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You can now watch our TV Series 'The Autoblog Show' online.
The Autoblog Show returns for its third episode, this time, from the country of Japan. Senior Editor, Green, John Snyder, Senior Producer Christopher McGraw and Producer Alex Malburg head to the headquarters of Nissan and Subaru to test out the companies' latest in autonomous and electric vehicle technology. Afterwards we travel to the Honda Collection Hall in Motegi, to travel through the company’s long history, from motorbikes to champion F1 cars and everything in between.
Finally the crew hops on the Shinkansen, more commonly known as the Bullet Train here in the States, and discover what it is like to travel 160 miles per hour by rail.
Check out episode three of "The Autoblog Show" above. It originally aired on Verizon Fios TV, the Yahoo! Finance Channel on the Roku TV app and SamsungTV+.
- This is Autoblog.
For over 15 years, our team has covered the auto industry. You can find more of our content at Autoblog.com. But here on "The Autoblog Show," each episode features our favorite videos of the hottest new cars from all over the world. This is what moves us.
- Oh, that's good.
- We are drivers, off roaders, journalists, tech geeks, gamers, film makers, and adventurers. This is "Autoblog." You're watching "The Autoblog Show." Up next, a journey to Japan. Join us as we explore Japan's transportation past, present, and future.
CHRISTOPHER MCGRAW: We've got to get a photo.
JOHN SNYDER: When going to Japan, we are sort of hoping to get a better sense of what the automakers were doing with automated driving and electric mobility.
CHRISTOPHER MCGRAW: So in 1964, Japan held the summer Olympics in Tokyo. And World War II had ended less than 20 years before that. And to kind of showcase how far they had come technologically, Japan unveiled, at the same time as they had the Olympics, the shinkansen, the bullet train.
In 2020, Tokyo is again hosting the summer Olympics. And to show how far they've come since then, there is a huge push for autonomous cars.
JOHN SNYDER: We got the chance to try out some technology, some stuff that's not available in the US. First we talked to Subaru, and we didn't really talk all that much. They ran us through EyeSight, the Touring Assist, and threw us the keys to a WRX. It's a rainy day here in Tokyo, but we're going to take this out on the highway and see how the system works in less than perfect conditions.
So we're on the highway right now, and we're in a traffic jam. And this is actually a perfect time to use this system. What's interesting about Touring Assist and Subaru EyeSight is that it relies on these cameras while a lot of other systems rely on radar and ultrasonic sensors, sometimes in tandem with cameras. But basically, it's a different sensor suite that does the exact same practical purpose.
This is the first time I've driven, like, any WRX with an automatic transmission, which is kind of cool. Or a steering wheel of the right side of the car, for that matter. I can feel this switch starting to turn in my brain on, like, flipping right and left.
CHRISTOPHER MCGRAW: Nissan had something similar as well called ProPILOT, which we actually do have in the US on a very limited basis. Over there, we drove the Nissan Leaf, which is the all electric vehicle.
JOHN SNYDER: We had hoped to go for a ride in one of their autonomous Nissan Leaf prototypes. They're doing autonomous taxis right there from the headquarters, called Easy Ride, as a trial project. They said we couldn't get in one of those, that it was booked up. Don't know what their motivations were, but it was a little weird.
We did get a really nice day driving the Nissan Leaf around. It was a nice, early, full drive. So I was really happy to get to spend some quality time with the Leaf.
The car we're in right now has 151 miles range from a 40 kilowatt hour battery. Coming in the future, it will be the E Plus battery. That will offer probably about 225 miles of range. We're not exactly sure on the details yet.
Now, I think this car looks very nice. I can actually call this one of the Leaf. The last one looked more like a loaf of bread. This one, especially with the floating roof design that's very popular right now, it's very in, I don't know how long that's going to seem fresh. But right now, it still looks cool. And the car we're has two tones. It's got the yellow body color with a black roof, and I think it looks pretty spiffy.
CHRISTOPHER MCGRAW: Honda, we stepped away from the autonomous topic a bit and went to the Honda Museum at Motegi, which is arguably one of the best car museums in the world.
JOHN SNYDER: So day three, we got up super early. Honda picked us up at our hotel and drove us out of Tokyo, through the countryside, and sort of into the mountains to Twin Ring Motegi, where they have a couple race circuits. And that's also where their Honda Collection Hall is.
- So this is a special exhibition just held for this month, so you guys are lucky to be here on this occasion. And this is so Soichiro Honda's life.
JOHN SNYDER: The tour started off with a temporary installation about the life of Soichiro Honda, which really interesting. It went through powering bikes with gas motors, to having a factory, to World War II and talking about how racing sort of drove Honda's development.
