Japanese Car Auction Sheet Translations

Our bidding customers get free auction sheet translations. Unlike some other exporters, we don’t charge our bidding customers for each translation we give them.

Car auction inspectors in Japan note the results of their inspection of each vehicle on what we call an “auction sheet” or “auction inspector’s report” (called o-kushon hyou in Japanese). As we have looked at in more detail elsewhere, the car is given an overall grade based on all aspects of its condition, and the inspector also notes exterior damage on the “car map”, and rates the interior condition with a separate interior grade.

However, in addition to these, the inspector will almost always write additional comments in Japanese to explain details of the car’s condition.

When should you get an auction sheet translation?

At Integrity Exports, it is our opinion that if a car is below grade 5, then it is important to make sure you get a translation of these remarks before you consider bidding on any vehicle.

The reason is simple: The auction grades are broad (especially grades 3.5 and 4 that make up about 50% of auctioned vehicles), and also the lower the grade, the more likely it is that the vehicle may have some serious issues that could put you off bidding. You want to know exactly what you are getting before you make a bid.

Why is a human translation better?

If you have ever used Google Translate, you will know that while machines do pretty well, considering that they cannot understand the content of what they are translating, a computer translation still leaves a lot to be desired. When you are making a decision about whether to bid on a car and what your bidding budget should be, it is vital that you get a professional human translation.

Integrity Exports offers translations to all customers who have bidding rights at no extra charge. Why do we do it for free? Well, it is part of our goal: We want to make buying from car auctions in Japan “smooth and stress-free” – and one of the keys to this is ensuring you have all the information you need about the cars you might want to have a go at purchasing before you place a bid.

What do you get in the translation?

When we enter a translation of the auction sheet, we do not literally translate all the information it contains.

First of all, some information, such as that about optional equipment like navigation systems or air conditioning, is already displayed on the page with the auction inspector’s report. Then there is other information that does not make any difference to you as a buyer from outside of Japan – such as the cost of the recycle fee, or the date the roadworthiness test certificate (shaken in Japanese) expires – which the translator will skip over.

The translator will, however, make sure that you get all the positive and negative points about the vehicle which are going to be important to you as an overseas buyer. This information is translated into clear English by a native speaker of English who is also fluent in the Japanese language.

When we do this, we will also take into account the market for which you are buying. For example, if you are purchasing for New Zealand, then whether a car complies with NZ import standards is in part determined by its “emissions code”. So, when translating for a New Zealand customer, we will always enter this emissions code in the translation, whereas we would not do this when translating for a customer from Germany, for example.

Example auction inspector’s report translations

This is for a grade 3 car with 278,000 KM on the clock with an interior grade of C:

“Interior C, diesel engine, interior grime and wear, steering wheel worn, exterior paintwork scraped and scratches, lower part of rear panel dented, spare tire housing edge dented, scratches and dents, front windscreen stone scratches, exterior paintwork faded at rear, marks as per map”

This is for a grade 4.5 car with 34k KM and an interior grade of B:

“Interior B, reversing monitor, service book, seats and ceiling lining have light grime, wheels scratched, minor scratches, dents, marks as per map”

Obviously you cannot see the car maps for these cars in these examples, but if these were cars you were thinking of bidding on, you would then be able to check further details of the exterior condition yourself by reading the car map.

Singulars and Plurals in Japanese

Since you are reading this, you are an English speaker and so you know that in English we can very easily change a word that is singular to plural simply by adding an “s” at the end. Thus “apple” becomes “apples”.

Now, you may not know this, but this is not generally the case in Japanese. I won’t get into all the details, but essentially if you see a word like ringo (“apple” in Japanese) you don’t know from the word itself whether it is referring to one apple or many apples. (Although context may make it obvious).

You may be wondering why I am telling you this. After all, we provide complete and accurate professional translations of the auction inspectors’ reports in English, just so that you don’t need to know Japanese. Well, the reason is that I want you to be able to understand what you are reading in these translations better. Let me give you an example.

Say the auction sheet refers to koge ana on the seats. Now koge ana (pronounced “koh-geh ana”) are the Japanese words for “cigarette burn holes”… or “cigarette burn hole”. After all, in Japanese we do not know whether the ana (“hole”) is singular or plural.

So how do we translate for you in this situation? Well we try to give you the translation that is most likely to be accurate. So we ask this question of ourselves: Is it more likely that there would be a singular cigarette burn hole, or that there would be two or more cigarette burn holes? In the case of this kind of damage to the interior it is more likely that there would be more than one cigarette burn hole, so we would translate it as “cigarette burn holes” for you.

Of course, it is still possible you would get the car and find just a single cigarette burn hole in this scenario which would be a pleasant surprise for you.

This is not to say that we never know about the number or extent of damage issues. The Japanese do use qualifying words, such as “many” or “a few”, but this is more unusual. Where we have these qualifiers, we will translate them for you. Where we do not, we follow the rule above: Deciding whether it is more likely that we word is singular or plural and then translating it as such.

Unreadable comments

In some rare circumstances, the auction sheet itself, or individual words or phrases in the auction inspector’s comments may be hard or impossible to read. This is either because the auction inspector has not written them clearly, or because the quality of the image itself is too poor.

When translating we do our best to make it clear if there are any questions about the original Japanese we are translating. We will indicate this to you in the following ways:

If a word / phrase is hard to read – You will see this in the translation – “—- ? (hard to read)”. This tells you that there is a word that probably is “—-“, but that we cannot be 100% confident of this as it is not entirely clear.

For example, “back panel distortion ? (hard to read)”, means that there are Japanese words on the auction inspection report that look like “back panel distortion”, but since it is not really clear we are not 100% confident that this translation is correct.

If a word / phrase is completely unreadable – You will then see this in the translated comments as – “???? (unreadable)”.

This means that there is some sort of comment present, but that  we cannot read it all so we will not attempt a translation of this word. The benefit of this is that you know some sort of issue (probably negative) has been raised by the inspector, even if you don’t know exactly what it is.

If the auction sheet image is bad – Occasionally, an auction sheet image will have so many readability issues that we feel that we need to make sure our customers know this and don’t rely to heavily on it.

In this case, we will write, “[NOTE: The image quality of this auction sheet is very poor so there is a risk that some words may have been misread.]”

If a number of words or phrases are hard to read, or if the auction sheet quality is particularly poor, you should consider avoiding bidding on that car for the simple reason that you cannot be really sure exactly what you are getting.

It is also our opinion that some auctions which tend to have more poor quality auction sheet images seem to be targeted by sellers who are trying to get rid of poor condition cars. Obviously, they feel that they have a better chance of hiding their vehicle’s true condition and thereby getting a better sale price than they could otherwise hope for. This is another good reason to be circumspect if you see comments in our translations referring to difficulties in reading the inspector’s comments.

As with all aspects of buying from the car auctions in Japan, we are happy to answer any questions you have about cars you are considering bidding on. So if you are concerned about particular comments on an auction inspector’s report translation, please contact us. We want you to have a smooth and stress-free experience buying cars from Japanese car auctions.

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