Clown Car


My car is a keijidousha (軽自動車); which translates directly as ‘light car’. Intriguingly, ‘light’ is not necessarily the best descriptor, since the determining factor is engine displacement: no kei car can have an engine larger than 650cc. Generally, the size and weight of the vehicles is also low because such a small engine can’t push a lot of mass around.

Awhile back, I drove to a friend’s housewarming party. After the party several of us wanted to go sing at a karaoke hall. We all piled in my car and headed out. Well that makes it sound a little simple. We had a party of six, and we come in various shapes and sizes (none of us being considered ‘small’ by Japanese standards. Two of us sat in the front seats, three of us sat snugly across the bench seat in the back, one member was just the right shape and size to fit in the hatch behind the back seat. We didn’t drive far, but I don’t recommend this for ultimate safety.

Later, in discussions with Japanese friends, I got various reports about how many laws they think I was violating. I’m not sure if they were accurate or reporting common belief. Only four people can ride in a kei car and no more than 200kg may be loaded into a kei car were the most frequently heard. In hindsight it was a little silly and I will try not to repeat this without checking regulations. As a purely intellectual exercise, I contrived a plan to put 9 or 10 people in the car, by having people standing with their heads out the sun roof.

Our lucky passenger in the hatch dubbed my car The Clown Car, which leads me to believe I won’t be impressing her with my sweet ride.


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