cars

Drivers spill the beans while saving the planet with Nissan’s two-seater electric vehicle

Drivers spill the beans while saving the planet with Nissan’s two-seater electric vehicle

In October last year, Yokohama City joined forces with Japanese automobile manufacturer Nissan for a special project dubbed Choi-Mobi Yokohama. Furnishing the historic port city with a small fleet of rentable, ultra-compact electric vehicles, Nissan set out to examine the feasibility of making such modes of transport commonplace in urban centres. Allowing anyone with a valid license to zip around the city – emission free, of course – for just 20 yen (US$0.19) per minute of use, ultra-compacts like the Choi-Mobi are tipped to be a useful replacement for taxis and private vehicles in urban areas in future years.

The concept alone was enough to have tech-heads and environmentalists alike grinning from ear to ear, but on April 1 this year, Nissan asked a group of Choi-Mobi renters to use their time together inside the vehicle to convey important messages to one another, telling not April Fools but “April Truths”.

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Rilakkuma rims add 16 bearpower to your car

Rilakkuma rims add 16 bearpower to your car

Generally, customizing cars is a guy thing, and most guys are into power. When it comes to aftermarket wheels, the two biggest camps are those who want performance-boosting lightweight versions, or the largest, most blinged-out set available to advertise the driver’s financial status.

Now, though, there’s a third option beyond looking sporty or wealthy: cute wheels.

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Toyota’s official anime itasha car finds a home

Toyota’s official anime itasha car finds a home

Itasha, the painfully nerdy, anime-decal-plastered cars you can spot running around Japan, generally arrive in that state due to an individual fan’s passion and vision (or obsession). The owner buys a regular car from the dealer, then once he’s slapped enough stickers on his ride, presto! He’s got his very own itasha.

Last year, though, Toyota took the uncommon step of not only creating its own itahsa, but selling it as well. The car has finally found a buyer, who had to go through a number of challenges to sit behind the wheel of his one-of-a-kid sports coupe.

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Would you buy potatoes from this car?

Would you buy potatoes from this car?

If the answer to that question is yes, then you might want to get down to the Namba area of Osaka where this yaki imo mobile was spotted selling freshly baked sweet potatoes for all to enjoy. As our one-sweater-wearing friend, Sebuyama, showed us the other day, a yaki imo is a great way to stave off the cold of this now-waning winter season. And what better way to enjoy one of these starchy snacks than out of the trunk of this decked-out luxury sedan.

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Chicken Ramen mascot grows to giant size, runs rampant on the highways of Japan

Chicken Ramen mascot grows to giant size, runs rampant on the highways of Japan

Two of the things Japan is best at making are cars and cute characters. Sometimes these two worlds combine with itasha, cars slathered with painfully geeky anime graphics.

But itasha rely largely on decals, making them a literally shallow way of mashing up automotive engineering and cuteness. Isn’t there a more dynamic way to fuse the two?

Why yes, there is.

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Why settle for a radio-controlled car when you can have an RC toilet instead? 【Video】

Why settle for a radio-controlled car when you can have an RC toilet instead? 【Video】

Before moving to Japan, I got to dip my toes in the overseas lifestyle by spending several summers at a U.S. military installation in Yamaguchi Prefecture. The base was a long walk from the nearest train station, making bicycles an attractive way of getting around town. Even if you didn’t want to shell out the money to buy one, you could always get one for the day at the local bike rental shop.

Unfortunately, the rental bikes tended to be old, heavy, and not always in the best state of repair. The locals referred to them as “banjo bombers,” since benjo is a Japanese slang word for “bathroom,” and the rental bikes were pieces of…feces.

Little did I know there was another vehicle even more deserving of the benjo bomber title, a radio-controlled toilet.

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Evangelion license plates sure to add visual impact to your ride

Evangelion license plates sure to add visual impact to your ride

The very first time she came over to the swinging bachelor pad/pitiful bunker I used to live in back when we were dating, my wife immediately noticed that the one and only interior decoration I had was a California license plate mounted on the wall. To me, the blue on white design is immediately nostalgic and reassuring.

In Japan, though, ordinarily the only thing that differentiates plates issued in different parts of the country are the kanji characters written across their tops, so they don’t provide quite the same immediate visual shorthand of local pride. Unless you happen to live in the city of Hakone, where motorists can show their love of their hometown and giant robot anime all at once with new Evangelion license plates.

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Tiny Suzuki scores one for the little guys by pulling huge big rig out of the snow 【Video】

Tiny Suzuki scores one for the little guys by pulling huge big rig out of the snow 【Video】

As someone who grew up surrounded by full-sized American automobiles, I admit I chuckled a little when I first came to Japan and saw the country’s kei cars. As time went by though, I began to see how these super subcompact cars meshed with Japan’s transportation needs, as they sipped gas and slid easily down the country’s narrow roads.

But it turns out that kei – meaning “light” – cars aren’t just practical. The right one might even get you out of a jam, as this video of a heroic Suzuki saving a truck stranded in the snowstorm that hit the Tokyo area last week.

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Oni-kyan wheel alignment: How to drift like the pros and baffle the spectators

Oni-kyan wheel alignment: How to drift like the pros and baffle the spectators

Motorsports have been around for as long as people have had vehicles. If it’s got an engine and wheels, we guarantee someone somewhere will try to race it. And there aren’t many counties that love their motorsports as much as Japan–especially the mystical, magical art of drifting!

While other places may have longer or faster races, Japan is definitely one of the best places in the world to catch cars sliding through corners almost as if they were on an ice rink. And, while a talented driver could probably get nearly any car to drift, racers often use cars modified for maximum drifting, including things like negative camber, a type of wheel alignment. But one Celica owned by Japanese motor-enthusiast Kawashima has been capturing people’s attention both in Japan and overseas thanks its mind-bending, extreme wheel alignment.

