Russia to Japan - Die fantastische Reise des Froschs

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Russia to Japan

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How to ship (and temporary import) a car from :.....Russia to Japan
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Russia to Japan
March 2014

Concerning the shipment of a car from Russia to Japan and the temporary import to Japan one can find many questions and even more answers in the Internet.

We wanted to temporary import a Toyota Landcriuser HZJ78 registered in Switzerland, from Russia to Japan. We stayed in Japan for 4 months.

We describe here how we did it.

In short:

1. We needed to have a Carnet de Passage
2. We arranged shipping of our car from Vladivostok via South Korea to Japan (Sakaiminato) with the help of Links, Ltd Relocation Services, Vladivostok
3. They wanted copies of our Carnet de Passage / photo of our car / photo from the car's VIN (-plate) / copies of our car registration
4. We shipped with dbs ferries.
5. We had to mail copies of car documents, driver licenses and Carnet de Passage to our agent from dbs ferries in Japan.
6. On arrival in Japan we were assisted by the Japanese dbs agent.
7. Our car was inspected by customs control
8. Then we had to get an authentication of our Carnet de Passage in the city of Matsue at JAF (Japanese Automobile Federation)
9. At JAF we also had to get a translation of our driver licenses
10. The dbs agent organised a third party incurance
11. Finally we had to pay a customs fee

In detail:

We studied a lot of information in the Internet. Everything was decribed, from "not possible" to "no problems" The Swiss embassy informed us that we had to have the car inspected in Japan (comparable to TüV, pink slip, Motorfahrzeugkontrolle etc.) This can take many weeks and is very expensive. We read that only new cars are able to pass this inspection, old cars like ours would never pass (emission problems and so on).
Inspection would cost more then US$ 1000.- for a car like ours.

All these information were WRONG in our case !

Well, we did it this way:

Leaving Russia

We contacted Links Ltd. months ahead to arrange shipping and paper work which always needs a lot of time because of Russian burocracy.

Links, Ltd.
Relocation Services
ZAO “link, Limited”
89 Svetlanskya str., Suite 312
690001 Vladivostok, Russia:
Ph.: +7(423) 2220 887
Fax : +7(423) 2221 578
Mobile : +7(964) 440 1430

Contact: Svetlana Sen  svetlana.sen(at)

Svetlana was our competend and friendly contact person (speaks perfectly German and English). Once in Vladivostok she helped us in a speedy and competend way to get the car to the harbour and did our export paper work for US$ 150.- BUT she did not get us any ferry tickets (neither for the car, nor for us) even if she said she did. We were extremely lucky to get tickets on short notice before the ferry was taken out of service for inspection for a couple of weeks.  YOU HAVE TO GET THE TICKET by yourself. We bought them at the harbour in Vladivostok (easily done)
, but others were able to book it via Internet.      South Korea

Schedule: Vladivostok - Donghae (6 hours stoppover where everybody has to leave the boat, passengers only, not the car) - Sakaiminato (northcoast of western Honshu)

In the dbs ticket office they refused to sell us the tickets for the cheapest class, we had to take more expensive ones. Via Internet it should be possible to book "3rd class".

Note: A foreign car can stay a maximum of 90 days in Russia. If the car stays any longer there will be big problems. But we were able to have our car 110 days in Russia. Why and how this?
We entered Russia from Mongolia. We stayed 30 days in Russia. Over X-mas we flew to Switzerland for almost 4 weeks and left the car in Irkutsk. After returning to Irkutsk we stayed in Russia another 60 days. So our car was effectively 110 days in Russia. To do so was not easy. In our first 30 days we went to customs in Irkutsk and asked for an extension for temporary "import" of our car. We were told, that we should ask for this extension shortly before the official 90 days expire. For the first we didn't want to take the risk not getting a further extension in the future and second on our route to Vladivostok there wouldn't be any Customs offices. It took us a loooong time to explain and to fill in a couple of documents (all had to be written in Russian), until they agreed to give us an extension up to 110 days. It's possible but we would not recommend to consider doing this.

