Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Tokyo Motor Show 2009"

The first Tokyo Motor Show was held in Hibiya Park in 1954. People who know the current Hibiya Park are usually surprised to hear this and beam over a quick "Are you serious?!" look to the person who tells them, but the park was different then, and the first show was on a smaller scale than modern versions of the show, with 254 exhibitors displaying 267 items, with only 17 of the 267 being passenger cars. Most of the exhibits were construction equipment, trucks, buses, three-wheel vehicles (something to do with tax laws I think), and motorcycles. The first four shows were held in Hibiya Park (1954-57), the 1958 show was held at the Korakuen Bicycle Racing Track, and from 1959 until 1987, it was held at Harumi. It was a yearly show from 1954 until 1973, and - coinciding with the 1970's "oil shock" period, became (mainly) a once-every-two-years event from 1975. With Japan's economic boom of the eighties, it was moved to the new (at the time) Makuhari Messe site in Chiba (basically a suburb of Tokyo) from the 1989 show.

My first two experiences of going to the Tokyo Motor Show were the 1985 and 1987 shows at Harumi. In 1985, I rode a ferry over to the site from Hamamatsucho, and in 1987 I hiked in from a not-very-convenient subway station on the other side. Harumi was interesting is that there were several different types of buildings that the exhibits were displayed in, and since you had to go outside to get from one building to another, the venue had a sort of park-like atmosphere. And with each building came a different atmosphere, since some of the buildings were completely different in style from the others. I'm not explaining it very well, but there was something very fundamentally different about Harumi, which became apparent once the show moved to Makuhari Messe.

The first year at Makuhari Messe, 1989, coincided with Japan's boom economy (which seemed to be unaffected by the Wall Street woes of a couple of years before), and was the first year of the Heisei Era. Visiting the 1989 show at the new site, I remember the feeling in the air of "New!-New!-New!", "Exciting!-Exciting!-Exciting!", "Better!-Better!-Better!". A couple of years later, Japan's "bubble economy" burst, and that intoxicated feeling in the air turned into a hangover in some ways, but it was the threshold of a new era for Japan, and when I think back to 1984-86, I realize how very different that era was from now, and see the late eighties as the line between the two eras. Most fundamentally change-inducing for the culture of this country has been the strong yen. It was 245 to the dollar when I came, and it soared to around 100 yen to the dollar around the time of the beginning of the Heisei Era. With the strong yen has come cheap overseas travel and cheap imports, both strongly changing contemporary Japanese culture.

So much background.... I hadn't meant to spend this much time on this subject, but to explain the feelings I had when visiting the 41st Motor Show this year, I needed to explain how it felt at Harumi, and then the more modern Makuhari Messe, and it was only one step (disregarding the one show at Korakuen) further back to explain the very first show in Hibiya Park. It's hard to put the experience of the show this year into words, but one word I keep coming back to while searching for a better one, is "lonely". Aside from an interest in cars or any intent to buy one, the show has always been a big event that people tend to be interested in seeing, and then conveying to friends later. This year though, major foreign manufacturers didn't participate, the total area of the show was greatly reduced, there were fewer show people on the stages, and attendance appeared to be way down. Of course, people don't really need to go to a show any more to see what's new - they can just access whatever information they want from their computer, so the main reason to have the show may have evaporated. Combine that with the bad economy, and you find yourself wondering if there will even be a show in two years. Could it be that 2009 was the last Tokyo Motor Show? Probably not, but I almost didn't go myself, and I've found that people aren't interested in even hearing about the event this year, and one person I talked to afterwards wasn't even aware of its existence.

Anyway. All that to introduce a few short video clips... beginning with a view from the front of the Keiyo Line train I took to the convention center:

"Keiyo Line on way to 2009 TMS" - November 4th, 2009

Looking out the front, at the driver, to the side, inside, and then back to the front view again of a Keiyo Line train on the way to Makuhari Messe to see the 41st Tokyo Motor Show.

"Tokyo Motor Show 2009 (Mazda A)"

Views of the Mazda exhibition at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show, taken on November 4th, 2009.

"Tokyo Motor Show 2009 (Subaru A)"

Views of the Subaru exhibition.

"Tokyo Motor Show 2009 (Mazda B)"

More views of the Mazda exhibition.

"Tokyo Motor Show 2009 (Honda A)"

Views of the Honda exhibition.

"Tokyo Motor Show 2009 (Honda B)"

View of the motorcycle stage presentation at the Honda exhibition.

"Tokyo Motor Show 2009 (Honda C)"

Another view of the motorcycle stage presentation at the Honda exhibition.

"Tokyo Motor Show 2009 (Camera Madness)"

Three beautiful stage women draw a swarm of camera-equipped males. They don't call this event the "Tokyo Motor & Model Show" for nothing! (Just joking of course! It's official name is "Tokyo Motor Show".)

"Tokyo Motor Show 2009 (Suzuki A)"

Views of the Suzuki car exhibition.

And then back in a train for the return trip to central Tokyo:

"Keiyo Line, Tokyo Bound (Evening Sky)" - November 4th, 2009

Looking out the window of a Keiyo Line train on the way back to Tokyo after seeing the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show.

For a history of the various Tokyo Motor Shows, see this page:

Someone mentioned that they would be staying at the Hotel Sunroute Plaza near Shinjuku Station, so I took this video to make it easier to find from Shinjuku Station:

"Shinjuku Station to Hotel Sunroute Plaza" - November 2nd, 2009

The last half of this should stay accurate for some time, but the first half may well change fairly soon. The south exit area of Shinjuku Station (actually in Shibuya by address) is in the middle of a long-term construction project. Also note that the Narita Express train (that is just arriving in the video) is on its way *to* Narita, so the trains coming *from* Narita should be arriving on the other side of the platform.

A jump back in time to 1990, when I visited the open-air (but with roofs) market in Ueno:

"Ueno Ameyokocho - September 1990A"

From Ueno Station to Ameyokocho, which was a black-market area following WW-II. For about a decade now, there are inexpensive discount stores everywhere, so not as many people go to Ueno in search of bargain prices as they did before. In this 1990 video, you can see how it looked before the number of customers started falling.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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