Looking for some cool 'car-related' stuff to do in Japan? Here are our recommendations!
It’s probably one of the most common questions we see asked by people looking for Japan travel advice: I’m in Tokyo, can you recommend any cool car-related things to do here? The answer is YES, we sure can. We’ve compiled a list of all of our top-rated activities, including details on how to find them and your options for transport to get there. Most of these places are in the Tokyo or Yokohama area, but not all of them. So let’s get started…
It’s pretty likely that you’ve heard of Up Garage before, but if not, it’s a popular chain of stores that sell both new and second-hand car parts and accessories. Up Garage stores always have an interesting variety of stuff, stocking everything from cool wheels and coilovers to bucket seats and exhausts, weird gear knobs and air fresheners and loads more! Because every store has something different, you might even want to visit more than one shop if you’re on the hunt for some cool parts to take back home with you. If you’re interest in purchasing larger items, the staff can also help you with shipping arrangements to send your purchases back home.
Up Garage stores are based all over Japan – some are smaller or bigger than others, but it’s really going to depend on where you are and what your travel plans are as to which store you’re going to end up visiting! There are also ‘general’ Up Garage stores, and then some special stores such as ‘Up Garage GT’ and ‘Up Garage Wheels’. There aren’t any very central stores, but most Up Garages can be easily reached by train. We’d recommend:
Up Garage store in Aoba
Closest Station: Aobadai Station. You can take the Tokyu Den-en-toshi line direct from Shibuya (27 minutes). If you want to continue on this line, you can also visit…
The Up Garage GT store in Machida
Closest Station: Minami-Machida Station. Continue on the Tokyu Den-en-toshi line (overall a 37 minute ride from Shibuya).
Up Garage store in Nerima
This is probably the closest store to central Tokyo. The closest station is Nerimatakanodai Station – reached on the Seibu-Ikebukuro line from Ikebukuro Station (23 minutes).
Another must-visit shop for any petrolhead visiting Japan, these stores are kind of similar to Up Garage. They sell car parts and accessories, but they’re aimed more toward the average consumer and they don’t sell second-hand parts. Note the difference between the Autobacs and Super Autobacs stores – Autobacs stock more generic products whereas Super Autobacs have more of the stuff that interests us – performance parts and whatnot. They also have a mind-boggling range of car accessories (hello kitty-shaped cup holders, coloured window tints and Broadway oversized rear vision mirrors among other cool things) and you could easily get stuck in one of these stores for a couple of hours! Again, these stores can be found all over Japan, but if you’re in Tokyo we’d recommend:
Super Autobacs Tokyo Bay Shinonome
Getting there by train:
From Osaki Station – catch the Rinkai line to Shinonome Station. (15 minutes)
Or from Shinbashi Station – catch the Yurikamome (an automated train which operates without a driver!) across the Rainbow Bridge to Ariake Station, then walk about 1.5km (overall trip takes around 40 minutes). Alternately you could transfer at Odaibakaihinkoen Station by getting off here and crossing over to Tokyo Teleport Station, then catch the Rinkai Line to Shinonome Station – only about a 500m walk and 10 minutes quicker.
Get your model fix! If you’re wanting to stock up on some seriously cool model car kits, Japan is THE place to do this. These are a couple of shops in central Tokyo we’ve recently visited:
Tamiya Plamodel Factory store in Shinbashi (nearest to Shinbashi Station)
If you’re a Tamiya fan, you’re in luck. This store is based in a super central location, and it’s spread over three floors with literally every Tamiya product imaginable being sold here!
Yodobashi-Akiba Electronics store in Akihabara (nearest to Akihabara Station)
This size of this store is so unbelievably big that it should be on your to-visit list anyway, so it’s pretty handy that there happens to be a huge section on the 6th floor dedicated to model cars, such as the famous Sileighty from Initial D pictured above!
