Tokyo Motor Show 2009… how will it turn out?

So, summer has ended and a new season has begun.. hope everyone’s doing well! Here in Yokohama, weather has suddenly turned chilly and rainy (we’ve even had a typhoon earlier this week). Like so many others, I find myself wishing that this summer had lasted a wee bit longer (actually, more like a LOT longer!).

Now on to topic… as car enthusiasts all over the world know, this is the year of the 41st Tokyo Motor Show. Set to take place from near the end of October to early in November, this biennial event always attracts millions of car lovers from worldwide wanting to see the many innovative concepts and exotic supercars. Only this year, it appears that things are looking rather bleak for this international event. Take a look at the current list of exhibitors at the official site:

http://www.tokyo-motorshow.com/en/booth/index.html

As you can see on that page, most non-Japanese car manufacturers have pulled out of the show, leaving mostly Japanese car makers such as Toyota and Honda. That means no Ferrari, Chrysler, Maserati, Lamborghini, Audi, or Volvo? not even Volks Wagen?? Ok, so of course their quality cannot be compared to Japanese cars, but it’s really sad because in the 3 previous motor shows I have been to, those European and American cars always added a flavor to the show.

The last Tokyo Motor Show we had (TMS2007) was not as great as the previous ones, but still much bigger than this year’s is set to be. I’d like to share with you today some photos of that 2007 show. I know they’re 2 years old now, but we will not be seeing the likes of most of these in this year’s event (And everyone likes to see pics of exotic cars, right?). They are all fascinating cars to look at, and their brands will be sorely missed this year.

Maserati Gran Turismo
Maserati Gran Turismo

Honda CR-Z
Honda CR-Z concept (hybrid)

Mazda Taiki
Mazda Taiki

Mitsuoka Orochi
Mitsuoka Orochi, design inspired by a serpent

Alpha Romeo 8C Competizione
Alpha Romeo 8C Competizione

Audi R8
Audi R8, one of my all-time favorites

Ferrari 599 GTB
Ferrari 599 GTB


Subaru Imprexa WRX. Too bad Subaru pulled out of WRC soon after this was released.

I don’t know if I’ll go to this year’s motor show after seeing this exhibitor list, but if I do I will be sure to post pictures.

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The Kind of Japan You don’t often See or Hear About

Hello people! Hope you’re all enjoying your summer (or winter, depending on where you are) because I sure am! 8) Too bad it’s almost over…

This month I went on a trip to Kamikouchi, which is an inland area of Japan surrounded by beautiful mountains.
Now, when most foreigners think of Japan, I’m sure that the things that come to their minds first are stuff like the glittering cityscape, advanced technology, anime, … and of course our high quality cars (right?). Not many would think of mountains and valleys covered in lush forests or of rivers that flow through them. Which is why I’d like to share with you today some of the photos I took in Kamikouchi.

A little info about this place: it is a piece of land about 1500m above sea level, surrounded by a mountain range. One has to travel many miles through winding mountain roads and narrow tunnels to reach it. What makes the trip even harder is the fact that regular cars are not allowed into the destination; you have to park at a certain point, and take a bus or taxicab the rest of the way. I don’t really recommend taking the bus (which I did) because the rough ride will make you carsick.
But let me say this: it is definitely worth the trouble! The scenery is so utterlessly gorgeous that you forget all about the bumps and discomforts of the journey on the bus… that is, until it’s time to go home, and you are forced to endure the ride all over again.
But, enough about this.. I will shut up now and post the photos. Enjoy!

River in KamikouchiRiver among trees.

Kamikouchi mountains

Yakidake, a dormant volcano, behind Taisho Pond

kamikouchi06

kamikouchi07River again…

kamikouchi02Stumps of trees destroyed by a volcano eruption protrude from a pond.

kamikouchi03I suppose you’ve got it by now that there’s a LOT of water in this area. 🙂

…and that’s it for now folks! Hope you liked the pics.
Mahalo for reading!

