Shaken is the system of required inspection, insurance and taxes on all cars that represents a considerable part of the expense of maintaining a car in Japan. A new car comes with a 3 year shaken, and until now, a car had four 2-year shaken periods before it went on to a yearly shaken. As of July, the yearly shaken for cars over 10 years old is being done away with, and all cars will continue on a 2-year cycle no matter how old they are.
This new system, however, has both its merits and demerits. Not having to renew a shaken every year certainly is more convenient and potentially cheaper, but as none of the shaken tax and compulsory insurance is refundable if the car is wrecked or if there is a major breakdown that is not worth fixing, that means that the risk of losing a significant part of the shaken due to breakdown is increased.
Actually, most people have had the mistaken impression that once a car is old enough to require a yearly shaken that it is much more expensive to maintain. Since the taxes and insurance are half of the 2-year shaken, however, the only difference has been in the fees charged by a garage for putting such a car through shaken (which includes items they deem necessary to fix in order to meet inspection!). If you put your car through shaken yourself (the process of which is described in the June '93 issue of The Alien Times), there is practically no difference between 2 1-year shakens and a 2-year shaken (other than the time and hassle).
The main reason one does not see many older cars on the road in Japan is that this perceprtion of older cars being expensive to maintain means there is little market for such cars. "No market" means "no value", and thus the market value of cars decreases much more rapidly in Japan than in most other countries.
It will be interesting to see what effect the elimination of the yearly shaken for older cars will have on this. As it stands now, many quite decent cars are junked each year simply because no one wants to put them through shaken. Short-term residents willing to drive an older car have generally been able to get such cars very cheaply because of the low market value. Hopefully, these new regulations won't affect that.
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