- Soichiro Honda was a high school school graduate. He does not have an academic degree, but he was so manic about-- he was so obsessed with his cars and anything that was driven by engines. So he, after the graduation of elementary school, he started working at an automotive workshop, and he became the president of that branch.
The guy with the sunglasses is Soichiro Honda, young Soichiro Honda. This car is actually a one of racing car made by Soichiro Honda himself. After the World War II, the whole land in Japan was totally devastated. He got on this idea to combine a very small military surplus. And actually, this small engine was huge for US military as a generator for transceivers.
So he bought several of them and started putting on bicycles, with utilizing-- this is called yutanpo in Japanese. This is actually where you keep hot water and take it into futon, the bed, so that throughout the whole night, your bed is kept warm. So he converted this water tank into fuel tank for this bicycle engine.
JOHN SNYDER: Then we walked around and the rest of the hall, several floors, and just saw tons, hundreds of beautiful historic motorcycles and cars. It was amazing to see pristine, old vehicles throughout history.
- So this is a Type A, one of the very first Honda's product utilizing the small engine attached on a bicycle frame. And this one is a Type C. This one, Honda started manufacturing the frames it's on. Then later, this is called CUB FI.
To lower the center of gravity, Soichiro Honda installed the tiny engine in a very weird position, and installed this impressive white tank on the rear side.
So Honda was pretty good in producing a smaller motorcycles like those you have seen. But American Honda, which was expanding its business in the United States, requested the Japan R&D center give us larger bikes, bigger bikes. We would like to compete against in the British bikes and Italian bikes.
But it was difficult to understand the necessity for the Japanese engineers because of just the physical difference. These bikes are too big for the Japanese engineer around that time. And this is a CB 754, the first mass produced large bike with four cylinders. And this was the first mass produced bike with disc brakes, which, around that time, still was an aviation technology.
This is the famous Civic with CVCC engine. This became a big hit even in the States. Not only in Japan, but in the states too. The car was launched in 1973, and there became the first and second oil shock. Even the Americans were not happy with maintaining gas guzzlers. And actually, many Cadillac dealerships wanted to sell this car as a second front choice.
JOHN SNYDER: Now, the Civic name, does that comes from the CVCC engine?
- No, Civic name was first.
JOHN SNYDER: First? OK.
- Yes. This car was to make a new basic standard for every citizens in the world. So the name was given, the Civic name was given to this car.
Around the same era, Honda's launched supercar, NSX. And NSX later had a very enthusiast thick derivative called NSX-R. That was the beginning of the Type R history. Later, Type R name was inherited to the Integra and then to Civic.
So all these cars have a Championship White color, which has an origin of the very fast Formula One car. As I said, Soichiro Honda wanted to paint it in gold, but South Africa had the rights to paint the Formula One cars in gold, so we painted it in ivory after the Japanese flag, with the red circle on ivory.
This is a Formula One RA271, which we took to the Formula One racing for the first time. In 1964, we took this machine to three Formula One GPs, and out of which, we just, we retired every race. So, and that same year, this 1964, is the period we started producing the S500 and T360 trucks.
So people's perceptions throughout the world, even in Japan, is that Honda is a motorcycle manufacturer. Why are you coming to Formula One? Because we wanted a challenge. So this is the second era of the Honda Formula One racing, started with the Spirit Honda, and Williams, and Lotus, and the famous McLaren Honda.
JOHN SNYDER: Then we come around the corner, and we see an F1 car in red and white livery, and I immediately got goose bumps. And as we walked closer, could make out the letters S-E-N-N-A, and got to stand right there in front of the car, arguably the greatest racer of all time.
- This is MT44 winning machine that Ayrton Senna drove at the time when he won the 15 races out of 16. And we won 69 victories in more or less 10 years of the Formula One racing.
JOHN SNYDER: So yeah, if you are an automotive history fan, I think the Honda Collection Hall in Motegi is a pilgrimage to be made, and it's an absolute must if you're a Honda fan. It was just fantastic.
- All right, Chris, what happened?
CHRISTOPHER MCGRAW: John lost his ticket because he's irresponsible, but he has a great beard and he's about to win our March Madness tournament, so it's OK.
JOHN SNYDER: I lost the ticket.
CHRISTOPHER MCGRAW: All right, so we are currently in Kyoto, Japan. We came here from Tokyo, and the easiest way to get from Tokyo to Kyoto is by taking the bullet train. It's called the shinkansen, and we took it from Shinagawa Station to Kyoto Station, where we're standing right now. And now we're going to head back to Tokyo this afternoon.
The easiest way to get a ticket for the shinkansen, if you know what you're doing, is to just go to the machine and buy one. Now, if you're watching this video, you probably don't know what you're doing. So they have a booth where you can actually talk to a human being and kind of figure out what you're doing.
