Swimming Upstream: The Final Hurdle

Kreutzer headlight install

Since the last installment in this series, my attempt to get the family Town & Country officially licensed here in Japan has slogged relentlessly forward.

After a week of such little progress that I saw no need to report upon it (action was limited to the receipt of my official approval from the recycle bureau), I can begin this by saying that over the past week important things are once again happening. Notice that I didn’t write: “Important progress has been made…”

When last we saw our intrepid hero, he had visited the mechanic who would be inspecting the vehicle to inquire about the legality of left-hand-drive headlights in a right-hand-drive world. After seeing the T&C on the test rig, it was readily apparent that the answer was no, they were not and thus he was left to source new headlight assemblies with right-hand-drive optics.

kreutzer light boxes

Those headlamps arrived yesterday afternoon and, just as soon as I got home from work, I spent an hour or two getting them mounted and adjusted. As expected, the lights fit perfectly but I noted a few important differences. To begin with, there is an extra adjustment screw on these “export” lights that allows for side to side adjustment. Additionally, the orange row of running lights at the outer edge of the assemblies is gone, replaced with a reflector. The plug that had powered the now missing strip of lights is still used, however, and is now powering a small “city-light” located above the low beam where it shines down into the reflector and illuminates the inside of the assembly. Overall, the effect is quite nice.

Kreutzer city lights

With the new headlights installed, I took the van in for its inspection first thing this morning. While I was expecting good news, I left disappointed.

On the plus side, the new headlights were able to be adjusted to within the legal specifications and, with a couple of exceptions, the T&C passed the rest of the inspection with flying colors. On the negative side, however, there are two unexpected problems that need to be rectified before I can be declared totally street legal and, oddly enough, they both involve lights as well.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around the underlying logic, but the first problem appears to be with the running lights. As I understand it, under Japanese law, orange lights are always directional signals, including the ones on the front of a vehicle. This means the dual filament running-light/directional signals that have been used on American cars since time immemorial don’t meet the code. Apparently, I must find a way to deactivate the running light while leaving the blinkers untouched to get legal.

While I am capable of wiring in a new socket, it isn’t something I really want to do. After giving it some thought, however, I think the answer is going to involve putting a small piece of electrical tape over one of the contacts on the bottom of the light. I haven’t been able to get under the hood yet to see if my idea actually works, so I’ll update on that situation later. Hopefully I dont get an idiot light telling me I have a burned out bulb.

The other issue is the side markers. JDM vehicles, like the one in the photo below, have a side marker on the front fender behind the wheel well, but the T&C does not. Adding one is going to be a little more complicated than I would like and, since the garage tells me they can take care of this for a couple of hundred dollars, I think I’m going to defer to them in the hopes of getting everything resolved as quickly as possible. The countdown clock is still ticking after all, and truth be told, I’m starting to get a little frustrated. It’s probably better if I take a step back at this point.


In other news, I’ve checked into mounting the Japanese license plates and realized that my current solution for mounting the new plates, which are slightly bigger than standard US plates and have different mounting holes, isn’t going to work for anything other than the temp plates currently on the van. As a result, I’ve reached out to my old friends at Mooneyes, who are experienced with sort of thing, to provide me with the appropriate adaptors. These cost a little more than I would normally like to pay — 4000 yen, or $32.80 USD, for the pair — but I know they are a quality product that should work without too much fuss. Besides, at this point, I’m already in deep enough that another few bucks isn’t going to break the bank.

Once everything is in place, the garage tells me they should have the side markers by the middle of next week, I should clear the final real hurdle and be at the LTO in time for our next installment.

Wish me luck, I’m probably going to need it.

Thomas M. Kreutzer currently lives in Kanagawa, Japan with his wife and three children. He has spent most of his adult life overseas with more than nine years in Japan, two years in Jamaica and almost five years as a U.S. Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. Although originally from Snohomish, WA, he has also lived in several places around the United States including Buffalo, NY and Leavenworth, KS. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast, Kreutzer has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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