The 1989 Tokyo Motor Show Is Where I Will Go To Find Joy Again

Illustration for article titled The 1989 Tokyo Motor Show Is Where I Will Go To Find Joy Againem/em
Photo: Nissan

What do we have to look forward to in our far-flung future year of 2018, besides the sweet release of death? Nothing. To find happiness again I will take you back—back to a time of unbridled optimism, of cheerfully bizarre niche vehicles, of turbocharged world-conquering performance, of gull-winged kei cars. Let us take a video tour of the 1989 Tokyo Motor Show.


Longtime readers will know that the Jalopnik staff are great fans of Japan’s Bubble Era: the period from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s when that country’s cash-flush auto industry was churning out some of the best vehicles in the world, from Ferrari-fighting exotics to perplexingly unique microcars. Nothing was off the table and no niche was too tiny to be filled. Japan was unstoppable, or at least it was until the country’s economy tanked around 1992.


The Tokyo Motor Show in 1989 was an especially big one. Held for the first time ever at the Makuhari Messe Convention Center, the show saw the unveiling of many cars and brands that took the era out with a bang: the Honda NSX, the second-generation Toyota MR2, the Toyota Celsior/Lexus LS, the adorable Nissan Figaro, the Nissan President/Infiniti Q45, the Subaru SVX, the gull-winged Toyota Sera, and a slew of fascinating concepts.

My colleague Raphael Orlove has been doing an in-depth research project on this era of cars—how it arrived, and how it imploded—and he dug up some home movie-type videos of the 1989 show on Japanese YouTube. It’s all here: wild consumer confidence, ridiculous costumes, high-powered modern classics, and so much City Pop.

Here’s one:

And here’s the second one:

It’s a lot to take in, but it’s a delightful and fascinating video look at one of the best eras of cars.


What’s your favorite debut from the 1989 Tokyo show?

Editor-in-Chief at Jalopnik. 2002 Toyota 4Runner.

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I always get a little choked up when I see Figaro in that color combo. Miss you Sarah Jane.