Thoughts from Tokyo

Tokyo Street
Driving on the Left is Easy Until You Have to Turn Right

A few rambling automotive related thoughts from my recent trip to Japan:

One of the few customs on Tokyo streets

I was surprised at the lack of tuner cars on the streets. During the nine days I spent in Japan I only saw three souped-up cars. Considering the love affair the Japanese people have with cars, I was surprised that I didn’t see more.

Nissan Serena – Another Brick

If you’re looking for a car shaped like a brick, Tokyo is your place. The Japanese car makers have more variations on a rectangular block then you can imagine. Some are work vehicles, others are just family cars. Some were big, while some of the mobile bricks were surprisingly tiny.

Driving on the Left is Easy Until You Have to Turn Right

I’d forgotten that cars are right hand drive in Japan. I never got the chance to drive on the streets (my only driving experience came on Toyota’s Mega Web test track), but it was still a little disconcerting as a passenger. It’s hard to shake that feeling of doom when the car turns onto a street and heads into what you think should be oncoming traffic.

The Loan Ford on my Trip

There aren’t many American cars. In fact, I only saw two during the nine days I was there. One was a Ford Explorer and the other was a C4 Corvette. I realize that American cars are big and probably expensive to import, but I would have thought that the Japanese people’s interest in all things from the US would include cars as well. And it’s not just about the money. In one parking garage I spotted two Ferraris, two Lambos, a Rolls Royce and a lot of Porsches.

Waiting for Obedient Pedestrians

Pedestrians are very well-behaved. When the sign says don’t walk, they don’t. Even on small streets with little traffic, people obeyed the signs. In most big cities people view walk signs as more of a suggestion. Not so in Tokyo. The closest I came to seeing someone break the law was some guy stepping off the curb a moment before the light actually change. Such a rebel.

Bullet Trains Ready for Take Off

I was able to go 150 mph, but it was in a train. We took the bullet train down to Kyoto. It was about a two and a half hour ride. Our train was the N700. Great leg room and very comfortable. The N700 has a top speed of 186, but we were told it would likely only hit about 150 mph. I was surprised at how little I felt the speed.

Tiny Parking Lots (note the parking brake in front of the rear wheels for the car on the right)

There were tiny parking lots everywhere. It wasn’t unusual to see a small patch of asphalt with three parking spaces. But even those were very official. Often they would have a small device that you would back over. It would then lock you into place until you paid your parking fee.


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