Like SEMA and the PRI show, the Tokyo Auto Salon is held once a year. But it's so much different. You might say it's the Mecca for the Japanese car enthusiast--not so much for the Honda fan though. Still, every Honda enthusiast should attend, if only once in his lifetime. While the brand is all but overlooked by most of the country's well-known tuners, those who do cater to the brand do so in big ways. The Auto Salon's Honda content may seem limited to the likes of J's Racing, Mugen, and Spoon Sports, but that isn't where it all ends. Companies like Jun Auto Mechanic showed off its K-series goods, FEEL's had its track-prepped FD2 Type R on display, and there was more than a few random Honda chassis splashed throughout the arena. If you're only interested in Honda content, then don't waste the trip. It'd be easy to run through the show in less than two hours and not miss anything Honda-wise. But if you're easily entertained, plan a trip to TAS. It's one that you'll never regret.
Getting To Tokyo Auto Salon
There are at least a couple of Tokyo Auto Salon tours catering to Americans, but getting there on your own isn't terribly difficult and is often cheaper. Here are the basics.
Getting There: Flights to Narita Airport, which is about an hour away by train from central Tokyo, are surprisingly reasonable. It isn't uncommon to pay as little as $800 for an early-January flight that's booked well ahead of time. Don't forget your passport.
The Airport: Narita is a major hub, which means most signs are in English. Communicating with airline reps, as well as immigration and customs authorities is painless. Review Japan's regulations as to what you can and can't bring into the country before packing your bags.
Transportation: There are three major ways to leave the airport: taxi, train, and limousine bus. The Narita Express train is the cheapest and arguably the most convenient. Pay attention to the signs after passing through customs that'll lead you to the ticket counter. A one-way ticket to central Tokyo will run you about $30. This is the time and place to exchange currency and to rent a cell phone, which is cheaper than you think.
The Hotel: Tokyo's Shinagawa ward is a popular one for tourists. It's centrally located along the Yamanote line (the train system the circles greater Tokyo), and is a Narita Express drop-off point. The Shinagawa Prince Hotel, which is located directly across the street from the station, has single-occupancy, business-class rooms for about $60.
The Show: TAS isn't held in Tokyo but instead in Makuhari Messe, about an hour's train ride from Shinagawa Station. Again, there's more than one way to get there, but the train is cheap and convenient. Purchase train tickets individually or get yourself a Pasmo card, which is like a debit card that you fill up yourself and works on most railways. Make your way to Tokyo Station via Shinagawa Station's Yamanote line and hop on the Keiyo Line, which stops at Makuhari Station. Follow the signs to the convention center and enjoy the show!
Everything Else: Get acclimated with Tokyo's railway as soon as you can. You can't do much if you don't take advantage of it. If you aren't traveling with a native speaker, mealtime can be a pain. Many restaurants have "plastic food" in their windows, which makes it easy for visitors to point at what they want. Although not entirely accurate, the quickest way to convert the Japanese yen to the U.S. dollar is to simply remove the yen's last two whole-dollar digits. For example, 100 yen is equal to one dollar.