What happens when Japan’s biggest automaker decides to make a car-centric theme park? You get the Toyota Mega Web. No, there aren’t any 200 mph rollercoasters or furry mascots to take selfies with, but there are fascinating attractions devoted to how we get around and plenty of crazy Toyota artifacts to geek out on. The best part? Unlike a real theme park, it’s absolutely free to enter.
Located in Tokyo’s Bay Area, the Mega Web is about 30 minutes by train from the city center. I’d suggest taking the monorail to get there because the views are great and it’s quite a jarring experience sitting on a fully autonomous train. (Maybe that was intentional to prepare us for the grim robot-driven future.)
The Mega Web is split into three different sections; the Toyota City Showcase, the History Garage, and the Ride Studio. The latter is aimed at children aged 3-18. It’s designed to let little humans drive around in miniature Toyota vehicles with names such as ‘Camette’, ‘Pius’, and ‘Kids Hybrid Car’ (accurate!) on a specially designed 230 meter course.
But there’s also plenty to do for the big kids.
Don’t let the name fool you; it’s got nothing to do with the actual Toyota City, the metro area in Aichi Prefecture home to several Toyota plants. The TCS simply refers to the main building of the Mega Web. It’s two floors of fun-filled Toyota-themed activities.
No, really. That makes it sound boring as hell, but the place is actually awesome. If you think don’t think Toyota can be fun, this place will change your mind.
The first floor is primarily for the Toyota Line Up Zone, which kind of sounds like a level that got deleted from Sonic 2. Basically it’s a massive showroom for Toyota’s current lineup sold in Japan. Some of the cars you’ll see overseas (Yaris, Corolla, Prius, etc.) but then there are some models most markets don’t get, such as the Roomy, Crown Majesta, and Harrier.
The Line Up Zone isn’t a dealership, so don’t bother bringing your checkbook. It’s simply a place for people to have an up close and personal look at the latest Toyotas without the hassle of an eager salesman breathing over their shoulder. People are encouraged to sit inside, open up the doors, and get a feel of the car. They even give you a little spec sheet to look at as well.
Once you’ve gotten comfortable or you’ve found a Toyota you like the feel of, you can make your way to the ‘Ride One’ desk where you’re able to drive the real thing around a special 1.3-kilometer course inside the Mega Web complex. You’ll need either a Japanese driver’s license or an International Driving Permit for this. It’s worth doing simply to try out the opulent Toyota Century.
When you’ve finished your laps and feel like you could conquer a Formula One World Championship title, make your way to the Euro Sports shop. Claimed to be the “largest F1 Official Goods shop” in Tokyo, there’s a whole range of merchandise from various F1 teams here. You can spend a lot of time and much yen here.
Go up to the second floor and this is where you’ll find the Global Discovery Zone. Here is where Toyota displays its efforts to eco-motoring. Expect many hybrids, EVs and fuel cell vehicles here.
It’s also where they display their latest technologies and have a few simulators. The latter is the reason to come up to this floor. There’s a ‘safety simulator’ which recreates various driver aids such as pre-crash system, lane departure alert, etc as well as a ‘Hybrid Eco Drive Experience’. You can’t make that up, there’s a simulator for eco driving.
At the time the Toyota FT-1 Concept was on display. It’s supposed to preview what the next-generation Supra is meant to look like. Anyway, by pure coincidence, next to it was a simulator of a FT-1 driving experience on Gran Turismo 6. Do this just to sit in those fantastic looking pods.
But while all these simulators are fun there’s no substitute for the real thing. That’s where the Toyota Winglet Challenge comes in. They’re essentially Toyota’s Segway but the “challenge” bit comes in completing a little trial course in as little time as possible. Of course you get taught how to use them beforehand. The English sessions only occur once a day at 2 p.m.
Assuming you’ve survived the simulators and Winglet Challenge you can make your way to the History Garage. While it’s still part of the Mega Web its actually located inside the Venus Fort shopping mall next door.
Not that it’s a bad thing as the inside of Venus Fort resembles a Roman-style plaza, which is quirky and fun all on its own. What makes the History Garage special is not just the interior decor but the fact it hosts classic cars from various manufacturers, not just Toyota.
Of course there’s still a few old Toyotas to appreciate, the crown of the lineup being the 2000GT. But there’s also a Ferrari, Jaguar, Corvette, Alfa Romeo, Citroen, and even a DeLorean too. They even have cars from other Japanese manufacturers so there’s something to please everyone.
Now all that is fine and innocent but things start to get dangerous as walk through what’s called ‘The Corridor’. Here you’ll find many old books and magazines on display. You can actually even take on out and read it on a special table.
Opposite the reading material are shelves of model cars displaying the history of various manufactures. From Mercedes-Benz to Toyota, their histories are shown in 1:18 and 1:43 form. At the very end there’s a little special dedicated shelf (read: shrine) to TOMICA cars. This is to foreshadow what lies beneath.
The bottom floor of the History Garage is where you’ll find the ‘Grease GPS’ shop. Here you’ll find a vast selection of scale model cars ranging from 1:64 to 1:8. Prices are a bit steep but with the selection there it’s hard not to get tempted.
Once you’ve finished ogling at all the model cars you can have a look at the ‘Resto Pit’ too. This is where Mega Web mechanics restore and maintain the classic cars exhibited. You can even ask staff to have a look inside as well.
The Motorsport Heritage section of the Mega Web History Garage is a recent addition. Previously, there would be special exhibitions displayed for a limited time to showcase some of Toyota’s motorsport history. This new Motorsport Heritage section means these exhibits will be more permanent and will focus on a different racing series. For now it’s Toyota’s history in the World Rally Championship, which produced some amazing cars even if it didn’t always end so great.
It’s not a huge space, much smaller than the History Garage and certainly smaller than the Mega Web. However, the typically Japanese cleanliness of it all and the bright surfaces gave it a similar feel to the hermetically pristine NISMO factory.
You even get a similar ‘see-through’ workshop display where the MR2 222D was displayed. The rest of the rally cars displayed were mostly the famous Celica GT-Fours with the odd Corolla WR-Car.
There’s a little information sheet next to each display, yes sheet and not a fancy tablet like at NISMO. Unlike at NISMO, however, there’s also an English translation to the Japanese text, which is handy.
It’s great to be able to see and remember a time Toyota were involved in a number of motorsport projects. Of course Toyota has returned to the WRC in the 2017 Season with their new Yaris WRC.
Certainly, Toyota know how to make a fun “theme park”. From going around sitting in various Toyota models, trying out all the different simulators, and admiring the heritage exhibitions, it’s very easy to lose track of time here. It’s like a casino, except the only thing that might bankrupt you here is the model car shop.
The whole ethos of the Mega Web is to be able to “look, ride, and feel.” There’s no doubt you’ll get all that at the Mega Web and more.