7 Things We Love About Tokyo Auto Salon

Right about now we’d typically be sleep deprived and eating a frankly alarming number of Lawson egg sandwiches.

Through the medium of Speedhunters, we’d justify this madness as content creation or words to that effect. But the reality is much simpler than that: We bloody love Japan.


And not just Japan, but Tokyo Auto Salon too. Which in more normal years would be finishing up right about now.


Since 1983, this auto show has served to be a shining light in an otherwise bleak January which – for many of us north of the Equator – usually rhymes with cold weather and salted roads.


For the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to experience the Tokyo Auto Salon madness first-hand, but prior to that I’d be dialled into Speedhunters coverage from veterans Ron and Dino, eager to see what latest trends and builds were emerging from the east.


I can’t think of a single story I’ve written on here which doesn’t hark back to Japan at some point, so my opinion is fantastically biased in its favour. But Tokyo Auto Salon really is an assault on all the senses.


It manages to be utterly chaotic and completely courteous at the same time. Cutting-edge in vehicle technology, yet DVD is still seen as an acceptable media format. Professional… in spite of the businessmen using telephoto lenses to take pictures of girls scantily dressed as cats.


Understandably, things aren’t exactly normal this year. Travel remains restricted for many of us and – rightfully so – Tokyo Auto Salon was cancelled due to COVID-shaped concerns. That doesn’t mean those bonkers builds cease to exist, especially when there’s a GR Yaris-shaped hero in the mix for 2021.


So, while the Makuhari Messe might be out of bounds currently, the various parking lots and rest areas certainly aren’t. You’ll see more on that in the coming weeks.


I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t massively gutted to be missing the 2021 Tokyo Auto Salon, but I’m also hugely privileged to have had the opportunity to visit in the past – something I cannot urge people enough to go and do as soon as travel permits.


And, with that in mind, I can’t think of a better way to look forward to next year’s hopefully ‘normal’ Tokyo Auto Salon than by looking back over some of its best bits…


Tokyo Auto Salon’s Car Parks

Who’d have thought an automotive tuning show would attract so many car enthusiasts. It sounds like a no-brainer, but the car parks of Tokyo Auto Salon is almost an event in itself.


Don’t think it’s just a spattering of GT-Rs and Supras either; with so many owners rollin’ in together, it’s entirely normal to see miniature meets taking place between the acres of parking lots next to the Makuhari Messe.


Don’t believe us? Take a look at Dino’s report before he’d even reached the show from 2019 here.


Diversity Behind Every Corner

At some large auto shows – such as SEMA or Autosport International – certain manufacturers will demand the same booth plot year on year, leaving it feeling a bit predictable. So much so, that you can cut out entire halls such as SEMA’s terrifying corridor of Chinese tyre-fitting machines.


With Tokyo Auto Salon, it’s very much a case of cramming in as much as possible within the limited space available, something the Japanese are understandably quite good at. It’s entirely normal to see an automotive behemoth like Suzuki camped next to a sea of neon-clad Lambos, or Honda’s latest performance upgrades with a VIP Chaser tacked on the end for good measure.


‘If you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer an Auto Salon exhibitor…’


Liberty Walk’s Big Reveal

Japan can get a bit of stick at times for feeling dated in some of its practices, but if a car is being unveiled at Tokyo Auto Salon, it really is being unveiled at Tokyo Auto Salon. There’s no YouTuber walking around it the night before, nor are photos handily ‘leaked’ in advance. Good for show-goers, annoying for us press who want a jump on everyone else.


Liberty Walk do it better than most, and somehow manage to one-up themselves year after year to the point I’m not entirely sure what comes next from ‘em. Military vehicles? Joe Biden’s presidential transport? Guesses in the comments section please…


BH Auction

A recent addition to Tokyo Auto Salon, but a completely lethal one at that. It’s bad enough looking around a show hall filled with other people’s amazing cars; it’s even worse walking around one where all the cars are for sale. And some of ‘em have pretty sensible estimates, too. What’s the Japanese translation for ‘do you do finance?’


There’s Not That Many People Taking Pictures Of Cars

On Saturday and Sunday it’s almost impossible to take pictures at Tokyo Auto Salon for the sheer density of the crowds – unless you’re prepared to take a step ladder (more common than you think). But are these die-hard enthusiasts really that passionate about the new HKS A90 Supra intake?


