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2010 Tokyo Motorcycle Show April 6, 2010

Posted by Dru in Kanto, Sports, Tokyo.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “2010 Tokyo Motorcycle Show” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-oT

From March 26th till the 28th, the 37th Tokyo Motorcycle Show was held at Tokyo Big Site convention centre.  It was my annual pilgrimage to check out the new bikes being offered in Japan.  With the worst recession in years happening in 2009, I wasn’t expecting much out of this year’s motorcycle show.  It is true that the show was noticeably smaller, but it was much better than I could have expected.  All of the major motorcycle manufacturers were there, including all of the big name foreign companies.  It was a very important marketing campaign for most companies as the riding season has pretty much begun in Tokyo.

The motorcycle show has occupied the same two halls at Tokyo Big Site since I came to Japan.  They take over the lower floors of the West Hall, an outdoor parking lot, and the roof of the West Hall.  It may not be the biggest motorcycle show in the world, but it is a very interesting one.  The show itself is centred in West Hall 1 and 2, which form a U shape around the atrium.  Upon entering the ticketed area, you are funnelled into West Hall 2 where you are immediately greeted by motorcycles.  Generally, the manufacturers line the outer wall of both halls, while parts and accessory companies take the middle.  Lining the inner wall are the local companies that sell things such as T-shirts, insurance, and magazine subscriptions.  You will almost always find people on the outer wall, rather than the inner wall.  For this year’s show, Hall 2 was dominated by foreign manufacturers, and Hall 1 was more domestic.

There are many things to do, other than just look at bikes while at the motorcycle show.  Most manufacturers hand out surveys, in Japanese only, where you put your name, address, and what you liked about their booth.  In return, you can get some free things, such as a catalogue.  It may not seem like much, but in good years, you can get pins and file holders.  Sometimes you spend the time to fill out a form only to discover you got something you didn’t want.  If you can’t read Japanese, you are better off not trying as they will send you junk mail if you don’t tick, or leave empty in some cases, the correct box.  The only downside to this aspect of the show is that people just mill about within the showcase making it difficult to take pictures and look at the bikes.  At the Tokyo Motorcycle Show, you can also test ride many of the new bikes.  Behind the halls, there is a parking lot where they do test rides of various motorcycles.  They even have starter lessons on scooters.  This year, they added a used bike display where you could actually purchase a used motorcycle.  I generally don’t go outside as I usually don’t have the time or patience to wait for a motorcycle to ride.  If you are like me, and finish the show within half a day, you can spend a lot more time following the scary men who take pictures of all the bike girls.  It’s a phenomenon that follows every motor show in Japan.  If there are nice cars, there will be nice women dressed in next to nothing, helping to display the bikes.  It can be difficult to see the bikes when they are “on display”, but if you are finished with the show, it can be interesting.

This year’s show, as I mentioned, was better than I expected.  All of the major manufacturers were there.  There were some very interesting new bikes.  The Japanese manufacturers weren’t very interesting, but they did provide a few new variants of their base bikes.  Yamaha finally unveiled their Super Tenere bike that was created for the Dakar Rally.  It wasn’t as cool as the concept version, but it did look ready for the Dakar.  It still had the “first edition” stickers all over it enticing more people to pay for it.  The best concept was by Moto Guzzi.  They produced the V12 LM which was, albeit impractical, a very interesting bike.  The tail was shaped like a bird, and they included bird cut outs on the tires.  Unfortunately, they forgot to put a nice headlight on the front, but that’s just my opinion.  There were several other cool race versions from other manufacturers, and there were the obligatory MotoGP bikes that were on hand.  Yoshimura had their typical display with the same standard Suzuka 8 Hours Superbike.

While the main focus of the show is on the bikes, there are displays showcasing the various circuits of Japan.  Generally, Ebisu, Tsukuba, and Motegi are represented by booths.  The others can be found in pamphlets given out at other various booths.  If you are into custom motorcycles, there is always a custom bike show, usually in the Atrium.  The police are also on hand to show off their riding skills, which are excellent, and to promote safety when riding.  If you are in need of help, JAF (Japan Auto Federation) provides demonstrations on how they can pick up your bike if it won’t start.  If you are a bike nut, and you are in town during the Tokyo Motorcycle Show, this is a must do on the list.  It’s easy to visit in the morning, and still have time to look around Odaiba in the afternoon.  Hope you can make it next year.

Information:

Tokyo Motorcycle Show (English):  http://www.motorcycleshow.org/english/index.shtml
Tokyo Motorcycle Show (Japanese:  http://www.motorcycleshow.org/index.html
Tokyo Big Site (English):  http://www.bigsight.jp/english/index.html
Tokyo Big Site (Japanese):  http://www.bigsight.jp/index.html

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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Converting a License in Japan December 29, 2009

Posted by Dru in Uncategorized.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Converting a License in Japan” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-iK

In 2007, I had become a legal driver in Japan. It only took 3 hours at the office, and 4 hours of travelling. My journey began almost a month before I actually headed to the Driver’s License Office. I had to go to the Japan Auto Federation to get a translation of my Driver’s License. This is mandatory. The Canadian embassy, which is closer to my home, doesn’t do it, so I had no other choice. I was well prepared. I had my money, my application, my Canadian license, and all the photo copies they required.  All of the information you need on what to bring is available on JAFs website. It only took about 15 minutes to get it and it was very simple and easy. The next week, I was supposed to head over to the licensing centre, but there was one major problem I have a motorcycle license.