Wanting to stock up on some sweet automotive magazines while you’re in Japan? (Who doesn’t right?) Bookstore megachain Tsutaya is your place. These stores are all over Japan, but the ones with the biggest selection of magazines are generally the bigger stores which can be found in central areas like Shibuya in Tokyo or Doutonbori in Osaka. But just run a quick Google search and it’ll bring up the closest store to wherever you are.
Shibuya Tsutaya in Tokyo
Take the Hachiko exit at Shibuya Station, approach the famous crossing and you can’t miss the big sign! It’s above the two-storey Starbucks.
Tsutaya Ebisubashi in Osaka
One of the busiest tourist areas in Osaka, Dotonbori has a massive Tsutaya with the magazines area in the basement below ground level. You can walk here from nearby Namba, Osaka-Namba or Shinsaibashi Stations.
Truck Parts Shops.
If you’re looking for some super strange/cute/unusual accessories for your car, you need to visit one of these! You might be surprised to learn that truck customisation is a big thing in Japan, and there are hundreds of shops dedicated to selling parts and accessories just for trucks. We’re talking velvet seat covers and curtains, LED-lighting and weird long gear knobs; that sort of thing.
These kind of stores can often be quite hard to reach via public transport as they can often be ‘off the beaten path’ in more rural areas, although JET Inoue is a bigger, more well-known franchise and they’ve got a massive store in Chiba which is within walking distance of a train station:
Truck Shop JET Inoue in Chiba
From Tokyo Station: Take the JR Sobu Rapid Line (changes onto the Uchibo Line) to Hamano Station (54 minutes). Walk 500m to the store.
Alternatively, if you’ve got a car or you’re feeling adventurous you could check out one of these: Big list of different truck parts shops of the JET Inoue website
Play Initial D in ACTUAL cars. (Tokyo)
What if we told you that you could sit in a driving simulator and play an Initial D arcade game from behind the wheel of an actual AE86 panda-coloured Trueno, a yellow FD3S RX-7 or a blue Subaru Impreza WRX!? Too good to be true, right? Nope, this is Japan after all! Check out the SEGA Joypolis, a massive arcade complex in Odaiba where anyone can hop in and test these bad boys out. On the weekends and holidays it can get very busy though, so we’d recommend going on a weekday (and even in the morning if you can!) as you’ll stand a way better chance of having to not wait in a long queue and be able to choose the car you want to drive. You’ll battle against the other drivers playing Initial D Arcade Stage 4, and get this – both the cars and the screen are on a giant platform that moves as you play, so it’s a pretty cool experience!
You’ll need to buy a ticket to enter the arcade, but thankfully this process is very foreigner-friendly. Click the link below for the address and how to get there!
SEGA Joypolis, Odaiba
Closest Station: Odaibakaihinkoen Station.
From Shinbashi Station – catch the Yurikamome across the Rainbow Bridge to Odaibakaihinkoen Station. (19 minutes)
Of course, there are plenty of other cool car-related arcade games (like the D1GP game and normal Initial D game as you can see above) and there are so many different arcades in Japan. As well as racing and drifting games, they even have games that simulate working as a Tokyo train driver and even a commuter bus driver! So weird. A couple of other cool arcades that we’ve come across are:
There’s a really big arcade in the Cosmoworld amusement park, and the best part is that it’s free! This place has a weird, old run-down sort of vibe, and we love it!
Odaiba Palette Town
Another arcade in Odaiba, this huge area is next to the giant Sky-wheel and in the same complex as Toyota Megaweb and History Garage (more on those below!).
There are more arcades here than you could ever count – spend some time walking around Akihabara Station and go into some of them – they’re generally whole buildings (as in, the arcade takes up 7-8 floors) and are less child-friendly than arcades at the amusement parks. More weird people, more smoking and more weird games!
Photo from www.tokyoweekender.com
Real life Mario Kart! (Tokyo)
You’ve probably seen photos of people doing this, and yes it’s a real thing! Shinagawa-based company Maricar lets you hire real go karts (including Mario Kart themed costumes!) and you can actually drive these things on the streets of Tokyo!
