Car sales are down in Japan, especially among the younger generation: Toyota saw its domestic sales fall by 6% last year, and Mitsubishi lost 11% of sales in Japan. The high cost of gasoline and difficulties in finding parking space have contributed to this trend. There is also the fact that cars are no longer as attractive as they once were.
If you really need access to a car, the Windcar solution may be perfect. As in other countries, car-sharing is increasingly seen as a clever way to use a car together with others, rather than owning your own. In some places, like Sapporo, the success of Windcar has been phenomenal.Windcar is a company that provides car sharing services around Japan. It started in 2005 and members of the service use shared cars after making a reservation. If you use a car 10 times per month, 30 minutes each, it will cost 7,800 yen (about $80) which is less than you'd have to pay if you used regular taxis or rental cars. And they offer pretty cool models that are fun to drive, such as the Honda Fit and the Mitsubishi ekWagon.
To start a Windcar station in your town, you need to locate a car shop with a mechanic and find at least 10 people who make a commitment as a group. Using a website or your cell phone, you book the car. Bring a special IC card as identification to open the car, use an ordinary ignition key, and off you go!
And, no, the cars are not powered by wind, that's just the silly name of the company.
I have noticed that owning a car is no longer a status symbol among a growing number of environmentally aware people, especially in Tokyo. What a difference from 15-20 years ago, when the concept of having a "My-car" (using the English terms as a noun) was a sign of independence and pride in one's middle class status.
Brought to you by Martin J Frid of greenz.jp