The Tokyo Auto Salon is definitely one the events any car enthusiast must go to at least once in their life. Why so? Think of it as JDM heaven where all your favorite cars, tuner brands, shops and much more are all in one roof. It’s not just limited to Japanese cars though. There’s European supercars, trucks, vans and more, all modified with that signature Japanese flair. In fact, you could even say there’s a car for everyone’s taste.
Now before you book the next flight to Tokyo in January, you should know a thing or two about the Tokyo Auto Salon such as how to get there, and what to expect in Japan at the time. Take it from folks who didn't exactly prepare for everything, you'll thank us later.
Below we’ll list down some tips on what to do if you’re heading to the iconic tuner show for the very first time.
Plan ahead of time
While the 2019 Tokyo Auto Salon just wrapped up, the organizers have already announced the dates for next year’s event. For 2020, the Tokyo Auto Salon will be held from January 10 to January 12. This gives interested show goers almost a full year in advance to plan the journey to Tokyo together with your budget and any other activities you may want to include in the trip.
Aside from being able to plan your itinerary, there’s a better chance of scoring cheap plane tickets going Tokyo, be it for Narita or Haneda Airport, if you book this early. The same can be said regarding where you’ll be staying, whether its at an Airbnb or a hotel.
While we did stay at an Airbnb during our trip, we do advise you to do your research carefully or stay at a hotel instead. If you opt for an Airbnb, consider things like distance to the nearest train station, elevator access, and whether or not you can clean after yourselves during your stay. Hotels are often the safer - albeit more expensive - choice since they are located nearer to train stations and bus stops. Taxi drivers are also likely more familiar with a hotel’s location should you get lost. This makes it easier to get to and from the venue, Makuhari Messe located in Chiba City. Yes, contrary to its nomenclature, it is not located in Tokyo.
To give you a rough idea how far Makuhari Messe is from Tokyo, we stayed at an apartment near Ebisu Station, one stop away from Shibuya. From there, it still took us almost 2 hours to get to the Auto Salon venue one way.
Bring your best winter clothes
Think winter ends in December and snow disappears right after santa returns to the north pole? Think again. If you thought Baguio City during December is cold, then you won’t be ready for Tokyo in January when their winter is about to go into full swing. Odds are you will be experiencing single digit temperatures even with the sun out. At night, it could even go below zero.
Your trip to TAS will easily involve over 20,000 steps per day so it's best to shop for actual winter clothes ahead of time. The ones we usually wear for the ‘cold weather’ locally will unlikely be enough… that’s unless you really enjoy being in the cold. Consider wearing windbreakers over thick jackets as most of the cold comes from wind chill more than anything - it'll save you some luggage space too.
Aside from stacking layers of thermal wear, lip balm and heat packs from stores like Matsumoto Kiyoshi or Don Quijote also saved us from freezing in the cold. Thankfully it’s also warm and toasty inside halls of Makuhari Messe. The problem starts once night falls and you have to head back to Tokyo.
As a side note, we advise to bring a lot of cold medicine as there’s a chance you will get sick from the weather. We surely did, a whole group of us brought home dry cough, sore throats, and felt feverish after the trip.
Always pack light
As mentioned above, chances are you will be easily walking over 20,000 steps a day when going to Makuhari Messe. With that in mind, it’s best to travel light and bring only the essentials such as water and your camera, your power banks and pocket wifi. You wouldn’t want to tire yourself out before even getting into the show. This is also because you will likely be bringing home brochures, product books, and other freebies being given away by the exhibitors. While one or two pamphlets aren’t heavy, do remember that there are 12 halls in total with each having dozens of exhibitors showing off their merchandise. At the end of the day, you’ll likely be carrying a ton of reading materials to bring back home.
Aside from the brochures, odds are you’ll also be buying something from the numerous booths as well. While stickers and clothes are light, buying something heavier such as shift knobs, side mirrors, or even coilovers will definitely weigh you down. Not that we’re stopping you, it is the Tokyo Auto Salon after all. Just don’t forget that you have to commute all the way back home carrying everything you bought.
The internet and Google Maps is your best friend
In Japan, not a lot of people speak English. Some can understand a bit and point you in the right direction, but there’s still a lot of guessing as well. Unlike your favorite anime or Japanese TV show, there are no subtitles to help you here either.
Thankfully we have a vast resource at the touch of our fingertips: The Internet. Options for procuring a sim card or pocket wifi are readily available whether at the airport or delivered to your doorstep before your trip. Consider your options carefully by researching which providers and data plans work best.
With internet on hand, if you find yourself stunned by Tokyo’s vast network of public transportation just simply use Google Maps. The app shows you which train or bus to take, which platform you should be on, and how many stops it will take before reaching your destination. More importantly though, the app also shows the cost of tickets, giving you an idea how much money you should prepare before hand if you’re not using a Suica or Pasmo card.
Provided you have media credentials, don’t forget to sign up on their website the month before for the access pass which can be acquired near Halls 7 and 8. Of course, you will be required to provide proof such as your business card, your confirmed registration, and your content following the show. For regular showgoers, tickets to the Tokyo Auto Salon cost 3,000 yen on the first day and only allows access starting 2PM. For succeeding days, a ticket will set you back 2,000 yen per day.
While it may be costly, those planning to visit should try to come back for a second day. One day just isn’t enough to completely go through all 12 halls in detail, and you might miss out seeing what Tokyo Auto Salon has to fully offer. That way, you won’t go on the net and feel bad that you missed seeing a great car hidden in one of the halls in person.
We hope these tips - some of which we learned the hard way - may just make your trip to the Tokyo Auto Salon a lot more easier and enjoyable.
And now we wait until the Tokyo Auto Salon opens its doors once again in 2020.