Check out the Maricar website for more info and bookings.
Photo from tokyo-fashion.tumblr.com
Pink Dragon. (Shibuya, Tokyo)
If you’re going to be checking out the areas of Shibuya or Harajuku in Tokyo, stop by the Pink Dragon store and see if they have any cool car-related stuff in stock. Generally they stock cool vintage clothing and accessories but sometimes they’ll have car-related merchandise on occasion.
Mooneyes Area 1 & MOON Cafe. (Yokohama)
The SoCal-born Mooneyes brand has had a presence in Japan since the early ’80s. Yep, Japan has a massive hot rod and customs scene too! This Yokohama-based shop contains an absolutely massive range of merchandise including car and bike parts and accessories, a garage and an American diner-themed restaurant, which unlike a lot of other Japanese establishments that try to recreate western food, is actually really delicious. It might not be the most Japanese experience, but it’s definitely awesome.
Mooneyes Area 1 & MOON Cafe (click here for the address location)
Unfortunately there isn’t a train station within close walking distance, but there are several different train lines and bus route combinations that you can take. We’d recommend checking Google Maps to see which is going to work for the time you want. Driving here in a rental car however, would probably be your best option.
Bunny Cafe. (Yokohama) *NOTE: This has now changed to “REV STEAK YOKOHAMA”
This cafe/bar used to be owned by Kyoto-based parts manufacturer TRA Kyoto, and it wasthemed around their popular Rocket Bunny brand. Now the ownership has changed hands and it’s a steak restaurant! However, from what we understand it’s still car-themed and there’s still some car stuff there…
If you’re heading down to the Yokohama area, you could still stop by and check it out, grab a drink and a delicious steak meal and check out what memorabilia or merchandise they still have there!
Bunny Cafe (click here for the address location).
Closest Station: Yoshinocho Station.
From Yokohama Station – catch the Blue line (subway) to Yoshinocho Station. (10 minutes). The cafe is a 350m walk from here.
Toyota Mega Web. (Tokyo)
On one of the many man-made islands in Tokyo Bay you’ll find the district of Odaiba – a popular shopping and entertainment area known for its big Gundam robot statue and fantastic view of the iconic Rainbow bridge. It’s also home to Toyota Mega Web, which can only be described as a Toyota theme park of sorts – there’s a massive showroom displaying all of Toyota’s latest offerings (which you can test drive), historic race cars, RC car racing, merchandise including TRD and Initial D goodies, and more!
History Garage. (Tokyo)
In the nearby Venus Fort shopping centre there’s also the History Garage, which is kind of like a car museum but cooler. There’s a huge collection of nostalgic Japanese cars and even other cars like old Cadillacs and Corvettes. Rare gems like the Fairlady Z432 and Toyota 2000GT are also on display, and they’re in immaculate, just-left-the-factory condition too. There’s even a restoration garage, a huge merchandise shop where you could easily spend all of your money, and an Italian-themed café that makes a great espresso. Both Toyota Mega Web and History Garage are open to the public, free of charge.
Venus Fort & Toyota Mega Web
Closest Station: Aomi Station. Note. there are alternative routes.
From Shinbashi Station – catch the Yurikamome to Aomi Station (23 minutes).
Nissan Engine Museum. (Yokohama)
Located in the first floor of the guest hall in the Yokohama Nissan plant, the Nissan Engine Museum is probably more suited to hardcore gearheads (if you’re not a big Nissan fan or not phased by the mechanical/engineering aspect of cars, you might not find it as interesting). As well as showcasing Nissan’s latest technology, it also goes back to Nissan’s early days (they do have over 80 years of experience with building engines, after all!) with some cool interactive displays. Admission is free too.
Nissan Engine Museum (Click for address location).
Getting there via train:
From Yokohama Station – either catch the JR Keihintohoku line to Shin-Koyasu Station (5 minutes) then walk 1.3km, or catch the Keikyu line to Keikyu-Shinkoyasu Station (8 minutes) then walk 1.4km.
