Buying a motorbike or scooter in Kansai
Although the public transport system is almost unrivalled anywhere in the world there are parts of town or countryside which are sometimes difficult to get to and so having the freedom of your own set of wheels is a great bonus.
There are a couple of ways you can go about getting a motobike or scooter in the Kansai region, but all involve a fair amount of money and prodigious amounts of paperwork (which can be solved by having a bike shop do it for you).
The secondhand market is almost stillborn in Japan compared to places like the UK, America or Europe but it is possible to get a used bike. Bargins do happen sometimes, but generally don’t expect any great savings over the cost of a new one for a bike in decent condition.
There are lots of different rules and tax brackets for each type and size of two wheeler. The first thing you need to do is make sure you have a valid license.
Japan has treaties with certain countries which means you can transfer your license fairly easily for a Japanese one which if you’re staying more than a year makes sense if you think you may buy a bike or car. More details here.
After that, thinking about a budget and finding a decent shop are the next things to worry about.
For smaller bikes you can probably pick up a fairly good quality under 125cc for around 150,000 including paperwork, mandatory insurance and ownership transfer paperwork.
In the 125-250 range look to pay about 250,000-300,000JPY and above that the prices curve exponentially.
Beware also that the ticket price won’t be what you pay. There will often be hiddens like tax, insurance, maybe some repair fees, transfer fees etc. If you go to a shop be sure to get a written quote for everything before saying “I’ll take it” (also, totally about trying to bargin the price down or get them to throw something in for free – it’s just not part of the culture, but can be fun to try…)
Shops and auctions
Goobike has a clickable map where you can find dealerships near you as well as browse their stock.
Another alternative is to look at Yahoo auctions, but be careful here as
A) you’ll need a Yahoo auction membership if you want to buy anything,
B) it can be a hassle if you want to look at the bike before hand (defo a good idea) and
C) if it’s a private seller you’ll need to do all the transfer paperwork yourself which means a fun day trip to the Department of Transport headoffice to get a numberplate, wait around and pay paperwork fees (however this can be instructional into the Japanese psyche and their relationship with paperwork and beauracracy).
The last and perhaps best option is to check out the awesome Kansai Flea Market which gives you access to lots of foreign residents selling their stuff which means better prices and less chances for miscommunication. The downside is the paperwork but you can ask any bike shop to do the transfer (touroku) and also buy insurance (houken) from them too for a fee.
Although every vehicle in Japan must have insurance (which is pretty cheap) the maximum payout won’t be enough to cover you properly in the event of an accident. The mandatory insurance only covers injuries to third parties and has a ceiling of 30,000,000 million yen.
You’ll have to pay anything else as well as repair fees and your own medical expenses on top.
Therefore it is highly recommended, perhaps as a foreigner essential, to take out extra unlimited insurance (Jougen ga arimasen no houken). This changes in cost depending on your age etc but is totally worthwhile. Have no doubt, you will get sued for as much as possible should you have a bump or crash.
This insurance can also be bought at any bike shop.
In summary, bikes are a great way to see more of Japan and although you’ll pay for it will enable you to have a lot more fun getting about.
Make sure you’re fully licensed and insured and check the bike before you buy.