Maki

Why the superb Toyota Harrier Hybrid is not the car for me

Since this is my first post on this blog, I will introduce myself: my name is Maki, and I am the accountant here at Autocom Japan. I handle all the money that goes in and out the company, and occasionally dabble in other work such as advertisement design.
I am also a petrolhead; I love all things with an engine and four wheels, especially those rare, expensive metals loaded with tons of horsepower.
So, today I would like to talk about my experience in the most technically advanced car I have ever driven: the Toyota Harrier Hybrid 2008 (or Lexus RX Hybrid).

Harrier Hybrid, the most sophisticated car I've ever driven

Harrier Hybrid, the most sophisticated car I've ever driven

First and foremost of all, let me inform you that I do not own a Harrier. A huge luxury SUV is not the kind of car a 22-year-old girl should be driving, much less be able to afford. But I got to drive it at a test-driving course set aside specifically for that purpose by Toyota. And what a car!
Here are a few of the things that impressed me:

1. It’s so eerily quiet to drive. That is of course due to the car being a hybrid, running entirely on its electric motor during the course of my drive without the use of its powerful 3000cc engine. It’s so silent, in fact, that I think it could possibly be a health hazard to unwary pedestrians crossing the road!

2. It’s very, very comfortable inside… not very surprising in a heavy luxury car, but the ride was so smooth that it almost felt like the car was floating and gliding over the road. It’s great as long as the driver doesn’t fall asleep from being too comfortable.

3. All of the interior – especially the dashboard – look awesome! It has enough cool buttons and gadgets to keep any driver or passenger entertained during long drives.

I now understand why the Harrier is so popular among men: it looks cool, sporty and luxurious at the same time, and when you’re driving it you start to feel invincible, as if you were in a heavily armored tank.

However, as I was climbing out the car after my drive, I could not help thinking “was I really driving it?” Sure, I was behind the wheel, making turns, signalling, pressing down the gas and the break. Only it did not feel like I was in direct control of the car, but more like I was telling its in-built computer what to do, and that computer was in turn directing the car. So, when asked how the driving experience was, I wasn’t sure how to answer.

Now, let me take you back a couple years back in my lifetime, back to a time when I lived on the island of Hawaii. The car I and my roommates drove back then was an old gray Nissan Maxima. I don’t know exactly how old the car was, only that the model was first produced in 1989. And what can I say… the car was like the exact opposite of the afore-mentioned Harrier: a plain, old, half-broken-down car. Here’s why…

The Nissan Maxima, in one of its better days

The Nissan Maxima, on one of its better days

1. The air-conditioner never worked correctly so that the windows often had to be opened to let in the fresh tropical breeze… along with all the noxious fumes from surrounding cars and lorries. Oh, joy.

2. The steering was crooked so that if I let go of the wheel, the car would automatically veer to the left and into the opposing lane (this is in America, with right-side lanes).

3. No matter how diligently we washed and cleaned it, it always looked as if someone had poured acid over its bonnet.

4. Occasionally, the car stubbornly refused to start its engine at all and was therefore completely useless.

However, when the old Maxima did obey its driver, despite the hot, humid air, despite the coughing engine noise and the crooked steering, and despite its shabby looks, it could sometimes create a truly wonderful driving experience. I could feel each part of the car working hard, moving and responding directly to me, and it gave me a sense of freedom.
After driving the new Harrier Hybrid, I realized that that was what was missing from my driving experience in it. I could not “feel” the car like I could in the Maxima.

So, you might ask, what’s my point in comparing these two vastly different cars? One is an epitome of modern Japanese engineering, while the Maxima is just a plain, out-dated car by today’s standards.
My point is this: modern, technologically-advanced cars can sometimes be so sophisticated that there is very little left for the driver to do, and therefore lose a lot of that “connection” between car and driver. Don’t get me wrong, the Toyota Harrier Hybrid is an excellent car. I strongly recommend it to anyone who wants a sporty SUV that is both luxurious and economical at the same time. Toyota really does some amazing things.

…but sometimes, depending on time and place, and if I could choose between the two, I would much rather go out for a drive in an old beaten-up Maxima.

– Speaking of Toyota Harriers, though, we usually have a few for sale on our website… somewhat older and definitely not hybrids, but Harriers none the less. Please feel free to take a look and see other cars as well if you’re interested. Click here to see our stock list