cars

Ordinarily-looking van gets transformed into amazing Japanese-style living room 【Video】

Ordinarily-looking van gets transformed into amazing Japanese-style living room 【Video】

There are two paradigms you can aim for in designing a car. One is a great vehicle, accelerating, turning, and braking with speed and precision. The other is a great living or hotel room, with stylish interior appointments and spacious seating.

The owner of this van is obviously in the second camp, and has modified his ride so that it doesn’t look anything like a car on the inside, but rather a Japanese inn on wheels.

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Toyota owner goes crazy with new driver marks, earns a little extra lane space on the road

Toyota owner goes crazy with new driver marks, earns a little extra lane space on the road

Japan has a couple of unique automotive regulations. For example, every other year cars have to undergo an extensive inspection to make sure they’re being properly maintained and haven’t been illegally modified (although you can get away with some pretty interesting modifications in the 24 months between checks). You have to make a full stop at all railroad crossings, regardless of whether or not there’s a train coming.

For new drivers, there’s even an additional rule, which states that for their first year on the road, they have to put a large sticker on their car advising surrounding motorists to be extra careful. But while the law states the vehicle must bear two stickers, one on the front and one on the rear, there’s apparently no upper limit, as one proud owner recently demonstrated.

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Vroom-vroom, meow-meow! Driver mods his taillights into awesome “Toro” cat patterns

Vroom-vroom, meow-meow! Driver mods his taillights into awesome “Toro” cat patterns

In Japan, all cars have to undergo a vehicle inspection called shaken every two years. The ostensible reason is to make sure each part of the car is in safe, working condition, but some motorists suspect the real reasons are to bilk additional streams of revenue from owners, as well as encourage them to trade in their current cars for new models, which can go three years before their first shaken.

The system does have one upside for enthusiasts. Since cars get officially inspected every other year, traffic cops in Japan aren’t nearly as zealous as their U.S. counterparts about issuing fix-up tickets for questionable modifications they spot on the street. This means that during the two-year period between shaken checks, you have a decent chance of getting away with illegal engine mods, non-compliant body kits, or awesome grey-area cat tail lights.

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Chibatman called in by police, receives their official approval

Chibatman called in by police, receives their official approval

A few weeks ago, a handful of motorists in Chiba Prefecture witnessed a sight few of us will ever be fortunate enough to see: a man dressed as Batman riding a customized trike, speeding down the expressway. Chibatman, as he soon came to be known, quickly caught the attention of not only comic fans around the world, but also the local police, who recently called the Caped Crusader in for a little chat.

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Long live the Roadster! We attend the world premiere of Mazda’s all-new Miata 【Video】

Long live the Roadster! We attend the world premiere of Mazda’s all-new Miata 【Video】

Mazda’s Roadster, also known as the Miata and MX-5, hit showrooms in 1989 and became an instant hit. In the years since, though, doomsayers have emerged every time a competing automaker releases a would-be rival, with predictions having been made that the BMW Z3, Porsche Boxter, Mercedes-Benz SLK, Toyota MR-S, Honda S2000, Pontiac Solstice, and Saturn Sky were all going to kill Mazda’s lightweight open sports car.

The three German cars are still around, although now at price points so far above the Roadster’s that they’re really not in competition with the Japanese Mazda. As for those other pretenders to the affordable convertible crown? All dead and buried. The Roadster’s even outlasted some of those companies, as Pontiac and Saturn have both shut down entirely.

With this history of success, it must have been tempting for Mazda to spend all of the Roadster’s 25th anniversary celebration patting itself on the back for a job well done. Instead, the automaker from Hiroshima chose to do fans one better, by unveiling the fourth generation of the world’s best-selling two-seat sports car.

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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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