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Driving in Japan: The hazards

Discussion in 'Japan' started by Sandy, Oct 14, 2013.

  1. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    There seems to be more and more people renting cars for their snow season trips to Japan, so I thought it might be good to illiterate some of the potential hazards!!!!! [​IMG]

    1. Driving under the influence of alcohol. Contrary to what some people say is a relaxed attitude to drink driving (particularly in Niseko), it's something you should not ignore. There are two rules:
    a. Over the legal limit. This is 0.03%. The fine is up to 500,000 yen, and possibly up to 3 years in gaol. If you are above 0.08%, it's 1,000,000 yen and up to 5 years in gaol.
    b. Driving while drunk(or similar meaning). This is an arbitrary judgement made by the policeman, that you are drunk, regardless of no breathalyser test. similar penalties to the 0.08%. I think the rule would be applied if you were under the influence of some drug
    Refusing a breathalyser is a 500,000 yen fine.
    Most expats use a "0.00% rule"; to make sure there is no problem.

    2. Accidents. The normal investigative rules should apply, there are some rules of thumb:
    a. Generally, a Japanese person is more likely to be in the right, than a foreigner if it involves vehicles of the same size. (unless there is clear supporting evidence)
    b. Usually, the larger vehicle is in the wrong. I know this sounds absurd, but generally it's correct. So for example, accident between car and scooter, the car is in the wrong. Truck and a car, the truck is in the wrong.
    I know a guy who was drunk, staggered into bushes at the side of the road, tripped on a tree root and suddenly fell into the roadway. He was hit by a scooter, and the scooter was in the wrong!!!


    3. Bicycles. Be EXTREMELY careful of these. Around city thoroughfares and side streets (but not big main roads) at least 50% of the riders will not even LOOK to see if there is a car coming. A colleague saw a kid get cleaned up by a garbage truck two weeks ago, because the kid just hurtled out of a side street. Luckily, the truck was traveling very slowly.
    Be defensive and always assume there will be a bike coming out of a side street as any moment. I may take some video the next couple of times I go to the super market, as I've got a 20% chance of catching this on video!!!! (I'm thinking about buying one of those traffic cam things)
    If you are turning right across traffic at traffic lights, before turning, check the footpaths to make sure you won't clean up a cyclist who's traveling at break neck speed on the footpath.

    4. Pedestrian crossings. They take practically no notice of these, even if you're already on the crossing.

    5. Traffic lights. They run red lights. Now, whenever the light turns amber, I look in the rear vision mirror to see if somebody is behind me. If there is, I will run through the amber (or even red), because the following driver will expect you to run the amber, and if you don't, he'll run up your back side!!!!
    Oh, and most traffic lights will have a red, and green turn lights..... I'm still not sure what it means when there is a red light, and under that there are left green, straight green, right green arrows!!!!!!

    6. Scooters. They ride near the gutter. They sit in your blind spot, and they have no clue about the best place to ride. It's very easy to hit them, particularly if you're turning left.

    7. Most drivers are inexperienced, so they do dumb things. Just expect them to.


    I will add other thoughts as they come to me!!!!!

    Be careful !!!!!!!!!
     
    #1 Sandy, Oct 14, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2013
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  2. Donza

    Donza Pool Room

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    Good post.

    Speed limits. Seem inconsequential unless you're being ridiculous. Ive yet to work out a pattern to Japanese speeding
     
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  3. BobGnarly

    BobGnarly One of Us

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    The police drive with their lights flashing 24/7
     
  4. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    Ok [​IMG]

    8. Speed limits.
    General rule of thumb: 20kph over the limit. I've passed a police car doing 90kph in an 80kph zone, on an expressway. (didn't want to push it!!!! [​IMG] ) This 20kph over the limit seems to apply on any road, so 50kph in a 30 zone, but I DO NOT DO this, because of the reasons mentioned above about bicycles.
    So this means that 100kph in an 80kph zone is usually ok. I usually travel around 100-110kph, but never over 120kph.
    Some drivers travel at 130kph.
    In Nagano prefecture, they sometimes change the speed to 50kph, when there's been a bit of snow around..... but I still see Japanese drivers going 110kph. [​IMG]
    Often with Japanese drivers from the city, there is no sense, logic and ability to judge the conditions on the roads.

    If you're passing on and expressway, assume that the other driver hasn't seen you!!!
     
