Custom Cars Take Over Makuhari Messe

David Ishikawa

If you haven’t read any of my previous posts, please know that I am a bit of a car guy. That is actually one of the main reasons I started visiting Japan and it was great to return to the first event I ever attended in Japan—Tokyo Auto Salon, which takes place Jan 16-17.

Cars are expensive and customizing them even more so. So, why would readers of Tokyo Cheapo care about an event like this? First, looking at cars that people have spent tens of thousands of yen on to customize is a lot cheaper than doing it yourself. Second, almost everywhere has their signature style, so it is a great way into the main culture via the car sub-culture. The same could be said about anime, manga, music and food although I admit there is a price difference.

Before I go into my review of Tokyo Auto Salon, let me give you a few tips on how to save some yen since the event is not ‘cheap’ and the location is not the most accessible. Similar to the tips on visiting Disneyland:

  • Don’t go on Friday as this is known as the preview day and has a premium ticket price
  • Buy tickets in advance
  • Children under 12 are free and and those 13-18 are discounted
  • Get a JR day-pass for 750 yen (one-way from Nakano was just over 750)
  • Bring your own food and drinks
  • Pack light but if you follow the above tip, consider storing your items in a coin-locker (300 yen). It will save you some pain in the long-run

I first attended Tokyo Auto Salon over 10 years ago and some things have changed and some things have pretty much stayed the same. The earlier events were held at Tokyo Big Sight but the event quickly outgrew the space and now occupies all the halls at Makuhari Messe plus an outdoor area for D1 Drift and driving demos.


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There is a wide variety of vehicles and customization styles on display. The one thing that is noticeably different is the amount of vehicle manufacturers which made it feel like an extension of the Tokyo Motor Show. The Tokyo Motor Show being the cake and Tokyo Auto Salon the icing.

Below is just a small fraction of the cars and various styles that were on display.

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This GTR was a show stopper with its custom gold paint - not decals!
This GTR was a show stopper with its custom gold paint – not decals! | Photo by David Ishikawa
A mild version of bosozoku.
A mild version of bosozoku. | Photo by David Ishikawa
Customize your Prius. This was just one a several so it seems to be a popular thing to do.
Customize your Prius. This was just one a several so it seems to be a popular thing to do. | Photo by David Ishikawa
Flower power! The women and children loved this idea.
Flower power! The women and children loved this idea. | Photo by David Ishikawa
If you have to deliver something, might as well do it in style.
If you have to deliver something, might as well do it in style. | Photo by David Ishikawa
Vanny style can be high or more commonly - very low.
Vanny style can be high or more commonly – very low. | Photo by David Ishikawa
Shakotan VIP. Super low luxury sedan. Do a video search to see these in action.
Shakotan VIP. Super low luxury sedan. Do a video search to see these in action. | Photo by David Ishikawa
A bit of a theme - a lot of cars had Liberty Walk or Tra Kyoto body pieces.
A bit of a theme – a lot of cars had Liberty Walk or Tra Kyoto body pieces. | Photo by David Ishikawa
Sparkly (insert your emoji here)
Sparkly (insert your emoji here) | Photo by David Ishikawa
RAUH-Welt BEGRIFF Porsche tuner.
RAUH-Welt BEGRIFF Porsche tuner. | Photo by David Ishikawa
Toyota Gazoo Racing had a very large display showing real race-cars with real bugs, rocks, chips and other bits on the front.
Toyota Gazoo Racing had a very large display showing real race-cars with real bugs, rocks, chips and other bits on the front. | Photo by David Ishikawa

This event may not be for everyone but for me and those that attend from outside of Japan, this is sort of a pilgrimage. Here you get an opportunity to see the cars and meet the builders featured in videos and magazines. Also, as the customizers are pushing the limits, designers are watching and many attend this event. In Japan, racing provides performance improvements while this customization culture provides styling ‘improvements’.

It was good to get back and see familiar faces and also see where the automotive customization culture and industry is heading.

Name: Tokyo Auto Salon
Pricing info: 1,800 yen in advance' 2,200 yen at the door
Address: 2-1 Nakase, Mihama-ku, Chiba-shi, Chiba-ken 261-0023, Japan
Location(s): Makuhari,
Access: Kaihim Makuhari Station on the JR Keiyo Line
Web: https://tokyocheapo.com/events/tokyo-auto-salon/
Business hours: Sat, Jan 16: 09:00-17:00; Sun, Jan 17: 09:0-17:00
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