Knowing JCI, other paperwork dates crucial to driving on Okinawa
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Driving on the left side of the road is only one of many differences between driving in Okinawa and driving in the United States.
In the United States, if a driver has a current driver's license, pays a yearly state registration fee, and carries the amount of insurance required by his or her state, then the road trips can begin.
In Okinawa, drivers need a current U.S. Forces Japan driver's license, current property damage liability insurance, current Japanese compulsory insurance, a current Japanese Compulsory Inspection (commonly referred to as JCI), and they need to have paid a weight tax and road tax before legally hitting the narrow streets of Okinawa.
It is critical for drivers to pay close attention to when they need to renew each of these requirements, because unlike in the United States, the renewal date is not linked to a birthday or displayed on a primary source of identification, and no renewal notice may be mailed. Driving with out-of-date PDI or JCI insurance can result in driving privileges being suspended for 30 days, paying out of pocket for a post-insurance car accident, or imprisonment in a Japanese prison for up to one year or up to a 500,000 yen fine.
To find out when these driving requirements expire, drivers can open their glove boxes and pull out their packet of car information. The insurance policy, written in English and purchased through either AIU Insurance Company or ACE Insurance, is the PDI. As the name implies, it covers property damage but can also cover bodily injury. PDI can be purchased to cover a 3-, 6- or 12-month period. The top right corner of the policy will state the policy period.
The next few requirements are all linked to the JCI inspection. On the bottom left corner of the driver's military registration is a date. This date is the date the inspection is due.
This JCI is a full car inspection which may not be able to be completed within one day if repairs are needed. It should be started 30 days prior to the expiration date. A new car will require this inspection in three years and most used cars require this inspection every two years, but some cars require it every year.
Before drivers can have the inspection done, they must pay the Japanese compulsory insurance and weight tax. This insurance covers other drivers' bodily injury.
The JCI insurance provides up to 30 million yen in coverage for death, 40 million yen for after effects, and 1.2 million yen for injury. This insurance policy is an 8.5 by 5.5-inch piece of paper written in Japanese and is usually given in a plastic sleeve. The expiration date is found towards the top right of the paper.
A date of 24-2-29 means the policy expires on Feb. 29, 2012. The first number, 24, is year 2012, 25 would be year 2013 and so on. The year is tied to how many years the current Emperor of Japan has ruled.
This renewal date is almost always after the Japanese compulsory inspection is due. Japanese compulsory insurance can be renewed through the driver's PDI company or can be purchased at the off-base automobile repair shop that performs the inspection and will be good for the length of the driver's JCI.
Weight tax also expires the same time as the JCI. It can be paid at the Joint Services Vehicle Registration Office on Camp Foster, in yen only, or at the off-base auto shop that performs the JCI.
Once the driver has proof of payment of insurance and weight tax, he or she may begin the JCI process. This inspection can be done off base at an authorized car mechanic or, depending on the type of car, can be performed by the mechanic shop on base.
People driving a white-plated car can have this inspection done on Camp Foster by the Exchange, located behind the JSVRO. Once a vehicle passes this inspection, the driver will receive a new title and Government of Japan inspection sticker. The driver can then take all of this information to the JSVRO and update his or her military registration, Department of Defense Form 430.
Every year in May, drivers are also required to pay road tax. For white-plated cars, it can be paid at various collection sites throughout base. Road tax for yellow-plated cars and motorcycles must be paid at a local city, town or village office, and then the driver must bring the receipt to the JSVRO or tax collection site to get a new road tax sticker.
Finally, a driver's USFJ driver's license expiration date is tied to his or her date of estimated return from overseas. Those who extended their orders will also need to extend their driver's licenses through the issuing agency. For Air Force members, this is done through security forces.
Although these requirements might seem daunting at first, a drive to any of the many beautiful locations on Okianwa makes staying on top of these requirements worthwhile.