Ran When Parked recently visited Toyota’s History Garage museum in Odaiba, an entertainment-focused area of Tokyo, Japan. The museum is part of the Palette Town complex that is also home to a huge Toyota showroom, an even bigger maze-like shopping center called Venus Port, a Ferris wheel, a casino and so forth.
The History Garage museum is located across from the Mega Web showroom in the heart of Venus Fort. The entire building has been designed to look like 17th century Europe so it features pseudo-vintage architecture with fountains and fake sky-like ceilings that will look familiar to folks who have spent time at the Cesar’s Palace hotel in Las Vegas.
Interestingly, it looks like the museum was built so men would have a place to kill time while their wife / girlfriend is busy shopping. We did just that and stepped into a decor that mixes American styling cues like an old Texaco-like gas station with an oddly stereotypical replica of 20th century Italy complete with fake graffiti on the wall and a market that sells plastic fruits and vegetables.
Although it is owned and run by Toyota, the museum is similar to Volkswagen’s Zeithaus museum in Wolfsburg, Germany, in the sense that it aims to group some of the world’s most iconic cars under one roof. One of our favorite cars on display was a 1962 Mazda Carol, a kei car that has become a rare sight on Japanese roads today.
The Carol demonstrates how Japanese companies turned to innovative solutions in order maximize the use of space in tiny kei cars. Engineers managed to build a car that stretches just 117 inches (290 centimeters) long but still offers four doors, a four-cylinder engine, four seats and a respectable amount of trunk space. The four-cylinder in question was a 358cc unit that sent 18 horsepower to the rear wheels via a four-speed manual transmission. The Carol’s engine has gone down in history as one of the smallest four-cylinder units ever built.
Other highlights included a Toyota 2000GT, a Nissan Skyline GT-R and a Toyota Sports 800, but the displays seem to change on a regular basis so you might not see the same cars we saw if you trek out to Odaiba. One of the more permanent displays is a long hallway that features hundreds of model cars grouped by their country of origin.
The bottom floor of the museum features a gift shop that sells books and models as well as a cafe, and there are a couple of additional cars on display. The models are expensive pieces designed for collectors so don’t think you’ll walk out with a suitcase full of Tomicas – that said, Tomica models are sold across the shopping center in the Mega Web showroom.
Some of the cars are difficult to photograph because they’re roped off (see the Toyota Model AC below), and we highly recommend you bring a tripod because the top floor of the museum is generally poorly lit.