Translogic goes trans-Pacific for Episode 8.3, the first of six epsiodes we'll be bringing you from Japan. Which begs the question: Why? Nowhere is the blending of technology and personal transportation as unique and striking as it is in Japan. From its expansive commuter and high speed rail system to its spotless and gigantic taxi fleet to the deceptively named limousine busses, Japan is a country that thrives on efficient public transportation. But the Japanese also have a passion and enthusiasm for car culture that rivals our own – it just manifests itself in a different way.

For example, the high price of gasoline in Japan and a vehicle taxation system based on engine size and vehicle weight means many people opt for smaller cars powered by smaller engines than in the U.S. Most private cars owned by average, middle class families in Japan are powered by an engine displacing less than 3.0 liters and large sedans are rare. Even some of the extreme Kaido-style cars we show in Translogic 8.3 would be considered compact cars by American standards.

The size and population density of Japan also has an impact on how enthusiasts utilize technology to customize their own rides. Japan is about the same size as California but is home to 127 million people. By comparison, California has an approximate population of just over 36 million. Add to this that housing in cities like Tokyo is very expensive, so most families rent. That makes it unlikely that a young adult would have a place of their own and encourages a trend for children to stay living in the family home well into their late 20s. For many young Japanese men, their car or van or motorcycle becomes their only expression of individuality and freedom. That's why the heavily customized small vans in Translogic 8.3 have such a rolling bachelor pad appeal.

As passionate as the Japanese are for cars, most simply don't have one. The bicycle population alone is 86 million and Japanese consumers buy nearly 400,000 scooters and motorcycles per year. Part of the appeal is that scooters with an engine less than 50-cc are exempt from registration fees. Still, even scooter owners will add even a few aftermarket upgrades like performance exhaust, hotter spark plug and more powerful brakes. The 250-cc scooters featured in Translogic 8.3 are extreme but are an excellent example of Japanese passion for altering any sort of personal transport.

Check back next week to see the most Japanese of all motorsports, drifting.

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