Friday, February 9, 2018

Toyota Museums: Havens for Car Enthusiasts

Toyota is one of Japan's popular car manufacturers; probably the largest in Japan. The public can learn about this titan of a company, with over 100 years of history, through its four museums in Aichi Prefecture: Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology, Toyota Automobile Museum, Toyota Kaikan Museum, and Toyota Kuragaike Commemorative Hall.  During my trip, I visited the Toyota museums which focused on cars.

Monday to Saturday 930AM to 5PM
Free admission

The Toyota Kaikan Museum, right next to the Toyota Headquarters, has exhibits about Toyota's eco-friendly approach through their hybrid cars (pretty cool cross-section models of hybrid cars!), about technologies they have developed to create safe cars, about their production process (some displays in this area are interactive), and finally, a showroom of their latest car models (including their luxury line, Lexus).

A car engine

 Fuel cell system

 i-Road with an Active Lean System

 This car won in the 24 Hours Endurance Race

 Lexus vehicles

Monday to Friday 1030AM to 1PM
Free admission
Advance reservation required (as early as three months prior to desired date)

The reason I went to Toyota Kaikan Museum was actually for the Toyota Plant Tour. The meetup point for the tour was at the Toyota Kaikan Museum. From there, a bus took us to the Toyota Plant, a 20-minute drive from the museum.

Toyota has several plants around Japan, and the plant we visited was making Prius and Camry models.

For someone who knows how to drive but knows nothing about cars, the Toyota Plant Tour was very interesting. I learned how a car is made: from stamping (steel sheets are cut and formed into automobile body parts) to welding (400 parts welded by robots!) to painting (again, by robots) to quality checks (for dents and paint) by sight and hand, to assembling (installation of all the other parts of the cars—electrical, engine, dash, chassis, seats, steering wheel, tires, windshield, etc), then inspection of the finished automobile (speed, brakes, wheel alignment, etc).

It was during assembly we got to watch them work up close. Installing the dash, the engine, the interiors, etc. Inspections were then made after the assembly. I thought it was amazing how the assembly line is not only for one car model but for multiple models. How do they not get confused? Of course they have their processes in place to avoid mistakes.

No cameras allowed during the Plant Tour, so here are dioramas of the assembly line that I saw in the Toyota Kaikan Museum.

 Diorama of the Toyota production line

Diorama of the Toyota production line

Tuesday to Sunday 930AM to 5PM
Admission fee 800 yen

The Toyota Automobile Museum is just as its name suggests: it's an automobile museum. But not just for Toyota cars! It was initially opened to showcase Japanese-made vehicles, but now it houses over 140 cars from around the world, from the 1880s up to the present. It is quite a collection! As one moves from one exhibit to another, one is transported through time, witnessing the evolution of automobiles.

Included in the exhibit are a three-wheeled Benz from 1886, said to be the first gasoline-powered car, with a top speed of 15kph; a Benz Velo from 1894, one of the earliest commercially produced automobiles; a De Dion-Bouton from 1898, a three-wheeled bicycle with a motor, which was very popular in Europe at that time. Then came the cars that looked like Archie Andrews's red jalopy! And the expensive brands like Rolls Royce, Cadillac, Daimler, Bentley, Bugatti (to name a few)...and the Japanese brands like Toyota (of course, it's the Toyota Automobile Museum after all), Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi, etc. There were so many shiny classic cars to drool over!

 1886 three-wheeled Benz (left) and 1894 Benz Velo (right)

 De Dion-Bouton from 1898

 1902 Baker Electric. Yes, an electric car!

Does this 1909 Thomas Flyer Model L look like Archie Andrews's jalopy?

The Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Gran Sport (1930) won many races

 1955 Mercedes Benz 300SL Coupe

Clockwise from top left: Fujicabin Model 5A (1955), Messerschmitt KR200 (1955),
BMW Isetta (1959), Hino Renault Model PA62 (1962)

These Toyota museums are easily accessible from Nagoya City via train rides:
  • Toyota Kaikan Museum — From Nagoya Station, take the JR Tokaido Line to Okazaki Station, then transfer to the Aichikanjo Line to Mikawa-Toyota Station. Toyota Kaikan Museum is a 15-minute walk from Mikawa-Toyota Station.
  • Toyota Automobile Museum — From Nagoya Station, take the Subway Higashiyama Line to Fujigaoka Station, then take the Tobu Kyuryo Line (Linimo) to Geidaidori Station. Toyota Automobile Museum is a 5-minute walk from Geidaidori Station.
This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

Chubu Challenge 2017
Eating and Gawking in Nagoya
Toyota Museums: Havens for Car Enthusiasts (you're here!)
Inuyama Guesthouse Kodinmari
Inuyama Castle Town

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