Permanent Exhibition

Japanese History of
Car Making

How the Thriving Japanese Auto Industry Came into Being

This small island country has become a global powerhouse in the auto industry.
How did it all begin, and what happened along the way?

When did car making start in Japan, and when did it become an industry? What challenges did the industry pioneers overcome? What support did they receive, and from whom? To answer these questions, let us go back in time to when the Japanese people first encountered an automobile and retrace the steps that led to the founding of the nation’s auto industry. We offer five different perspectives so that you can get a fuller picture.

A 70-Year Chronicle from the Encounter with an Automobile to the
Establishment of the Auto Industry in Japan

History Road

Footsteps of
Car Making in Japan

The “moving chronology” presents the flow of historical milestones in Japanese car making from 1898, when the first automobile came to Japan, to the present day. The chart, augmented with photos and animations, offers a visual history of car making in Japan.


Historical Episodes of the Japanese Auto Industry

This segment presents the formative process of the Japanese auto industry with panels and video images. The prologue panel focuses on the events surrounding the arrival of the first automobile in Japan in the late 19th century. The four video screens depict the history from 1911 to 1970 in four chapters, each presenting a short episode pivotal to the establishment of the Japanese auto industry. The epilogue panel covers the period from 1970 to the present and demonstrates how the Japanese auto industry gained a global presence by constantly addressing the needs of the times.

Chapter 1: The Birth Pang (1911–1932)
Chapter 2: The Two Innovators (1933–1945)
Chapter 3: Escaping Annihilation (1945–1962)
Chapter 4: Consolidating the Industry (1963–1970)

Touch anywhere on the four large screens to play the videos.


Key Persons Who Helped Build the Japanese Auto Industry

This segment introduces Japan’s car-making pioneers and industry founders. Featured content includes a comparison between Nissan founder Yoshisuke Aikawa and Toyota founder Kiichiro Toyoda, who pioneered the mass production of cars in Japan. Also included are profiles of Michio Suzuki, Tsuneji Matsuda, and Soichiro Honda, who entered the 4-wheeler business after WWII to fortify the Japanese auto industry. Visitors can intuitively navigate the content using the touch screens.


Family Trees of
Japanese Car Makers

The oversized chart traces the lineages of the 12 principal Japanese automakers still in operation all the way back to their origins, presenting a bird’s-eye-view of their historical progressions. The chart also highlights epoch-making cars in each company’s history. In conjunction with other presentations in this room, this chart helps you understand the historical, political, and company-specific contexts within which these automakers operated.

By the Numbers

The Japanese Auto Industry in Statistics

This infographic panel shows the annual production volume of Japanese cars from 1904, when the first car was built in Japan, through 2020. The graph is accompanied by other data, including automobile diffusion rates in Japan during the nation’s rapid motorization phase and related indices. Recent statistics show that nearly 5.5 million people are employed by automakers and peripheral businesses, demonstrating that auto manufacturing is indeed a key industry in the country.

To Enrich the Future Prospects of
People and the Automobile

It is our hope that visitors to this exhibition room will reflect on the long journey taken by Japanese automakers and share their dream of attaining a brighter future for people and the automobile.

The “Japanese History of Car Making” permanent exhibition room is located on the second floor of the Automobile Gallery. The exhibit is open to museum ticket holders.

- Supporting Organizations -
National Museum of Nature and Science,
Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association,
Isuzu Motors Ltd.,
Suzuki Motor Corporation,
Subaru Corporation,
Daihatsu Motor Co., Ltd.,
Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.,
Hino Motors, Ltd.,
Honda Motor Co., Ltd.,
Mazda Motor Corporation,
Mitsubishi Motors Corporation,
Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation,
UD Trucks Corporation,
Proterial, Ltd.
(Listed in no specific order)

For Further Exploration of the Theme

Relevant vehicles on display The Dawn of
Japanese Mass Production

In Zone 5 on the second floor of the Automobile Gallery include vehicles built in Japan from the 1920s through the 1940s, a period when the Japanese began to produce cars by themselves.

Commemorative booklet with extra content including historical backstories Japanese History of
Car Making Plus

Available at the museum shop, this booklet carries the entire content of the “Japanese History of Car Making” permanent exhibition, as well as historical backstories and other information that did not make it into the exhibition.

Some reference materials for the exhibition are housed here Toyota Automobile Museum Library

The library has a number of reference books used in the planning and production of the exhibition room, some of which are now out of print. This is the go-to place to check those materials.