SHOWA SNAP: Metropolitan Expressway Route 4 at Asakasa Mitsuke in the 1970s

In preparation for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the Metropolitan Expressway Route 4 Route at Akasaka Mitsuke was rushed to completion. Below the highway, Aoyama Street (National Route 246) intersects with Sotobori Street. Crossing under the right-most branch is the Benkei Bridge heading toward the wonderfully old school New Otani Hotel. Sadly The building in the center is long gone, along with its Mazda advertising, replaced with new towers obscuring the silhouette of Mt Fuji. Here’s what this area looks like today, and here’s what it would look like as you’re hurtling westward on it today.

 Image: eBay

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For absolutely no reason for it at all, there’s a Datsun 510 is in this Little Caesar’s ad

In a new Little Caesar’s Pizza commercial, the butt of an orange Datsun 510 peeks in from stage left. It is an example of “oddvertising” and the primary thing featured, in this case a combination telephone-saxophone, is not the thing being sold. Instead, you get this pastiche of strange artifacts — a CRT television, a mid-century coffee table, and one of the greatest sports sedans ever made. Continue reading

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MARKETWATCH: A 1990 Nissan 240SX has sold for $32,750

While 2020 has been a bust on the car show front, the collector market has not slowed down. From barn finds to first car nostalgia buys, there has been no shortage of record setting sales this summer. Take, for example, this 1990 Nissan 240SX that sold for $32,750. Continue reading

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That junkyard-found LHD Prince Skyline is in good hands in Japan

A few months ago a super-rare left-hand-drive 1960 Prince Skyline was found in an Idaho junkyard waiting to be scrapped. We immediately helped spread the word, and pretty soon the ALSI Skyline was purchased by a buyer in Japan, someone who reportedly had a few other Prince-era Skylines, with plans to restore it. Now, the car has landed on the other side of the Pacific and we are happy to tell you that the story gets even better. Continue reading

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Is this the rear of the seventh-generation Nissan Z Proto?

The official reveal of the seventh-generation Nissan Z isn’t until September 15, but here’s a sketch that might reveal a never-before seen rear view of the Z35. The line drawing comes from Nissan Senior VP for Global Design Alfonso Albaisa himself, and appears to take inspiration from the fourth-generation Z32 Nissan 300ZX.  Continue reading

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Nissan teases next-generation “Z Proto” coming September 15

Nissan has released another video teasing the next-generation Z sports car. In the video they call it the Z Proto, and say only that it’s “coming soon” without further details. A tweet by Nisssn says the concept will be revealed September 16 in Japan (5:30 Pacific Time, September 15 for the US). In the meantime, the video is peppered with cool old clips of past-generation Zs from both Japanese and American promotional materials while dramatic music swells. Continue reading

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ART CORNER: These pixel art JNCs are the bee’s knees

There’s probably a pretty big overlap in the Venn diagram of people who are really into Japanese classic cars and people who are really into old video games before the graphics got too realistic. That’s why these pixel art cars strike us straight in the hearts like a Nintendo light gun shooting a 8-bit duck stone cold dead. They are simultaneously beautiful, cute, and cool, and we wish they were in a real game. Continue reading

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Toyota names its moon rover with the FJ40-inspired grille the “Lunar Cruiser”

With its legendary ruggedness and durability, the Toyota Land Cruiser has already overcome the roughest terrain on all seven continents on Earth. Now, Toyota has set its sights on a new frontier for the Cruiser to conquer: the moon. The Big T, partnering with JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, is developing a rover for extraterrestrial expeditions, and they’re calling it the Lunar Cruiser. Continue reading

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QotW: What’s your favorite Tomica story?

Last week was the 50th anniversary of Tomica, and for many non-Japanese readers these little cars were the first intro to oddball JDM cars like Skylines, Crowns, Demios, and StepWgns. For me, personally, it was family trip to Asia in the early 90s that I discovered Tomica, at first not even realizing they were the same as the Pocket Cars I loved as a kid. After buying a few at the local Sogo department store, I was hooked. My favorite encounter was probably when, on a later trip to Japan, I found silver Toyota Soarer unmarked police car that mirrored my Lexus SC300. As a fan of Japanese cars, there was no other option but Tomica for me to find “my” car as a diecast back then.

What’s your favorite Tomica story?

