Automobile timeline represented by 1/43 scale models
This section traces the history of automobiles from the mid-18th century to the present day through model cars. There are three groups of showcases that are chronologically arranged, separated by two World Wars. The models in the front row are those of Japanese make. Those in the middle and back rows are American and European car models, respectively.
Vehicle culture as seen in early printed matter
Nishiki-e, Hikifuda, Uchiwa-e, Sugoroku
As Japan abandoned its isolationist policy in the mid-19th century to pursue modernization under the Meiji government, new vehicles—such as horse-drawn carriages, rickshaws, and railcars—were introduced. These novel means of transport are captured vividly in color woodblock prints of the time.
* The color prints are exhibited in monthly rotation for their protection.
Automobiles and publications
Automobile magazines & catalogs
This section exhibits some 60 automobile magazines inaugurated between 1894 and 2000 or thereabouts in Europe, the U.S., Japan, and elsewhere, including the first automobile magazine in the world, La Locomotion Automobile. The cover arts give a testimony to the changing times. Also on display are about 150 automobile catalogs, sorted by decade.
The museum has about 300 automobile posters in its collection, of which 20 or so are selected for display under a specific theme (automakers, auto parts and accessories manufacturers, motor shows, etc.)
* The exhibits are rotated every two or three months for their protection and in line with the change of theme.
The birth of the automobile led to the creation of numerous auto manufacturing businesses. Their peak numbers surpassed 500 on each side of the Atlantic, although more than half of them went out of business due to the Great Depression that began in 1929. The 400 or so car badges on display here represent the brand images of their respective manufacturers, as well as their passion for automaking.
From around 1910 to the first half of the 1930s, mascots were in vogue among car owners as a distinctive and fashionable ornament, a good luck charm, and a form of self-expression. Some 130 metal mascots are on exhibit here, along with a rare complete collection of 29 glass mascots produced by French glass designer René Lalique on permanent display.
Stamps fascinate many collectors. In Japan, for instance, there was a craze for stamp collecting in the 1950s and 1960s. As automobile-themed stamps were eagerly sought by dedicated collectors, an increasing variety of beautiful stamps featuring iconic cars and popular models were issued around the world. Of the more than 15,000 kinds of automobile stamps that have been issued to date, we present about 1,200, including the world’s first automobile stamp.
Toy cars and games featuring automobiles
This section exhibits some 780 toy cars and games, including Japanese tin cars exported to the U.S. and Europe in the 1950s, plastic model kits, slot cars, mini 4WDs, and car video games. Don’t miss the world’s first die-cast miniature car and the world’s first radio-controlled car!
As more and more people came to own automobiles after the gasoline-powered motorcar was invented in the late 19th century, the use of license plates to identify individual vehicles gradually spread worldwide. About 80 license plates from various countries are exhibited here.
Literature, manga, cinema, music
This corner is dedicated to some 170 works of literature, manga comics, movies, music, and so on in which automobiles play a key role. The way automobiles are depicted in these works gives us important clues as to how people viewed automobiles in different periods and how they related to these vehicles.