Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Buying a Car

The following shots are from my 5:30AM walk to a bridge in Hirosaki where both the Hakkodas and Iwaki can be seen in relatively good perspective. I have scattered them throughout the post.

Since my last post, the most prominent daily concern for us has been purchasing a decent car. Initially, we had come to Japan with the idea of getting our hands on a little old banger that would see us through a year or so until we had a bit more cash for a newer, flashier one. Our budget had been unrealistic though, and after we came to realise that the way we had previously envisaged procuring an old banger was not an option, we slowly came round to the idea of raising our standards and taking out a healthy loan with the local bank. Healthy, that is, because of the low interest rates we will have to commit to.

So it is, then, that we are now looking at a Mitsubishi EK Wagon. They are a 'kei' model, which meet certain small-car regulations introduced after the war to boost the motor industry. Kei model cars basically have a smaller engine and are much cheaper to run than normal vehicles. The annual tax bill is around 6000 - 8000 yen (£40ish) and the shakken (Japan's infamous version of the MOT) is much more reasonable.

The one we are planning to go and buy from a shop in Iwaki machi today is a 7-year old car, but the mileage is at 40,000m and it's in really good nick. It falls within our price range because it's not 4WD, and the vast majority of cars sold up this way have to have 4WD to be able to grapple with snow on the roads. For us though, it's not essential because it doesn't ordinarily snow outside of the mountains where we will be living (Tochigi) and I am pretty sure a 2WD will do.

Besides cars, I was happy to make my first trip to Hakkoda on Sunday with Aussie Chris and taste the sweet delights of its deep powder snow. Indeed it was sweet, after it had snowed quite heavily the night before. I was on a lift ticket budget though, and, like the good old days I was forced to whip out my snow shoes and climb up to the top station - twice! It was hard-going, but I was happy to be there and managed to eventually get in three good runs (I payed for one sneaky ride up in the ropeway!! - don't tell the missus!). Forgetting to wax my board meant that I stayed pretty close to the direct course most of the time. The one time we both went off the course, I was very lucky not to get stuck on the flat with a sticky old piece of wood under my feet. There were times when I thought I might have to employ my ski poles to give me a push.

Incredible to be back there though, and it was good to meet up with old ski buddy Ward, who is still a committed back country enthusiast there. To finish the day, Chris and I met up with Ward and his compatriot at a nearby onsen (Fukuzawa) where it was like walking back in time to an old collection of stuffed tanukis and fire wood - quite an impressionable place. Didn't take the camera though so no Hakkoda shots this time.

The two shots above are from a recent display of calligraphy at the Bunka Centre in Hirosaki. This one was done by my niece, Nagisa. I thought it was really good!