All You Need to Know About the Japan Automobile Federation, or JAF

Being a newcomer to a foreign country like Japan is both fun and challenging. Challenging in the sense that its language and culture are so intrinsically different from the western world, and how it is strict in when it comes to the content and enforcement of its rules. The great part about Japan is the cooperation of the people, and how they work together to improve society and uplift each other’s passions and goals, no matter how menial the interest or cause may be. 

The Japanese take time to create organizations that assure the development of what that organization entails, even if it may not seem important. For example, there are groups who are dedicated to preserving culture through traditional music. Others have associations solely for cultivating and enjoying tofu. It may not seem like it, but in the grand scale of things, it does improve society.

And then there are organizations that more evidently help the public and even tourists. Some form medical groups and translation services that assist foreigners who can’t speak English. Another notable organization is JAF. 

What Is JAF?

JAF is an acronym for the English phrase “Japan Automobile Federation”. The point of this organization is to improve the driving experience of everyone who belongs to the auto community of Japan – particular to members of the JAF auto community. Those who are members of this organization can rest assured that their emergency calls will be attended to – in fact, JAF responds to around 3 million calls each year. No matter what day or time it is, you can rely on JAF to help you out of a situation your car may be stuck in.

Campaigns that promote road safety and accident avoidance training are another endeavors of JAF. JAF also helps foreigners switch their licenses to one that is Japanese, and educate them about the rules of the road in Japan. 

Concrete examples include distribution of safety reminders through pamphlets and publications written in Japanese, voicing concerns to the government when it comes to the automobile taxation law, and contributing ideas for the betterment of intelligent transportation systems around Japan. 

As for where one can get all these guidelines and notifications, most of this information can be found in their JAF website. They also have a magazine, called “JAF Mate”, which is published every month, and whose soft copies are available for download in the JAF website as well.

JAF in Summary

JAF visibly contributes to its members largely in five factors; 

  1. Aiding foreigners in acquiring a Japanese translation of the international license of a driver 
  2. Issuing tips on how to maneuver a vehicle in Japan’s roads (as well as other travel tips) 
  3. Offering reliable roadside assistance.
  4. Promoting different events and activities that celebrate the skill of driving (Gymkhana, Super GT)
  5. Improving the overall motoring experience in Japan

The Translation of JAF From English to Japanese

JAF naturally stands for an English phrase, J – Japan A – Automobile F - Federation. When translated into Japanese, it is “Nihon jidousha Renmei”, written as “日本自動車連盟”. This organization is not just targeted towards foreigners, but for locals as well. Similar programs in other countries include the Royal Automobile Club in the U.K. or The American Automobile Association in the U.S. 

How Does One Join JAF?

JAF ranks third place on an international scale when it comes to the largest auto club, and that’s probably because it’s easy, useful, and affordable to join. 

First, pick one out of four kinds of memberships. 

  • There’s the Individual membership, which accounts for most of the organization’s applications. 
  • Next, there’s Family, which gives you a discount for your membership if you have a legal, immediate relative who is a JAF member. 
  • After that, you have Junior, which below 20 years old apply for. 
  • Lastly, there’s Corporate, which allows a corporation owner to give this benefit to the corporation’s employees or members.

Then, choose your mode of application. You have the choice to submit your form online, or through a paper. If you choose paper, you can try and see if they have the forms in a nearby post office. As for payment, you can do this online with a credit/debit card, or at your local “konbini” or convenience store.

Forms: Digital or Paper?

It’s easiest to fill out a form online, and pay using your credit card, or getting the transaction number and paying for it at the konbini. Paper forms are more of a hassle, as they must go through the process of getting it through snail mail. Digital forms are much easier to fill up.

The forms are usually in Japanese, so you may want a friend who is native to the Japanese language to help you fill out the form. If there is no one available to help you, there are guides online that translate the information above/beside the boxes for you to fill out.

The applicant doesn’t have to go into much detail. Basically, all you will be asked for is your name (but written in romaji/kanji), another version of your name in katakana, gender, your birthday, your address is written in kanji, and phone number. For more information on how to become a member, visit the JAF website. 

How Much Is the Membership Fee?

Your payment depends on your contract period. If you want to stay a member for only 1 year, you’ll have to pay a joining fee of 1,400 yen and pay an annual membership fee of 4000 yen per year. The annual membership fee stays the same, while the joining fee lessens, the longer your contract period is.

Those who have contract periods of 3 years only must pay 1000 yen as their joining fee, while those who intend to stay 5 years don’t have to pay a joining fee at all. Discounts are also made available if the fees are paid with a credit card. 

In total, the most you’d pay in one go is 5,500 yen, which amounts to a little less than 50 dollars. The privileges that come with the membership are worth its return.

The Benefits of Joining JAF

One of the best things about JAF is how its privileges are member-based instead of car-based. That way, if you happen to find yourself in a tricky situation with someone else’s automobile, JAF is still liable to the issuance of help if you if you can present your JAF card to prove you’re a member. 

