New Year Meeting 2012 – Starting the Year Off in Style
Report and photos by Len Clarke
For auto enthusiasts in Tokyo and its surrounding areas, the end of January means the New Year Meeting, an annual event that brings together an almost unimaginable array of cars and assorted vehicles, both domestic and foreign, for a day of auto-sensory overload. It’s a car lover’s dream.
Organized by the JCCA, the Japan Classic Car Association, this event attracts huge numbers of cars, car clubs and fans. The venue is located in the city’s waterfront district (Odaiba), so there’s no shortage of space – and the promoters have made the most of it. The 93 car clubs at the 2012 meet took up roughly half of the overall area, while the rest of the site is shared among the Display area (with 215 cars), the Flea Market and the Auto Jumble, consisting of nearly 60 booths that ring the perimeter of the site, selling all manner of goods and auto memorabilia. Recent years have also seen the inclusion of a Concours d’Elegance, which is showing a steadily increasing number of entries. The 2012 event celebrated Italian marques.
Tokyo-based classic car fanatics simply cannot find a better place to be this time of year. Seeing such a large number of rare, old and often forgotten models from the past is a huge treat. Cars that would be considered scarce in their home countries come out in droves for this one-day fest, and the fans pack the place from start to finish.
Winter in Tokyo is almost invariably sunny – and Sunday was no exception. In fact, this event has enjoyed perfect climes for many years running (though it did snow at the end last year!) Despite the bright sunshine however, the incessant blowing kept temperatures well down and most people were tightly wrapped up against the elements.
The growing number of fans coming to see the handiwork of the Japanese masters of design and engineering is proof positive there’s still a strong fascination with older machinery. Just looking at how many Skyline 2000s and 2000 GT-Rs, Toyota Celica 1600 GTs, Corolla Levins, Mitsubishi Gallants, Nissan Sunnys etc. there were, I was momentarily whisked back to the glorious seventies!
Another thing that struck me was the breadth of models the car clubs support; ranging from unique machines like the Mazda Cosmo Sport, Honda S800, Fiat 500, Mini, Subaru 360 (their first car), the pretty Isuzu 117 Coupe, Toyota Publica (predecessor to the Corolla) and Hino Contessa. Seeing such attention and care being paid to these cars really illustrated their lasting heritage.
The largest single-model grouping had to be the flock of Lotus Europa that always takes part. At latest count, it had surpassed 20 cars. There were similar numbers of some domestic models, but no other foreign car came close in terms of count.
Then there was the range and outright quirkiness of some of the machines on display. I was mesmerized. Things you usually see only in old films, like the gaggle of bubble cars, most of them BMW Isettas, but with a Messerschmitt, a Goggomobil and an Inter as well. Amazing.
While most cars were domestic, there was plenty of foreign metal too – mainly European, with a few American machines. Mini, considered a design icon in Japan, has always been popular. So too is BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Fiat (500 and X/19) and Citroen. But there’s more to it than that. One of the unique things about Japan is that there’s an audience or fan base for literally anything you can think of.
Any car that ever had a following in its home market is virtually guaranteed to create a stir in Japan. Couple that with an audience who not only has the desire, but also the means to keep these machines in pristine condition, and the future growth and success of the sector seems secure.
Japan New Year Meeting 2012 – Photo Gallery (click image for larger picture)
[Source: Len Clarke]