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Awesome Japanese expressway rest stop lets you travel back in time, dine like a samurai

Awesome Japanese expressway rest stop lets you travel back in time, dine like a samurai

Growing up in Southern California, I was no stranger to long road trips, whether up the coast to visit relatives, or out to Las Vegas to visit the craps tables. Along the way I’d pass many freeway rest areas, with amenities whose quality ranged from “a good place to use the bathroom as long as you cover your nose” to “a good place to use the bathroom, as long as you have a friend with you to make sure you don’t get shanked by a hobo.”

So imagine my surprise when I moved to Japan to find that its highway rest stops (called “parking areas” by Japanese motorists) are spotless. Plus, they’re often great spots to munch on regional specialties or pick up local souvenirs. And if you happen to visit one particular parking area, you can even go back in time.

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Shop takes revenge on unauthorized parking with shopping cart prison

Shop takes revenge on unauthorized parking with shopping cart prison

Parking can be hard to come by and expensive in Japan, so shop owners who are lucky enough to have a parking lot take their “customers only” policy pretty seriously, but having a car towed can be time-consuming and problematic. One shop in Okayama Prefecture came up with a very creative way to punish rule breakers.

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Japan’s rarest cars, from exotic sports coupes to Toyota’s answer to the Hummer

Japan’s rarest cars, from exotic sports coupes to Toyota’s answer to the Hummer

For decades, the automobile industry has been one of the driving forces behind the Japanese economy. But for every Camry, Civic, or Miata that went on to international success, Japan’s carmakers have produced a model that came and went so quickly that you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who’s even seen one on the street, let alone actually driven one.

Today, we present a field guide to Japan’s rarest, most frequently forgotten rides.

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Car surfing reportedly being banned by Saudi Arabian killjoys

Car surfing reportedly being banned by Saudi Arabian killjoys

Sometimes, I feel sorry for kids in today’s safety zealous world. More and more, it seems like the things I grew up with are being banned, whether it’s the thrilling bloodsport of dodgeball or the razor’s edge of a cafeteria in which some people are allowed to eat peanut butter.

Now comes the latest step in the inevitable march towards a global nanny state, as Saudi Arabia is apparently moving to ban the undeniably safe pastime of car surfing.

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A better use for your smartphone than Angry Birds: Remotely driving your car!

A better use for your smartphone than Angry Birds: Remotely driving your car!

It’s only a matter of time until we’re all riding around in self-driving cars, texting our hearts out without having to worry about running anyone over. With all the companies working on the technology, it seems like it’s just a matter of time before you can slip into your automated automobile and say, “Carrie, take me to the bar!”

Unfortunately, “a matter of time” could very well be a few decades for all we know. So maybe we need to limit our dreams a bit. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could, at the very least, get our cars to pick us up outside the mall with an app on our phones? Yeah, that’ll probably never happen.

Or will it??

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Japan’s “painfully” decorated anime vans【Photo Gallery】

Japan’s “painfully” decorated anime vans【Photo Gallery】

Itasha, literally “painful cars,” are vehicles tricked out with all kinds of crazy body work and paint jobs so that they look like something out of an anime and are supposed to “hurt” just to look at. There’s a vibrant subculture of itasha owners and fans in Japan and they meet up every now and then to show off their wheels and talk shop. Take a look at our photo gallery and see if you don’t get a little depressed over your own car’s lack of fins.

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Perhaps Japan’s most painfully nerdy itasha car yet

Perhaps Japan’s most painfully nerdy <em>itasha</em> car yet

Japanese has plenty of phrases based on the word sha/automobile. Some of these are pretty straightforward, like Nihonsha and gaisha, which literally mean Japanese and foreign car, respectively. Things get just slightly more complicated with the truncated Amesha or American car.

Today, though, we bring you a fine specimen of itasha. Stemming from the word itai (“ouch”), itasha are cars plastered with anime decals that are so palpably hardcore in their devotion to illustrated fiction that they outright hurt to look at. But what we’re about to show you is awkward even by itasha standards.

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Malaysian car wash takes full service too far

Malaysian car wash takes full service too far

Is this really what you get in Malaysia when you make the mistake of asking the car wash attendant to clean your car “inside and out”!?

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Girl runs away from home to stop her parents from buying a Japanese car

Girl runs away from home to stop her parents from buying a Japanese car

International relations and teenagers–two things that are nearly impossible to understand. Decades of study have been devoted to both of these bewildering topics, and we’re still no closer to figuring either of them out. Fortunately, they rarely overlap!

However, sometimes even teens can get passionate about politics. And that’s when things get really, um, unique.

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Overload on overloading! 66 photos of vehicles and people carrying way too much

Overload on overloading! 66 photos of vehicles and people carrying way too much

As someone who’s never owned a car with a back seat, I’ve had to get creative when packing for a weekend trip or doing an especially extensive round of Christmas shopping. Between some Tetris-like loading of packages into the trunk (and occasionally having my passenger hold something on his or her lap), I’ve been able to haul some impressive loads. But I’ve got nothing on the crazy carrying capacity of these vehicles.

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Tokyo Motor Show 2013: Cars! Crowds! Comely models! 【Photos】

Tokyo Motor Show 2013: Cars! Crowds! Comely models! 【Photos】

Like a migratory bird made of carbon fiber and engine blocks, every two years the Tokyo Motor Show returns to give us all a glimpse at automakers’ visions of the future. RocketNews24 visited this year’s event, and we’re here to share with you our impressions and photos of the massive crowds, newest concept cars, and hottest current models (both automotive and female).

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