Japan’s well respected car industry sells cars the world over, but at home it’s a different story. Car ownership is low in Japan for obvious reasons like having a good public transit system and high speed trains for intercity travel. In the capital city of Tokyo car ownership is amongst the lowest in the world thanks to the cost of owning a car itself. Tokyo’s lack of cars all comes down to refusing to buckle to the influence of large automobile companies.
Yet the much bigger reason for Tokyo’s high quality of life is that Japan does not subsidize car ownership in the way other countries do. In fact, owning a car in Tokyo is rather difficult. For one thing, cars are far more enthusiastically inspected than in America or most of Europe. Cars must be checked by officials every two years to ensure that they are still compliant, and have not been modified. That is true in Britain too, but the cost is higher than what a Ministry of Transport test costs. Even a well-maintained car can cost 100,000 yen to inspect (or around $850). On cars that are older than 10 years, the fees escalate dramatically, which helps to explain why so many Japanese sell their cars relatively quickly, and so many of them end up in East Africa or Southeast Asia. On top of that there is an annual automobile tax of up to 50,000 yen, as well as a 5 percent tax on the purchase. And then gasoline is taxed too, meaning it costs around 160 yen per liter, or about $6 a gallon, less than in much of Europe, but more than Americans accept.