2011 Tokyo Truck Show

Today was the opening day of the 2011 Tokyo Truck Show, so I dropped by the Tokyo Big Sight convention center to have a look. At the time of this post, the show has two days left.

There were dozens of trucks on display, many inside the exhibition halls and even more parked in a large fenced area outside. In addition to the standard cab-in-front-of-a-box arrangement, there were a great many specialized trucks to examine, including tanker trucks, dump trucks, garbage trucks, tow trucks, the car carrier in the photo above (which looks even cooler to my eye than the snazzy sports cars it has aboard) and the giant vacuum-cleaner truck in the photo below.

Most of the trucks just sat there, gleaming, but a few put on demonstrations, such as the logging trucks equipped with robot arms in this video:

Perhaps because this is a trade show aimed at representatives of companies (even though it is open to the public), there was no trace of Japan’s fantastically individualistic deco-tora decorated truck subculture. However, I did see one truck that had some artwork on its side:

Walking around to the other side of the truck, I discovered the amazing machine that had been used in creating this artwork. It took me a moment to realize what I was looking at. It was the biggest ink-jet printer I have ever seen in my life:

The drive-in printer, made by the Tokyo-based LAC Corporation, is called an Auto Body Printer in Japanese, and Vehicle Art Robo in English. According to the company’s website, the same technology is also used to print designs on refrigerators, surfboards, suitcases and cell phones – basically anything with a hard surface. It takes just under two and a half hours to complete a 10 meter by two meter image.

The printer was just one piece of truck-related merchandise on display. Other exhibitors were promoting everything from leaf springs to drivers’ uniforms. The Tokai Denshi company, based in Fuji, Shizuoka Prefecture, was demonstrating its ALC-Lock device (photo below) that will prevent a driver from starting a truck while drunk.

Two other devices impressed me with the idea that there is always room for innovation, even regarding the most everyday objects or situations.

For drivers who have to spend the night sleeping in the back of their cabs, the Tokyo-based firm Taiyo Kogyo, aka Mak Max, will introduce next year an inflatable sleeping bag attached to a personal air conditioner. According to the company’s website, their other inflatable products include Tokyo Dome. (No, that’s not a typo. Taiyo Kogyo specializes in membranes as a building material.)

And the Moriyama Tekkou company has taken a device so simple it would seem impervious to further design – the wheeled dolly – and redesigned it. Their new, lightweight dolly folds up into a compact package resembling a trumpet case. A member of the staff at their booth was kind enough to let me make a video of her demonstrating it:

I was especially taken with item this because I used to use dollies and hand trucks long ago in my 1980s summer job as a mover. Not surprisingly, a lot of things at the truck show brought back memories of my moving days. When we movers were not actually out on the trucks, we would be put to work in the warehouse, where a van would stop by each day selling sandwiches, drinks and snacks that we’d buy for lunch. We called it “the roach coach” (which must have been an ancient joke even then), and it looked something like this:

The truck in this photo was displayed at the show by Ohpado, a Yokohama-based company whose website shows them to specialize in baked goods rather than trucks per se. In fact, I have once or twice glimpsed such a truck selling baked goods to office workers in Ginza. Perhaps it was an Ohpado truck. In any case, despite the nickname we gave the van, my fellow movers and I eagerly ate many of its sandwiches back in the day, and the pastries shown at Ohpado’s website look like they’d be quite nice.

Want to go?

The 2011 Tokyo Truck Show runs through Saturday, Oct. 29, at the Tokyo Big Sight convention center. The hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and admission is 1,000 yen. It is not aimed at children, but I did notice one man there with his very small son, and I think a kid who likes trucks would get a kick out of seeing so many in one place. The show is entirely in Japanese.

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