Metropolis Magazine
Issue #805 - Friday, Aug 28th, 2009
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Photo of the Week
The Small Print
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"Page 2 "
The Goods
Body & Soul
Tech Know
Cars & Bikes
Global Village
The Last Word
The Negi
+ Best of Tokyo
Haikyo Corner
Out & About
Japan Beat
Live Report
Pop Life
2008 Flashback
Stage & Dance
Metropolis League
Theater Maps
Restaurant Review
Bar Review
International Dining
Local Flavors
Table Talk
About Us
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Past Issues

800: Going, Going, Sold!
Metropolis gets a rare glimpse into the world of car auctions
796: Cycle Fever
Tokyo dwellers are pedaling to work in increasing numbers
792: Bling It On, Baby!
Pimped-up luxury cars are the order of the day at the Tokyo Special Import-Car Show
788: For Whom the Road Tolls
Bargain-rate highway fares are creating some unexpected headaches
784: Bikes Back From the Dead
Pick up a bargain two-wheeler at Tokyo's recycle shops
780: D1 Grand Prix
From illegal sport to mainstream sensation, drift racing has come of age in Japan
776: Wanna Race?
A roundup of Japan's police vehicle fleet
772: Wanna Race?
Be a pro driver for a day at Tokyo's racetracks
768: Mazda Biante
Solve your space conundrums with this nimble people-mover
764: Lexus IS-F & SC430
With a new showroom and two sporty releases, the automaker is flying high
760: Chrysler Grand Voyager and Nissan Elgrand
It's American power vs. Japanese grace in a battle of the vans
756: Motor Sport Japan
The stars and cars come out for a day at the races-in an Odaiba parking lot
752: Alfa Romeo 159 Sportwagon
A reborn classic earns a (near) perfect 10
748: Nissan GT-R
It's fast, sexy and a bargain. So what's the catch?
744: Jaguar XF
The new sedan from Britain's storied automaker proves that appearances are, in fact, deceiving
736: Suzuki Swift Sport
Suzuki's bargain hatch proves big fun can come in small packages
732: Dualis & X-Trail
Nissan introduces a new SUV while its marquee model continues to play tough
728: Toyota Vanguard
Head off to the concrete jungle with a bit more vehicle than you need
724: Subaru Impreza S-GT
Japan's automotive loudmouth learns some manners
720: Tokyo Auto Salon 2008
Get ready for some modification mayhem at Makuhari Messe
716: Dodge These!
Chrysler introduces three muscle-bound imports to Japan
712: Licensed to Drive
We guide you through the bureaucratic jungle
708: Tokyo Concours D'Elegance
Exotic autos from the past and present glide into Roppongi
704: Car Knows Best
Automakers are introducing technology that will let your ride decide if you've had one too many
700: Range Rover & Land Rover
We put three SUVs from the fabled British maker through their paces
696: Aston Martin V8 Vantage
Channel 007 in this latest incarnation of the marquee automaker's "baby"
692: BMW R1200GS Adventure
The storied bike maker competes with itself to create a three-in-one masterpiece
688: Lexus LS460
The new sedan is big, fast, safe, classy-and unremarkable
684: Alfa Romeo Spider
We unleash the Italian monster on a 1,200km road trip
680: Ford Mustang
The American classic goes back to its roots
676: Citron C6
The French automaker's latest eccentricity pushes its own boundaries
672: Nissan's Pino and Otti
Japan-friendly K-cars pack a big punch
668: Jaguar XK
Forget James Bond-this is the UK's sexiest export
664: Mazda's Axela, RX-8 and Roadster
Here's the word on Japan's resurgent automaker: buy, buy, buy!
660: Mazda's Axela, RX-8 and Roadster
Here's the word on Japan's resurgent automaker: buy, buy, buy!
656: Alfa Romeo Brera
This gorgeous Italian coupe is both poised and sexy
652: Premium wheels
Business is good for Rolls-Royce in Japan, with an eagerly awaited convertible due out next year
648: Citroen C3 Pluriel
The quirky French automaker barrels into the 21st century
644: Jeep Commander& Grand Cherokee
Off road and on, these 44s do their military heritage proud
640: BMW Z4 M Roadster
Beemer's monster convertible provides the most fun you can have sitting down
636: Name dropping
What your car is called says something about you-and even more about automakers' marketing departments
632: BMW Mini Cooper S
All hail the mighty Mini!
628: Mazda Roadster
Redesigned and retooled, this two-seater is now a car for enthusiasts
624: Hyundai Sonata
A rev-happy South Korean import tries to find its niche in Japan
621: Lexus IS350
Toyota brings its upmarket brand to Japan-finally
616: Volvo XC90 V8
A bit sleeker and a lot more spacious, this SUV still puts a premium on safety
612: Chrysler 300C
