Automesse is an annual auto show that is held in Osaka every February at INTEX, Osaka’s international expo complex (near Nakafuto station). Automesse occupies all six of the buildings at INTEX. There are some large manufacturers who occupy large spaces at Automesse but most of the event is for customizations.
Honda- The Honda NSX was this year’s main attraction from the big car makers. The Honda NSX (New Sports eXperience) is known in America as the Acura NSX. Production of the first generation NSX series ran 1990-2005, halting due to the slow economy. The second generation of NSX came back in 2016 with a new sporty vehicle with a mid-sized had usually had a 40 minute line for visitors who wanted a chance to chance to sit behind the wheel and pose for photos. The new model is made from some innovative new lightweight materials and is powered by a 600 hp engine. Only 201 units of the Acura NSX were sold in America in 2016.
Daihatsu – Daihatsu is now owned by Toyota. Daihatsu is relatively unknown outside of Japan as the company specializes in the kei car. “Kei car,” or kei jidousha ( 軽自動車 ), means “light automobile” and they are designed for Japan with their small frames and engines. Japan has special regulations for parking, taxes and insurance which favor kei cars. Kei cars receive special license plates that reflect these privileges but there are technical limitations for kei cars as defined by 1998 regulations:
Length: 3.4 m (11.2 ft)
Height: 2 m height (6.6 ft)
660cc engine (63 horsepower max.)
Daihatsu was displaying their “Sport” model alongside their box shaped family/commuter vehicles.
Custom Cars & Parts
A huge number of vendors were present to show off customizations, car parts and audio equipment.
The long, color anodized lugnuts were popular again this year and can now take the shape of shape ammunition rounds for a menacing look. Together on the wheel of the cars they look like something from a Ben-Hurr chariot.
Elaborate body customizations and paint-jobs were popular. Some of the bizarre examples of fiberglass bodywork include enormous rear spoilers which seem peculiar to Japan’s yankii or boso-zoku sub-cultures. These spoilers seem to negate the use of a central rearview mirror.
As in the past, a variety of modern and vintage race cars were on display at Automesse including F-1 (which is very popular in Japan) and offroad rally vehicles (notably Subaru). A number of talk-show style speaking panels featured industry experts and professional race drivers.
Bosozoku Culture- The bosozoku subculture is associated with noisy rides and extensive stylistic modifications such as elaborate paint jobs and high-backed seats. The display models of these bikes even include the characteristically bent up license plates (which make it harder for authorities and potential plaintiffs to identify).
“Dekotora” is a subculture of truckers who drive decorated trucks. These trucks feature elaborate decorations with lights, chrome exterior parts, backlit art panels and trailers that are covered with huge works of art, usually depicting some motif that is very traditional such as mythical creatures or nature; the styles and motifs are similar to traditional Japanese tattoos, which is intimidating because of the association with Japanese gangsters. The dekotora fashion began in northern fishing ports where parts from military vehicles and tour buses assembled to make garish vehicles. The style was popularized by the 1975 movie Torakku Yarou (トラック野郎 / “Truck Guys”), which popularized the dekotora culture similar to the way that 1969’s Easy Rider popularized biker culture in America. The exhibitor at Automesse had copies of movie poster for Torakku Yarou. There is even a specialized dekotora festival that is held in Tokushima.
Remote Controlled Cars
Tamiya, a maker of remote controlled cars had a race for hobbyists on a special, miniature track. There were also remote controlled car drivers giving demonstrations at a booth in among the car parts and merchandise vendors. The remote controlled cars had very evolved, complex controls ands the “drivers” had very impressive skills at manipulating the machines.
Race Queens and Models
The car show models are the real draw for Automesse. Some exhibitors bring their own models to their show with specialized outfits that reflect the company’s brand; this approach is the “race queen” model and these types of models are often seen at auto races. Smaller vendors will hire freelance models to attract attention; these models don’t have branded costumes and they often appear at multiple booths.
The large crowds of aggressive photographers swarm around the booths when the models appear. I suspect that most of them go to Automesse specifically for the car show girls. Fights have been known to break out among the photographers as the jostling ensues, despite the typically polite and tolerant nature of Japanese people. It is actually the older and more impatient cameramen who are prone to lashing out as they quickly take offense to perceived slights from their juniors in society. The men with cameras often seem excessively prurient; you can usually survey a crowd and see only breasts and butts in their digital viewfinders. They even record long segments of video with only that view! It seems like most of the material they must capture in this way would have little artistic or even erotic merit. It was rare to see wedding rings or female companions with these hentai cameramen. This year, you could even see one man who brought some sort of “real-doll”/silicone mannequin in a wheelchair so “she” could pose in front of the cars for him; however that guy actually had a human wife with him and she seemed supportive!(?).
The mobs of photographers sometimes became the real human spectacle, especially at the “Car Sense” booth which, every year, has a reputation for featuring sexy models in the most blatantly raunchy costumes.
Performers- In addition to the models, dancing groups took the stage. Other years, Automesse has featured singers, DJs and even (clothed) pole dancers.
Boats – In the spirit of motorsports the local boat racing course had a display featuring videos and a chance to get on one of the boats, which is basically an enhanced jet ski.
Exoskeletons – In the broader spirit of mechanical engineering, Automesse also exhibits some other technologies that are outside the world of cars or motor sports. A good example of this is Yaskawa Electronics, Assistive Robotics exoskeleton project; ReWalk. ReWalk is based on the designs of Israeli ARGO Medical Technologies. The device straps to a person’s legs and uses motorized joints, powered by battery-backpack, to assist paraplegics, or people with other difficulties walking. Users still need to use the canes to hold up their torsos and direct the “legs” of the exoskeleton