Car Hunting?

This one is too big.
So, since the last blog we’ve been busy: car shopping, house shopping, furniture shopping, honko shopping (don’t ask—it would take too long to explain), grocery shopping, doctor shopping…well you get the picture. As a man—having the inclinations and aversions bestowed by nature—I do not enjoy shopping. The one gleaming sparkle of light in an otherwise dark and foreboding week was of course the car hunting—not shopping…HUNTING. There is nothing like test driving, looking under hoods, and of course the new car smell. And the beautiful thing is that thanks to Speed the Light and the youth of Alaska, when the kill shot comes, and the salesman says “let’s fill out some papers and get this loan going.” I get to stare him down and simply say, “do you take cash.” (I’m not joking about the cash thing. In Japan, they don’t take checks. They really just carry around piles of money.)
The back seats are too low.
You can imagine my surprise and dismay when I discovered that buying a car in Japan is more like being invited to a tea party than striking out with a hunting party. First of all, we did most of our car hunting without an interpreter. Understand that Lindsey, Wesley, Adelaide, and Hudson can count to 10 in Japanese; while itinerating, I did Rosetta stone and read some grammar here and there. So basically I can count a bit higher than 10 and generally get myself into more trouble than the rest of the family. So we would go to a car dealer, and things would go something like this: “Good afternoon. We arrived in Japan last week. I’m very sorry, but I only speak a little bit of Japanese. Do you speak English” At this point the greeter would begin talking, “Only little bit English…Blah blah…car…blah blah a few…blah blah…here…inside…blah blah blah blah…tea, calpis, water…blah blah.” Along the way, I keep saying “hai” = “yes” whenever it seems appropriate. About now I am thinking, what in the world does tea have to do with cars?; but I say, in my best Japanese, “Hai, here is a car. We need a new one of these things. It must seat 7 persons.” The sales person responds incredulously, “7 people?…1…2…3…4…5…there are 5 people here.” Not knowing how to say we would like to be able to take more than just our family in the car, I say, “hai 3 kids, 2 parents, 2 grandparents.” The salesperson says, “hai, I understand.” Now instead of actually looking at the cars, we are whisked away to the CAR-LESS “showroom.”
This one is too small!

At this point, we are invited to place our tea orders. After several minutes, a waitress comes out bearing a tray of drinks and snacks. Now the salesperson makes an entrance laden with color catalogs. Now we are greeted again, “good afternoon, do you speak Japanese.” I say, “as for Japanese, I only speak a little bit.” The response: “hai, hai…my English not too good either.” For the next 20 minutes or so, we are shown a plethora of pictures punctuated with lots of, “blah, blah, blah, expensive, blah blah, red, less expensive, this one is good, blah blah.” I could only take so much before somewhat sheepishly interjecting, “isn’t this car right over there, outside?” Response: “hai, hai, right over there.” So, I say, still in my best Japanese, “couldn’t we go look at it?”
With a quick “hai” we are ushered out the door to inspect the vehicle. We kick tires, move seats, pop the hood, sit in the seats. Then, I ask, “as for this car, how much does it cost.” Ohhhh no! Its back to the show room! After another 45 minutes or so of wrangling with the language we get a quote. I ask in Japanese, “kono kuruma ga ikura deska…subette koni” which I suspect means something like “what does the car cost with all taxes and dealer fees included? This is followed by yet another flurry of activity. Awhile later, I receive a number. Now I ask for the quote to be formalized on paper. When the paper finally arrives, I want to confirm that the figure includes all costs. So, I repeat the question about everything being included. This meets with, “just a moment.” She comes back and says we can take 80,000 Yen off. Of course I say, “Hai, Hai, Hai!”
There are some obvious lessons here: 1. everything takes a long time in Japan so pace yourself 1 dealer a day–max; 2. when buying cars think “tea party” and leave it to your wife, if possible; 3. keep asking the same question in bad Japanese over and over again and the cars will get cheaper and cheaper.


Ahhhh, this one is just right.

The good news is that after enduring only a half dozen such tea parties, we finally did decide on the Nissan Lafesta Highway Star, and we even invited the sales lady to church. The bad news is that in Japan, you pick the car you want, then they build it. “So sorry Kaata San, please wait 6 to 8 weeks!”

2 thoughts on “Car Hunting?

  1. Calpis, wow, it's been about 5 years since I've had that! I'm glad that you are enjoying your adventure! Niki and I really enjoyed our time over there. Blessings! We hope to be able to keep up on your progress.

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