You do not need a Carnet de Passage to take your vehicle to Japan! Scour the web and everything points towards the expensive document. But there is another way - the Temporary Import. Read on to find the differences and which option is best for you…
What you’ll find on this page
There’s not a lot of information online for overlanders wishing to take their vehicles into Japan. We struggled when we first started researching, and assumed it was going to be a real ball ache once we arrived. But, it’s nowhere near as tricky or as difficult as we thought. Click here for the Motorcycle Travel Guide to Japan for Overlanders.
Japan is a stickler for the rules. Everything has a process and there is no bend, sway or movement in that process. You must follow everything to the letter and that’s final. So, as long as you know the procedure and follow their rules, it’ll all go swimmingly!
Temporary Import for Japan
You can enter Japan using the Temporary Import form C5014. If Japan grants you the import, you will be allowed to keep your vehicle in Japan for one year and will be exempted from import tax. If you go over one year, you will have to pay the import tax (which is 20%, so don’t go over!).
There is a catch with the Temporary Import – and it’s an important one.
You can only use the Temporary Import if you take your vehicle in by ferry and leave by ferry.
That means a ride-on and ride-off ferry. You can’t come in on a ride-on ferry and then put your car or motorbike into a shipping container and have it leave by boat. They’re very particular about this.
So, you may now be thinking “Oh man, I wanted to get the ferry in and fly my bike from Japan to the States or Europe or somewhere”. Don’t worry, this could still work for you. Shipping from Japan is very expensive. You could save yourself money (and save on not having a Carnet) by getting the ferry to Japan and then the ferry to South Korea (no Carnet required and easy visas) and shipping from there, which is cheaper. Or alternatively, getting the ferry back to Vladivostok and shipping from there if your Russian visa is still valid. Either way, you wouldn’t need a Carnet and could use the Temporary Import. Your call.
Check out the How to Catch the Ferry from Japan to South Korea guide.
Temporary Import Procedure
You can only use the Temporary Import at international passenger ferry ports like Sakaiminato and Shimonoseki (which is most likely where you’ll be arriving anyway). A Temporary Import is not guaranteed, but you can check beforehand.
To Temporary Import your vehicle, you will use the C5014 form and will need to contact the ferry company you are using in advance. If you are arriving from Vladivostok or South Korea, then this will most likely be DBS Ferries. The super helpful Tatiana (contact info below) will guide you through the process, send you the form and help you fill it out. You will need to email her back with the form and whatever documents she requires. You will need to put on the form your port of exit and when you plan on leaving. But don’t worry, you can change this once you have arrived, it’s not set in stone, you can leave from whatever port you like and with whichever ferry company you like.
Tatiana can then check with Japanese customs to see if you will be granted temporary import. You can contact her at [email protected] and she will explain the procedures for using either a Carnet or C5104 form with DBS Ferries.
Check out the How to Take the Ferry From Russia to Japan guide here.
Once you’ve got the go-ahead, temporarily importing to Japan will be far easier than using a Carnet. Once you land, take a five-minute walk to the customs office (assuming you land at Sakaiminato, which is the primary port and most likely option). They will give you customs paperwork and then that’s it. You’re free to go. Compare that to the Carnet option above!
When you leave Japan, you will need to visit the customs building (there will be one right next to whichever port you are leaving from) and have your document stamped out. It’s a simple procedure. They will check your vehicle documents against the numbers on your bike and stamp your form to prove you’ve left.
Which is best for you
Choosing the right option for you depends on your route, how soon after/ before you need a Carnet and how you plan on entering and exiting the country.
If you have ridden through non-Carnet countries to get to Japan, say UK to Japan through Central and North Asia, and are then turning around and riding back the same way home, or going on to another country which doesn’t require it, like the States. Then there’s no point in getting a Carnet.
Needing a Carnet
If you already have a Carnet as you’re coming from a country which required it, then you may as well plan your trip so that you make the most of it for entering Japan. Same goes for if you’re only staying in Japan for a short time and will be needing a Carnet shortly after.
If you’re planning on leaving Japan by flying your bike out or putting it on a cargo ship, then you will need a Carnet, unless you want to go to South Korea and fly or ship it from there. You will need to calculate the cost of catching the ferry to SK and shipping from there vs the cost of shipping from Japan to weigh up your options.
Check out the Shipping Your Vehicle Out of South Korea guide here.
Our experiences and reason for Temporary Import
When we first started our research into taking our motorcycle into Japan we could only find information pertaining to the carnet and how it is required if you want to take your vehicle into Japan. And the information we found was minimal. It’s not a popular overlanding destination, more of a holiday or backpack destination and so we could only find snippets of info about a carnet.
Our issue was that we wanted to stay in Japan for six months. We had ridden to Vladivostok overland through Europe, West and Central Asia and through the eastern stretch of Russia. We didn’t need a carnet through those countries. After Japan our plan was to go to South Korea (which you also don’t need a carnet for), then we’d fly the bike and ourselves to Nepal and ride through India, Pakistan and South East Asia – all of which, we would need a carnet for.
So, if we got a carnet for Japan, we’d be spending money to have the document for six months and simply staying in one country. It would be a waste and so we had to look for another option – the Temporary Import.
Temporarily importing the vehicle meant we saved six months of not having to pay for a carnet. It was also less work once we landed in Japan and faster to get out of the port.
We went with the Temporary Import option. We sent our paperwork to Tatiana a few weeks in advance and booked our ferry ticket. She then checked with customs and approved our request for temporary import. Once we landed in Japan, it was a short walk to customs, return to the port, hand over the paperwork and off we went.
Extra Paperwork and info
If you’re planning on travelling around Japan with your own vehicle, you will also need to source insurance and an International Driver’s Permit.
Check out The Japan Paperwork Guide for Overlanders for more info.
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DESTINATIONS: Check out our comprehensive Destination Guides for Overlanders and motorcycle travellers.