Monday, 18 August 2008

Into the Land of the Rising Sun

We had some warning before we left home that in order to get into Japan our vehicle would need to be clean. I guess if you`ve seen any of our recent posts you`ll realise that we haven`t exactly been keeping Roxy sparkling. We found the ferry company easily, and apart from the price being somewhat higher than our expectations (this seems to be a recurring theme!) everything went smoothly, so we set off to get clean.

The outside was easy; we opted for a car wash to let their pressure hose do the work. The inside was always going to be a mission though, so we parked by a river, emptied everything out and scrubbed until the sun set on us.

The ferry left early in the morning, and showing great faith in our abilities the friendly chap from the ferry company met us to guide us through the registration and boarding process. It`s a good job he did - the Russian bureaucracy really excelled itself, and I`m not sure our level of Russian would have understood that an entire form was voided by a tick in a cross box. We all got aboard though, with grand ideas of catching up on sleep, only to be told immediately by the Japanese staff that our vehicle wouldn`t have a hope of passing the inspection. They would let us use their pressure hoses, but they envisaged a big job, so we had to start as soon as we left port - so much for that sleep.

In the end we got her clean enough with a good few hours remaining, so got to enjoy the japanese style ferry where instead of seats you get floor space and blankets. The staff set about the process of registering the vehicle whilst still on the ferry, and when we docked everything moved with an efficiency we hadn`t seen for a while, but we still expected to be in for the long haul since we`d rejected the recommended Carnet de Passage (a document allowing temporary import of vehicles) as too expensive.

We underestimated the officials though, the message had clearly gone out from the ferry that we weren`t carrying a Carnet, and so the temporary importation documents were ready for us to fill out. Within half an hour we were out with the vehicle getting the customs inspection and everything was going spectacularly well. Then they asked where our Japanese licence plates were. We stared blankly back.

It appears that you need temporary Japanese plates in order to drive in Japan, but somehow I`d failed to pick up on this vital piece of information during our preparations. The helpful port officials started making phone calls to see if we could still get them, while I called Steve at Japan Car Exports to ask him if we could get around it. Within an alarmingly short space of time both parties were looking into prices for loading us onto a train to Nagoya, it seemed there wasn`t a work-around. We haven`t got this far relying solely on our good looks though, so we worked on persuading the port officials that we didn`t need the plates. Some clearly wanted to help, others were more sceptical, but when we mentioned an email exchange with people in Tokyo giving us the green light everything changed.

Tokyo? Well if Tokyo says it`s ok… A few more phone calls and we were cleared to go. The whole process had still been quicker than all our border crossings since the EU.

- David

Playing on the iPod: `The Hurricane’ by Bob Dylan

Photos to follow shortly...