POSTCARD FROM TOKYO
I groaned when my wife told me that the sticker on our car showed it was time for another shaken (pronounced shah-ken) checkup.
The mandatory inspection is due after three years, and then every two years. I drove to an Autobacs aftermarket store, where the car was left for a week. A few days after I turned over the keys, I was told what had to be fixed. The left rear brake light cover, with a hairline fracture so minor that it did not even let in rainwater, had to be replaced. The car needed a new belt. And a few other things.
The total, including parts and the inspection: $1,547.20.
Were the repairs necessary? Probably not all. Did I have a choice? No.
Limited deregulation in the mid-1990s has made the dreaded shaken less expensive. Before, when the law required a full inspection every year for cars just 4 years old, dealers would pitch new cars to customers at shaken time. If the owner was going to pay that much, the salesman argued, he might as well spend the yen on a new model. With the tests now due every 24 months instead of every 12, Japanese consumers are paying the shaken fees and keeping their cars longer. Even after deregulation, though, the shaken inspection is an annoyance.