cars

Batman spotted cruising the Japanese expressways as he trades Gotham City for Chiba Prefecture

Batman spotted cruising the Japanese expressways as he trades Gotham City for Chiba Prefecture

As a car-loving foreigner living in Japan, for me, any cruise around Tokyo can suddenly turn into an automotive photo safari. Japan has tons of cool domestic cars which were never exported to the U.S., and whenever I come across one in the wild, I feel the need to whip out my camera for a few photos.

But while I’m happy my photo collection includes snapshots of Mazda AZ-1s and Subaru 22B Imprezas, motorists in Chiba Prefecture recently spotted something even rarer, in the form of a street-legal trike being ridden by none other than Batman!

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The clever way Japanese drivers thank each other without saying a word【Video】

The clever way Japanese drivers thank each other without saying a word【Video】

Japanese culture places a lot of importance on taking care of yourself and not inconveniencing others. Sooner or later we all end up needing a little help, though, which is why the Japanese language has a half-dozen regularly used phrases that all mean “thank you.”

But while having that arsenal of expressions with which to show your gratitude comes in handy, it won’t do you much good if you want to thank someone who’s not in earshot, such as a fellow motorist who let you into their lane on the expressway. That’s why Japanese drivers follow a bit of automotive protocol that lets them deliver a message of thanks with the push of a button.

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Lamborghini Murcielago was such a hot ride it burned to death on the Tokyo expressway

Lamborghini Murcielago was such a hot ride it burned to death on the Tokyo expressway

With Tokyo’s extremely efficient public transportation system, there really isn’t much need to ever drive anywhere in downtown. Still, if you’re the owner of a sweet sports car, we imagine you’d be itching to take it out for a spin whenever you get the chance, especially on a day like last Sunday, when the city was blessed with perfect driving weather. The skies were clear, the humidity was remarkably low for a Japanese summer, and the temperature was pleasingly warm.

Things got a little too hot for the driver of one Lamborghini, though, whose exotic Italian car went up in flames on the Tokyo expressway.

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Itasha show at World Cosplay Summit lets cars get in on the anime costume fun

Itasha show at World Cosplay Summit lets cars get in on the anime costume fun

This summer, Nagoya once again served as the host city of the World Cosplay Summit. With anime fans arriving from all over, some of them came by car, and you know what that means: itasha, automobiles covered with anime graphics.

Held concurrently with the costuming competition was an itasha exhibition, and we strolled by to check out the rides adorned with their drivers’ favorite 2-D heroines.

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Yamaha releases engine-to-Japanese translation app, we peer into the minds of celebrity cars

Yamaha releases engine-to-Japanese translation app, we peer into the minds of celebrity cars

Translation apps are very popular for people visiting foreign lands. With only internet access and a tap of the finger you can convey “I swallowed a june bug” in any number of languages like Spanish (Me tragué un error junio) and Hatian Creole (Mwen vale yon ensèk mwa Jen). I’m pretty sure those are both wrong, but still better than I could do by myself with no knowledge of either language.

Now Yamaha has brought the translation app beyond the boundaries of humanity and into the realm of the machine with their engine revving translation app, RevTranslator. As the name suggests, this app will listen to an engine and deliver its message in Japanese.

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See Toyota’s cute and compact i-ROAD in action on Tokyo’s streets

See Toyota’s cute and compact i-ROAD in action on Tokyo’s streets

Toyota Motor Corporation’s sleek and compact vehicle shows off its moves in a new promotional video after successful public trials in Tokyo. Watch these cute and colorful little vehicles whizz past the city’s landmarks and glide around corners while leaning at an incredible angle.

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Stylish web anime from Yamaha reminds us of an important truth: motorcycles are cool

Stylish web anime from Yamaha reminds us of an important truth: motorcycles are cool

In the beginning, motorized vehicles were designed to be the prefect horse. They’d get you from A to B while allowing you to bypass the bowleggedness and poop shoveling that were inherent parts of equestrian transportation. With time, though, things changed. Cars got bigger and comfier. Plush, roomy interiors designed to isolate passengers from outside sounds and elements moved the design target from the perfect horse to the perfect living room.

So how do you communicate the appeal of a motorcycle to younger people who’ve grown up in these conditions? How do you get them excited about something that sacrifices all of those creature comforts and doesn’t insolate the connection between you, the machine, and the road, but enhances it?