    #4 Sandy, Oct 14, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2013
  5. Mercyrx3

    Mercyrx3 Hard Yards

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    Do you always have to pre pay for fuel? I went the the servo and couldn't work out the pump until some one explained (in Japanese and lots of pointing [​IMG] ) to pay first
     
    #5 Mercyrx3, Oct 14, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 13, 2013
  6. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    I never go self serve (apart from the fact that they're not very common!!!!)

    I prefer to get them to clean the windows, check the wiper water, and even change the wiper blades for me!!!!!
     
    #6 Sandy, Oct 14, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2013
  7. M_G

    M_G M_G_ = Make skiing great again Ski Pass: Gold

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    Good post Sandy.

    They don't tend to run red lights in my neck of the woods, in fact they seem to slow down in case the amber comes on.

    Watch out for the stop signs and at rail crossings - you must come to a complete stop.

    [​IMG]

    Also for some strange reason the 'green' light is called aoi (blue).

    Self serve are becoming more popular, although I try to avoid if possible. Had to go to one in Joetsu the other day and fumble my way through the instructions.
     
    #7 M_G, Oct 15, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 13, 2013
  8. Vermillion

    Vermillion Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    In terms of speed, 20km/h over the limit you should be OK, but 30km/h you are pushing it and may get pulled over. Everything else Sandy has pretty much covered.

    Oh man, I have some great stories about driving in the country with farmers and kei trucks. What is Japan's road toll?
     
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  9. ojisan

    ojisan Part of the Furniture Ski Pass: Gold

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    Don't allot of the GPS's in Japan pick up on where the police cars/speed camera's are to give the driver advanced warning?
     
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  10. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    I haven't heard of that, but in my experience, why would they bother? Pretty much everybody knows the "accepted" speeds to travel.

    For example, it seems that any speed cameras (not that I've ever seen any) are set to 40kph above the limit on expressways, and +30kph on normal roads!!!!!! So if you are no where near these figures, then you don't even have to give it a second thought.

    Alright, I suppose if you are in a desperate hurry, then ok, you could probably do 150kph on an 80 zone, using such a system.

    If you are concerned about speed cameras, then they have one or two posted signs BEFORE the speed camera. Looks like this:
    [​IMG]
     
    #10 Sandy, Oct 15, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 14, 2013
  11. Donza

    Donza Pool Room

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    Driving in Japan is fun.

    One thing I notice, from say Sydney to Japan is that things in Japan happen alot slower on the roads.
    Not saying that irrational and bad driving isn't on display. It just seems to happen in slow motion.
    If you take your time you'll have no worries. Its the impatient habits like carrying too much speed into corners, tailgating etc that cause dramas.
     
  12. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    Number of road deaths per year is around 4500. It's 5.2 /100,000, while Australia is 6.1
    Those Japanese stats are a bit misleading, because you can add another 1000 or so, because the figure of around 4500 is "in the first 24 hours", so the figure is closer to 5500.

    When you consider that the average person int he big cities don't have a car, then I'd guess that a high proportion of those deaths are pedestrians(compared to Australia.)
    And daily, I can see why: most small suburban roads don't have footpaths.

    Edit:
    It seems that out of around 5500 deaths, 2000 are pedestrians, about 800 are motorcycles. not sure about bicycles, but I guess these are included in pedestrians.
     
    #12 Sandy, Oct 15, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 14, 2013
  13. Donza

    Donza Pool Room

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    Niseko seemed a microcosm of driving.
    A few things I noticed up there

    - no one wore seat belts
    - dui was rife. To be honest it seemed to be a rite of passage for some aussie workers to get maggot and take cars for a spin.
     
  14. lunchcutter

    lunchcutter One of Us

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    In my experience the Japanese authorities are usually quite passive on DUI, but if they do decide to bust you you are flamboyant_expletive in a big way. My advice would be don't even think about drink driving anywhere but if you get caught in Japan you will be very very very sorry!
     
  15. Donza

    Donza Pool Room

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    I seen someone get done for DUI in Nagano late one night.
    Was kinda bizarre seeing a laden toyota crown cop car.
     
  16. smitty484

    smitty484 Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    I don't even worry about speed limits in snow areas, because as fast as I feel safe doing, there are plenty of people overtaking me. Crazy nutters, epic.
     
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  17. Vermillion

    Vermillion Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    I have no idea why someone would even contemplate DUI in Japan when they have Diako. Seriously best thing ever invented.
     
