Buying a Car and the Other Side of Immigration




I think I may have found a car. After spending hours on’s auto site, struggling with google translate’s brattiness, a thought floated into my head – try gaijinpot. Gaijinpot is a website for foreigners in Japan. It has a load of advice on how to do things, plus classifieds and message boards. The message boards can be handy sometimes but they’re populated by people who have been here for years and years, on the message boards since the internet started and often, not that friendly to newbies. 


But anyway. I had a look and I found a Toyota Spacio. In my prefecture. For $1400. I called the guy, a Brazilian with good English, and (miracle of miracles) he lives in a suburb on the other side of local Big City. About 30 minutes away on the expressway. Perfect.


Obviously it took me over an hour to find this guy’s house. By the time I arrived I was 20 minutes late (horror!) I took a look at the car, checked for major signs that it hadn’t been crashed and went for a test drive. The thing has satnav. Which is also a TV! It’s freaking perfect. I drove around for around half an hour, pushing it up to the speed limit. 


When I got back to his house he invited me in while he looked for the rest of the documents. I was a little hesitant until his Japanese wife came out with their four year old son. I went in and waited while he looked for the registration forms. Their apartment was tiny. Probably half the size of mine, and a family lives in it. It turns out that he lost his job working in the car factories here and they have to go back to Brazil. Their son was adorable – hyperactive and sweet at the same time, chewing on a piece of buttered bread. The parents looked exhausted. The tiny apartment was neat and clean. He found the forms, and asked me if there was anything else I would like to buy. The aircon unit? The fridge? The oven? Their printer? I felt so spoiled. I almost wanted to buy the stuff just to give them the money. I do kind of need an oven. But on the other hand I don’t want them to have no fridge or oven! 


Anyway, I agreed to buy the car. I’m meeting him at the registration office on either Monday or Wednesday to do all the documents. 


Possibly the saddest part is that the guy bought the car, paid to register it and then never drove it because he didn’t have time to get a Japanese license because he was working all the time. The mileage is within a few kilometres of what it was at the time of registration eight months ago. I know that’s not really the saddest part. It’s the fact that they have to leave the country they’ve made a home in and go to a country with presumably worse prospects. It’s the Japanese wife having to leave her home and go to a brand new country. It’s the crappy crappy economy. 


And then there’s me. My only skill is that I speak English. It can’t even be considered a skill – I was born into it. Yet I’ve been welcomed here with open arms and paid more to work part-time than this guy gets paid working shift in a car factory. The world is so unfair.


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