If you have just bought a second-hand car made in Japan and one morning you look in the mirror to see your eyes shining green, there could well be a connection. “A total of 70 used cars imported from Japan and found to have increased levels of radiation are being stored in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, and cannot be sent back,” a recent article [http://www.kabar.kg/eng/analytics/full/10481] from AutoWeek posted on Kyrgyzstan’s national newss agency Kabar read. “Car retailers in Kyrgyzstan, who have been importing significant numbers of used cars from Japan for resale in the country, have been finding cars that exhibit levels of radiation above normal. Several batches of cars have been seized by the government during the last three years and have at times been sent back to Japan through an agreement with the Japanese government. However, irradiated cars keep turning up in Bishkek, the capital, and not all of them are being detected in a timely manner. […] The cars have been quarantined in an impound lot, but the local authorities do not know what to do with them. The batch of (so far) 70 cars has been building up in the impound lot over time, with cars having come through several other countries.”

 

The discovery in Bishkek is not the first of its kind in the region stretching from the Pacific to the Caspian. “A shipment of 132 irradiated cars was recently detected coming into the port of Vladivostok in January 2014, with the cars having been barred from entry in port,” the article reads further down, referring to the Australian website CarsGuide. “Russia has been more successful at detecting irradiated cars coming in from Japan due to stringent checks in the ports of Vladivostok and Khabarovsk. However, that is mainly due to the direct route that cargo ships with used cars normally take, in addition to systematic screenings by customs officials. The routes that used Japanese cars usually take to small Central Asian countries like Kyrgyzstan are more circuitous, and cars with radiation levels above normal frequently escape detection as they are driven across the border on license plates from neighboring countries.”

 

The import of used Japanese cars is big business in Central Asia, especially in Mongolia and the Russian far-east regions that are the largest consumers of used Japanese cars in the area. In cities like Vladivostok, Russia, RHD Japanese cars make up roughly 50 percent of all registered passenger cars. Apart from the Fukushima syndrome, though, this could very well go down with Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan banning cars with the wheel on the right side as of 2016. Russia is rumoured to mull the same measure. That will be the price the Japanese are going to pay not just for their tsunami but also for keeping to the wrong side of the road…

BY CHARLES VAN DER LEEUW, WRITER, NEWS ANALYST