The car’s interior was so spacious around my feet that I was tempted to stretch even my toes out. The soft black leather seats were comfortable to the touch.

I took a ride in a luxury Toyota Century vehicle for the first time ever the other day.

I was in the rear seat as the car rolled along an avenue in central Tokyo. I was a bit uneasy about the ride. It felt like every pedestrian was watching me.

Michiharu Ishikawa, 59, a taxi owner and driver, gave me the ride. He said all his customers have made prior reservations because they want to be in this vehicle.

“I am happy when my customers are happy,” said Ishikawa, a resident of Saitama. “It makes me think I didn’t buy this car in vain.”

A court ruled last month that the government of Yamaguchi Prefecture made an “illegal expenditure” in purchasing a Toyota Century to be used for their guests of honor.

The vehicle costs more than 20 million yen ($146,000) per unit, several times as much as other luxury cars. No wonder the plaintiff argued the purchase made with taxpayers’ money was too expensive.

In other prefectures, the Toyota Century has reportedly been replaced by different models as the official vehicle for senior officials to use, including governors.

The Century, after all, is a top-of-the-line, full-size sedan that is the pride and joy of Toyota Motor Corp., the manufacturer. It carries original phoenix emblems that are not found on other, run-of-the-mill Toyota automobiles.

The imperial household is also famously using a Toyota Century.

Given that, it is quite understandable that politicians, government officials and businesspeople hold special feelings for the Century as a symbol of their success. Yet they can go for rides in a Century at their own expense, rather than the public’s, if they are so eager to do so.

I was curious to learn how fans of the Toyota Century across Japan are feeling about the hubbub in Yamaguchi Prefecture, so I asked Ishikawa if the news had discomforted him.

“Oh, no,” he said. “That only strengthened my belief the Century is so special.”

Well said, because the Toyota Century, itself, is not to blame for the fuss.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 9

* * *

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.

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VOX POPULI: Don’t blame the Toyota Century if officials take the public for a ride

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09.12.2022

The car’s interior was so spacious around my feet that I was tempted to stretch even my toes out. The soft black leather seats were comfortable to the touch.

I took a ride in a luxury Toyota Century vehicle for the first time ever the other day.

I was in the rear seat as the car rolled along an avenue in central Tokyo. I was a bit uneasy about the ride. It felt like every pedestrian was watching me.

Michiharu Ishikawa, 59, a taxi owner and driver, gave me the ride. He said all his customers have made prior reservations because they want to be in this vehicle.

“I am happy when my customers are happy,” said........

© The Asahi Shimbun


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