Japan’s oldest surviving domestic bus is part of a new exhibit at the JR Tokai Maglev & Railway Museum in Nagoya. In fact, it’s so significant that it was the first bus to be designated as an important cultural asset by the National Council for Cultural Affairs. Called the Japan National Railways Bus No.1, it began service in 1930.
The museum is operated by Japan Railways Central, which operates many of the trains and shinkansen that run through the middle of the country. It’s not uncommon for major rail lines to operate other businesses branching out from major stations, including restaurants, entire department stores, as well as their own buses.
In December 1930 the JNR bus began operations on the Okata Line, running 35.4 miles between Okazaki and Tajimi and 5.4 miles between the Seto Memorial Bridge and Kozoji. Built by Tokyo Gas & Electric, the TGE MP could carry 20 passengers, which was considered large for its time. TGE later merged with Ishikawajima Motors and became Isuzu.
There are older buses in Japan, such as Wolesley models from the UK assembled as licensed knock-down kits. However, JNR specifically adopted domestically built buses like the TGE MP in order to foster Japan’s auto industry.
The Maglev & Railway museum looks to be a welcome stop for all transportation buffs, whether you’re a trainspotter or bus maniac. It’s fitting that this old motorcoach be displayed alongside other significant modes of transport like Japan’s legendary bullet train. If you find yourself in Nagoya, the exhibit runs through January 29, 2024.