Where to Get Your Motor Running!: Top Places to Satisfy Your Love for Cars in Japan
For many, Japan is the country of obsessions that go from shopping to comics, from cute collections to the macabre. Several of these obsessions come in two forms, one as an underground culture, and the other as public events and shows.
The love for cars, or motors in general, is one of those (expensive) passions that keeps amateurs very busy and entertained. Time and again, one can spot fancy cars roaming Tokyo city streets, either decorated with LED lights, tribal motives, or anime themes, or shiny paint and powerful boom boxes in their trunks. It is also common to hear about car lovers meeting at isolated car parks and showing off their own custom cars, but it is more of a closed circle thing.
However, those who visit Tokyo can still find places to check out and get a glimpse of this fascinating world.
Showrooms. The easiest way to admire latest car models is to visit the many car showrooms scattered around. The most expensive and most famous car producers all have showrooms visitors can enter and wander about, for example. A very famous one is the Audi showroom in Omotesando, whose building is very futuristic and a must-see for tourists. Another huge showroom is Bingo Sports in Akasaka, where all sorts of old and super cars can be found.
History Garage, Venus fort. In this themed museum, famous cars from the 50's to the 70's are displayed. There are beautiful Cadillacs, Ferraris, even an old Cinquecento, and other sports cars that were just too good to be true. The museum itself was designed to look like city corners from the same era: an American gas station, a Neapolitan neighborhood (including the Madonna alcove on the wall), and such. The museum also has a section with hundreds of car models, and corners where old car movies are projected. The place is found in Odaiba, the artificial island in Tokyo bay.
Toyota Megaweb, palette town. Instead, if the past is of little interest, Odaiba offers also a peek into the future, with a dedicated section inside the Toyota themed park where visitors can find hydrogen-fueled, driverless prototypes of cars and motorbikes, last generation race cars, engines and what not. This megaweb park is another themed space, where people can try their driving skills in simulators, can ride last generation Segways and compete with them, and, for those who are lucky enough to own a driver's license in Japan, can also test drive Toyota sports cars in a mini circuit.
Tokyo motor show at Tokyo Big Sight. As an exhibition space, Tokyo Big Sight in Odaiba hosts annual shows. The motor show is just one of them, and it is huge. The event lasts one week for the public, but it also features press conferences, presentations and some other events not for the general public. Tickets are on the expensive side and must be purchased quite in advance, to make sure to secure a visit. This year's 2017 expo is going to be at the end of October. More information can be found on the website.
Nissan Gallery, Yokohama. Not far from the train station in Yokohama, the other motor giant Nissan has a showroom where visitors can admire the car models, have a peek inside their hybrid engines and get all sorts of interesting information about cars and car products.
Car racing events. There are, lucky you, race tracks in town as well. Odaiba in Tokyo Bay is again the place to go in order to feel the thrill while watching expert pilots drifting and racing along the circuit. The event is annual, and more details can be found on the official website. Although not in Tokyo, it is worth mentioning another place: the go kart race tracks in Gotemba, Shizuoka prefecture, or Chiba, Ibaraki and such. It could be an easy day trip from Tokyo, and it surely will be entertaining.
Finally, those very much into F1 races, remember to check out the Suzuka Circuit in Mie Prefecture.
As you see, options are many, near and far from Tokyo. Fasten your seatbelt, and go.