I was driving in the countryside the other day when – blow me – a rusty old Datsun 100A coupe appeared on the other side of the carriageway: the first time I’d seen one of these chromed ‘70s relics for about a decade.
No, of course not – I was in deepest Norfolk. Which is, I have to report, a far better place to see vintage Japanese machinery than Japan itself.
Despite living and working in Tokyo, a holiday in the UK gave me a chance to catch up with the strange way the grey import market operates over here.
Cars that are practically forgotten in Japan still seem to be all over the place in the UK. Figaros are cult cars here, but are almost extinct back in their native land. Similarly the Suzuki Cappuccino has a far bigger fan base on this side of the world. Then there are old FTOs, Supras and the Estima and Delica people-carriers that have long since faded from the streets of Japan.
The trip home has also given be a chance to reacquaint myself with the challenges of driving in the UK. You might automatically think that the British motorist has things better than over in traffic-clogged Japan, but it’s nothing like as clean cut as that.
In Japan, you can forget all about speed cameras on A-roads, traffic calming and SUV hate – and fuel over there is also far cheaper at the pumps.
On the other hand, Japan’s motorways are all tolled (and expensive) and the country can’t compete with England’s fabulous countryside at its most majestic. What else? Japan doesn’t have a vociferous anti-car lobby like the UK. No congestion charge or much public awareness, it seems, about C02 as applied to cars and driving.
So Japan is OK. But when it’s really good (as on some of those deserted back roads in Norfolk) driving in England is in another league.