While the crowds were flocking to see the latest innovations in the Japanese automotive industry for the Tokyo Motor Show, there was another big car event in Odaiba last week.
As Nissan and Toyota et al showed off their concept cars that might just indicate the future of mobility (or the labors of an generously funded R&D department), November 24th also saw a one-day-only Itasha exhibition out in the bay.
Itasha are heavily — well, let’s be honest, overly — decorated cars that reflect the owner’s tastes in moe. A typical Itasha will feature shojo girls and other anime characters, and of course is driven by a self-professed otaku.
On Sunday, over 80 cars were driven down to Odaiba to be shown off to the world.
This “three-dimensional” Madoka car was spotted earlier this year and caused a storm on Twitter. Nice to see it back.
[All images via MyNavi.]
Showcased at last week’s Tokyo Toy Show 2013 was the Camatte57s, a concept car by Znug Design for Toyota.
The brainchild of Kenji Tsuji and Kota Nezu, the minimal Camatte57s is not only designed for kids to drive (obviously not on the road!), but also for them to be able to have fun personalizing and playing around with the car aesthetic.
The car has outlandish tires that poke out, plus the whole thing has this funky retro vibe that both hipsters and kids will love. The three-seater is very cozy — deliberately so, since the idea is to make driving in the car fun for kids again.
A previous version was introduced at last year’s Toy Show but this year there was an improved model which can be customized with fifty-seven lightweight panels. You don’t need complicated tools to attach and switch the panels — it’s so simple, even a child can do it.
The idea is the driver’s parents sit in the back, supervising their child while being taken for a ride. Just in case, there is an extra brake in the back so if the little one has trouble, daddy or mummy can stop the vehicle. Naturally you cannot have your kid drive on the real road so it is intended for large gardens or other special sites — not ideal for Japan, but surely tenable in America, Australia, Europe and other markets.
This is one of the first generation models.
To demonstrate, they also showcased a “sports” version of the Camatte57s with stripes and snazzy colors. It’s based on a Tamiya toy released last year.
Here are Toyota’s other suggestions for how to customize the colors. “Infinite possibilities”, as they say…
Why so much effort being put into inspiring the next generation to love cars? Surely they would automatically taken an interest, no? Not so in Japan, which for years has been suffering from a downward trend in new car sales among younger consumers known as kuruma-banare. Car rental services are very convenient and reasonably priced in Japan, and with most of population living in cities, people feel like they don’t need to own a vehicle. (Car-share programs are more limited, due to legal issues that tie a car officially to a specific parking space.) There is some irony in Toyota being the biggest car manufacturer in the world but its cars are bought less and less by drivers in its own country. Projects like the Camatte57s are an attempt to reverse the trend and get new drivers interested in having their own car again.
Recently showcased at an expo in Nagoya, Hirobo‘s new helicopters can travel up to 100km/h (62mph) and fly for 30 minutes at a time.
Being electric it is also very quiet and there are one-seater choppers that sell for 30 million yen ($375,000) and manless ones (a drone, but a nice one that doesn’t kill people!) for 10 million yen ($125,000).
Hirobo believes the domestic market alone for this kind of technology will grow to 10 billion yen (over $120 million) in 2021.
The one-seater chopper is not quite as funky as the James Bond rocket backpack in Thunderball, but it’s getting there.
This kind of mobile technology is obviously very useful for earthquakes and other disasters when you need to send people into dangerous and difficult terrain to look for survivors. Sure, it’s maximum travel time is very short, but this may be vital for delivering supplies of blood, organs or other emergency equipment.
Hirobo also hopes to develop two-seater versions.
GEN Corporation previously developed the GEN H-4, which they claimed was the world’s smallest manned helicopter.
The GEN H-4 was much cheaper (7.5 million yen / $100,000) but runs on noisy gasoline.