How Not to Wash Your Car in Japan

Let me tell you something about living in Japan: there is no dust. Whether you live in rural Japan or in the middle of Tokyo, every road surface is coated in tarmac, down to the smallest footpath in the remotest mountain, which will be covered in concrete. This means that you never have to wash your car. And that is what I did, or never did. I had owned my black Suzuki Wagon R  for almost two years before I finally decided to give it a wash. The outside was clean enough, it was the inside that disturbed me. I had gone to the beach several times with friends in two summers, and there was enough sand on the floor mats to build a small sand castle. There were also two years’ worth of food crumbs in the car from the many times that Jeremy and myself and my friends ate in the car. The outside of the car got cleaned from time to time when it rained; but the inside of the car was another story.

An automatic car washing machine in Japan

An automatic car washing machine in Japan. Image from

So I decided to wash my car.

I have seen the drive through automatic car washes, but those only clean the outside and besides, my Japanese wasn’t good enough to go navigate the touch-pad that controlled the settings. I also wanted to save the ¥300-¥500 that I would pay at the car wash, while getting some good exercise in the process. It was a fine summer day and this is how I pictured myself washing the car:

Yeah, let me just get into my bikini, beach shorts, impossibly high stilettos then I can wash the car.

Yeah, let me just get into my bikini, beach shorts, impossibly high stilettos then I can wash the car.

At the time, I was living on the ground floor of the student housing. I parked the car as near my door as I could, got a long extension cord, plugged in the vacuum, and cleaned the interior of the car like it’s never been cleaned before. I took out the mats and beat out the dust, I filled a basin with water and wiped down the interior surfaces. I was feeling great. I think they call it cleaning therapy.

Next, was the outside. This, didn’t go as well, as you will see below.

I had got a long hose, but the opening didn’t fit my kitchen tap. Next, I tried the bathroom, but it still didn’t fit. The cleaning therapy buzz was wearing off. Here I was in my bikini, beach shorts, stilettos and I was even ready to do everything in slow-mo for that picture perfect “model in bikini washing car” moment.

So I put on my thinking cap, after all, I was doing a PhD. I should have been able to solve a simple problem such as where to plug in a hose. Looking around my apartment, I realized the washing machine tap was a perfect fit. I pulled out the washing machine hose.

You can guess what happened next.

Water under very high pressure rushed out like a fountain, drenching me and everything in sight withing a second of unplugging out the washing machine hose. That was when I remembered I should have closed the tap before unplugging the hose. So much for my smarts! I tried closing the tap, but it seems it hadn’t been touched for centuries, it was frozen in place! I tried closing the water with my hand while I thought of what to do next. I had to use two hands to keep the water from gushing out, but it was too much. I tried plugging back the washing machine hose, but I had never before setup a washing machine and it just wouldn’t take hold (I later learned there’s a clip that holds the hose in place).

The washing machine socket was also getting drenched, and now I had a real fear of getting electrocuted. I let go of the tap and turned off the electricity’s main switch. I looked for the water supply’s main switch but couldn’t find it. By the time I got back to the washing machine, the water had gushed out everywhere and my apartment was in danger of flooding, so I was holding the tap closed with both hands. Jeremy was playing in the living room and I asked him to go to his friend Shoi’s house and tell Shoi’s mum to come over. I waited for 5 minutes and later, I found out that once he went there, he was invited in and because the mum didn’t understand what he saying, she told him to come in and play, which he did. I let go of the tap and before calling 119 (which is the fire brigade) or even JAIST security (whose number I have never memorized), I called some friends, one of whom actually knew where to turn off the water supply switch. Later, Shoi’s mum and my friend Savanna helped me clean the apartment, and luckily there was no water damage. My other friend plugged in the washing machine hose. After everything was dry, I turned on the electricity and the water, and everything went back to normal.

The outside of the car was never washed. And that is how I sold it, never having washed it.

The reason I recalled this story is because I am currently selling my car, since I am moving to Tokyo. There is no need for a car in Tokyo, and besides, parking spaces are very expensive there. My current car is a very nice Nissan Note, which I haven’t cleaned in over a year now since I bought it. But I have to clean it before I sell it.

I learned my lesson. I may vacuum and clean the inside myself, but I am definitely going to go the automatic car wash and spend the very affordable ¥500 to clean the outside.


This entry was posted in Blog, Humour, Life in Japan and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to How Not to Wash Your Car in Japan

  1. Junaid Egale says:

    Don’t get your hair wet 🙃


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