Buying Your Own JDM Car Part 4.1 – Learning Japanese...Paperwork.

On a couple of forums I go to the issue came up about making sense of some Japanese paperwork on imported cars. Under normal circumstances there's really only one piece of paperwork from Japan you need to know about and that's the Export Certificate - however some sellers may show you a different certificate in place of that one and it may indicate that not everything is on the up-and-up so I thought it's worth doing a post to arm people with more information.

The certificate I'm talking about is the Registration Certificate and it's a very different piece of paper from the Export Certificate I've talked about in my previous post on paperwork. The former is basically the same as the registration papers we have here in the US issued by state DMVs and proves that the car is registered under the owner's name. The Export Certificate on the other hand, is a DE-registration certificate which proves that the car was cleared for export out of the country by the Japanese Ministry of Land Infrastructure and Transport (try saying that three times fast). It takes the place of the Registration Certificate upon export and proves the car went through the right processes to be taken out of the country and no car after 2005 (when the export certificate was introduced into law) should have left Japan without this document. It also serves as proof to you that the car is owned by the exporter or person selling it since it lists the last recorded owner of the car before it left Japan.

They look very different from each other – below I've added pictures to compare the two. You might see slight differences in the exact certificates issued by different prefectures but in general they all look like the ones in the pictures.

A Japanese Registration Certificate - all in glorious a few Hindu-Arabic numerals

A Japanese Export Certificate - with added English for us dirty furriners.

As you should be able to easily see from the pictures there's an immediately obvious difference – one is white and the other is blue - but BESIDES that, one is absolutely unreadable by us uncultured gaijin who can't recognize those wonderful Japanese chicken-scratches while the other has some words we actually can make some sense of. Obviously, foreign barbarians like us were never supposed to lay our filthy hands on the Registration Certificate so it's all in Nihongo while the Export Certificate was intended for cars they were willing to graciously give us as hand-me-downs so to help us they actually spelled it out on top of the document in our primitive English language. Thank our wonderful Japanese overlords for their graciousness in doing that.

How is this good info to know? Well, if you've got a legitimately imported car here in the US you shouldn't need to see the Registration Certificate at all but what can happen is that on an illegally imported car they might try to pass it off as an Export Certificate. If you don't recognize this you could conceivably end up with a stolen car or at the very least it should make you question the legality of the car you're looking at. No need to wait until you see white powder in the glovebox or blood-stained carpet in the trunk – if the Registration Certificate is all they can show you then you probably should walk away before the mean men in their black choppers decide to show up.

On a fully legal car they may show you both documents – the Registration and the Export Certificate – in which case it's just good info to know since the former can help corroborate the history of the car while in Japan, including the ownership.

If you're working with a legit importer then you can throw this info into that part of your brain you use to store other unimportant details like the title of Justin Bieber's latest song or your girlfriend's birthday but if you're looking at a car with some slightly iffy paperwork then I hope this helps you figure out whether the deal is Nice Price or Crack Pipe. Stay frosty and be careful out there!



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