sunnuntai 12. huhtikuuta 2009

How to buy and register a second hand bicycle in Tokyo, Japan

Today I am exceptionally going to write in English. Sorry, our beloved readers, but I would like to give my share of "knowledge" about buying a second hand bicycle in Tokyo. In Japan all the bicycles have to be registered, and this can be a bit problematic for a foreigner. Especially if your Japanese is not so fluent.

The easiest way to register is to do the registration with the bike's current owner. The second best thing is to receive all the necessary papers (the old registration license, and maybe a receipt and bike's handbook) when you buy the bike. Bikes have to be registered, so every legit owner should have a registration license. The police is monitoring actively foreigners riding bicycles, so you are just getting yourself into trouble if you are riding a bike registered to someone else.

I bought our first bike from the Columbian university student's sayonara sale. He was asking 5000 yen for the bike, and it sounded cheap enough. Maybe it was a bit too much, because the front basket is taped together, but on the other hand brakes don't screech, there is no rust, and the front light is also working.

I picked up the bike from his apartment in the north side of the Yamanote line. We went together to a local bicycle shop and the seller did all the talking. During that time I was not able to write my home address in kanji (uh oh, you really should be able to do it), and the shop assistant wrote it for me. And then I rode the bike home. Remember, you can not take a bike into a train or a subway, so you have to be able to ride it to your home. In this case the ride took about 50 minutes.

Today, about six months later, I bought our second bicycle. Our friends are returning to Finland, and we decided to buy their 8 months old bicycle. This friend speaks good Japanese, and I have also learned something, so I thought the registration would be really easy. Well, it wasn't.

At first we headed to the nearby koban (police box), but it was closed (it is Sunday). Next, we went to another koban, but the policeman told us that he doesn't do registrations. Sigh. Well, he gave us directions to the third koban. Which we never found! Not even we really tried to search for it. Sigh. The friend knew a nearby bicycle shop, so that was our next destination.

At the shop the owner looked at the old registration license and pointed his finger at least ten times at the other bike store's stamp. Great. Well, he said "musugashii" and smiled, when we left. At this point we were quite pissed off. We had just wasted time, so I decided to head home, and left my friend to take care of packing their belongings.

On my way home a police car passed me and the officer looked at me, but they just kept on going. At home I decided to try to register the bike at the local shop (pun). Before leaving I practised how to express my matter as simply as possible. Well, it worked!

At the shop I told the assistant that my friend moves back to Finland (sniff), and I got his bike. And we tried to go to koban but it was closed. I showed him that I have the old registration license, bike's original receipt, and the handbook. He said ok, and I paid registration fee of 500 yen, filled in the registration sheet, and he put a new yellow registration sticker over the old one on my bike's body. And that's it!

Here is the happy new couple on our front yard:

3 kommenttia:

/mek kirjoitti...

Nitpicking here, but actually you do not have to register your bicycle as there is no penalty for failing to do it.

So it is not a problem if your bicycle is not registered, problems arrive only if you get stopped when riding a bicycle registered to someone else.

Yan-san kirjoitti...

Luckily I put the knowledge in quotation marks, so maybe the grand jury of the Internet will spare my life...

If you haven't registered your bicycle, then you will be riding a bike registered to someone else when you get stopped. At least when I have been talking with friends or reading some blogs/mailing lists it seems to be only a matter of time that you get stopped. The most of the stopping seem to happen late in the evening. And that's one of the time I will riding my bike.

Of course if your Japanese skill is good, the most of the issues can be sorted out by speaking. On the other hand if you barely know what is gaikokujin tōroku when asked, then it is convenient to have your papers in order. If you don't know what you are asked for or what you are accused of, then it is just easier to show that you are the legit owner of the bicycle. And keep on going to home instead of waiting for the policeman to call to the center to verify is this bike reported stolen.

In my opinion the registration is a good way to make sure that you are buying a legit bicycle from a stranger. It should raise some concern if you are buying a cheap second hand bike, and the owner does not have the bike's registration license or does not want to go to register it. And, if your bike gets stolen, then it is easier (or possible?) to get it back when it is found.

In a country where police can just stop you on the street because you have a shoulder bag or cool mustache, and go through your private belongings in front of everybody's eyes I don't feel like giving them a reason to make my life more complicated. There are enough difficulties on the bright side of the law already.

/mek kirjoitti...

I am quite sure you will get at least whipped... And in Japanese jails they serve the rice mixed with wheat so you do not want to go there, better hope to be hanged instead.

I would not buy a second hand bike without registering it either. But if you buy your bike new or bring it to Japan in an aeroplane like some fools have been rumored to have done, you do not have to get it registered.

If it gets stolen you will of course not get it back if you have not registered it. But in my case I would like to see the local guy who can ride my bike in the first place.

And yes, they do actually stop people at night and check the registrations. It does not seem to matter if you have a wrong skin color, everybody gets stopped just the same. One of their regular places is in front of my house so I can vouch for that.

And always remember that the police is your friend! :D