Last updated: 27.11.2018
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
- Carnet de Passage for Japan
- Carnet procedure
- Temporary Import for Japan
- Temporary Import Procedure
- Which is best for you
- Our experiences
- Contact and extra info
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.
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!
Carnet de Passage for Japan
As you are probably aware, the Carnet de Passage is type of vehicle passport. It acts as security for countries that you won’t sell or leave your vehicle in their country. That’s because, to get the document you need to leave a hefty deposit with the issuing company in your home country. You get your Carnet stamped in when you enter a country and get it stamped out when you leave. Easy.
But not every country requires a Carnet (thankfully).
However, according to every website we checked, Japan is one of those countries that does require it.
But that’s not strictly true. It should be, Japan accepts the Carnet, not that it requires it.
If you decide to enter Japan with a Carnet, you then have the option of leaving Japan by putting your vehicle on an airplane, cargo ferry or passenger ferry. Using your carnet is like with any other country that requires it. But there is a few hoops you need to jump through first.
Before you can leave the port, you first need to get authentication and a Japanese translation of your Carnet at the Japanese Automobile Federation (JAF). You will need to send your documents to the ferry company you’re using in advance and they will forward the documents onto JAF to prepare the paperwork.
But you still need to visit the office in person to complete the paperwork, as only the holder of the CDP with your original document can complete it, and it must be at the JAF office. Unfortunately, you can’t ride your motorcycle or drive your car until you have done this… and even worse, the closest JAF office to Sakaiminato port is in Matsue, about a 100USD and one hour taxi ride away. You can find more info on the JAF carnet here.
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.
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.
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.
Temporary Import Procedure
To import your vehicle using the C5014 form you 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 information at the bottom of the page) 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 then set in stone.
Tatiana can then check with Japanese customs to see if you will be granted temporary import. Note: If you are refused for some reason, you can still import, but will be charged 20% of vehicle value.
If you’d like a copy of the form in advance, email us at [email protected] and we’ll send it over.
Once you’ve got the go-ahead, importing to Japan will be far easier than if you have a Carnet. Once you land, you will need to 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!
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, 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 in, 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.
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.
Contact and extra info
Tatiana Chernysheva works for DBS Ferries and is incredibly helpful. You can contact her at [email protected] and she will explain the procedures for using either a Carnet or C5104 form with DBS Ferries.
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.
If you are planning on entering Japan from Vladivostok by ferry, check out our comprehsnive guide first.
If you have any questions, comments or anything to add to this page (or even if you just want to say hey) then please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you! Drop us an email at [email protected]