Tokyo represents all that is best about Japan.
Its night time skyline is one of the wonders of the world and the city has an embarrassment of riches in roads, rail and public transport.
But Japan is also bust, with debts that one international newspaper claim are equally to the debts of the UK, Germany and France combined.
New car sales in the country are at 32-year low, with the only glimmer of hope in the sales of the tiny Kei mini cars and hybrids. Drivers in Japan are also seen as a cash cow for the government, which gets over 9 per cent of its total tax take from motorists.
To make things even worse for Japan’s eight domestic manufacturers, the last 12 months has seen a steep rise in the Yen, making exporting cars from Japan increasingly unprofitable.
Little wonder, then, that the 41st Tokyo show will probably go down as the quietest on record. A bi-annual event the number of exhibitors was well below half the number who appeared in the pre-crunch days of 2007.
Moreover, aside from small showings by Lotus and Caterham (made possible by the local importers) no foreign manufacturers appeared at the show.
With the exception of the public unveiling of the Lexus LF-A supercar, the only talk at Tokyo was of reducing the use of oil.
The effect of trailing from one set-piece press conference to another was almost comic. The first word of virtually every industry bigwig as they climbed onto the stage was ‘emissions’.
Even Caterham – a car company with a microscopic global impact – says it wants to introduce either an electric or hybrid car and establish a global one-make ‘zero emissions’ race series.
Typically, Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn made the most compelling set-piece speech declaring that the ‘race to zero emissions has begun’ and promised ‘zero emissions, zero particles, zero noise and zero oil.’
That was a slight exaggeration, because even Ghosn doesn’t think that, by 2020, electric car sales will deliver more than 20 per cent of all new car production.
Nissan’s Leaf has to be best-sorted pure electric car yet, based on an well-established Golf-size platform, with Nissan’s own slim battery packs packaged under the floor. But it will be expensive and will probably rely on government incentives and tax breaks to make any kind of financial sense.