Car spotting in Japan

By: Alex Affat - Words & Photos

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While many countries' distinctive car cultures have all but disappeared, the love for the motor car is alive and well in Japan

Cars seem to be much more personal objects in the land of the rising sun; there’s no divide between old and new – American, British or even local Japanese. Everything is valued, and nothing is left to simply ‘be old’. It all becomes part of the landscape, where you’re just as likely to get passed by an immaculate British classic, as you are the latest Lamborghini, or even a 60s American muscle car.


I think part of it is the culture’s innate appreciation and respect for engineering and design – but also when a population is supported by such an efficient public-transport system, those lucky enough to have car spaces at their inner-city apartments are more than likely to fill them with automobiles to enjoy.

| Read next: Classic Japan 2019 gallery

If you dream of a bustling automotive cosmopolitan scene, Japan truly brings that dream to life.

I was lucky enough to travel to numerous parts of Japan, and saw virtually every flavour of four-wheeled fantasy – and not one inch of peeling clear coat or surface rust.

Here’s a small taste of the cultural car clash I was fortunate to witness during my time there.


The birth of the GT-R badge, at one of Japan’s most popular automotive hotspots, Daikoku Parking Area.



Hiroshima: Local Japanese restorers love these old Landies, we saw a bunch of them throughout the country!



Ginza, Tokyo: Britain’s greatest classic juxtaposed by the quintessential Tokyo back-alley (and vending machine!)



Daikoku Parking Area, Yokohama: The Midnight Racing Team was a band of mythical high-speed highway racers, forming in the early-80s. The myth is real, and they’re still out there.



See? These retro Landcruisers are everywhere!



Fukuoka: Very racey-looking NB MX-5  would make the perfect urban runabout.



Ginza, Tokyo: Retro off-roaders, like this Defender 90 Heritage, are extremely popular in Japan's concrete jungles.


Ginza, tokyo: Of course there are still plenty of late-90s hi-po turbo terrors prowling the streets by night.



Shinome, tokyo: Immaculate 180SX spotted in the car park of a Bunnings-sized auto parts store in inner-Tokyo (I spent far too much money there!)



A late-80s Jeep Wagoneer Woody is probably the last thing we expected to see!



Ginza, Tokyo: Japan actually has an incredibly passionate appreciation for vintage Americana, whether it’s clothes or cars – like this Camaro SS.



A80 Supra in an underground car park looks straight out of an early Fast & Furious flick.



Osaka: A very desirable Honda NSX taking pride of place in someone’s apartment car park.



Koto city, tokyo: You’ll be glad to know that the love for wagons is alive and well in Japan. Especially, the Swedish variety! We must have seen every generation of Volvo wagon on our trip, but this 850 is our pick.



Osaka: A very cool ‘outlaw-style’ BMW 2002 spotted in the back streets of one of Osaka’s fashionable districts.



Osaka: In the middle of an entire suburb of ex-US thrift shops sat this 90s Chevy on wires,  encapsulating Japan’s youthful fascination with American culture.



Bingo Sports in Tokyo’s high-end Ginza district, isn’t your normal used car dealership.


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