Services that JAF provides include helping you out if you suddenly run out of gas while driving if your battery or engine suddenly dies if your tire deflates, if you’re stuck in the mud, snow, or a ditch, or even if you accidentally lock yourself outside your car. They will tow your car for free for a maximum distance of 15 kilometers. This used to be 5 kilometers, until it was updated in December 2008.

Although you think you may be ready when these incidents happen, having an organization to rely on makes a stressful situation much easier to deal with instead of solving the problem on the go, sitting in the front seat of your car that won’t work. 

Those under Family membership can only enjoy road service and other membership services that are written in Japanese. Otherwise, if you joined under individual membership, you get all the perks. That includes a subscription to JAF’s magazine, a service guide booklet (also in Japanese), help with getting a license for motorsports, getting your own JAF card, etcetera. 

The History of The Japan Automobile Federation

The Japan Automobile Federation was established in April of 1963. Classic proof of this is found in some of the Japanese cars that were dated back to this time, as those who were members of JAF would have car grilles that would brandish a badge of the logo, or have a decal of it pasted into the car’s window. This kind of merchandise can no longer be found and is considered to be a collector’s item.

Initially, JAF would have service vehicles that it would disperse around Japan. Examples of these cars were Nissan Cedric wagons, Prince Skyways, and Toyota Crowns. They would move on to use Subaru Legacy wagons and Mitsubishi Canter Tow Trucks, painting them white and blue, which represent the colors of JAF. 

With the development in technology and boom in cars that have occurred over the decades following its establishment, JAF has only gotten bigger, better, and more efficient. JAF has stayed present and aware of the constant change that is happening to the world of automobiles, which includes artificial intelligence.

The Philosophy of JAF

As both a company and an organization that serves the public, JAF aims to make sure that their company runs to mainly serve the people more than it is an endeavor for profit. It is also taking on any challenges and innovations that come their way and they are open to being a platform for its members to speak out on as well. 

JAF’s philosophy can be summed up in one slogan, which they are proud of. It’s “Anytime, Anywhere with JAF”, which truly embodies the company’s dedication and commitment to being there for those who have any automotive concerns. 

The Address of the Nearest JAF in Japan Nearest You 

There are around 52 JAF offices dispersed around Japan, and you can find the index of these offices at the JAF website. Not all offices have the same capabilities, as some are more equipped than others to handle possible questions and services. There are 6 offices available in Hokkaido, 6 in Tohoku, 10 in Kanto, 7 in Chubu, 6 in Kansai, 5 in Chugoku, 4 in Shikoku, and 8 in Kyushu. 

The regional headquarters of Hokkaido is found in Sapporo, Tohoku’s is in Miyagi, Kanto’s is in Tokyo, Chubu’s is in Aichi, Kansai’s is in Osaka, Chugoku’s is in Hiroshima, Shikoku’s is in Kagawa, and Kyushu’s is in Fukuoka.

The Regional Office of JAF in Nagoya

The Nagoya International Center promotes membership of the Japan Automobile Federation, especially for is foreigners who are looking to translate their driver’s licenses to Japanese. The JAF office in Nagoya is open from 9 AM to 5 PM from Mondays to Fridays. It’s not open on national holidays. Their telephone numbers are 052-889-5300 for road service, and 052-872-3685 for translation service. The office’s exact address is Fukue 3-7-56, Showa-Ku, Nagoya 466-8580. You can get there by taking a train and get off at the Kanayama Station then taking a 20-minute walk from there, or by riding a bus that passes the Takatsuji to Ikeuchi-cho route, #8-#10. Get off at Kanayama Bus Terminal.

The Regional Office of JAF in Mito, Ibaraki

For those who are in Ibaraki, you can access JAF by going to their branch in Mito city, also known as Mito-shi. It is very near the Senba lake, towards its southwest side. Just like its other branches, it’s open from 9 AM to 5:30 PM on Mondays to Fridays, excluding national holidays. Its address is 2475-7 Senba-Cho, Mito-shi, Ibaraki-ken, 310-0851.

When translating your license, be prepared with enough cash (around 5,000+ yen, just to make sure). Ask for an application form that is in English. 

Other Uses of the name JAF

JAF is not only used by this organization but as a brand for other items being sold. One of them is a bearing, and the other is an air filter series that is created by the company “Jet”. 

JAF; A Japanese Bearing Brand Unrelated to The Japan Automobile Federation

JAF ball bearings brand has been around since 1946, with associations linked to Fujino Iron Works, Co. Ltd. This company creates premium ball bearings of all different kinds, made only from stainless steel, chrome molybdenum steel, and high carbon-chrome bearing steel to give you the most reliable bearings yet. Among their bearing options includes stainless steel ball bearings, single row ball bearings, self-aligning ball bearings, and so much more. 

JAF Series Air Filter Option from Jet

For JET, a company that makes tools for metalworking, lifting systems woodworking, air tools and other equipment, the word “JAF” is used to represent a series of their air filtration machines. JET JAF Filters helps clear out dirt and grime that accumulates within air tools that deal with a lot of pressure.