  18. Donza

    Donza Pool Room

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    Unless you get grandpa in a Kei in front of you going to Nagano
     
    #18 Donza, Oct 15, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 14, 2013
  19. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    For those who don't know what that is, Daiko a service where a taxi comes with two drivers, and one of them drives you back to your home/hotel in your car, followed by the other taxi. The two drivers then go on their way afterwards.
     
    #19 Sandy, Oct 15, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 14, 2013
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  20. mick chopps

    mick chopps Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    That is amazing!

    So you drive your own car to the pub/bar/restaurant/whatever and the cab comes and drops off a driver to drive you home?
     
    #20 mick chopps, Oct 15, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 14, 2013
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  21. Donza

    Donza Pool Room

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    Yeah..
    they have the same system in the UK ...
    should here as well, would work well
     
    #21 Donza, Oct 15, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 14, 2013
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  22. smackies

    smackies A Local

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    Driving in Japan is fun. I did a couple of thousand kms this year - just the snowy road and the sound of my own voice.

    Some of the craziest overtaking I have seen was in Japan. Truck behind four cars, overtaking on bend, road covered in snow.

    Parking in cities is a nightmare, but hazard lights buy you at least an hour or two.

    The one self service petrol station I went to was a nightmare. Spent about 20mins figuring out how to get the pump going, how to pay and in the interim played some kind of pokies. I don't know if I won.
     
  23. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    ONLY go to a service station, not a self serve. End of story.

    Your easiest phases then are "fill" or "full", "cash" or "Kardo"(CC). If you want high octane, it's either "premium" or "Hi Oku".
     
    #23 Sandy, Oct 15, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2014
  24. Donza

    Donza Pool Room

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    Re service stations and navis (GPS).
    You can clearly see the "brand" of service station on this readout
    .eg eneos, mobil etc
    [​IMG]
     
    #24 Donza, Oct 15, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 13, 2013
  25. skichanger

    skichanger A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Generally I drive at the same speed as the surrounding traffic. Our main road, Route 18, has very few places to pass so trying to go faster is pointless and if you go to slow you have someone trying to climb into your backseat. This is usually 20 over the speed limit.

    You will see some crazy driving in blizzards. We were overtaken by someone doing at least 80 if not 90 in a blizzard when we were doing 60kph where there was an unbroken line, poor visability and at least a foot high ridge of snow between the lanes. They stayed on the wrong side of the road for ages and would have had a serious problem if they had tried to get back onto the right side of the road at that speed.

    Filling up is relatively easy at a service station. The staff are helpful. But I suggest that you inform them (i.e. give them your credit card) you want to pay by credit card before they start. Otherwise you may have to pay cash.

    And no-one removes the snow from the roof of their car. Just be wary when you stop if you do this as your windscreen can be covered by all of it sliding forward.
     
  26. Born2ski

    Born2ski Part of the Furniture

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    Sounds like fun, I think we'll just take the train.
     
  27. Vermillion

    Vermillion Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    It really is an experience well worth the effort if you get the chance or schedule your trip to be able to drive.

    For crazy, i've been up and down down of the illegal drift roads, including one in Tochigi that was covered in snow. The guys that go up and down there drifting at night are simply nuts.
     
    #27 Vermillion, Oct 16, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 14, 2013
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  28. BobGnarly

    BobGnarly One of Us

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    I had a gang bunch of drifters doing laps near my car when I was camped out in sapporo teine bus parking area
     
  29. Vermillion

    Vermillion Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    This is where it's at:

    [​IMG]
     
    #29 Vermillion, Oct 16, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 13, 2013
  30. Vermillion

    Vermillion Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    And a video, on the way down:


     
    #30 Vermillion, Oct 16, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 29, 2013
  31. smackies

    smackies A Local

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    Verm, that's the exact road that sprung to my mind.

    Hairy.
     
  32. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    Heh Heh...... that's a great road, spoiled by inept drivers crawling up at 15kph, then riding the brakes all the way down, so you can smell it!!!
     
  33. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    I was just in the car.....

    This woman comes out of a side street without looking (so normal behaviour!!!! [​IMG] )...... she has a baby strapped to her front. [​IMG]
    A little further along, a lady crosses the road, but then proceeds to walk IN THE MIDDLE of the lane for about 30m, with me about 5m behind.... had no idea I was even there!!!!! [​IMG] Situation normal!
     
