Importing a Vehicle

Find out how to import a car to Japan and get it registered on the roads, and the documents required when bringing a car for personal use in Japan...

As Japan is an island, importing a vehicle from anywhere in the world usually involves hiring an import agent to organise the shipping process. It takes about 40 days to ship a car from EU countries and 20 days from the USA.

Vehicles must conform to Japanese specifications and regulations. Strict preliminary inspections and emissions tests must be performed before a vehicle can be driven in Japan.

Vehicles remaining in Japan for less than one year can be imported without taxes or duties being paid. In order to do this a Carnet de Passages en Douane (CPD) should be obtained in the country of origin. The Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) should then be contacted to get the CDP certified.

  • For information from JAF about the requirements and procedure for authenticating the CDP: Click here

The Importation Process

  1. Customs – a declaration form has to be submitted when the vehicle passes through customs. There is no import duty levied but the automobile acquisition tax must be paid; this is five percent of the depreciated value of the vehicle. When the car has cleared customs, a custom clearance certificate will be awarded.
  2. Emissions test and preliminary inspection – the vehicle is delivered to a Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) testing centre for inspection. Any parts of the car not conforming to Japanese standards must be fixed and changed before it can be driven. The test can take about a week.
    • For information about vehicle inspections from the MLIT: Click here
  3. Registration – at a Land Transport Bureau office. Vehicle taxes should be paid at this point and the car registration certificate (shaken sho) is awarded. Registration must take place within three months after the preliminary inspection test. The following documents are necessary:
    • Registration form
    • Registration fee (shinsei hiyou)
    • Custom clearance certificate (tsukan shomei sho)
    • Emission test certificate (hai gasu kensa hyo)
    • Inspection certificate (jidousha kensa hyo)
    • Insurance certificate (hoken sho)
    • Certification of parking space (shako shomei)

The entire importation process is usually carried out by the import agent who then delivers the vehicle to the owner after it has been registered.

National Number Plates

Cars cannot be driven without a national number plate, which can only be obtained once registration is complete. Therefore, there is a system in place whereby a temporary number plate is used to drive the vehicle to the testing centre or land transport office.

A temporary number plate can be obtained at a local land transport office, which must be located between the place of departure and the vehicle’s destination.

The following documents are necessary to apply for a temporary number plate:

  • Family seal (inkan), a hand signature can be accepted for foreigners
  • Vehicle insurance
  • Fiscal stamp
  • Driving licence showing current address
  • Inspection certificate (shaken sho), certificate of custom clearance or parking space certificate

The temporary number plate must be returned within five days or a penalty is incurred.

When the registration process is complete a national number plate must be purchased. This can be done at the District Land Transport Bureau office or online.

Note: Registration plates for light motorcycles are issued by the local municipality.

Parking Space Certificate

In order to own a car in Japan it is compulsory to have a registered parking space. To get a parking space certificate (shako shomei sho), the following application documents should be submitted to the police:

  • Application form for parking space certificate (jidosha hokanbasho shomei shinsei sho). This is available from the local police station or District Land Transport Bureau office. It can also be downloaded from the Internet
  • Statement of ownership of the parking space (jinin sho) or the certificate of permission for parking space use (chushajo shiyo kyokasho)
  • Map of the parking space
  • Proof of address – a residence certificate, driving licence or utility bill, for example

It generally takes about a week for the parking space certificate to be processed.