Nissan Global Headquarters Gallery. (Yokohama)
In the lobby of the Nissan HQ in Yokohama there’s a massive showroom with some super cool stuff to check out. As well as Nissan’s current range, there are always different classic models and historic race cars on display, plus there’s a neat gift shop too – a must-visit for fans of the Nissan brand.
Nissan Global Headquarters Gallery (click here for address location).
The showroom is in a very central location, and is in walking distance of Yokohama station.
NISMO Headquarters. (Yokohama)
A short train ride from the Global Headquarters showroom, the Nismo HQ also has an awesome showroom with some even cooler machinery on display. They also have a big display of memorabilia and engines, plus a viewing area where you can watch what’s going on in their workshop.
Nismo HQ (Click here for address location).
There isn’t a train station on the artificial island where Nismo is based, but there is a train within walking distance called Namamugi Station. From Yokohama Station you can catch the Keikyu line to Namamugi Station (9 minutes) then walk 1.2km to Nismo.
Daikoku Parking Area. (Yokohama)
If you’re even the slightest bit into Japanese car culture then there’s no doubt you’ve heard about Daikoku Parking Area, or Daikoku ‘PA’ for short. Parking areas are popular meet-up spots for car enthusiasts, and Daikoku has to be the most popular. But first things first; a Japanese ‘PA’ isn’t what you might think it is. They’re not just random parking lots that anyone can walk right up to, they’re actually designated rest stops along Japan’s many tolled highways – in Daikoku PA’s case, the Bayshore Route of the Shuto Expressway, commonly known as the Wangan.
Because of its position next to the Wangan (which has an infamous reputation for illegal high speed street racing!) Daikoku PA has always been a popular meeting spot for racers and car enthusiasts. See those green signs in the middle of all those spaghetti-looking roads? Yep, that’s it! To get down there you won’t have to get off the expressway, but keep in mind that if you miss the PA exit and go down to the main road and outside the toll gates, you’ll have to pay another toll to get back on the highway – ouch!
There’s always going to be normal commuter traffic parked up at Daikoku, but after dark is your best chance of stumbling across something cool there. After 9pm on a Friday or Saturday night is probably your best bet, but sometimes bigger organised meets take place during the day on the weekends too – Sunday morning can also be a popular meeting time. Because these meet-ups are all arranged between groups of friends and sometimes car clubs, it’s pretty hard to know what kind of cars you’re going to see and when you’re going to see them. But that’s all part of the fun, right?
Alternatively, if you’re going to be in Japan during the beginning of July or August, there’sgenerally a big annual RX-7 meeting held at Daikoku PA for ‘7s day’ on the 7th of July, and a Hachiroku meet for ’86 day’ on the 6th of August.
Daikoku PA (Click here for address location)
It’s important to note that most navigation systems won’t actually let you set the PA as your destination point – instead they might direct you to a nearby location outside of the Parking Area, which means you won’t be able to get in. Instead, head towards Daikoku-futo (which is the name of the Island) and follow the big ‘Daikoku PA’ signs that will lead you down into the Parking Area.
Tatsumi Parking Area. (Tokyo)
Another popular meeting spot along the infamous Bayshore Route, Tatsumi PA is a fairly small parking area with great views of the city. GT-Rs, Porsches and other tuned machines are often sighted there, and if you head there late at night, you might just stumble across a bunch of neon-clad Lamborghinis…
Tatsumi Parking Area (Click here for address location).
Parking Areas can only be reached by car, as they’re accessed via Japan‘s tolled highways, so you will need a car to get there. Tatsumi PA is on one of the artificial islands not too far from Odaiba – note that it’s situated on the on-ramp of Route 9 on the Shuto-ko. The easiest way to get there is to head there from Daikoku PA, continuing along the Bayshore Route (there are some cool tunnels that run underneath Tokyo Bay along here too!) and then take the exit toward Hakozaki and look for the ‘Tatsumi PA’ sign.
