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Russia's Far East Beset with Toxic Japanese Cars

Vladivostok streets, by Núria Alonso, August 2008, CC 2.0.

Vladivostok streets, by Núria Alonso, August 2008, CC 2.0.

Vladivostok, a remote city in the Russian Far East, is notorious for the many used Japanese cars on its roads, which are possibly the worst in the country. Despite government campaigns against the right-hand-steering vehicles, locals continue to find ways to bypass the state's initiatives.

Many Internet users in Vladivostok have remained adamant that even older Japanese cars are superior to the models now coming off assembly lines in Russia. Some netizens describe owning a Russian car as a social faux pas. As one commenter on the Russian Far East news portal Deita.ru wrote:

увы, даже японки собираемые не в Японии как бы это помягче сказать … xpeнового качества. Опять же если сравнивать с праворульной машиной сделаной япами и для япов. Увы … не могут они взять и перенести свой подход к труду на чужую землю без потерь.

Sadly, even the Japanese [cars] not assembled in Japan are, to put it mildly … of s**tty quality. Again, when compared with right-hand-steering cars made by the Japanese for the Japanese. Sadly … they cannot take and implement their approach to work abroad without a loss [in quality].

Japanese cars en route to Vladivostok, damaged in a storm, 21 October 2012, screen capture from YouTube.

Japanese cars en route to Vladivostok, damaged in a storm, 21 October 2012, screen capture from YouTube.

After a deadly tsunami hit Japan in 2011, followed by the nuclear tragedy in Fukushima, the port of Vladivostok received a number of radioactive cars. Two years later, radioactive car parts are still arriving in Russia. Outrageously, Russian customs authorities have had to detain and send back to Japan over 930 radioactive cars since 2011.

Confronted with such problems, Vladivostok residents have gone online to swap stories and ask advice [ru] about the stream of toxic Japanese motor vehicles. Web user Damir Gaifullin appealed to one forum in the following words:

Ребят, подскажите, кто-нибудь сталкивался с радиоактивными автомобилями из Японии? Как-то например – выбрал машину на аукционе, а она оказалась радиоактивной и отсюда начались проблемы.

Guys, tell me, has anyone had to deal with radioactive cars from Japan? Maybe someone got a car at an auction and it turned out to be radioactive, and all his problems started here?

Some people responding to Gaifullin suggested shopping in auctions farther from Fukusima, in order to avoid any potential contamination. Others argue that measuring the level of radiation before cars leave Japan is a better approach. Unfortunately, it is apparently very difficult for Russians buying cars at auctions in Japan to run comprehensive background checks on vehicles, before purchasing.

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