So where were the scowls, the V-signs and the instantanous outbursts of road rage? There I was, driving an enormous Toyota Land Cruiser (the brand new V8-powered 200 Series) through Tokyo, and yet hate seemed to be in conspicuously short supply.

Try the same thing in London and you might not get lynched but pretty close. You'd also have to pay for the privilege, but Tokyo has no congestion charging and there's no guilt factor about driving, or being seen in, a big-tyred, oversized, fuel-guzzling SUV. Remarkable, eh? Like being back in England in the 1980s.

As impractical and anti-social as it was to drive the 'Cruiser through Tokyo, nobody around seemed to care. The local chapter of the anti-SUV lobby has yet to set up shop. I could do whatever I wanted. The contrast with London was telling.  

Funny how roles reverse. Not so long ago, Japan had the reputation for being a ferociously expensive place with draconian rules and nightmare traffic jams. Today, London's well ahead on the cost front, and while there are still bad jams in Tokyo (always coming into the city), generally, traffic actually flows pretty well through this massive city.

Tokyo's still big on rules and regulations, of course, but look: that brand new top-of-the-line Land Cruiser V8, fully specced, was on the road for the equivalent of just £26,692. In the UK, you'd pay £50K-plus for it. And to fill it up here would cost the equivalent of 72p a litre. And that's with pump prices in Japan at their shockingly highest level for at least a generation. So big, petrol-powered SUVs are a lot cheaper to contemplate.

The message for all you beleaguered, harrassed 4x4 drivers out there is clear: come to Tokyo, where people won't point fingers at you, and where you can still smoke in public. It's real back to the future stuff. Wonder when Japan will join the rest of the world?

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