Daibutsu, Kamakura

Daibutsu, Kamakura
Daibutsu in Kamakura, June 2010. There were thousands of school kids visiting that day. It was still great fun.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Japanese cars

A post over at sixmats about car shopping in Japan got me thinking about the fact that the vast majority of the cars on the roads in Japan are not sold in America. Most are way too small, especially the tiny 600cc cars. But it is too bad many other are not sold in America since there are some pretty cool small cars in Japan that I think would be good sellers now that there is a trend towards smaller cars.

However, over the last few years, there have been several cars introduced to America that I had previously seen on the streets of Japan.

A few years ago, the Honda Fit was introduced to the States. I remember seeing it during my visits to Japan in 2004 and shortly after that Honda began selling it in America. I see a lot of Fits on the road here in Los Angeles.


In Japan, Toyota sells the Vitz. In America, they call it the Yaris. Since gas prices started going through the roof a couple of years ago, the Yaris has been selling really good as well.


Toyota also has been selling a brand of cars in the States for several years called Scion. The first models were the Scion xA and the Scion xB. In Japan, you know it as the Toyota bB. It is very popular and Toyota has been introducing more models for the Scion line.

Toyota bB.

Scion xB

For all those who are living in or visited Japan often, you probably know the Nissan Cube. Nissan recently announced that they will be selling it in the States. What took them so long?

The Cube

In Japan, one of my relatives who lives in Nikko drives the Nissan X-Trail. The first time I saw it in Japan was around 2003 or 2004.

The X-trail is not sold in America but one day in 2006 I was surprised to see an X-trail on the Hollywood Freeway in Los Angeles. When I got close to it, I looked at the license plate. It was from Mexico. The X-trail is sold in Mexico but not the United States.


  1. Japan is the land of little cars. The thing about the cars is, the small cars are normal, then they get smaller and smaller, then the motorcycle, the motorbike and the bicycle. I've ridden in some pretty small cars in Japan (in the backseat and I am a big gringo). Other than the lack of leg room (you learn to adjust), the cars ride well and I felt safe and secure. Getting out of a small car in Japan for a big American like me is like squeezing out of a tube of toothpaste. You just sort of ooze out.

    The main difference in cars in Japan is the wheel size. The smaller the car, the smaller the wheel diameter. The smallest cars have what I'd call golf cart size wheels.

    I love Japanese cars. The Japanese love to drive but you need a lot of patience driving in Japan, not to mention politeness and skill making the turns on the back roads where most of Japan lives. There are narrow roads then there are Japanese narrow roads.

    My wife had to have her drivers license renewed in Japan (the last time we were there). The Japanese take driving very seriously. After they have their eyes examined they are given an oral lecture that updates the applicants on the latest changes to the driving laws. Having a car is a big deal in Japan, not to mention the licenses, seals and symbols a car may have. There are symbols that denote the driver as elderly (sort of a "watch out for me").

  2. I know the narrow roads of Japan well. I am lucky that my in-laws have the equivalent of what I believe is a Toyota Camry so my 6 foot 3 inch frame is not too crammed in it. Same with the X-Trail. I have not ridden in a Nissan March or anything smaller then that though.

  3. My wife's parents drive a Toyota Starlet. It is considered a normal (small) size car in Japan but it is small.


  4. Interesting. I'd always assumed that cars like the Cube would never sell in the US. Mind you, the fuel efficiency is incredible...

  5. I think the Cube will sell really well. Especially after how well the Toyota bB (Scion xB)has sold.

    I wonder if the Starlet is sold in the states under some other name.

  6. The Honda Element is popular in the states. I don't find them that attractive but I am a conventional car driver.

    I've seen nothing like the Starlet in the states. The closest I've seen is the Yaris by Toyota or the Versa by Nissan.

    I was dragged kicking and screaming before I purchased my first Japanese import. I got my Nissan Maxima back in 2000. I've had no problems with it and the car drives today as well as it did on the first day I got it.

    Ever since then, I will only drive a Japanese car. Currently own a Honda Civic Hybrid and I love it.

    My father was a die hard Chrysler owner. I was a Ford person until my Taurus had me in tears with constant repairs, etc.

    The Honda Civic Hybrid is completely made in Japan. Someday I hope I can visit the plant where it was made but the plant does not have tours the last time I checked.

  7. I saw that the Cube is being used by the Sendai Police. I should take a picture next time I see it.

  8. I own a Honda Element. Have since 2004. I love that care. It is not a big car on the out side but it has a ton of space on the inside. The best car I have ever owned.

    A Cube police car. That doesn't sound to intimmidating.

  9. i see these little cars everyday in japan. id gladly drive any of them in the narrow streets of manila. :-)

  10. all those models except the Scions and the Nissan Cube are sold in Jamaica

  11. @ r-yo. I would drive them also but I would still feel more nervous on the big Los Angeles freeways.

    @Jamaipanese. I am surprised they don't sell the Scion in Jamaica. They really popular in the States and pretty cool little cars.

  12. My sister had a Honda Yaris. My mother also had a Honda Fit. However, in the UK they call it Honda Jazz instead...

    But there is a sports version of the Jazz called a Honda Type-R. I remember really wanting one... The car was too sexy hehe.

  13. The Honda Jazz? That's a funny name,.

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