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Kuruma banare: post-car Japan - click opera
February 2010
 
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Tue, Jun. 24th, 2008 10:58 am
Kuruma banare: post-car Japan

"JAPAN: A Post-Car Society" proclaimed Newsweek back in February. "A gadget-crazy people show no interest in new cars, dismiss the four-wheeled horse as 'so 20th century.'" For Newsweek -- and, obviously, for car manufacturers -- this is "a worrisome trend", but some of us are positively throwing our bike helmets in the air. It's about fucking time the car began to die; three fucking cheers for Japanese consumers for leading the way!



They're calling it kuruma banare, "demotorization" or "the car sales slump" or "dramatically-decreasing new car sales". Japan has become "the first major developed country where automobile ownership is shrinking". This isn't just a temporary blip, either. All the experts think car sales will never recover in Japan. In one advanced country, at least, the age of the car is starting to be over. Here are some facts, figures and stats about this joyous tidal turn:

* Demotorisation has been happening in Japan since 1990.

* According to the BBC, Japanese new car sales for May 2008 were only about half what they were in May 1990.

* In 1990 7.8 million new cars were purchased in Japan. In 2007, only 5.4 million were bought. That's a decline of 33%.

* In 2007 alone, new car sales in Japan fell by 6.7%.



* The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association did a market study two years ago to find the reasons for the slump. They were: a widening wealth gap, falling birth rate, increasing urbanisation (Japan's excellent urban public transport means cars are really only essential in the countryside), and something cultural: a general lack of interest in cars.

* The younger Japanese consumers are, the less interested they are in having a car.

* The average age of car owners in Japan is currently 48, and rising.

* Because car insurance companies make most of their money from young drivers, and because young drivers are disappearing, car insurance premiums had to be increased this week for all drivers.

* Car insurance, taxes and parking fees in Japan are some of the highest in the world. Gas prices are rising.

* Japanese of all ages now keep their cars longer, downsize when they buy new ones, or give up car ownership altogether.

* In the first five years of this century spending on cars in Japan per household per year fell to $600. In the same period, spending on the internet and mobile phones rose to $1500 per household per year.

* "Automobiles used to represent a symbol of our status, a Western, modern lifestyle that we aspired for," Ryuichi Kitamura, a transport expert and professor at Kyoto University, told Newsweek. "For today's young people such thinking is completely gone."

* Although sales of smaller cars are slowing less rapidly, it isn't enough to compensate car manufacturers' losses.

* The decline in sales since 1990 is equivalent to one big car company like Mitsubishi or Honda being wiped out entirely.

* Sales in emerging markets like China and India are still strong, so Toyota et al won't be shutting up shop just yet.

* A mini-boom in a small market segment dedicated to luxury cars was described by J-Cast as being due to their ability "to capture the nostalgia of middle-aged people".

* The declining use of cars is already changing the shape of cities. In May this year the Japan Federation of Construction Contractors recommended that construction companies concentrate on urban developments which can be reached by public transport.

* "Having a car is so 20th century," one 34 year-old executive told Newsweek. He now rides public transport. "It's not inconvenient at all."

* The next major region forecast to experience the benefits of "dramatically-decreasing new car sales"? Europe.

* Surprisingly enough, even America may be taking the first hesitant steps to becoming a post-car society. "According to the Department of Transportation," Reuters reported, "Americans drove 11 billion miles less in March 2008 than a year earlier, the first time estimated travel on public roads fell in March since 1979. The data marks the sharpest year-on-year drop for any month in the history of the agency's reporting, which dates back to 1942."

36CommentReply

skazat
skazat
Alex à Paris
Tue, Jun. 24th, 2008 09:06 am (UTC)

And all the hipster kids in America buy imported Japanese Keirin bikes.





It's a beautiful thing.


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qscrisp
qscrisp
Tue, Jun. 24th, 2008 09:33 am (UTC)

I've never driven a car, and it's never been a source of great inconvenience to me, either. Anyway, I'm glad to read this. Surely current fuel prices are one major indicator that cars are on the way out? I hope so.


