A new car!

Posted by in Mike's blog

Remember that time we were happy about not having to drive around everywhere?  When we were perfectly happy about having to rely on the various bus and train options in Fukui as well as the generosity of our friends?

Ya, I remember too.  I will forever maintain that it is possible to survive in this city without wheels, however, sometimes it can get pretty inconvenient.  It rains a lot here.  In the winter, sidewalks become snowbanks.  Also, it gets HOT.

So we got a car.

What car?  It’s a white 1997 Suzuki Alto – a “yellow plate” kei car.  Light vehicles with tiny engines get special license plates in Japan so that other drivers don’t think that these cars can do fancy things like accelerate or travel at high speeds.

For the car geeks out there, we have 3 doors (it’s a hatchback), an automatic transmission, power windows and mirrors, a cool rear windshield wiper, AIR CONDITIONING, a tape deck, and I really don’t know the right things to talk about with car geeks, do I?  Here’s a little video that I posted on Facebook of our car in action:

The car thing came together in the space of just one week.  I mentioned at church that we were looking, and some of our awesome friends sprung into action to advocate on our behalf.  Knowing the right people can be important here, like anywhere.  Our friends, they know the right people.  We got connected to a trusted mechanic and I met a very friendly insurance guy.  Both of them were able to make everything happen in a couple of days.

We’ve had the car since Friday afternoon.  The first thing I did with it was go to “book-off”, a store that specializes in used books but also has a robust selection of used clothing and baby gear.  We had only been there once before (last fall) because it’s in one of those places that would require a day trip of public transport to get to.  We avoided those parts of the city in the past for that very reason.

Book-off has car seats.  All of a sudden, I was in the market for the awesome Japanese car seats that are ILLEGAL to use in Canada because of some overly corporation-friendly government policies.  When the Bunny outgrew her infant car seat I did some serious research and decided on a Japanese model for her new seat, only to discover that government policies even prevent Canadians from importing American car seats.  I was very disappointed, and settled for a beast of a seat that took up 1/2 our car (it’s a Britax Marathon, and it waits for us to return to Canada).

When I went to book-off, I was surprised to see the model that I had coveted 2 years ago: The Combi Zeus 360.  It was only ¥10 000!  We ended up getting a different seat because it was in better condition and slightly cheaper.  The Bunny now rides in a Combi Neosis.

Yellow plate cars aren’t known for their safety features, but I’m pretty sure that I could have a collision with a cement truck and the Bunny would be fine.  Getting into a collision with a cement truck is slightly more likely here than it would be if I were driving in Canada, because Japan is bizarro world and everything is backwards.

I drive on the left.  My turn signal and windshield wiper controls are reversed.  I have waited a little longer to change lanes more than once because I tried to signal with my wipers.  Right turns are the complicated ones, not left.  When I look at my rear view mirror, it’s on my upper left, not upper right.  Thankfully, my gas and brake pedals are still the same.

This might take me some time to get used to.  The car seems to be happiest when it’s going 40km/h, so if I do hit something, it won’t be very hard 🙂