At the end of July we bought a car. The great thing about buying a car on base is that you can get them relatively cheaply. The bad thing is they can be a money pit if you choose the wrong car. We bought a 2002 Honda Accord from a Marine and his wife. The husband said he took great care of it because he was a mechanic and we trusted him because he was known by a few of our friends as a good guy. We were happy with our car. It seemed to drive great and it was small which is great for the back roads in Japan when a two way street is barely wide enough for two cars to pass each other without clipping mirrors or ending up in cement ditches on the side of the road.
The first time I tried driving in Japan I decided to drive from Nafco (a walmart type store about 10 minutes from base) back to base with Jeremy. He had driven there and I figured I was brave enough to try and drive back. It was our first time to that store and the directions there seemed easy except for one tunnel. I got in the driver seat and turned on the GPS on my phone. The directions came up different but that was okay, they seemed easy enough. The first turn out of the parking lot and I knew I was in trouble. Big time. The road was barely wider than a drive way with deep cement ditches in front of people’s homes with no curbs to keep the car from falling. To make matters worse there were cars and bicycles coming down the road in my direction after I had pulled onto the road. I made it to the end and turned right- onto another road like that. By that time I was swearing I would never drive in Japan again. I finally was able to find a main road back to base after about 5 minutes. By the time I got to base I was starting to get the hang of it.
The next day Jeremy had duty. He took the car because I was going Fukuoka for a festival. He came to pick me up but on the way back he got into a small accident. He says he was dodging a dog that ran into the road causing him to run into the guardrail. I was upset we had only had the car for about 48 hours.
Over the next few days the car wouldn’t crank right away. It would take a few tries but it would eventually catch. We weren’t too worried because the previous owner had warned us about it and claimed he had a friend ordering a part for it to fix it. One day my friend, Charrleen, and I decided to drive to one of the Diasos to shop while our husbands were at work. I managed to drive over there fine but when we were leaving the car wouldn’t start. We tried it for over twenty minutes. Finally we got a ride back to base to pick up Jeremy. Charleen gave us a ride back to our car. Jeremy was able to start the car first try. It was that point I started calling the car Cari Ma. It was acting like our old cat, Kali Ma. Kali Ma loved Jeremy and would only tolerate me if she had to.
Jeremy had a guy come over to look at the car to see what was wrong with it. His name is Jim Ford. He looked over the car and started listing everything wrong with it. It needed a new starter, something was wrong with the brakes, the motor was going bad on the front windows, and with Jeremy’s damage (sharp edge metal is illegal on cars in Japan and we had three jagged holes in the passenger door) it would cost $1500- $2000 to fix everything. We only paid $1000 for the car. We tried calling the previous owners but they stopped answering our phone calls. We started realizing to this car was cursed.
Over the past couple of months we have slowly been getting some of the repairs done. It has taken time to get the parts in. When we finally got it working again and the week before I was suppose to start work, someone drove into the back of it. Thankfully there wasn’t much damage. The gentleman who backed into us was staying at the temp lodge behind out apartment building. He was backing out of his space in a mini van to go two blocks to buy a newspaper. We had empty parking spaces on either side of us. He tried to back into one of them. Instead he clipped the back driver side. Jeremy happened to be at a party on the first floor of our building about ten feet from the accident. We called PMO and exchanged insurance information.
Jeremy and I have spent the last two weeks feeling our way through Japanese auto insurance. We managed to an estimate for the damage but getting the car fixed is proving difficult. If we get it fixed off based, we can get a rental car but it won’t be based approved. Meaning we can’t drive it on base. But I need a rental car since I work an hour away. Insurance won’t cover a rental car through the base rental agency and we can’t afford $80 a day to rent it ourselves. We can’t find anyone on base to fix it around my work schedule. I guess we are just going to tell the insurance company to forget it. It seems like to much of a hassle for a few scratches.
Then this week, driving home from my first day at work, the brake light came back on and the brakes weren’t responding as quickly. Too bad it was when I was 30 minutes from home and driving 60 kph through mountains in the dark… I pulled over at a gas station to refill the brake fluid. It was completely out. A Japanese gas station attendant came out to help but seemed surprised I knew how to do it myself. Jim Ford came out the next day. The passenger side brake line was pouring out brake fluid when the brake was pressed. A solid stream. Of course I was worried that I would have to quit my job because I had to work the next day. Thankfully Jim Ford said that we could borrow his wife’s car this week. Its a bit bigger than our car but I like the way it drives. Jim Ford said that the brake line will be fixed sometime this week.
Jeremy and I have decided that when the JCI is up in March or April of next year, we are selling the car to a junk yard and buying a new car. We can’t afford for it to keep breaking or being wrecked. I’m already looking at new cars. This time we will get it checked out before we buy it. No more cursed vehicles for us.