Over the weekend we got a new car, a Mazda CX-5. It's a fun and sporty small SUV that seemed to suit our needs better now that the kids are getting old enough to not want to do "family stuff" with us that much. Buying a car in Japan is naturally a little different than in the U.S. First of all, rather than buying from a third-party dealer, you nearly always go to an official car dealership operated by Toyota, Nissan, Mazda etc. (This direct-from-manufacturer model was emulated by GM's Saturn brand.) You never drive off with a car that day, but instead order it and wait three weeks while they make it in the factory...or in our case, three months, since the model we got was backlogged due to its popularity. (Fun fact: Mazda cars are made in Hiroshima, Japan.) While having to wait for your new car can be a bummer, I've come to appreciate the slow taste of anticipation quite a lot. One reason people buy new cars in Japan is a tax-and-car-inspection called sha-ken, which is required every two years and which costs around $600-1500 (this fee includes a road tax and two years of required auto insurance). It's unpleasant to pay this fee, so many Japanese use it as an excuse to look at new cars when the two year date rolls around, which helps keep the domestic Japanese economy humming.
Artist's concept of a car showroom in Japan (not really).