NOTE. We have heard of people catching taxis to Parking Areas before, but this is a pretty extreme thing to do – not only will it be expensive, but you’ll have to think about what you’re going to do once you actually get there and how you’re going to get back to where you came from! The taxi driver (and people at the parking area) might think you’re a bit weird too.
OTHER PARKING AREAS.
These parking areas aren’t as popular as Daikoku or Tatsumi, but sometimes on a Saturday night you’ll find some cool cars hanging out at these spots. Sometimes cars will also meet up on a special day of the year, like on the 7th day of the 7th month of the year for ‘7’s day’ – you can read more about this in our Awesome Guide #4: Automotive Events Guide.
Umihotaru Parking Area on the Tokyo Bay Aqua Line – click here for the address.
Nagashima Parking Area near Nagoya – click here for the address.
Izumiotsu Parking Area in Osaka – click here for the address.
Yokota Collection. (Gunma)
If you’re planning on hiring a rental car and wanting to go on some adventures, these next few places might be of interest to you. Hiding in rural Gunma lies the Ikaho Toy, Doll and Car Museum – this might sound a bit strange, and it very much is, but it’s also an extremely interesting spot to visit.
Hidden within the walls of this massive building (along with an incredible collection of super weird, super cool Japanese culture memorabilia, oh, and a squirrel habitat), there’s the Yokota Collection – a special area of the museum dedicated to classic cars. Mr. Yokota, the founder of the museum was a genuine petrolhead with fine automotive tastes. As well as many other rare and exciting machines, in here you’ll find a genuine Kenmeri and Hakosuka GT-R, a Ferrari F40, a first-gen Mazda Cosmo, and not one, but two Toyota 2000GTs. There’s also a really cool gift shop with a tonne of interesting trinkets (including stickers, Doraemonsocks and Initial D stuff!)
Ikaho Toy, Doll and Car Museum (Click here for address location).
As mentioned above, you will really need a car to be able to get out here, although there is a local bus route that runs from Ikaho to Takasaki, but this might be a bit difficult for first-time visitors to navigate. A car would be recommended however, as there’s simply so much to do and explore in this area! Look out for our soon-to-be released ‘Insider’s Guide To Sightseeing In Japan’ for more suggestions on what to do here.
Initial D Cafe. (Gunma)
If you’re planning a trip out to Gunma, this is another spot to add to your to-do list! As if the area of Gunma itself wasn’t already an Initial D-lovers paradise, the recently opened ‘D’z Garage Racing Cafe’ is now the cherry on top. D’z Garage, also known as the Initial D Cafe is basically a cafe and garage where you can check out an awesome collection of Initial D replica cars including Takumi’s panda AE86 and the ‘Red Suns’ RX-7s, a huge collection of Initial D memorabilia and more. They have a playstation set-up with a steering wheel and Bride seat, a slot car set and Initial D playing up on a big screen, plus you can buy jars of Initial D pudding and a machined aluminum engine block ‘case’ to put them in! Okay…?!
D’z Garage website.
D’s Garage on Facebook.
D’z Garage Racing Cafe (Click here for address location).
Only a 10-minute drive from the Ikaho Toy, Doll and Car Museum and just around the corner from the real life Mount Akina, (called Mt. Haruna), you really need a car to enjoy travelling around this area.
Prince & Skyline Museum. (Nagano)
If you’re planning on spending time in the Nagano area and consider yourself a bit of a Nissan fan, you could swing by the city of Okaya, where there’s a museum dedicated to all things Prince & Skyline. Hidden within the large Toriidairayamabiko Park, the museum has a collection of nostalgic vehicles including old Princes, Skyline race cars, and all kinds of GT-Rs in showroom condition…
Prince & Skyline Museum (Click link for address).
You’re probably best to reach this destination by car, but if you’re a keen walker it can also be accessed from Okaya Station (about a 3.2km walk). This could be a fun day trip from nearby Matsumoto.