The most entertaining comment by next Tuesday (Monday is a US holiday) will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What would be the baddest Nissan-Honda combo?Continue reading

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After 54 years, Mazda Bongo production ends with a whimper

After half a century in production, the Mazda Bongo has reached the end of the road. For most North American readers this is probably not a big deal, as the Bongo looks like any number of nondescript one-box vans from Asia. In Japan, though, the Bongo was so game-changing, so beloved, that in some areas of the country the word “bongo” became the generic name for these types of vans, like “kleenex” for tissues or “xerox” for photocopies. Continue reading

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A Subaru dealership in Japan is displaying some awesome classics right now

Fuji Subaru Ota, a Japanese dealership located near Subaru’s R&D facilities in Gunma Prefecture, is hosting a display of some truly historic cars right now. The exhibit is a tie-in for an upcoming enthusiasts’ event held by some local Subaru tuning houses, and it’s a rare opportunity to see some rare Fuji Heavies, including what is essentially a brand new Leone rally car and the world speed record-breaking Legacy. Continue reading

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Isuzu Plaza museum hosts special Hillman Minx exhibit

Earlier this month Isuzu opened a new, temporary exhibit at its wonderful Isuzu Plaza museum. The exhibit features Isuzu’s earliest passenger car, the Hillman Minx. There are precious few examples of these cars left, and in fact one of them in this exhibit spent over 20 years under Toyota’s care. Continue reading

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Kawasaki heritage parts program also creates desk art out of cylinder heads

Following in the footsteps of Japanese car companies, Earlier this year Kawasaki launched a Heritage Parts program. The first item to be reproduced was the cylinder heads for the 1972-76 Kawasaki 900 Super 4 and the 1973-78 Kawasaki 750RS, also known as the Z1 and Z2, respectively, and considered two of the company’s most iconic bikes. The first run of 1,000 cylinder heads sold out in two hours, but Kawasaki is making more, including 50 limited edition desk art cutaways. Continue reading

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You can now get Mazda RX-7 rotary engine-themed face masks in Japan

The march of car-themed face masks continues as Japan struggles to deal with COVID-19. Though Japan’s coronavirus death rate — a little over 1,000 — is pretty mild compared with that of the US, themed masks are still doing brisk business there. The latest caters to Mazdafarians with an officially licensed RX-7-themed mask set, which is said to have been designed with Mazda’s rotary engine as inspiration. Continue reading

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QotW: What would be the baddest Nissan-Honda combo?

Last week we learned that Japanese officials asked Nissan and Honda to merge. Both companies said, “No thanks.” The automotive world was either denied a tremendous opportunity or spared a harrowing tragedy, depending on your perspective. Let’s say that the deal went through, though. What are the strengths or weaknesses that would make the partnership succeed or drag both firms down into irrelevance? Badness in this context could be bad meaning good, or just literally bad.

What would be the baddest Nissan-Honda combo?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What will your favorite cars be like when they become robots?Continue reading

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JCCS 2020 World Matsuri Week adds international registration package

If you hadn’t heard already, the in-real-life version of the 2020 Japanese Classic Car Show has been postponed to next year, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, the organizers are taking JCCS virtual, and taking the opportunity to welcome cars from all over the world. Now, they have announced a international Omiyage Package so overseas participants can receive all the goodies from the show as if they had flown to California with their cars. Continue reading

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Nissan’s new spokesperson is Japan’s Brad Pitt, and he’s driving a Hakosuka Skyline

Nissan has a new flagship commercial in Japan, and it’s kind of a big deal. Not only does it star several greatest-hit classics from Nissan’s past, but the leading man is actor Takuya Kimura. The significance of this team-up can’t be overstated. Kimutaku, as he’s affectionately nicknamed, is like the Brad Pitt of Japan, and until recently, was a spokesperson for Toyota. Continue reading

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VIDEO: One man’s obsessive collection of high-mileage Acuras

There are all kinds of eccentric car collectors out there, but even among those Tyson Hugie is an oddball. And as he’s a friend of JNC, we mean that in the nicest way. Most of the Honda collectors we encounter are obsessed with classics like the S600 and S800, N- and Z600, or the sports cars like the S2000 and NSX. Tyson, though, collects 1990s Acuras with stratospheric mileage. Continue reading

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SHOWA SNAP: The old school face of Niigata Station will soon be torn down

The north side of Niigata Station is a Showa Era relic that will soon be no more. It might not look like much, but the nondescript rectangular building screams Showa Era, specifically the time when Japan was emerging from its post-war occupation and on its way to becoming a truly modern economic powerhouse. The building was opened in 1958 and remained largely unchanged for over 60 years, which is an eternity in Japan. Even when the Joetsu bullet train line opened in 1982, the only adjustment made was the addition of an electronic timetable sign. Now, it’s being torn down to make way for a modern facade. Continue reading

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RIP Tetsuya Watari, 1941 — 2020

Tetsuya Watari, one of Japan’s most famous crime drama stars, died from pneumonia on August 10. His death was announced on Friday after a private funeral with family members. Watari played the leading man in several movies and television programs cherished by car enthusiasts, and was best known among that cadre for his role as Sgt Keisuke Daimon in the long-running Seibu Keisatsu TV series. Continue reading

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