If you’re Yamaha, you create a stylish anime series, and put it on YouTube for all to see.

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Nintendo power: Mercedes-Benz Japan sees influx of customers following Super Mario commercial

Nintendo power: Mercedes-Benz Japan sees influx of customers following Super Mario commercial

Remember back in May this year when Mercedes-Benz teamed up with Nintendo to create an unusual little ad for the new Mercedes-Benz GLA? Featuring none other than Nintendo’s Super Mario behind the wheel of the sleek SUV, the commercial became quite the hit, with media and news outlets all over the world reporting on it.

Well, as it happens, it wasn’t just YouTube users the commercial was appealing to: Mercedes-Benz Japan has recently announced that it has seen a marked increase in visitors to its showrooms and demand for the car driven by this muscular Mario was far higher than expected.

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Honda readying a Fuel Cell Vehicle for buyers next year, just in time to challenge Toyota

Honda readying a Fuel Cell Vehicle for buyers next year, just in time to challenge Toyota

Toyota recently announced it plans to begin consumer sales of a Fuel Cell Vehicle sometime around the beginning of 2015, which has the potential to be a huge step towards a more environmentally-friendly system of personal transportation. Rival carmaker Honda isn’t about to let Japan’s largest auto manufacturer have this new field all to itself, though, as it looks to be moving ahead with plans to start selling an FCV of its own within the country that aims to be the class leader in both performance and price.

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10 car names Japanese bloggers think are funny to foreigners (and 8 that actually are!)

10 car names Japanese bloggers think are funny to foreigners (and 8 that actually are!)

As a teenager,  I spent hours playing racing games on our PlayStation, trying to elicit compliments from the miniskirted race queen in Rage Racer or trying to smash all my brother’s records in Gran Turismo. One thing that bugged me in these games was the goofy car names: Rage Racer’s fictional Lizard Hijack truck is as clumsily-named as it is boxy (maybe the bed was full of kidnapped chameleons?) Gran Turismo features real-life Subaru Impreza WRX TypeR STi, which is always annoying to read. I guess they want to say it’ll ‘imprez ya,’ but if it’s got an STI, you might need some antibiotics afterwards.

It turns out I’m not the only one who finds Japanese car names strange and amusing. The search term “funny Japanese car names” is so common that Japanese bloggers are writing about the names that the English-speaking world is talking about. The funniest part is often that the bloggers don’t quite understand why they’re funny, over-explaining a joke that wasn’t there.

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Powered by eels – We eat at the founder of Honda’s favorite unagi restaurant

Powered by eels – We eat at the founder of Honda’s favorite unagi restaurant

Soichiro Honda, the man who founded Honda Motor Co., was once quoted as saying that the best-selling car cannot be the best-driving car, because the compromises needed to become the former are incompatible with the lack of compromises required to be the latter.

It’s hard not to respect a person with such unflinching standards, and even want to emulate him a little. So when we found out one of the legendary engineer’s favorite restaurants was just a short train ride from our office in downtown Tokyo, we decided to check it out. Even after we found out it’s famous for its grilled eel livers.

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Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell powered car ready for sale this December

Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell powered car ready for sale this December

Although the technology has been talked about for quite some time now, the concept of using oxygen and hydrogen to power an automobile seems poised to finally hit the market.

According to reports, the Toyota Motor Corporation has recently declared that their sedan-type Fuel Cell Vehicle (FCV) will begin production at the end of this year. At the moment Toyota claims this would make them the first automaker in the world to market such a vehicle to the public at large.

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No, a bridge didn’t collapse – Tokyo’s crazy Hakozaki highway junction really looks like this

No, a bridge didn’t collapse – Tokyo’s crazy Hakozaki highway junction really looks like this

Being a guy who likes driving but has a pretty bad sense of direction, when I lived in Southern California I kept a copy of the local Thomas Bros. road atlas in my car. Having grown up with cheap, easy-to-use paper maps made GPS seem like a nice but exorbitant luxury, and when I first moved to Japan I couldn’t understand why navigation systems were so universally considered a must-have by drivers here.

Then I saw things like the crazy Hakozaki Junction of the Tokyo expressway, and the need for some high-technology guidance started to make sense.