This black beauty recalls the golden age of motoring
608: The Big Ideas
Tokyo Motor Show 2005 was a concept car bonanza
604: Tokyo Motor Show 2005
The automotive world's big players zoom into Japan with some high concepts in tow
597: Three brothers
We put a trio of Nissan sedans through their paces
593: Ducati 1000S DS Multistrada
The boys from Bologna deliver an Italian masterpiece for your garage
589: Mazda Demio Sport
A worthy cousin to the Atenza and RX8, this roomy sedan is happy around town and in the country
585: BMW K1200S
The boys from bavaria clothe an iron fist in a velvet glove
581: Chrysler’s Cruisers
The American auto manufacturer concentrates on the body beautiful
577: Suzuki Skywave 650LX
If you thought scooters were just for kids, think again
573: Cadillac STS 4x4
America’s flagship automaker recaptures its former glory
569: Tour de Force
Yamaha’s FJR1300A offers an unbeatable blend of poise, power and price
565: Alfa Romeo GT and 156 GTA
With stunning looks and power to spare, these two Alfas are an enthusiast's dream
560: Driving the Future
The talk of the auto industry in 2004 was hybrids, safe driving and intelligent vehicles
556: Deja vu
Blast to the past on Harley-Davidson’s Road King Custom
552: Sports sensation
Nissan's new SUV breaks out of its class
548: Lean machine
Lighter, faster, stronger and sexier—a diet works wonders for BMW’s R1200GS
544: Kings for a day
The Honda Elysion is master of all it surveys
539: Rules of the road
New traffic laws are on the horizon. Turn off your cellphone, watch where you park and don’t ride in gangs, Chris Betros warns.
537: Open roadster
William Bonds gets up-close with the elements courtesy of the Nissan Fairlady 350Z convertible.
535: Extreme makeover
Volvo sheds its stodgy-but-safe image for sleek-and-sporty with the new S40 T5. William Bonds likes what he sees.
533: Sporting chance
Mazda has brought the station wagon up to speed with its Atenza Sport Wagon 23Z. William Bonds takes one for a spin.
531: Street smarts
Automakers are taking car safety to new levels with sophisticated warning systems that almost do the driving for you, reports Chris Betros.
529: Speed zone
Just down the road from Ueno Zoo, a virtual hog heaven has everything for the motorcycling enthusiast. Steve Trautlein cruises on over.
527: Italian Stallion
The Alfa Romeo 147 carries on its maker’s reputation for hot cars with unmatched sex appeal. William Bonds gets carried away.
525: Hot wheels
A cross between a snowboard and a scooter, the Wheelman is a quirky Australian invention that's grabbing attention worldwide. Tim Colquhoun takes one for a ride.
523: Mean Machine
William Bonds gets behind the wheel of the Nissan Skyline 350GT.
521: Show stealers
Toyota stunned attendees at the recent Geneva and Melbourne auto shows with two concept cars that represent a powerful vision for the future of motoring. Tim Colquhoun reports.
519: Mighty mouse
Subaru goes boldly against the tide with its new R2 minicar. Justin Gardiner admires this latest feat of audacity and engineering.
517: Trail blazer
Nissan's top-selling 4x4 features cool touches for winter sports fans. Justin Gardiner drove the latest X-Trail to the slopes
515: Up to speed
The Formula One circus is gaining momentum as the season opener in Australia draws near. Tim Colquhoun takes a look at the latest developments.
513: Good save
Hybrid cars are the rage this year with Toyota, Honda and Subaru touting their gas-electric vehicles. Chris Betros looks at what they're offering.
512: The road ahead
Despite the lack of a full-fledged Tokyo Motor Show in 2004, domestic manufacturers have a bevy of weird and wonderful offerings in store for this year. Justin Gardiner previews the lineup.
509/10: Top of the class
Justin Gardiner finds his favorites from this year's Metropolis test drives.
507: Mom-mobiles
Japanese mothers are trading in their once ubiquitous mama-chari bicycles for a new breed of K-car. Justin Gardiner tries a couple of the most popular mini-cars.
505: Cubic's rube
Nissan has lengthened its highly successful Cube a few centimeters and added an extra row of seats. But, as Justin Gardiner finds out, the result is a bit puzzling.
503: Globe trotters
Kerstin Gackle and Volker Aldinger left their native Germany on April 1 and pointed their Yamahas toward Australia. Eight months later Justin Gardiner caught up with the couple in Tokyo.
501: Back to the future
Cutting-edge technology and futuristic vehicles highlight the 37th Tokyo Motor Show at Makuhari Messe through November 5. Justin Gardiner offers a guide.


