Tokyo Auto-Otaku: Surviving the Tokyo Auto Salon

With the 2016 edition of the Tokyo Auto Salon about to open its doors in a few hours, i thought it would be fun to revisit an article i once penned for a local magazine. A simple guide to surviving the largest and greatest automotive aftermarket show this side of the globe.

When i first visited TAS back in 2010, i had my mind totally blown away. I still remember the shock and awe i felt the moment i took my first step into the halls of Makuhari Messe and i hope that you will experience the same. Back in 2010, there were not too many sites covering TAS in as much detail, with even fewer offering advise for first time visitors, so hopefully, the simple tips here will make your TAS experience a smoother less blistery one.

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Tip 1: Planning and Scheduling
Do read up and find out how to get to the event venue before you actually head to Japan, the train network can be daunting for first time visitors and interchange stations like Shinjuku and Tokyo station are labyrinths of various train lines and connections. Do get a data-sim or pocket-wifi device if possible, those are life-savers in a metropolis like Tokyo.

Personally i find the easiest way is via the JR Keiyo line from Tokyo station, the journey takes just under an hour. Slightly quicker if you are able to catch an express. Plan to arrive early as crowds arrive extremly quick! Arriving early also allows you to grab a quick coffee before the madness begins.

Remember to have your tickets on hand! There will be long lines waiting for you at the event venue so don’t get caught out!

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Tip 2: Have a Battle Plan ready!
TAS is a massive event, just check out that venue map above with an appropriately scaled down Hatsune Miku (in the middle) representing you, the show goer. No matter how you cut it, there is no way anyone can experience all there is to offer in TAS in one single day.

Did we mention the carpark is another massive expanse of space that is a mini-highlight in itself? The carpark is another massive expanse of space that is a mini-highlight in itself.

Ideally, if you can, allow yourself to visit on all three days to get the full TAS experience. Three days will allow you to browse the event at a much more relaxed pace and let you watch a few performances along the way. So please plan ahead if you only have a day or two for the show. I personally like to start from the East most hall and work my way clockwise to the West and end off with the North Hall.

The organizers of Tokyo Auto Salon have released a mobile app containing the event map and timings of the various performances happening throughout the show, do download it before flying into Japan.

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Tip 3: Nourishment
With all the crazy and exciting stuff happening around you, it can be very easy to forget about lunch! So do eat up and fuel up in the morning. Also, drink plenty of fluids along the way. For those who go hungry, there’s the usual exhibition hall food stall fare, slightly pricey, not very tasty. For those not in a rush, there are plenty of food options outside the event area and re-entry is permitted. Sometimes you can get lucky and score a free drink sample from a friendly “image girl”, but that doesn’t happen very often.

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Tip 4: Shoes
Please wear something really really comfortable or suffer the wrath of multiple unforgiving blisters. Ask me how i know. Damn those Converse shoes.

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Tip 5: Bring plenty of cash
Spotted that Hatsune Miku umbrella you’ve always wanted? Eyeing that Liberty Walk Kenmeri scale model? TAS has the craziest amount of stuff for the Auto-Otaku to splurge on, but because this is a short-term exhibition space, many of the smaller vendors will not have credit card facilities to help you spend you Yens, so cash is king.

Another helpful tip is for those keen on buying automotive omiyage (souvenirs), i’ve noticed some great bargains for early birds on the first day of the event, and just before the show ends on the final day. Of course, most of the good stuff will be gone on the final day, so be warned.

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Tip 6: Use the lockers!
One of the reasons why i suggest you arrive early is to be able to grab a large locker as soon as possible! Early January in Tokyo will be cold, but that thick expensive armani jacket will do you no good if you are planning to stay in the halls for an entire day. Lockers are also not just a great place to store your winter coats but also gives you a place to offload your stash of TAS goodies midway. That winter coat might come in handy if you plan to hit the outdoor D1 demo space though.

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Tip 7: Trolley bags
As silly as it might sound (or look), a rolling trolley bag can be really helpful for TAS. Roll it into a locker in the morning and when the show closes for the day, pack in everything that you’ve bought into the case for the journey back. After an entire day trawling through the vast halls, a backpack or sling bag might not be a very fun proposition.

I use my trolley bag to lug my camera gear to and from the show. Much better than having them slung on my shoulder.

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Tip 8: Batteries and memory cards
Bring extra. It’s not a question of whether you will run out, it’s a question of when.

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Tip 9: Marker pens
This is TAS, so yes, you will meet some interesting people! (This year alone, i met Kato-san or Liberty Walk, Morohoshi-san of Underground Hero fame, Ken Nomura, Mad Mike and my all time hero Keiichi Tsuchiya) Have a marker ready for those autographs you auto-otaku!

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Tip 10: Keep your eyes (and heart) open
Things happen really fast and furious here, events, performances and scantily clad girls often pop out of nowhere, so keep your eyes open and your cameras ready!

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Bonus tip: If all else fails, wing it!
Like all things in life, no matter how hard or how diligently you plan something, things might go wrong, so don’t fret when they do and don’t be upset if you missed out on anything. TAS is a vast show, so realise that no matter what happens to your carefully orchestrated battle plans, you will be going home with one of the most memorable auto-otaku adventures ever! Have fun!

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