Tokyo and Toyota - CMark {P}
Inspired by SjB's interesting Czech Observations I am finally putting pen to paper, so to speak, to note a few comments about my 2-week trip visiting my brother in Tokyo in December.

Much of Japan was instantly and surprisingly familiar, rather contrary to my expectations (from films but also having previously travelled in China). The 5-minute stroll down the hill to the subway, through the falling leaves, could have been Wimbledon Park.

I visited the world's largest car showroom, the showcase Toyota AMLUX covering 5 floors. Toyota has a bewildering selection of products in every category, every niche and micro niche. They seem to sell two or three times the number of different products than are available in the UK. On part of one floor they lined up 7 of their MPVs in descending order of size; ALPHARD (with promotional material featuring actor Jean Reno!), Previa (aka ESTIMA), Avensis Verso (aka IPSUM), NOAH, VOXY, GAIA, and NADIA. And in this line-up there was no room for the Corolla Verso (COROLLA SPACIO).

Curiously, many Toyotas do not have Toyota badges (badge engineering?). The dealer network seems to be split into 5 "brands"; Toyota, Toyopet, Toyota Corolla, Netz Toyota and Toyota Vista. In their product brochure there are no fewer than 21 different models listed as "Sedans", 3 as "Sport", 13 as "2 box", 9 wagons, 13 SUVs, 11 "mini van cab wagons", 13 van truck buses, 5 special purpose vehicles, 3 marine (boats), some fork lift trucks and believe it or not, under the heading "home", 9 different house designs!

Some extraordinary looking small cars with suitably ridiculous names; bB (as in: "Hi, I drive a bB"), bB Open Deck (a truly bizarre-looking, tiny, urban double-cabin pick-up with a horizontal bonnet and near vertical windscreen), WiLL CYPHA (sic). Strange also to see a Daihatsu Terios badged as a Toyota CAMI.

The range topping and hugely conservative Century with 5 litre V12 is heavily reminiscent of something Boris Yeltsin would have trundled off to the Kremlin in rather than the flagship big brother of the S class-copy that is the CELSIOR (Lexus LS430?)

I picked up a brochure for the CALDINA "touring machine" sports wagon. The top-of-the-range version comes with 4-wd and a 260 PS turbo 2-litre engine which goes head-to-head with Subaru's Legacy GT-B. The showroom model was wired up to display the dash and navigation system. Voice activated DVD sat nav which switched, when reverse gear was selected, to give you a view in colour from a camera in the rear bumper along with a superimposed depiction of the intended direction of reverse travel. A small button on the steering wheel could also be used to activate two corner cameras in the front bumper to help when emerging from obscured side junctions. Even the dash instruments can be specified in 3 colours; a lovely Merc style blue with floating needles, regular orange and regular green. The most expensive version, complete with 4-sp auto tiptronic gearbox, LSD, climate control and a whole bunch of acronyms is around ¥ 3,000,000, which works out at well under £17,000 before VAT and shipping.

Had a meeting with a Kiwi friend of my brother's who is a senior buyer at the enormous second-hand car auctions in Tokyo. He has access to 20,000 cars a week! His company is the largest supplier to the UK but he specialises in nearly new RHD to New Zealand. Obviously most are RHD but there are a surprising large number of LHD (mostly prestige imports) available. And auction car prices are gob-smackingly cheap, even at current exchange rates (there is a forecast 25% Yen devaluation).

We travelled out of endlessly sprawling Tokyo by shinkansen bullet train. There are no sleeper services on the bullet train as the whole network shuts down every night for maintenance. This is obviously the main reason why there has not been a single fatality since the service started in 1962.

my current bumper sticker ? Warning: I drive as bad as you do.


Value my car