Honda Collection Hall. (Tochigi)
Based over three floors, the Honda Collection Hall (which is right next to Twin Ring Motegi) contains a massive assortment of drool-worthy Honda machinery including motorcycles and race cars, interactive displays and much more – a must-visit for Honda enthusiasts!
Honda Collection Hall (Click here for address location).
Again, it’s simply far easier to get around areas like this when you’ve got a car. However, you can also check out some options for public transport here.
FUN FACT: If you’re unable to make along to any museums while in you’re in Japan, if it makes you feel better, you can actually do a full virtual walking tour of the Honda Collection Hall, the Nissan Engine Museum, Toyota Museum and the Mazda Museum on Google Maps!
Toyota Museum. (Aichi)
The Toyota Automobile Museum is absolutely massive and if you’re looking into visiting Nagoya, you can easily reach it by train from here. The museum has two buildings dedicated to all things Toyota, including a library (with over 11,000 books and magazines!), a restaurant and a huge range of really cool souvenirs.
Toyota Automobile Museum (Click here for address location).
Getting there by train:
From Nagoya Station – catch the Higashiyama Line (subway) to Fujigaoka Station, then transfer to the Linimo (a magnetic levitation train!) and get off at Geidaidori Station (43 minutes). The museum is a 350m walk from here.
If you love AE86s and you’re planning on stopping by Kyoto, make sure to check out ‘Carland’, an AE86 specialist shop that’ll have you in hachiroku heaven! Carland do all sorts of things, they’re a workshop that performs body restorations, they make and sell their own tuner parts, plus they stock used parts and have a huge collection of AE86s for sale on their yard. The staff there are friendly and they’re pretty used to people, (including foreigners!) popping their head in for a nosy around.
Carland 86 (Click here for address location).
Getting there by train:
Carland can be easily reached on foot from nearby Kamitobaguchi Station on the Kintetsu-Kyoto line from Kyoto Station (only a 5 minute trip).
GLION Museum. (Osaka)
The Glion or ‘G-Lion’ Museum is a real hidden gem in Osaka, and if you hold an appreciation for vintage cars it’s absolutely worth checking out. Situated in a number of beautiful old brick buildings on a man-made island in Osaka Bay, Glion sell all kinds of used collector cars including old Hondas, classic American cars, rare and unusual Japanese cars including two Toyota 2000GTs, a big selection of Nissan GT-Rs of all generations, and much more.
They also have a massive museum, which features different areas dedicated to vintage European cars, Japanese cars, American cars and so on. The displays all have iPads with information in English, including an option to play a soundtrack of the engine noise, which we thought was a neat touch! While you’re there, make sure to have a bite to eat at their cafe which serves possibly some of the nicest ‘Western-style’ food we’ve ever had in Japan! There’s also the Glion Steak House, which serves fancy meals with a considerably bigger price tag.
GLION Museum (Click here for address location).
Getting there by train:
You’ll need to hop on the Chuo Line and get off at Osakako Station. From there it’s a 450m walk to the Museum! There are a number on different train lines you can take from the city, so best to plan your route beforehand using Google.
Mazda Museum. (Hiroshima)
What’s a visit to the birthplace of Mazda without a tour of the Mazda Museum? Unlike other facilities, you can’t just show up at the Mazda museum, as it’s actually located inside the Mazda factory – you will need to book ahead for a guided tour! These tours take place once a day and are offered in Japanese and English, and you can make a reservation online or by phone (for more information click here to go through to the website). It’s also worth noting that visitors to the museum must first arrive at the Mazda Head Office, and from there a tour bus escorts them to the nearby factory.
Mazda Head Office (Click here for address location).
Getting there by train:
From Hiroshima Station – catch the JR San-yo line to Mukainada Station (5 minutes). From here, the Mazda HQ is a 450m walk.
If you can fit a few of these attractions into your Japan trip while you’re there, you definitely should!