It’s that time again to ask any questions you might have about Japan. From car culture, to JNC, to travel and anything in between.
What do you want to know about Japan (Part 2)?
The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “Did you ever dream of owning a Nissan or Mitsubishi?“
Last week, we asked if you ever pined for a new shiny Mitsu or Nissan in your wonder years (and beyond). Maybe it was a Pajero ready to take on sand and sage, or a sporty number with any combination of names as long as it was commonly known as a Z.
The winning post came from Howard Dreispan who not only picked a company “collabo” but also was struck by the from-the-factory amazing body styling:
In 1984, I saw my first Starion/Conquest. I had never seen a car with those body lines before! It instantly became my dream? In 1986, I bought the ‘flat fender’ version. Then, one day while driving, I saw my first ever wide body! I had read about them in all 1980s magazines, but to see one, ‘WOW’! After 3 months of convincing (begging!) my wife to let me take the plunge, she very reluctantly,kind of said “yes”! (I traded in my 1986) I got my car Dec., 1988 (It’s a 1989), and have it to this day, 30 years! I am the original owner (92K original miles, paint, interior, etc., HKS parts installed in the ’90s). I love that car so much, that I also bought new, a 2006 Evo IX-MR, and a 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport LE. Yes, I am still married (34 years), and I am trying to convince her for number four!
Omedetou! Your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop.
Here’s one, How popular are ’70s American cars in Japan? More specifically, the G20-series Chevy Vans, C3 Corvettes and the Winnebago Chieftain? I have the Tomica models of each of those in my private collection, ones from the 1970s and it makes me wonder how popular those vehicles are in Japan. I would assume not very popular. Could be wrong though.
Very unpopular due to the taxes imposed on them.
They retain a cult following. Chevy Astro vans, plus muscle-era Chevy and Mopar seem to be the bulk of it. Modern Mopars and the occasional Escalade or Hummer H2 turn up as well. Your Tomica were sold here as Pocket Cars along with any number of Japanese models, but they were a separate line in Japan: F-Series, F for Foreign, meaning, any car that isn’t Japanese. And so Maseratis and Ferraris and BMWs and Cadillacs and Winnebagos were done specifically because they were international, not necessarily because of any relevance to the Japanese new-car or collector-car market. The F-series was merged into the 80-car Tomica line in the mid to late 80s, growing the basic Tomica line to 120 cars–a number that caps the line even today, three decades later. Tomica still does cars from around the world in that 120-car lineup.
What he said.
-I’d add second/third-generation GM F-Bodies to the list. They have a lot of cache, but tend to be fairly rare. In-period, they embodied a type of rebellious appeal (Firebirds, in particular). The Camaro Z28 featured on Wasabi cars is far from the only one. They overshadow Mustangs over there.
-There’s a Corvette club (amongst many car clubs) and even the late models have a bit of a cult following. There is actually a Chevrolet dealership network to service them there.
-The Astro van trend still resonates…in memory if not actual, quantifiable popularity.
-HARLEY DAVIDSON motorcycles are considered cool amongst the current generation. Many Japanese tourists even go to Hawaii specifically to rent them. They’re also prominently featured in contemporary films.
Funny side note: Tiny, vintage Minis aren’t unusual to see scurrying around, but are ineligible for Kei car registration status due to their “high” displacement engines. Kei car displacement limit is 660 cc.
Around the corner from where I stay in Adachi, a neighbor has a later C3 Corvette in his garage. Unlike most garages in Tokyo, this one is deep enough to completely cover a C3, and it has a pull-down door/gate. The C3 is plainly visible through the mesh, and it looks like it has sat there several years. There is no front plate or shakken sticker visible, so I wonder if the owner has ever driven it.
They’re not common, but they’re there, and they seem to be objects of desire. I was in Tokyo for a week last October and I saw more 70s American cars being driven on the street than Japanese cars of similar vintage. Look for magazines like A-Cars if you’re curious about American car enthusiasts in Japan.
There are certain models that gain followings, but I wouldn’t say those Tomica are necessarily representative. Japan’s love for cars runs deep, and just about any style popular in the rest of the world will eventually gain a foothold in Japan.
If you go to a Mooneyes show, you’ll see tons of lowriders, minitrucks, hot rods, and muscle cars. All the popular cars, like Mustangs, Camaros, Corvettes, Cudas, and Impalas, will be represented, but there’s even an appreciation for cars that might be more on the margins here. I took a ride with the owner of a ’54 Plymouth 2-door wagon once, and the owner knew more about it than any American I’ve ever met.
Cars like the C3 Corvette and Bandit Firebird were considered exotic and desirable in period. That’s why you’ll see them in your Tomica collection, but nowadays I wouldn’t say there are significantly more of them than other American cars of the era at car shows.
As others have alluded, “music video” cars like Escalades and Hummer H2s have their followings too, but like in the US, they’re more of an image car than an enthusiasts’ car.
There are what we might consider oddball cars that gain a following there too. The Chevy Astro and third-generation Dodge Ram Van come to mind. The latter even has a semi-regular racing league. The Japanese have such a love for cars that sometimes you’ll get a guy who faithfully preserves a car like an Autobianchi or Ginetta… stuff I have never seen in the US. Hell, I was once tailgated on the Shuto by a classic Routemaster double-decker bus, and I’ve never even seen one in London!
