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Best selling cars in Japan

Updated on May 10, 2015

Driving in Japan

As you can probably guess the majority of Japanese drive Japanese cars. Why? The Japanese are proud of their automobile industry and it's quite expensive to drive and maintain foreign cars. As a foreigner driving in Japan, especially the Kanto area Tokyo, Saitama, Kanagawa, Chiba etc.. we don't feel as much freedom as we may do in our home countries due to constant traffic jams during most part of the day. Japan car exporting is one of the biggest industries.

Most roads have only one or two lanes and there are numerous junctions with filtered traffic lights for right turns. I suppose this is for safety but causes tremendous delays for right turning traffic.

Surprisingly police do not patrol the roads as much as in the west, most police on are bicycles patrolling the street. As a foreigner I thought I'd be pulled over frequently while driving but I'm more likely to be pulled over on my bicycle.

For most Japanese with families of 4 or more, wagon type cars as per the picture below are very popular. Also please see my list below of the most most popular cars in Japan. From the beginning 2010.

Honda N Box (K-Car)


Japan has a special K-Class car. K meaning "Kei / 軽" - light (weight) in Japanese. These have 660 cc only but many are fitted with Turbo chargers in order for them to run a decent speed. K Cars are very popular with women or young men, due to the low cost, size and low fuel consumption.

K-Cars tend not to be very popular with foreigners due to the smaller physical size. Some foreigners with long legs e.g. 6ft or over may find it rather limited for space, even with the seat all the way back.

Subaru Levorg

The Subaru Levorg is a little pricey however seems to be at the most popular end of the Japanese market at the moment.

Most popular cars in Japan - End of 2014

  1. Subaru Levorg
  2. Mazda Demio
  3. Suzuki Hussler
  4. Mazda CX-3
  5. Toyota Harrier
  6. Honda Fit
  7. Toyota Voxy
  8. Mazda CX-5
  9. Honda Vezel
  10. Subaru Forester

Different names

Some of the above names for cars may differ in Europe and the US.

Another thing to note is that 99% of Japanese cars are Automatic. No many people have a Manual/Automatic driving licence, most have just the automatic. After driving in the Japan, especially in the cosmopolitan area you will begin to appreciate automatic cars. Also a lot of recent Japanese cars have CVT (continuous variable transmission) engines. These cars have no physical gear steps, but instead a computer controller belt system which opens and closes giving the most effect RPM at any given time. The result is more miles to the gallon and faster acceleration at higher speeds.

Types of Japanese and their cars

After living in Japan for so many years you get to recognize a pattern as in what type of Japanese drive what cars. The Japanese on the darker side, e.g. Yakuza, Chinpira (the Yakuzu's henchmen), Yankees (Street Mobs) all tend to love Toyotas. The Yakuza may drive the higher end Toyota Majesta or Lexus models whereas the Chinpira and the Yankees tend to drive much older Toyota Crowns but extremely customized and noisey.

Larger families with normally drive wagon type cars, typical a 7 or 8 seater e.g. Honda StepWagn, Nissan Serena, or Toyota Voxy.

Females tend to like the smaller K-Cars with the 660cc Engines.

Successful businessmen (or women) tend to drive the foreign imports e.g. BMW, Mercedes, Audi etc..The prices for foreign cars can be up to twice the price in Japan, therefore 95% of Japanese drive their own cars, which makes sense anyway. Japanese are proud of their motors and should be.

Japanese Typical Chinpira Car

Notice how the above car is set to an extreme negative caber setting. In Japanese this is called Oni-Kyan. Oni mean Ogre, and the Kyan is short for the Japanese pronunciation of Camber (Kyanbaa).

What's you most prefer Japanese car maker

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    • WheelScene profile image

      WheelScene 4 months ago

      Awesome article I've always like Japanese cars. This is a good breakdown. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      jeff 2 years ago

      my names jeff

    • profile image

      jeff 2 years ago