Shaken! What is it? In this little article, I will try to shed some light on the terrifying beast that shaken seems to be in everyone’s mind. Let’s start at the very beginning, with the words itself. Shaken consists of 2 kanji (Chinese) characters, the kanji for car 車 (sha) and the kanji for examination 検 (ken). When you put these two characters together, you get the word 車検 (sha-ken) or in English ‘vehicle inspection’.
There are many different names for a vehicle inspection. In NZ it’s called a WoF (Warrant of Fitness), where usually by yourself you will take your car to an inspection station, have the car inspected and hopefully pass without any problems. In the end you pay a small fee of around $50 if nothing needs to be fixed. This is a biannually process in NZ from what I remember. Japan is a little different. Instead of biannually, they have their shaken once every 2 years. Imagine how much could go wrong with your car in 2 years, no wonder why they can be expensive.
I’ve had my Nissan Silvia for 2 years now, and as you can guess, it needs to get a new shaken certificate. There are two ways to do this in Japan, either by yourself (which most Japanese people seem to not do), or get a mechanic to do it. I chose to get my mechanic to do it because my kanji reading ability is poor, and there is no testing station in my city.
So, what actually happens? Well, because I’m friends with my mechanic (Bob), I often ask when doing a modification what is okay for shaken and what isn’t. Hence I had a good knowledge of what I needed to do before dropping it off at his workshop. I had to raise it to about 90-100mm (don’t remember the exact amount), make sure the wheels were inside the guards (removing spacers), have the exhaust noise to a minimum (purchased a silencer for this), remove any stickers on the front windscreen, and remove my rear adjustable arms.
Once all of this was done, I crossed my fingers as I gave the keys to Bob. Unlike NZ, a mechanic cannot get a license to do vehicle inspections. I was told in the past that mechanics would often pass unworthy cars, so the government must have changed the process so that they were in full control with their own inspection stations. Bob used a sheet of paper to tick off what would pass and fail, it looked like any normal inspection sheet. He then sent me some photos of what needed to be fixed, I rode my bike there after work to have a look and tell him to go ahead and fix it.
It needed a new rear axle boot, stabilizer links & bushes, tie rod boots, rear lights, catalyst head shield, and Bob did a clutch adjustment for good measure. Also, I had to change the clear indicators back to orange, remove my phone holder (I’m assuming because if I crash, and there is a passenger present, they might hit their head on it.) I think the only other thing was making the driver’s seat belt light work again. I’d say this isn’t too many problems to be fixed compared to some cars out there. I’ve heard that a shaken’s total price can be anyway from 100,000yen to 200,000yen (890usd to 1780usd). The total price of parts was 14,000yen (125usd) and 25,500yen (230usd) in labour. I probably could have done it myself, but was too lazy at the time.
Once everything was sorted and fixed. Bob took my car to the inspection centre. Just for Bob to do the shaken instead of me cost 17,000yen (150usd), that’s inspecting the car and taking it to the testing station. So I’ve now incurred a fee of about 56,500yen (500usd) and I haven’t even paid for the actual shaken yet. Also a quick fact about Japan. The GST (Goods & Service tax is 8%) which is usually applied after the cost of everything is added up, meaning what you think is only 100yen is actually 108yen. But anyway, Bob took my car to the testing station and it passed without any problems. I think the only things that needed to be fixed at the testing station was taking off the phone holder and adjusting the headlights.
Now we are up to the actual shaken itself. From what I learnt, there are two main parts of the cost of shaken. 自賠責 (ji-bai-seki) the kanji mean 自 = oneself, 賠 = compensation or indemnify, and 責 = blame, condemn, or censure. If we put the meaning of these kanji together, we get something along the lines of ‘mandatory vehicle liability’, which I’m pretty sure is like compulsory insurance. The price of this was 27,000yen (240usd). The other main cost was something called 重量税 (jyuu-ryou-zei) 重 and 量 together make up the word 重量 (jyuu-ryou) which means ‘weight’. The last kanji there is 税 (zei) and it means tax! If we put them together we get weight tax. My understanding of weight tax is that the price changes depending on the engine displacement and size of your car. The cost for my 2L Silvia was a crazy 38,000yen (340usd). If we add up the jibaiseki and the jyuuryouzei it comes to a cost of about 65,000yen (580usd). But wait! There’s more. There is one last fee. 印紙等 (in-shi-tou) 印 = stamp, 紙 = paper, 等 = etc. This is a cost for stamps & paper etc, which is passed on to me? It was only 1,800yen (16usd) but still, I don’t think I should have to pay this.
Moving on. If I had of done the shaken myself, which I think probably wouldn’t be that hard if I had a normal car that was in good condition and wasn’t modified. It would have cost me about 66,000yen (590usd), considerabll less if I had a kei (light motor vehicle 660cc or less) car. I am lazy, so I did not do this. My laziness pushed the final bill up pass 100,000yen to a whopping 120,000yen (1,070usd)!
As well as shaken there is a yearly road tax that is payable with price increasing per 500ccs of engine size. The price for a 2L car is 45,000yen (400usd) per year. And lastly, optional insurance which I also have (My work kind of forced me to get it). This is a very basic contract but still costs me about 77,000yen (690usd) per year. Let’s work out the total fixed costs of owning a Nissan Silvia in Japan per year! Shaken divided by 2 is about 33,000yen, plus road tax of 45,000yen, and lastly optional insurance of 77,000yen. 155,000yen (1,400usd) is about the total price of fixed costs I pay per year to own a Nissan Silvia (although I didn’t add on Bob’s inspection fee of 17,000yen (150usd). Obviously. a kei car would be much cheaper, and if I didn’t pay for an optional insurance contract. Optional insurance might be expensive, but the compulsory insurance doesn’t actually cover that much from my research. Better to be safe than sorry, don’t want to have to pay for someone’s medical bills for the rest of their lives, that’s for sure.
There we have it! An explanation of shaken and the process involved. Hopefully, I could explain it easy enough, and maybe you learned some Japanese too!
Photos: Shaun Constable | Words: Shaun Constable
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