What is Japan like when you get away from the big cities and off the “freeway”? We never hear about rural Japan, their lifestyle or driving/roads. I’ve always pictured it as much more laid back than the madness of Tokyo, or the other large cities.
Well you would be right. Just like any other country, the countryside is much quieter.
More importantly the roads are more sparsely populated and if you go to some certain areas I’m sure there are some awesome little B roads and things.
Your instincts are right. I’ve spent a little time in Shizuoka City, about 200 clicks south of the Tokyo/Yokohama sprawl, and it’s more laid back than Tokyo for certain. (Although, Tokyo traffic does move, and no one honks, and most pedestrians are listening to their phones, so even on the streets, it’s relatively silent–much like on the trains). Residential streets outside of Tokyo are narrow; I’ve seen wider alleys in LA than what pass for streets there. The country is full of natural beauty (including the ladies) but you need to get outside Tokyo to really get a sense of Japan’s natural wonders.
-There are enclaves of the countryside that attract the wealthy…people who don’t have to be in the rat-race of Tokyo proper.
-In some areas (IE: around Toyoma) private home size rivals or exceeds home sizes in the US. They are occasionally even on very generous plots of land.
-When the economy was strong, average citizens could afford secondary vacation homes that many continue to own.
-Dialects can differ significantly to the point of challenging native Japanese speakers.
-A significant number of train lines in Shikoku actually still use diesel locomotives…rather than electric.
-Wild monkeys can be startling and pose problems. Huntsman spiders are HUGE and fast. Mosquitos can be a major nuisance….and can carry Japanese encephalitis. Snakes are rare, but I’ve seen one.
-Oh, rice paddies.
-Despite the wildlife, rabies cases are essentially nonexistent. Lyme disease cases used to be abnormally low.
-Many rural towns tend to have “specialties” that appeal to visiting Tokyoites…like Yugawara’s onsens.
-Unlike Tokyo, many people in rural areas depend on cars rather than public transport. Taxis are rarer too.
-Modified cars appear to be slightly “easier to own” outside of major cities. That said, your odds of seeing a mint Ferrari Testarossa are exponentially higher in Tokyo.
-Shinkansen train stops become spartan (or nonexistent) in some regions.
-Some senior citizens seasoned on curvy, mountain roads drive exceedingly well…with shockingly quick reflexes.
-Vending machines remain supernaturally ubiquitous.
Many people visit Tokyo FIRST (if not, only) and jump to too many conclusions about Japanese society. It’s much more varied than people tend to think.
Foreigners and Japanese alike often say that outside of Tokyo is “the real Japan”.
For me, a vacation doesn’t really start until I throw my leg over a rented motorcycle and ride out of Tokyo.
I have bike friends in Shizuoka and Yubari, and ride with them every chance I get. With a smaller percentage of people driving – and those who do go through mandatory training – motorcycling seems to be quite a bit safer than in the U.S.
The scenery is also much more picturesque, as can be seen in one of my videos:
If I were to live in Japan and didn’t have to work, I’d definitely live out in the countryside.
What is the proper apology for having noticeably farted in a Tokyo cab?
Sumimasen (sue me mah sen) covers all Western blunders, no matter how stinky
Ben, are you sure that’s how you say “Could you please open the window a little?”
where are the old cars? I drove through city and country and barely saw anything other than Kei cars.. at most I saw a 1983 RX7 and a 1983 AE86…
Are they that scarce that they have been crushed, exported or rusted away?
Perhaps it’s just the new generation is not interested? 🙁
Starting with the tenth year, auto inspections are really [ahem, thorough]. You almost cannot give away a 10 year old car in Japan due to the more frequent and excessive inspection requirements. Also any thing with over 100,ooo kilometers is considered too used, therefore 60,000 mile engines exported to the USA. Those not stripped for parts or engines used to be shipped wholesale to Vladivostok where the sure beat Ladas.
The most popular classic car I see regularly in (and outside of) Tokyo is the original Austin Mini. They are quite common, and there are shops and car lots that specialize in them. When you think about it, it’s just about the perfect classic car for Tokyo.
The “old” JNCs I see driven most often are Nissan Paos. They’re a touch more practical than Minis as they have an actual hatch and tailgate for usable cargo access. The ones I see sitting most often are AE86s. There’s even a panda in my neighborhood that I take a photo of every year as it sits in the same spot in an apartment parking lot, deteriorating.
I saw a Nissan Figaro and a Lotus Elise in the same street near where my friend lived, on the outer areas of Tokyo. I was expecting wheel cubes and kei cars everywhere but was surprised to see RX8’s and all sorts of wagons. In Ginza you will unsurprisingly see alot of european exotica. I don’t remember seeing anything pre-90’s, but it has been a while since I was there…
They are out there, but usually hidden. They aren’t dailied in great frequency, so you wouldn’t necessarily see them, but once a show or meet takes place they will come out in droves.
Sunny Sundays too… The Ginza Starbucks behind the Matsuya can be pretty good. Aoyama is also pretty good on Sunday.
With this year’s Tokyo New Year meeting being the last, which show/event in Japan has the best swap meet where we can buy 60’s and 70′ parts second hand?