EVENTS: Meiji Jingu Classic Car Festival & Parade, Part 01

20131130-008_MeijiJingu_Mazda Cosmo Sport 110S

We’re extremely lucky to attend as many J-tin filled shows as we do, so it might sound like a first world problem when we say there’s always one teensy issue: The cars are stationary. That’s why when the Toyota Automobile Museum decided to host a classic car festival and parade in the heart of Tokyo, we simply had to go. 

Meiji Jingu Gaien is a 175 acre park in the middle of Japan’s busiest city. It’s big enough to house all manner of sports complexes among its greenery, including a golf driving range, skating rink and two baseball stadiums. Commissioned in 1912, it honors the Meiji Era royal family for their role in modernizing Japan. When the weather is nice, it’s packed with Tokyoites looking for a brief respite from the urban jungle.

According to the official press release, Toyota held the festival “to promote and develop automobile culture and encourage interaction among car fans.” That’s as noble a reason as any we’ve heard, and those familiar with the Toyota Automobile Museum know that it contains much more than Toyotas. It’s a celebration of all cars, including those from Toyota’s rivals both foreign and domestic. Nissan even gets a shout-out as an event partner; how cool is that?

In addition to dozens of its own cars, trucked over dozens of cars the museum home in Aichi Prefecture about four hours away, Toyota invited about 100 privately owned vehicles to participate.

So on a crisp winter morning in Tokyo, we stood along one of the park’s nearby streets, an avenue lined with bright yellow gingko trees, waiting for the parade to begin. Leading the procession was a 1960 RS21 Toyopet Crown from Toyota’s own collection. Following behind was a who’s who of Nihon nostalgics — everything from a 2000GT to a Watted Fairlady 240ZG to a pair of Mazda Cosmo Sports.

Watching stunning examples of classic machinery driving was cool enough, but the fact that it was the streets of Tokyo provided an entirely new appreciation for the cars themselves. A Toyota Publica, for example, looks ridiculously small even when parked on the JCCS lawn. But when it’s mingling with a fleet of modern kei cars in a narrow Japanese traffic lane, it suddenly makes sense. Likewise, a hakosuka Skyline fits in perfectly amongst Tokyo’s rigidly geometric buildings and glass-smooth roads. It looks at home, because it is.

The best part, though, was witnessing multiple nostalgics on the pavement simultaneously, fraternizing in traffic like a street scene from 1976. Ignore the Prius taxis and it was pre-Bubble Japan all over again.

In Part 02, we’ll walk the car show itself.

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21 Responses to EVENTS: Meiji Jingu Classic Car Festival & Parade, Part 01

  1. Randy said:

    You have the coolest job!

    Love the tree-lined street! It looks like there are businesses behind the trees, but they’re not in your face, like we have here.

    (Neat new function on the pix, too, for those of us who don’t know all these models.)

    • Ben said:

      Hi Randy,

      This particular street was leading to the park itself, so it was relatively uncluttered. Most of the rest of Tokyo does have businesses along the streets, and some areas are like Times Square on crack.

      Glad you like the new feature!

  2. Nigel said:

    Great pictures, the vibe of the event was captured quite nicely.
    (Here, seeing just one of these cars on the street is like winning the lottery).

  3. Derrick said:

    Nice pics, and love the new format with the pop up tags – That’s really super!

  4. Dave said:

    Wow, the sight, smell, and sound at this thing must’ve been wonderful. Kudos to Toyota for doing stuff like this and promoting car culture; they really are THE car company. I’m really digging the picture format, too. That’s a nice looking original Jimny, perfect in that color.

    • Ben said:

      It was a great event. Skorj and I used bicycles to navigate the enormous park, and as we were riding along the street curving around one of the stadiums a Mazda Cosmo Sport was just there, pacing beside us for a bit before it took off. It was surreal.

      • Dave said:

        Yeah that sounds pretty magical, like from whale watching or something. Cosmo Sport is pretty much my #1 dream car; seeing it driving on the street would be like seeing a mermaid for me.

  5. E-AT_me said:

    Uhhh. Miura?!?!

  6. Bart said:

    I’ve been to that park, must have been amazing to see it filled with vintage cars. What an awesome experience!

    • gelofujiwara said:

      hehe yeah… well, only saw it in a game though, it was a part of a road course in GT3, 4, and 5 ( Tokyo Route 246 if i remember correctly :) )

  7. John M said:

    Yes on all the above: Great pics, variety of cars, tree-lined street, pop-up tags – Nice job!

    Hate to sound greedy, but any video out there? Would like to hear ‘em.

    • Ben said:

      Sorry, no video. About half of these photos were shot on Skorj’s old school film cameras. The crazy colors on some of them are because Skorj gave me a roll of film from 1991! The cars were driving in Tokyo traffic, so there wasn’t much to hear except idling.

  8. Lupus said:

    The new gallery style if cool. Damn functional. And Ben’s pictures have left me breathless this time. That bit of retro grade feeling is awsome. I.ex. the rear end of Hako.

  9. Sideglide said:

    It sure was a sight! Thanks for coming out and meeting up. I completely agree, seeing all the cars there felt like traveling back in time. Even the smell of each engine putt putting along as they went by was bliss.

    Great job on the gallery too!

  10. Skorj said:

    Wow. What a great way to see the photographs presented.

    Ben & I had three cameras between us and we attempted to capture not just the cars, but the feel of the day as well. As Ben says, the combination of the nostalgic cars with the nostalgic look of an old lens (Bronica for the 6×6 square format & Ricoh Auto Half for the 35mm) seems to have worked really well on this day. So the comments on that are appreciated… Arigato!

  11. Censport said:

    How did I miss this?!?

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