This issue of whether to use your signature or have an inkan made and registered is an important one to consider, whether buying car, opening a bank account or doing any other such official transaction. Most foreigners find it unnecessary to get a seal made in the first place (though it is the "Japanese" thing to do). Once you use one in a transaction, however, you don't have the option of going back to your signature. You'll have to use that inkan on any related transaction in the future (a definite problem if you forget to bring it with you!).
The one advantage to using an inkan is, however, that you can have someone else do the transaction for you. For instance, if you want to sell your car when you leave and don't have the time to personally go to do the paper work, if you have a registered inkan, then it is easy to delegate this to a friend. All the friend would need is an "ininjo" (a proxy form available at any auto dealer) with the seal affixed, an "inkan shomeisho" from the branch city hall where it is registered and the inkan itself. If, for instance, you are leaving Japan and aren't able to sell before you leave, this would allow you to have someone else complete the transaction and later send you the money. If you don't have a seal, then there would be a problem in completing a change in registration. If it looks like you might get caught in this situation when you leave, then it is best to get an inkan made. This can be done just before you leave if necessary (though it takes a few days to have one specially made for a foreigner's name), and so as long as you are aware of the potential problem, you're probably smart to avoid the hassle of having an inkan made and to take advantage of your "gaijin" privilege. You can, of course, get one made just for the fun of it and not register it or use it in an official way. That way, it is quickly available to register and use if need be.
To complete the description of buying a car, if you are buying from an individual, it is best to go together to the Rikuun Jimusho to complete the process. Together with your proof of parking forms, a copy of your passport (it's best to make a copy of the inner page that has your picture, etc. on it before you go as they charge ¥50 to make it there) the form from the branch city hall saying that your legally registered, you will need the papers associated with the car you're buying. Needless to say, you'll have to get forms to fill out there (along with a ¥500 stamp). They even charge you for the forms, so have some money with you. The process takes at least an hour, so be prepared. If, however, you are buying from a dealer and not an individual, then all of this paperwork is taken care by the dealer.
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