Tokyo has a Disneyland, and the whole of Japan (except Fukushima) is a wonderland. The Tokyo Motor Show is equally wonderful. Even though Beijing and Shanghai are currently the hot (communist red) stars of international car exhibitions, and there are even more pretties at the Bangkok Motor Expo, the biennial Tokyo event remains special for the Asian petrolhead weaned on sushi, Suzukis, Corollas and Casios.
He has a G-Shock on his wrist, but the real shocker is that it’s probably not made in Japan. Like how 60 per cent of new Jap cars today are assembled overseas, most of the Japanese consumer products bought by Asians today are no longer produced in the Land of the Rising Sun. These days, the majority of Jap vehicles sold in Asia are manufactured in the Land of a Million Smiles due to lower cost there – of labour, land, factories, materials and maybe also golf games for the Japanese managers and directors posted to Thailand.
The “Made in Japan” appeal is still strong, however, especially among consumers who believe that anything made there must be good and anything else made elsewhere in Asia is not as good. These are the same fussy people who walk into Daiso or Uniqlo, and pick only the “genuine articles” imported from Japan instead of China, Thailand or Malaysia. Their rides are wholly “Uniqlo”, too – a JDM (Japan domestic model) grey import, a Lexus from Tahara plant, a Subaru BRZ, or perhaps a Nissan GT-R.
Tokyo, the spiritual home of Godzilla (both the super coupe and the super monster), lies at the heart of “Made in Japan-ness”. To the average gaijin (“foreigner”, also known, unflatteringly, as “alien” to Japanese immigration authorities), the metropolis is like a gigantic bowl of awesome ramen, with a mind-boggling assortment of colours and flavours that satisfy the senses and warm the cockles of one’s heart.
To the average motorhead from Asia, the Tokyo Motor Show serves up a delectable teppanyaki of vehicles and experiences that make equivalent expositions seem stuffy (Frankfurt), untidy (Shanghai) or pretentious (Paris). Furthermore, everything is presented beautifully, many of the presenters are beautiful, and the dolled-up booth gals giving out press kits and freebies look like the models in Shiseido advertisements.
It’s an explosion of “Meiji chocolate” eye candy, and that’s before you set eyes on all the attractive Jap cars on display, including the country’s unique breed of micro hatches with a sense of humour. The European marques are out in force, but none of them, not even with a brand-new MINI, could steal the limelight from the Japanese automakers and their domestic delights.
The delightful things extend to collectible Tomica model cars (a staple at the show since 2001) and the addictive Playstation racing sim Gran Turismo 6. Other co-sponsors include Asahi Breweries and Fuji Television, the latter again setting up an alfresco food court with trucks selling different eats from around the world.
What other motor show offers great beer, good food, fun games, cute toys and even cuter Jap babes all in one place?