least one month from the time you contact a dealership and adjust your lifestyle and travel plans accordingly.
Go, drive free! And check back here in August for more information about rules of the road, car maintenance and obtaining a Japanese license.