And so what we did is we got a reserve ticket, so that means that your seats are reserved. You don't have to go on and find one when you get one. You have a specific seat on a specific car. All right, so you can see that we're 372. We leave at 15:02.
So you just look up here. 372, 15:02 leaves from platform 12. And then we're on car 13, so you just line up where it says car 13. And then once the train comes in, you'll be able to get into your seat pretty quickly.
So as far as luggage, I brought one carry on and a backpack. There isn't really a limit as to how much luggage you can bring on, but it all has to fit. And so what they have is kind of like on an airplane where you can put stuff overhead, only it doesn't close. So you just kind of have to lift it up and set it there.
So if you brought, like, five bags, they probably won't fit. I would recommend not bringing more than a backpack this size and a carry on. The ride between Kyoto Station and Shinagawa is roughly two hours, two hours and 10 minutes. It was super smooth. We got up to speeds around 160, 170 miles per hour.
There are restrooms on the train. There's a place to throw away any garbage you have. And a couple of times, there is someone who comes up and down that will sell beverages and small snack items. But if you leave on an empty stomach, you do have two hours before you're in town. So I would recommend maybe eating at a train station or bringing your own food onto the train.
- What'd you guys get?
CHRISTOPHER MCGRAW: Just sandwiches and some craft beer.
- Oh, that's pretty good. It's Pocari Sweat.
JOHN SNYDER: Ion water.
- All right.
CHRISTOPHER MCGRAW: Most train stations in Japan are cash only, which gets kind of a pain. You have to go to 7-Elevens here have ATMs, and that's pretty much it. So take out your cash when you're near a 7-Eleven. Use that for the train.
As far as the shinkansen tickets, they're a bit more expensive. This one cost about $150. You can use a credit card for that. You can also buy your ticket a day in advance, which is what we did. We got to Kyoto and we decided, hey, we're already at the train station. Let's buy our ticket for tomorrow.
So we got right in line. There wasn't really a line. And we bought our ticket for today. And that's probably a better way to do it. That way you're not rushing to the train station to buy your ticket and then get on the train.
That being said, we probably would have changed our time if we could. So if you don't know really what you're going to be doing in the city, maybe wait. We got a ticket for 3:00 PM. And once we got into Kyoto and saw all the cool things that are around here, I kind of wished we had bought a ticket for a little bit later.
JOHN SNYDER: Not sitting next to the window, but two of us are going to be on the ocean side and one of us is going to be on the mountain side, so--
CHRISTOPHER MCGRAW: Mount Fiji side.
JOHN SNYDER: Yeah. So either way, it sounds like it's a scenic ride to Kyoto, so I look forward to it.
CHRISTOPHER MCGRAW: It's going to be fast. It takes, like, two hours to go 250 miles.
JOHN SNYDER: What does that average, 125 miles an hour, then?
CHRISTOPHER MCGRAW: You're great at math there, John.
JOHN SNYDER: I like going fast.
- Do you like going fast?
JOHN SNYDER: I like trains.
CHRISTOPHER MCGRAW: It was about a two hour train ride going, I think we hit a top speed of, like, 160ish miles per hour. And it's smooth. You can walk around the train. You can get food on the train. You can take a nap on the train. You can see Mount Fuji on the train. It was an incredible experience.
JOHN SNYDER: Tokyo is a crowded metropolis. Anything you could want to do, or buy, or see, they have it there. Kyoto is a lot different. Kyoto feels more ancient, more historical. And walking around Kyoto, there's temples and shrines everywhere, and beautiful architecture, and a ton of history.
The temples and shrines in Kyoto are really humbling. We went to one dedicated to god Inari, the god of rice. This was, like, a whole mountain with lots of different structures, and sub shrines, and artwork. And this place has all these gates, a painted orange. They're called torii. And they're gates that sort of symbolize stepping into a sacred place from the regular world.
If I were going back to Japan, that would be the place where I'd spend the most time. I love Japan. It's a really neat place. It's very busy. It's very structured.
CHRISTOPHER MCGRAW: So we only had a week in Japan, and so we kind of just went, went, went, and had a lot of long days. But there's just so much to see that, you know, I could get sleep back when I'm back at home, so we just kind of went, went, went until we crashed each night, and then woke up early and started all over again.
JOHN SNYDER: The thing is, the people in Japan are so accommodating and polite. It makes this place that would be really difficult to get around and understand, it makes it super easy and super fun.
- OK. I have now spent a good amount of time with both the Nissan Leaf and--
- Thanks for watching, and we hope you enjoyed this episode of "The Autoblog Show." For a lot more of our content, check us out at Autoblog.com, where you can find the latest reviews and news on all of your favorite cars.
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