Absolutely, providing that intake is being straddled by a girl whose PVC outfit got attacked by a bear on the way in. Occasionally, you do need to check your phone to make sure we haven’t somehow travelled back to 1995.


It Sparks A Chain Reaction Of Meets All Weekend

Tokyo Auto Salon isn’t actually in Tokyo; it’s over in Chiba, home to the likes of Top Secret and RE Amemiya. And while the Makuhari Messe attracts thousands of visitors each day – many from much further afield than Tokyo’s surrounding areas – the event doesn’t end when the gates close.


Instead, many of Japan’s surrounding parking lots and rest areas play host to impromptu gatherings and meets, often attracting hundreds of cars over the course of an evening. The big one? Daikoku PA, obviously. It’s just over an hour from the venue and the perfect rest area for those travelling west beyond Yokohama.


Dino’s Advice For Getting Access To Empty Halls

Like most motor shows, Tokyo Auto Salon is spread across many numbered halls which – if followed correctly – snake you all around in a nice, uniform and orderly fashion. Very honourable.


But what about if you engage full westerner mode and do the opposite; what about if you start at the furthest hall, and then go backwards? Voila, Dino’s advice for seeing the empty halls before anyone else. Minus the odd disapproving glance.

Mark Riccioni
Instagram: mark_scenemedia
Twitter: markriccioni



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I'm going to miss Tokyo Auto Salon this year but at least we still get to see some cool cars online virtually!


Man, I miss Japan.


I went in 2016 and it was a blast. Hopefully I can go in 2022.


Is it right to say that older cars (from the 1970s to 1990s) have more appeal, hence command more relative attention during TAS.
Perhaps this explains the rising demand and values of such cars.


I think that's a trend across the globe when you look at even the American and Euro car markets too. Early classics are now seen as a bit unobtanium, and so peoples focus shifts to the next affordable generation instead.

Combine that with the fact people who grew up with cars from the 80s/90s are now in a position to have a bit more disposable income, and you're naturally going to inflate the market prices.

I personally think most modern cars - even 'sporty' ones - are just becoming increasingly similar to one another and a bit boring. It's not their fault; through shared platforms and legislation car companies simply dont have the freedom of yesteryear, but given the choice between a new BMW M4 vs. even an E36 M3 the older stuff just has so much more desire.


I think we're in a position now, and have the advantage of perspective brought on by time, to look back and see the 90s as a Golden Age of Automobiles. Not THE, but A, Golden Age. We can hit another peak again later.

It seems that automotive technology hit a high plateau in 1992 and stayed there until 1998. Look at what's come afterward.

Powerful...but heavy. Fast...but overstyled. Advanced construction materials and techniques...that make the vehicle essentially disposable. Lots of gadgets and options...that're hideously complicated to use. A sleek, sexy coupe for every lifestyle and need...replaced by hatchbacks with the basic shapes of shoes and eggs.

The 90s - when the music sucked but the cars were unparalleled.


I was lucky enough to experience everything last year for the first time. RWB meet, Daikoku, TAS, Tatsumi etc. Tokyo turns into a video game that weekend. Insane.


It's incredible, isn't it? Very difficult not to fall down the trap of 'i want to live in Japan forever' after that kind of experience as a car fanatic.


Great article. The want to see it in person is strong. As a January highlight, this is sorely missed.


2021 is definitely a good year. I am bound to move in a few months back to Japan and will be living about 1 1/2 hours away from Tokyo Auto Salon.


That's an amazing thing to look forward to!


"Occasionally, you do need to check your phone to make sure we haven’t somehow travelled back to 1995."

This is great. I often wonder what are they hired in the first place, other than being eye candy. This kind of stuff is what pulled me out of a lot of meets, even as an heterosexual male.


I think it falls under the category of 'tradition' rather than reflecting current attitudes, same could be said for the F1 grid girls debate from a few years back.

However, it does yield some absurd camera setups - i've seen guys waling around with multiple flash guns & umbrellas!


Why is it called the "Auto Salon?"

Are the cars getting their hair done there?