Toyota Automobile Museum in Japan: mecca for car lovers

Toyota Automobile Museum Japan
A visit to the Toyota Automobile Museum in Japan’s Aichi Prefecture is a dream come true for any type of gearhead. Photos by Benjamin Yong.

If you’re a fan of Toyotas, products from the Toyota group or just automobiles in general, you owe it to yourself to add a trek to the Toyota Automobile Museum (TAM) on your bucket list.

Located in Nagakute City, Japan, the facility is owned and operated by the automaker and resides in the same prefecture as their world headquarters. Open in 1989, TAM has a simple purpose, says Shinji Hamada, vehicle curatorial group manager.

“We are committed to exploring the history of the automobile, sharing our insights with visitors and employing our world-class collection of cars to enrich the future prospects of people and the automobile,” says Hamada.

Toyota Automobile Museum exterior

Spread out over a total of 150,000 square-feet through six floors and two buildings, the facility was constructed as part of the company’s 50th anniversary projects. Although Toyota is in the name, any type of vehicle that holds some kind of industry significance from the late 1800s to the new millennium make up the 150 or so models on display.

In the Main Building, the story begins not with Japanese cars, but ones from Europe and America. There’s a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost from 1910; a Volkswagen 1938 Beetle Prototype; a very regal 1951 Jaguar XK120.

Toyopet badge

While the western vehicle exhibit proved intriguing, I was eager to see the entire level dedicated to historical Japanese cars. It did not disappoint. First timers may be confused when they see several models with a badge that reads “Toyopet.” Kind of like how Toyota sells products aimed at young people under the Scion moniker in North America, there are similar nameplates in Japan for different segments.

It’s fascinating to see the early beginnings of what we now consider to be modern-day legends, some never made available in North America. You may know the Toyota Corolla is currently in 11th generation — it all started with the KE10 chassis, debuting in 1966, and there’s a pristine example at TAM. In fact, almost everything shown is either in immaculate original condition or spotlessly restored.

1966 Toyota Corolla

Others include a 1989 Eunos Roadster (Mazda MX-5 Miata), a 1964 Honda S500 convertible and a 1968 Toyota 2000GT. An entire section pays homage to the manufacturer’s best selling Prii, something that doesn’t come as a surprise considering nearly half the cars I saw driving around were Toyota hybrids.

If you’re not exhausted after taking all this in, you can make your way back to down to the ground and wander over to the annex, an addition to the museum that explores beyond four wheels.

Toyota Automobile Museum Annex wall

“In 1999, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the museum, we added the Annex Building to exhibit the Japanese motorization history with its lifestyle,” says Hamada.

Split into six zones, each deals with a different time period or milestone.

For instance, Zone B discusses postwar Japan, and how it is linked to the rise of the middle-class and the ensuing proliferation of electronic innovations such as rice cookers and cameras. Another zone talks about how automobiles become more affordable and a private car for every household turns into a reality, illustrated by a recreation of the inside of a typical mid-20th century garage.

Toyota Automobile Museum wooden cart

Pop culture is put under the spotlight as well and that area offers insight into decades-old fashion, music, media and entertainment. Check out the early Japanese market version of the Game of Life.

General admission to TAM is 1,000 yen, about 10 dollars CAD. You can find additional info on their website.

Here are more pictures from the museum:

Toyota Automobile Museum entrance

Toyota Automobile Museum 1930 Japanese cars

Toyota Automobile Museum floors

Toyota Publica

1989 Eunos Roadster

Lexus LFA
Toyota Automobile Museum Rene Lalique gallery

Toyota FCV-R

Toyota Corolla Levin AE86

Volkswagen 1938 Beetle Prototype

Toyota Sports 800

Toyota Sports 800 interior

1975 Honda Civic

Toyota Prius charging

Toyota Automobile Museum Annex sign

Toyota Automobile Museum Annex cameras

Toyota Celica Liftback

Toyota Automobile Museum bicycles

Posted by Benjamin Yong

Benjamin Yong is a freelance journalist and communications professional living in Richmond, B.C. He is often found writing about cars and the auto industry, amongst other things, or driving around in his work-in-progress 1990 Mazda MX-5. Twitter: @b_yong Instagram: @popuplights