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skazat
skazat
Alex à Paris
Tue, Jun. 24th, 2008 09:38 am (UTC)

In my life, I had 2 cars - both were horrible things that lasted less than a year total.

Current fuel prices are high for artificial reasons. I don't think it has anything to do with the idea of Peak Oil. I think there's smoke and mirrors in our way.

I don't think that idea, either true or false discounts the environmental impact that cars create.

I do know, just be seeing people in my own city that high oil prices are the reasons a whole lot of people are on bikes. It's amazing to go outside and see the streets - everywhere I go, with bikes on it. It wasn't even like that last year. It's wonderful. It's not Amsterdam - yet, but it's very warming to see different types of people on different types of bikes. I love it. I love it. I love it.


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Jun. 24th, 2008 09:47 am (UTC)
1500?

1500 a month on cell phones and internet? Is that right? Like a third of the average household income, more than rent or food?

one new phone per month ($300)
One expensive computer every 6 months ($500 /month)
Best available net connection with cable and all the toppings ($200)
And then another $500 a month in phone bills

Is that how it works?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Jun. 24th, 2008 10:09 am (UTC)
Re: 1500?

Sorry, those figures are per year, not per month, and are cited in Newsweek. I've corrected the text.


ReplyThread Parent
pr_gagarina_167
pr_gagarina_167
миша шкурат
Tue, Jun. 24th, 2008 10:08 am (UTC)

that's interesting, 'cause it seems like in russia and here in ukraine the car sales are increasing abnormally at the moment.

i remember the stats from november/december 2007 for kyiv only - was something like 70,000/75,000 of just new cars bought and registered during these monthes.

population of kyiv is about 4 million people so those amounts are impressive. also the situation with people dying in carcrashes is becoming awful, of course not only because people own more cars, lots of other social reasons. often it reaches 20 people a day who die in car-incidents in ukraine. a lot of biking people among them also. just last week - there was demonstration in kyiv dedicated to this awful incident:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6hhMDMjSNM

very sad, but seems like it will take a while to see this gadget-interest-domination-over-cars-tendency here. and until then car-producers probably make up their minds about us.


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electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Tue, Jun. 24th, 2008 10:09 am (UTC)
i'm just a jeepster for your loooove

Momus, I promised my friend to ask you where she should go in Berlin.
Aside from Bowie's house of gay, obv.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Jun. 24th, 2008 10:17 am (UTC)
Re: i'm just a jeepster for your loooove

Treptower Market, Alte Schonhauser Strasse (including Mulackstr. and Almstadtstr. for ProQM bookshop), Auguststrasse, Kastanienalle (inc. Oderbergerstr. and Lychenerstr.), Boxhagener Platz, Museumisland, Dahlem for its ethnological museums and botanical gardens, Karl Marx Allee for ostalgie (and nearby Simon Dach str), Karl Marx Strasse for cultural diversity and ethnic buzz, the Maybachufer market Tuesdays and Fridays, some lakes and forests.

http://maps.google.de/


Edited at 2008-06-24 10:18 am (UTC)


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Jun. 24th, 2008 10:11 am (UTC)
excellent

i only hope i live long enough to see our cities finally rid of that four wheeled plague...

William Thirteen


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desant012
||||||||||
Tue, Jun. 24th, 2008 11:11 am (UTC)

Good. Ever since I was a kid I've despised cars. Unfortunately the Bush administration is infuriating to its final day: New Jersey senator Lautenberg and others proposed a bill to increase funding for public transportation and commuter rails, but Bush promised he'll veto it on the grounds that the solution to the current crisis isn't more money for light rail, but opening up the Alaska nature reserves for oil drilling so we'll have more gasoline for cars, SUVs, giant pick up trucks, etc.

Yes, we do hate him here as much as he's hated abroad. He's officially the most despised president in the history of the US, though why people voted for him the second time is beyond reason.


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desant012
||||||||||
Tue, Jun. 24th, 2008 11:29 am (UTC)

But yeah, public transportation ridership in the US has skyrocketed (hence that bill), and I see people riding bikes and walking all over my old hometown in the suburbs of New York City. You'd never see anyone out, and now ... here we are. Of course if the South and Midwest ever started using public transportation that'd be a real coup.