By James Hadfield

Cycle Fever
Tokyo dwellers are pedaling to work in increasing numbers

Illustration by Kohji Shiiki

When you factor in the walk to and from the station at either end, it takes me about 45 to 50 minutes to get from my apartment to my office. Depending on how many traffic lights I run, how many taxis cut me up and how hard I work my quads, I can get there by bicycle in 35, and I won’t have to spend any of that time with a salaryman wedged into my armpit. My name’s James, and I’m a tsuukinisuto.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Tokyo is in the grip of a cycling boom, as more of its residents shuck the confines of crowded trains and buses and pedal to work instead. In April, popular free magazine R25 reported on the phenomenon of jitensha tsuukingu—that’s bicycle commuting, to you and me. (The word tsuukingu is a neologism that combines the Japanese term for commuting, tsuukin, with the katakana transliteration of “touring.” A person who engages in this activity is a tsuukinisuto.)

According to a report released last year by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, two out of three Tokyoites use a bicycle, but it’s only recently that the numbers of people cycling to work have begun to increase noticeably. In a city where many have their commutation costs covered by their employers, the main incentive often isn’t saving money so much as saving time. And with all the media attention being focused on both the environment and the dreaded metabolic syndrome, bike commuting seems like an increasingly attractive option.

That might explain why, economic downturn be damned, business at bicycle shops is booming right now. A representative of Y’s Road, a specialist cycling store with outlets throughout the city, tells Metropolis that their figures are “very healthy” at the moment. “Car sales have plummeted recently,” he says, “and sports bikes aren’t exactly cheap—they’re often in the region of ¥100,000 to ¥200,000—but we haven’t seen any corresponding decrease in sales.” The most popular choice is apparently hybrid bicycles, which combine elements of mountain and road bikes, making them ideal for commuting.

Of course, for riders raised on mama-chari, switching to faster and more powerful rides isn’t without its problems. Last month, two of Japan’s biggest cycling magazines devoted their cover features to how to use the drop handlebars found on road and track bikes, which is a bit like a car magazine telling you how to use a steering wheel. Meanwhile, the Japan Cycling Association (JCA) is planning to offer classes at Jingu Gaien Cycling Course from this autumn for people who are new to riding sports bikes. “Cyclists used to be the victims in road accidents, but these days they’re often the perpetrators, and that’s a cause for concern,” says a JCA spokesperson.

Indeed, one of the repeated complaints being directed at the new wave of cyclists—actually, make that cyclists in general—is that they’re downright reckless. The JCA acknowledges that this is a pressing issue: “It’s not like all cyclists have bad road manners, but naturally there’s been an increase in such people as the number of cyclists on the road has gone up. The only way to improve things is through education.”

There’s room for other improvements, too. The JCA points to a lack of designated cycling lanes, as well as the need for companies and the government to recognize bicycle commuting and bring it under the umbrella of worker’s accident insurance. That’s not all: though some firms have started to pay a transportation allowance to people who cycle to work, most don’t. Many also don’t have places for employees to park bicycles, and even fewer have changing rooms or shower facilities.

Addressing issues like these could help transform the current bike boom into a more enduring trend, rather than a flash-in-the-pan fad. And, yes, I should really stop running those red lights.


Normally, we’d write off a car blog started by the creators of a driving game as an opportunistic cash-in. But when the game in question is EA’s awesome Need for Speed and the blog is Speedhunters, well, we’re willing to make an exception. Fueled by a team of international writers/photographers who go about their work with such fanatical zeal that you’d swear they’d been chugging nitrous oxide, it’s a haven for car buffs of all stripes. Tuning and drifting enthusiasts are particularly well catered for, though there’s also an ample supply of auto news, reviews, event reports and videos of drivers pulling some absolutely insane maneuvers. The Japan beat is covered by the likes of Mike Garrett (whose “Intro to Chassis Codes” is the most viewed article on the site—ah, gotta love those geeks) and Metropolis contributor Dino Dalle Carbonare. JH


Elderly drivers are in for a tough time following the introduction of a revised traffic law this month. In addition to a practical exam, drivers over the age of 75 whose licenses expire on or after December 1 must now take a test measuring their memory and judgment when applying for renewals. Damn, where did I put those keys? Applicants found to have below-normal cognitive abilities and who have violated traffic regulations in the past year will be examined by a medical expert, and their licenses will be revoked if they are found to be suffering from dementia.

Orders for Toyota’s new Prius hybrid car have topped 110,000 in Japan, which is good news for the struggling domestic auto industry. The third-generation Prius, priced at about ¥2.05 million, was rolled out in mid-May and has continued to sell well during June. Toyota’s main competition in the hybrid market is the Honda Insight, which topped the sales charts in April this year. Hybrids are in demand thanks to their improved fuel efficiency—and the fact that buyers receive tax exemptions. CB 

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