Okay, one day before departure of dbs ferries we went to the harbour with Svetlana. The car was left in a secure place in the fenced harbour. Then we went together to customs in town, had to show our faces to some officials and then we were released. Svetlana did the rest.

The dbs ferrry is a not a very modern vessel, 3rd class cabins are open rooms with up to about 8 births, 2nd class cabins are rooms with a door and up to 8 births, 1st class is a room for four people (tatami style beds) with TV, fridge and one room key (to be left at reception if there are other people with you in the cabin). Luxury class and presidential suite are....?
On board you can buy snacks, drinks and eat "anytime" at the bar (Korean food). In the morning and in the evening the self serve restaurant opens. You can get a nice Korean all-you-can-eat buffet for US$10 or the equivalent in Korean currency. Rubles are NOT accepted only Korean and American Cash.
In Donghae we had a 6 hours stop over where we had to leave the ship. You can take a taxi into town or just walk for about an hour. The city is very modern, full of shops, korean and western restaurants. It's worth to have a look.

Arrival in Japan

On arrival in Sakaiminato we were expected by Tatiana the very friendly agent from dbs ferries who helped us with all the paper work in Japan.

Tatiana Chernysheva (speaks perfectly english)
ph.: +81-80-6337-2939
9-23 Shouwa-machi
Sakaiminato city
TOTTORI 684-0034, Japan
Ph.:+81 859 30 2332
Fax: +81 859 30 2313

In the arrival hall we were able to change some US$ into Yen. If you have the opportunity to go to a Japanese Post Office or 7/11 shop (nearby in Sakaiminato city) you will get easily cash with your international credit card (for a much better rate).

It followed the car inspection. We heard many stories, some travellers had to unload everything others did not. In our case the officers were extremely polite, asked to see the VIN in the body frame (which I could not find in short term, so they were happy with the bolted VIN under the hood). They had a shy look from a distance into the car, didn't bother about knifes, our saw or axe, didn't ask about our CB (which is forbidden to bring in when it works on some specific frequencies (don't ask us which ones)). They did not look under the car, didn't bother about dirt (well we cleaned the car thoroughly beforehand).

We then shared a privat taxi (dbs-car arranged by Tatjana) with another (Car-) traveler to Matsue city (US$ 140.- for the whole car).
We drove straight to JAF (Japanese Automobile Federation), not loosing too much time, because we wanted to get the car thru customs the same day (before the weekend). At JAF we bought the mandatory Japanese translation of the driver licence (Yen 3000.-/person) and our Carnet de Passage was authenticated (free).

Note: Our Co-traveler was a German, but his car was registered in Kenya. In that case JAF did not authenticate his Carnet, Kenyan cars are officially not allowed to drive in Japan. In an other case we know, that a French car got into Japan without a Carnet, it was allowed to drive in Japan without it! The French driver was able to buy a thrid party insurance, the "Kenyan" was not able to buy one. (The "Kenyan" was still able to get the car thru customs control and drive it (inofficially and without any insurance), taking all the involved risks...

Back in the harbour Tatiana organised an insurance dealer and we were able to get a 5 months third party insurance for the car (Yen 12700.-). Then we quickly went to pay our harbour/customs inspection what so ever fee.

As Swiss citizens we are allowed to stay in Japan for 3 months without a visa. This permission to stay in the country can easily be extended for another 3 months. We went straight to the immigration office in Matsue city. One form had to be filled out (in english) and ten minutes later we got our extension (Yen 4000.-per person).


Well, so far we can say there aren't any in Japan! We heard about police checks and long discussions about not being allowed to drive a foreign car. We were checked only once (in 4 months driving around). The only thing they wanted to see was our Visa (in our case permission to stay in the country, see above). The poor police guys didn't really know what to check, so we were asked what our prefered soccer team is and if we like hiking...
Indeed, we were afraid of a police check, because we drove with spiked tires which are definitely forbidden in Japan. We were just lucky nobody cared about....

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