By Steve & Tamami Laser reporting from Tokyo, Japan
Leave it to the Japanese to come up with a way to sell cars – without actually selling them. Toyota’s Mega Web is part car museum, vehicle showcase and ride-and-drive, yet you can’t actually buy a car there.
The idea is a soft-sell approach that promotes the latest vehicles in a relaxed, no-pressure, feel-good atmosphere. If you’re planning a visit to Tokyo, this is a must-see attraction. And there’s plenty of things to do there for kids of all ages.
Welcome to Palette Town
Mega Web is located at Palette Town, an amusement area near the waterfront that has many other attractions. It’s easy to make this a full-day adventure. Nearby attractions include museums, parks and the huge convention center, Tokyo Big Sight.
Very clever planning separates the two main Mega Web buildings by a huge “outlet mall” called Venus Fort. This three-level shopping paradise offers plenty of things to do for those who may not be up to a full-day of car adventures.
While we were waiting for the museum to open, we took a short walk to the nearby DiverCity Tokyo Plaza and were greeted by the “Giant Gundam” robot figure.
This shopping plaza has plenty of stores including Japan’s popular “UniQLO” and we even spotted a Tower record store, which has pretty much evaporated in America.
Mega Web History Garage
We decided to start our tour at the Mega Web History Garage. Just like Toyota’s main Automobile Museum in Nagoya, this museum is filled with classic cars from Japan, Europe and America.
Displays here run through the “Automotive Golden Age” years of 1950-’70 (although they do have a DeLorean too) with an eclectic collection of beautifully restored models that run the gamut from Toyota to Ferrari to Chevrolet and Volkswagen.
We arrived at the History Garage shortly after its doors opened at 11:00 am on a weekday, avoiding the weekend crowds. Walking in the door we were greeted by the Historic Car Collection including a Toyopet Crown, the model that launched Toyota in America way back in 1958 and a rare 2000GT sports car.
A separate room has a great display of Japanese cars from most brands with restored milestone cars from Toyota, Datsun, Honda, Mazda, Subaru and Isuzu. These highly collectible models are on the short list for aficionados of Japanese classics.
While the diminutive Toyota Sports 800, shown here in a different display, has now become incredibly popular since it’s from the same era as the 2000GT, it’s still affordable, and it looks like a 3/4th scale replica of its larger cousin.
Many of the cars on display have been restored by the museum. A glassed-in area called the “Restore Pit” had current projects underway including a vintage Ford Mustang and Cadillac convertible.
A sight that some might miss is a hallway dubbed “Corridor” that’s a 30-meter stretch lined with shelves and bookcases displaying model cars, artwork and even books filled with restoration pictures that you can sit and browse.
Those looking to take mementos home with them are offered a wide array of collectibles for sale in the shop called “Grease GPS.” If our budget permitted, we would fill up on both the pre-built die-cast cars and model kits. There’s plenty of books and magazines available too.
If all this touring works up an appetite, order a latte and pastry from the Alessandro Nannini Café, take a seat and look out the windows at a courtyard that has more classics on display.
Venus Fort Shopping Mall
Then, it’s time to make the journey on foot to the Toyota City Showcase. It’s located at the other end of Venus Fort. We walked through the lower level and spent time browsing at Pet Paradise, one of the most amazing pet food stores we’ve ever seen.
There’s many diversions for kids here too. We marveled at “Hello Kitty Kawaii Paradise” wishing that we had brought our grand nieces and nephews with us from central Japan.
Toyota City Showcase
Out the door and across another courtyard (which has become a famous site in a “flash mob video”) is the entrance to the showcase. This giant structure includes new, concept and racing vehicles from Toyota and other brands.
We spent time crawling around a wide array of models that Toyota doesn’t sell in the U.S. on display in the appropriately named “Toyota Line-Up Zone.” We really liked Toyota’s Noah, a small van that offers both gasoline and hybrid models.
Prior to visiting Mega Web, we spent time with our niece and her family in Kyoto. As owners of a previous generation Noah, they find it to be just the right size for navigating some of the very narrow historic streets.
The new Toyota Harrier, which went on sale in Japan just a few weeks before our visit, was also on display at Mega Web. It too comes in gasoline and hybrid versions.
This vehicle is important as it provides a preview of the next-generation Lexus RX (they’re cousins). Imagine the new Harrier with the Lexus spindle grille, more luxury features and higher prices.
Toyota has long offered luxury vehicles like Harrier under its own brand name in Japan. The Crown and Century are other long-running favorites that don’t appear to compete directly with Lexus. Keep in mind that Lexus didn’t start selling vehicles in Japan until 2005 – some 15 years after the brand was launched in the U.S.
The “Global Discovery Zone” offers a long line of racing cars and promotional vehicles, and we even saw a new Tesla on display.
At the back of this floor is the “Ride One” area where adults can test-drive the latest Toyota models on an outdoor 1.3-kilometer test course.
Walk upstairs using a ramp or elevator (there’s a huge separate elevator that the staff uses to transport cars to the second-floor display) and explore the “Gazoo Racing” display and the “Waku-Doki” Zone where you can sit and chat about cars.
Separate areas for the kids include a “Ride Studio,” “Petit Ride One” and a “Fun Kart Ride.” Also on the second floor outside is the mammoth “Giant Sky Wheel” that towers above the area. It can be seen miles away and features a beautiful light show at night.
Toyota Mega Web is located at 3-12, Aomi 1-chome, Koto-ku, Tokyo. It can be reached via light rail using the local Rinkai Line, stopping at the Tokyo Teleport Station. This is about a 24 minute ride from the JR Shinjuku Station.
If you’re planning a visit to Japan, or would like to keep up with the latest displays and information, click here for the Toyota Mega Web website.
Story, photos and videos ©2014 CarNichiWa