All photos by Matt Stone

Most people might believe that Japan’s automotive history dates to sometime in the 1960s, because that’s when Datsuns and Toyota Coronas began showing up in those small “Imported Car Dealerships” in nearly every city in the US. Of course, this isn’t true, as the history of Japan’s larger carmakers dates back prior to WWII. And even then, Japan’s enthusiasm for cars extended well beyond its own borders—as evidenced by several of this marvelous country’s dedicated car museums. This is an enthusiast community that loves American muscle cars, sports cars, exotics, and motorsport as much as any other on earth.

Wherever in the world we go, we seek out the automotive epicenters in search of collections, events and museums, and there are many in Japan. We call your attention to these three:

Motorcar Museum of Japan (MMJ)

Welcome sign for Motorcar Museum of Japan

Welcome sign for Motorcar Museum of Japan

This privately owned car museum was somewhat surprising in that it lives in a small, rural, mostly agricultural community of Komatsu City, Ishikawa, near the city of Kanazawa. Kanazawa itself is worthy of your visit—an engaging meld of old and new, with a magnificent park and castle complex in its center and beauty everywhere you look.

Another surprising aspect of the MMJ is the building itself: a large, English colonial style structure that looks modestly out of place in Japan and in the Komatsu countryside. Inside you’ll find more than 500 cars of all stripes, and from around the world. They are loosely gathered by type and/or country of origin.

One part of the museum is called “sports cars city”, while another gathers American “land yacht” Lincolns and Cadillacs—which are very popular in Japan.

Car under parasol in Motorcar Museum of Japan

Car under parasol in Motorcar Museum of Japan

Of course, you’ll also find countless rows of Japanese and Chinese cars, trucks, and motorcycles. I promise, there are brands of cars and bikes here you’ll never have heard of, much less seen; some date back to the very earliest days of motorized transportation.

Do not go there expecting dazzling museum craft; there are certainly all sorts of ephemera, photos, and other archival items to augment the displays, but the cars are shown in fairly simple rows with just adequate lighting and signage often containing some charming misspellings and grammar goofs—still, we’re not making fun of their English, as we don’t speak beyond three words of Japanese.

No matter. You go here for the cars, packed and stacked into three large floor levels, thankfully connected via escalators. There’s also a charming gift shop, but no snack bar or café, so for a bite, you might plan on visiting other areas of Komatsu, which the staff can direct you to.

While it’s possible to get to this museum via buses and trains, it’s not particularly easy; the best way is to base yourself in Kanazawa for a day or two, then rent a car with a nav system and drive there; it’s neither far nor particularly difficult. Admission is inexpensive, and you’ll enjoy what you see.

Section of cars at Motorcar Museum of Japan

Section of cars at Motorcar Museum of Japan

Motorcar Museum of Japan

Futatsunashi-machi, Ikkanyama

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By: Matt Stone
Title: Rising Sun Car Museums
Sourced From:
Published Date: Tue, 05 Apr 2022 16:51:06 +0000

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