Having a motorcycle license or an extra license other than a regular car license is a hassle when converting a foreign license to a Japanese one.  If you have a license without a lot of information, you will have to contact your home licensing centre.  I had to get a statement from my provincial license office stating the dates of when I obtained my car license, and my motorcycle license.  Both dates are different for myself, and can be different for other people, so they must know these dates.  I contacted the licensing office and after a few transfers and a lengthy explanation, I had my request processed. The letter only took two weeks to get to me.

My first trip to the Driver’s License Office was an adventure. There is only one office in Tokyo, located in Samezu, south of Shinagawa Station.  I got onto the right trains, and yet, I didn’t. It takes roughly 3 transfers to get to the License Office from my house. I made my way out, but as I was inexperienced with this particular train line, I made a terrible mistake.  My intention was to take the local train, as only the local train stops at Samezu Station.  I made a mistake and took an express train which went well past the station I wanted to visit.  I ended up adding about 40 minutes to my one way trip.  Once out of the station, I started to wander around until I found the Driver’s License Office. It’s not easy to find the Samezu Office and I got lost several times but I eventually got there. Once inside, I had to ask the front desk where to go, and I headed straight for the counter where I could convert my license. It’s located on the 2nd floor of the office, in the back corner. I got my number and waited. About 10 minutes or so later, I got called and gave all my details. Here’s the biggest problem, my passport is relatively new and after about 20 minutes of them counting how many days I’ve been a valid driver, I wasn’t “experienced” enough based on my passport. Since they couldn’t verify that I was in Canada before my last passport expired, I didn’t qualify for a regular license.  I would have to carry a beginner’s mark for the next 3 years. Since my old passport wasn’t returned to me, I had no way of confirming my residence in Canada before the issuing date of my passport. I was told that I would have to come back AGAIN, just to get my beginner’s mark taken off. I had to bring a copy, and original of my university diploma. This was bureaucracy at its best.

After the hassle of talking with the officer and understanding what I have to do, I finally get approved to get a license. I was told to go downstairs where I have to take an eye test, then come back up and pay for my license. It costs about 8000 Yen for a new license. I have to go to the special cashier’s window where I pay and in return they give me some stamps to prove that I paid. They proceed to place the stamps on the application form to prove that I have paid and I head back to the original window where I started my application.  Back at the first window, I’m told to wait again.  This is the story of the day.  Go here, wait; move here, wait; hold this, wait, and so on. Finally, they call me back and tell me to go downstairs, again, and then I can pick up my license. I go down, get my picture taken in under 2 seconds, and then I head up to the 3rd floor. The final procedure is where I have to wait as they print out my license and verify the information written on it. I get my license and finally, I can go home. I spent about 2 hours waiting and about 10 minutes of doing something. Thankfully, I caught the right train home.

A few days later, I head back. I have a copy of my diploma, my original, my license, my passport, and my Canadian License. I didn’t get lost this time as I knew where to go, and I figured out which train to take. I waited in line, as always, and one worker was kind enough to help me.  He looked at my documents and, gave me a number. I waited until my number was called, and I talk to a different worker, and the same guy. At first, he couldn’t help me as he was working at a “different window”, yet in the same room.  He just sat around doing almost nothing until the other worker was free. The worst part of it all was that he ended up doing my work anyways. They started to look at my documents.  They told me to sit, then they called me, then they told me to sit again, and then they called me.  This happened a couple times, and I had to tell them the date that I started University and the date that I graduated.

Finally, a third guy calls my name, and he brings me to the 4th floor. He takes my documents and license and we head he makes me sit down on a chair in the hallway.  He leaves for about 5 minutes before coming back saying that I should go back down to the 2nd floor. The only reason he brought me up to the 4th floor was so that I knew he had my license, which he was holding.  At least that’s what I thought.  I found it even more confusing for the fact that my passport, Canadian License, and university degree were still on the 2nd floor at that time. When we get back down, it took less than 2 minutes before he called me back and showed me my documents. He told me to check the address on my Japanese License. All okay. I took everything and went home. This trip took 1 hour of waiting, and 3 minutes of exercise.

Overall, converting a foreign license into a Japanese license is a great exercise in patience.  You will definitely learn the meaning of bureaucracy.  Hopefully those who need to convert their license can learn a little about it here, and avoid any and all of my mistakes.  It’s very hard to say what will happen, of if things have changed in the last two years, as of writing this.  If there is any tip I can recommend, bring a magazine to read, or a nice book.  You’ll need it to survive all the waiting you’ll have to do.  iPods would be good as well, but you might need to be aware in case they call your name or number.

Information:

JAF Information:  http://www.jaf.or.jp/e/switch.htm
JAF Application Form (English):  http://www.jaf.or.jp/inter/image/english_apli.pdf
JAF Rules of the Road (Guide to driving basics in Japan):  http://www.jaf.or.jp/e/road.htm

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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