    #33 Sandy, Oct 16, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 15, 2013
  34. Vermillion

    Vermillion Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    I told you it was worth the visit [​IMG]

    That guys video is much better than mine, taken from the front passenger seat of a Nissan Micra, that was not drifting one bit. If I ever got hold of a nice car in Japan that's the road i'd be taking it to.
     
    #34 Vermillion, Oct 16, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 14, 2013
  35. Yardsale

    Yardsale Part of the Furniture Moderator

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    The Japanese have a magical power.

    They have mastered the art of overcomplicating absolutely everything - and then being nice an understanding when you don't get it. I'm staying clear of hiring a car.
     
  36. Dave85

    Dave85 Hard Yards

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    Not to sure if this has been covered previously, though how to you go about "owning" a second hand car for a season?

    Would be a cheaper option rather than renting one for an extended stay.
    I have read a few articles that say and can be difficult for a foreigner to own a car in Japan especially if not a PR.
     
  37. M_G

    M_G M_G_ = Make skiing great again Ski Pass: Gold

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    Impossible. You have to get someone to 'own' it for you and that can be fraught with difficulties.
     
  38. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    If you have an address and a resident's card, you can buy a car. In cities, you also have to have a verifiable car parking spot.
    There are some people I know who have a car, but no resident's card, so there may be a loophole. (like owning property)
     
    #38 Sandy, Oct 17, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 14, 2013
  39. M_G

    M_G M_G_ = Make skiing great again Ski Pass: Gold

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    You have to have the car in a residents name so non-residents probably are using someone else's name for registration and insurance. I know of at least one person doing that.

    There are no restrictions on NR's buying property as far as I'm aware. I bought and sold property before we came back f/t and therefore had no residency visa. It's the hassles attached to owning property (no bank account, paying bills, etc.) that are the problem.
     
  40. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    I think there is a loophole if you're not intending to to register and drive it in Japan, but aside from that, I've always understood a gaijin card/resident's card was required.
     
  41. smackies

    smackies A Local

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    "My" car is owned by friends resident in Tokyo. Registered and insured in their name. Pretty sure that was the only way to do it.

    I have my own JAF membership (road side assist) as it is personal not attached to the vehicle.
     
  42. tfitz

    tfitz Hard Yards

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    Are you able to hire a car/van in Hirafu Niseko or Kutchan? And how does one explain to the wife and lids that driving on snow without chains is "safe"?
     
  43. Mercyrx3

    Mercyrx3 Hard Yards

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    You can get a van from Black Diamond tours and there is a Car rental place in Hirafu during winter. Explain to the wife that life in Hokkaido without chains in snow is normal. The whole island does it every year!
     
    #43 Mercyrx3, Oct 28, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 14, 2013
  44. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    Is it feasible to fit 3 ppl and 2 board bags into a cube? Also does the cube come with awd or does it require chains? Hoping to not have to fork out for an el grande type car if I don't have to. Will be traveling around furano and niseko regions.
     
  45. Donza

    Donza Pool Room

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    you can hire in kutchan ..its far cheaper than black Diamond. .or hire at chitose and drive there. Snow tyres and awd makes a huge difference.
     
    #45 Donza, Oct 28, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 14, 2013
  46. Donza

    Donza Pool Room

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    you could. ..room wise just. .from boot to front seat is around 1700 mm. Ive gone the wingroad..next size up. Which is similar size to a corolla station wagon
     
    #46 Donza, Oct 28, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 14, 2013
  47. M_G

    M_G M_G_ = Make skiing great again Ski Pass: Gold

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    If it's just the people and the board bags should be okay. If you want to put in extra luggage it might get tight.
     
  48. PMG

    PMG One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    Hey Donza, I was looking at the Wingroad (where do they get these names) for a couple of days in Kansai before we come home. Is it big enough for 4 adults plus luggage for 2 days? I know the Cube is going to be too cosy for 4. We were going to ditch the bulk of our luggage with Takkyubin at Kansai airport if it can be done.
     
    #48 PMG, Oct 28, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 14, 2013
  49. Donza

    Donza Pool Room

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    Yeah ...I think so...will be fine. I looked up the dimensions. .
     
  50. benchives

    benchives Part of the Furniture Ski Pass: Gold

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    Cube!

    Speaking of awesome donza

    Four adults, two toddlers, one large ski bag and four large suitcases!

    Too coo doesn't even support that much awesome

    Think two cars might be go.