Written into law on the 1st of June, 1951, the vehicle inspection system, more commonly referred to locally as ‘shaken’, was introduced not only in order to uphold public safety in the upkeep of vehicles on the road, but required owners to register vehicles in their name and not that of a third party. Credit: Motovique

Photo by David Ainley

“’Shaken’ is an abbreviation of the Japanese term ‘ji-dou-sha-ken-sa-tou-roku-sei-do’, which refers to the legal inspection required by law every two years for all vehicles and their respective owners.”

Typically, Japanese and many expat vehicle owners opt to have their local dealer take care of the inspection on their behalf. These dealers, going along with the manufacturer’s recommendations, may add many unnecessary items to the final billing cost, which can and often does exceed the 100,000 yen mark.Peanuts to some maybe, but not for most cheapos. The price is all relative to the vehicle in question. One of the highest I have ever encountered exceeded 400,000 yen. All for the pleasure of driving a 1992 Porsche 911 964 RS a mere 300 miles between services.

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Is there another way?

In short, yes. The high cost associated with shaken has seen the rise of ‘user-shaken’ over the years, among both the Japanese and foreign communities. The reasons behind this are simple. By eliminating the dealership from the equation, you can ultimately save tens-of-thousands by paying only the fixed costs associated with shaken:

Weight TaxVaries depending on the vehicle
Compulsory InsuranceJPY24,950
Stamp DutyJPY1,700

Firstly, inspections can be undertaken anytime within the month prior to the expiry date at your local transport department: Samezu, Nerima, Adachi, Tama and Hachioji for those living in the Tokyo area. While this may reduce the current shaken period of the vehicle and all taxes previously paid, leaving it too late can have the opposite effect. As every vehicle that undertakes the test does not automatically pass, the period of time required to ammend any problem areas may surpass the expiry date, rendering the car not only illegal to drive on public roads, but adding further costs to the shaken process.

Making a Reservation

Implemented a few years ago, the current system requires individuals to make a reservation online, which can be done up to 14 days in advance. Once reserved, it is then the owners responsibility to collate all the required documentation for submission on the day of the test.

Required Documentation

  • 1. Current Shaken Certificate
  • 2. Compulsory Insurance Certificate (New & Old)
  • 3. Automobile Tax Notification Certificate
  • 4. Shaken Inspection Form *
  • 5. Weight Tax Application Form *
  • 6. User Shaken Application Form *
  • 7. Maintenance Checklist

Uketsuke (Reception)

Vehicle Inspection Checklist
Vehicle Inspection Checklist | Photo by David Ainley

Simply proceed to the window for user shaken, and pass all the required documentation and your reservation number to a member of staff. Said staff member will go through the paperwork and notify you of any discrepancies in the documentation.

First-time users may also receive a “beginners card”, which, when placed on the dashboard of the vehicle, notifies examiners that you may need extra assistance. In addition, before commencing with the test, individuals can, depending on the test centre, see how to perform the tests, either by video or on-site.

The Pit Lane

The Pit Lane
Photo by David Ainley

Exterior Inspection

Upon entering the pit-lane queue, an examiner will begin the inspection by checking that the electrical components of the vehicle are in working order by asking you to perform certain tasks. e.g. front/rear lights, indicators and hazards, reverse light, windscreen wipers and washers and the horn, etc.

Identity Check

The examiner will then ask you to raise the bonnet (hood) of the vehicle where they will confirm the vehicle’s chassis no. and engine grade.

Photo by David Ainley

Emissions Test

To test the levels of carbon emitted from the exhaust, simply insert the probe up the exhaust and wait for the machine to calculate your score.

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Insert the inspection form into the machine to print the results of the emission test.

Photo by David Ainley

Alignment Test

The first test in this sequence requires the driver to hold the steering wheel firmly while driving between two white lines. Any deviation from the white lines will result in a fail.

Odometer Inspection

Driving onto the rolling road, simply accelerate up to 40km/h and flash the headlights once the odometer reads exactly 40km/h.

Headlight Inspection

This part of the test is to test the trajectory of the high-beam headlights. With both left and right lights measured, any rise or dip in trajectory will result in a fail. Simply put the vehicle in neutral, apply the handbrake (side brake) and switch the lights onto full beam.

NB: Covering up part of the headlights may be required on some models that have more than two full-beam light sources.

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Brake Test

This is testing of both the foot brake and the handbrake (side brake). Put the car into neutral (N) and wait for the signal to dab the foot brake. Repeat the process again for the handbrake.

Insert the inspection form into the machine to print the results of the above tests.

Shita Mawari
Photo by David Ainley

The Pit

The final part of the test involves placing your vehicle directly over the pit, putting it into neutral and turning off the ignition. A technician will then inspect the major components on the underside of the car. When requested to do so, the driver will also need to manoeuvre the steering wheel from left-to-right, dab the brakes, and do a brief oscillation test.


Results of the test will be printed onto the inspection form. An examiner will then check all the required documentation before informing you of which building to go to next. In the event that a vehicle fails the test, owners have the ability to fix their vehicles at one of the many surrounding garages. In addition, owners can enter the lane and take the test as many times as they wish in a single day at no extra cost.

The Final Step

The final step is to simply submit the required documentation at the appropriate window, and wait a few minutes for your new shaken certificate (and sticker) to be processed.

Shaken Certificate Sample
Photo by David Ainley

All images & illustrations credited to David Ainley.

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Filed under: Living
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