For all the car enthusiasts out there, a visit to Toyota’s Automobile Museum is not to be missed. Located in the outskirts of Nagoya, neighbouring the company’s headquarters in the nearby city of Toyota, this museum showcases the evolution of the automobile industry by exhibiting cars from all over the world, starting from the late 1800s to the present day.
Toyota Motor Corporation, as we know it today, was founded in 1933 by Kiichiro Toyoda. The endeavour started as a subdivision of his father’s company, Toyoda Automatic Loom Works, but within two years of its inception, their first passenger car was released. In 1937, Toyota Motor Co. became its own independent company, and since then, they’ve gone on to push the limits of design and engineering in the car industry.
You might be wondering why they named the company “Toyota” instead of using the founder’s surname, “Toyoda”. Well, initially the company was named “Toyoda”, but during their search for a new logo, it was discovered that “Toyota” took eight brush strokes to write in Japanese compared to the ten strokes needed to write “Toyoda”. Not only was the new name quicker to jot down, but the number eight is considered lucky in Japan, so the name “Toyota” stuck.
Overview of the Exhibits
The Toyota Automobile Museum was opened in 1939 to commemorate the company’s 50th anniversary. The museum consists of two buildings, the Main Building and the Annex, where all of the exhibits, library, cafe, and museum store are located.
The first floor of the Main Building is dedicated to Toyota’s first production passenger car. The second floor features one of the permanent exhibits in the museum, where some of the first ever production automobiles from around the world can be found. Perhaps most noteworthy is the Benz Patent Motorwagen, the world’s first gasoline-powered vehicle. Also on the second floor is the René Lalique Car Mascots Gallery, an exquisite display of French glass artist René Lalique’s entire collection of car mascots. On the third floor is a diverse collection of vehicles manufactured after WWII from Japan, Europe, and the U.S. The models presented here are subject to change, but among them are the 1964 Ford Mustang, the 1966 Toyota Corolla, and the 1979 Volkswagen Golf.
The Annex has a permanent exhibit of its own, focused on the social history and progression of Japan from the mid-twentieth century onward, especially in regards to motorization. It was hard to imagine that Japan would become a global leader in the automotive industry back in the early 1900s when German and French car manufacturers were a decade ahead of the Japanese with their gasoline-powered vehicles. This exhibit tells the story of the country’s transformation through a curated selection of vehicles, as well as thousands of household items and cultural artifacts. A section of the Annex is also reserved for themed exhibits. Past themed exhibits include Vehicles Used for Special Jobs, Toyota Motor Sports Collection, and the 75th anniversary of Toyota Motors Corp.’s TOYOTA75. It should be noted that the permanent cultural exhibit at the Annex will be undergoing major renovation starting in 2018.
The nearest station to the Toyota Automobile Museum is Geidaidori Station. Please visit www.toyota.co.jp/Museum/english for more information about the museum, admission fees, operating hours, and floor plans.