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Super Mercedes Brothers! Mario teams up with Benz for new ad, game content 【Video】

Super Mercedes Brothers! Mario teams up with Benz for new ad, game content 【Video】

Isn’t it a little weird that whenever Princess Peach gets kidnapped, and ostensibly needs to be rescued as soon as possible, Mario literally runs off to save her? Why is it that when time is of the essence, Nintendo’s greatest hero insists on doing the job on foot? After all, it’s not like he can’t drive, since there are now eight titles in the Mario Kart racing series.

Really, it’s about time Mario got himself some motorized transportation, and a star of his caliber needs a suitably prestigious ride. Something like a new Mercedes-Benz GLA, perhaps.

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China to remove six million cars from its roads in an effort to make city air breathable again

China to remove six million cars from its roads in an effort to make city air breathable again

Chinese cities have featured a lot in the news over the past few years. With the country experiencing rapid economic growth and its industries going into overdrive – though often with scant regard for the environment – the air quality in some cities has deteriorated to the point that health organisations have warned against spending too much time outdoors. The country’s rivers, too, bear the scars of progress as factories pump tons of waste into them, in some cases turning the water dark red.

Thankfully, though, the Chinese government has pledged to address the situation, and has this week announced plans to remove as many as six million vehicles from its roads in an effort to detoxify city air.

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Extreme Japanese bargain hunting – We buy a car for 10 bucks

Extreme Japanese bargain hunting – We buy a car for 10 bucks

Japan has an image as an expensive country, but with a little searching, you can find some pretty good deals. For example, the other day I went out and got a haircut, bought a shirt, and had a pretty good sushi lunch, and none of those three expenditures cost me more than a thousand yen (US $9.80).

Still, my bargain hunting skills can’t compete with those of our Japanese-language correspondent Go, who with 980 yen just bought himself a car.

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Daihatsu shows off the Copen, its sporty new convertible with room for (barely) two

Daihatsu shows off the Copen, its sporty new convertible with room for (barely) two

The town of Hakone, located high in the mountains of Kanagawa Prefecture, is one of Japan’s most popular tourist destinations. Visitors come to enjoy its soothing hot springs, beautiful views of Mt. Fuji, and art museums focusing on outdoor sculpture installations and Venetian glass.

Hakone also happens to be home to some of the best driving roads in east Japan, too, which is why Daihatsu picked the site to show off its new compact convertible, the Copen, to fans and press.

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Nissan’s endurance racing team combines PlayStation training, hybrid power, crazy design

Nissan’s endurance racing team combines PlayStation training, hybrid power, crazy design

Most if the time, video games and sports cars are two of the more trivial things in life. That said, sometimes it’s those non-productive luxuries that give us the recharge we need to be industrious in our daily grind. Some people draw energy and inspiration from an afternoon spent with a good book or favorite album, others get it from a few hours working a PS4 controller or rowing through a crisp-shifting gearbox.

Competitive gaming and motorsports are getting another boost in legitimacy this summer, as the first has led to a job for some talented virtual racers, and their team’s car is helping pave the way for cleaner, more efficient engines.

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Hey! Somebody parked their Gundam car in the middle of this Tokyo theater!

Hey! Somebody parked their Gundam car in the middle of this Tokyo theater!

Believe it or not, the anime with a character named Full Frontal isn’t an animated porno, as Mr. Frontal is actually the villain in Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn

As with most installments of the Gundam saga, Unicorn isn’t really a direct sequel to any of the more than two dozen pre-existing anime to bear the Gundam name. Still, there’re plenty of winks and nods to fans who’ve been around since the franchise’s start. Full Frontal’s blond hair, penchant for masks, and complex psychology closely mirror that of the original 1979 Mobile Suit Gundam’s antagonist, Char.

So it’s only fitting that since last year Char got his own car, now Full Frontal has a customized ride too.

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Every weekend is an itasha car show at Akihabara’s UDX parking garage

Every weekend is an itasha car show at Akihabara’s UDX parking garage

A friend of mine has a theory about Japanese pop idol performances. In his opinion, the real show isn’t the performers on stage, but the fans in the audience putting their unabashed passion on display as they cover themselves from head to toe in clothing bearing the likeness of their favorite singer.

You can make a similar argument about Tokyo’s anime shopping mecca of Akihabara. Sure, the neighborhood is packed with specialty stores, each of which is in turn packed with the rarest and/or latest merchandise. As interesting as the inventories of professional products may be, though, they’re often upstaged by the creations of fans who flock to the district to show them off, such as the anime-decaled cars of Japan’s itasha capital, the Akihabara UDX parking garage.

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