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Jun. 24th, 2008 12:01 pm (UTC)

As you said, China is picking up the slack:

"Auto sales in China are expected to exceed 10 million units this year, which would represent full-year sales growth of 14 percent"

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2008-05/09/content_8137237.htm


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hunchentoot
hunchentoot
Joseph C. Krause
Tue, Jun. 24th, 2008 01:33 pm (UTC)

Suburbs, where most Americans live, are going to be very difficult to transform into a place that functions without an automobile. Here's hoping a return to city life takes place here.

New public transit has been built in many cities in recent years, but the US still has totally clueless places with very poor public transit and few accommodations for cyclists. Here in Detroit, there are finally plans being drawn up to bring back streetcars, and many new miles of greenways are under construction, which is cause for some hope at last, though what is planned is still less than the minimum that is needed.

I too see many more people out on their bikes! I think the changes that bike-and-transit-activists advocate will be what people are "forced" by circumstance to do.


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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
hunchentoot
hunchentoot
Joseph C. Krause
Tue, Jun. 24th, 2008 08:04 pm (UTC)

I wonder if bicycle rail systems could achieve high, safe speeds and be a 21st century replacement for certain passenger jobs currently filled by the interstate?


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Jun. 24th, 2008 03:04 pm (UTC)

sorry to be so bluntly off topic,I'm trying to finish a poem for my girlfriend and can't seem to get this translated correctly:

(this is the way the world ends)
"Not with the BANG! that everybody expected"<<<<<<<<<
(...)

Just that one sentence, how is it said in japanese?
Lend a lover a hand, whoever can

Thanks, hey!
Alex P


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Jun. 24th, 2008 03:14 pm (UTC)

バンではなく、誰もが予想


?


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firstanointed
firstanointed
Phantom Space Cop
Tue, Jun. 24th, 2008 03:26 pm (UTC)

Yay, I knew it! We'll all be owning bikes and Thoroughbreds by 2025, AS I suspected. Maintenance on both being significantly lower on both, I'm shocked we tolerated ridiculous gas prices and pot holes in the first place.


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kabballer
kabballer
John Vu
Tue, Jun. 24th, 2008 07:53 pm (UTC)

Bikes yes, but it's debateable whether a horse would be any less maintenance than a car. How are you going to get the feed to the horse?


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graywyvern
graywyvern
graywyvern
Tue, Jun. 24th, 2008 04:09 pm (UTC)
demotorization

i discovered last month i spent $200 on gas.

m.


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qscrisp
qscrisp
Tue, Jun. 24th, 2008 08:03 pm (UTC)

Hello Momus.

Off-topic, and you've probably already addressed this somewhere, but I wondered what you made of this whole issue type thing:

http://theteemingbrain.wordpress.com/2008/06/22/the-internet-is-melting-our-brains-just-ask-the-atlantic-monthly/


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Jun. 25th, 2008 05:42 am (UTC)

We'd perhaps see even more progress on this front if the feted Japanese
public transport system could see it's way to running past 1am.

You might risk getting stabbed on the top deck of one of London's night
buses, but the option is there...

Why this former state of affairs incidentally? An iron triangle bid to prevent the collective industriousness being diluted by late night carousing? Or do taxi drivers overwhelmingly
vote LDP, hence a need to keep them in business?

Whatever, it's a drag...


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Jun. 25th, 2008 06:43 am (UTC)

It is indeed the power of the taxi drivers' lobby which prevents public transport running all night in Tokyo, I've heard. I think the politicians are being short-sighted, though, because a vibrant night economy (which admittedly might be a grey economy, and see little reaching them in the form of taxes) would develop if the trains ran all night.

As for getting stabbed on buses, have you heard about the bandits who raid cars stuck in Brazilian traffic jams? Pele was recently the victim of this "car congestion crime". Crime happens because of poverty and inequality, not because you take a particular type of transport. That's why Pele's "Do you know who I am, a rich and famous person?" line didn't save him, nor his private transport.

Edited at 2008-06-25 06:44 am (UTC)


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