There are many wacky and wonderful things in Japan, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that Japan's car culture has some strange and unique things about it too.
I often see people talking about these 3 topics and/or asking questions about them, so hopefully this will clear some things up and fill you in if you were unsure. Some of them you might already know, and some of them might surprise you! Anyway, here goes:
WHAT ARE KEI CARS?
Ever heard of a Honda N-Box? What about a Suzuki Lapin? Or a Mazda Carol? I was first introduced to the wonderful world of Kei cars on my first visit to Japan back in 2011. You'll see these cars everywhere in Japan, and there are so many different makes and models of them. There are Kei cars, vans, trucks - even 4WD off-roaders!
Distinguished by their yellow license plate and minuscule size, Kei cars or K-cars (short for keijidōsha meaning 'light motor vehicle') are affordably priced and come with a bunch of benefits - their compact size comes in handy for squeezing into tight spaces, their small engines (which have to be less than 660cc) make them extremely fuel efficient, and not to mention road tolls and taxes are cheaper. And just like with every other type of car in Japan, people love customising them!
WHAT'S A HAKOSUKA?
Thanks to its squarish shape, the Nissan C10 Skyline earned the nickname ‘Hakosuka’ - hako meaning ‘boxy’ and suka, an abbreviation of sukairain (Skyline) in Japanese. Every nostalgic Japanese car enthusiast is familiar with this name, but make sure you’re saying it correctly...
The ‘su’ sound is spoken softly without emphasis, so instead of saying ‘ha-ko-soo-ka, it’s pronounced more like ‘ha-koh-ska’.
WHAT DOES THAT GREEN & YELLOW STICKER REALLY MEAN?
Every Japanese car enthusiast is familiar with this yellow and green symbol. Some might know it as the 'JDM leaf', and with car stickers and 'sticker-bombing' becoming all the rage a few years back, many westerners have sported one of these stickers as a way of showing others that they're passionate about Japanese car culture and styling. In Japan however, it's used for something quite different...
This symbol, which is called the Wakaba mark, is used to show others that you're a beginner driver in Japan. It has to be displayed on both the front and rear of your car for a period of time after you obtain your driver's license. In the photo above, I displayed one (it's actually a magnet!) on the back of my Soarer at a drift day to let other drivers know that I was less experienced.
So there you have it! If you're interested in learning more, make sure to head over to www.JapanCarCulture.com and sign-up to become a member to check out our full 'Fun Facts About Cars in Japan' Guide!
Taryn Kelly | www.JapanCarCulture.com
JCC membership: www.JapanCarCulture.com/membership
Photos by Taryn and Peter Kelly