Tokyo’s Cars & Coffee in Daikanyama

Ken Saito

Every second Sunday of the month, the leafy and peaceful suburb of Daikanyama located in the southwestern area of Tokyo hosts the annual Daikanyama T-Site Morning Cruise.  Think of it as the closest thing to a Tokyo version of cars and coffee.  While most meets in Tokyo are held randomly and are spread through word of mouth or friends wanting to meet up, the Daikanyama Morning Cruise is slightly more orderly.

Daikanyama Cars & Coffee – Nissan Silvia CSP311 (photo by Ken Saito)

Each monthly meet has a specific central theme with one section of the car park reserved for the theme cars.  Of course non-themed cars are also welcome and are put in a separate location to avoid overlapping.  The car park in question is within the beautifully minimalist and uber-hipster Daikanyama Tsutaya T-Site book shop.  Yes, this is a car meet held at a fancy bookstore.  Print is still well and truly alive in Japan and what better way than to have a cars and coffee meet here (there’s a Starbucks within the bookstore to provide the coffee of that equation) at one of the best places to get automotive related books and magazines.

Daikanyama Cars & Coffee Alfa Romeo Giulia (photo by Ken Saito)

It’s the automotive book section of the Daikanyama Tsutaya T-Site that organizes these meets.  It also helps the owner of the bookstore is a car buff himself with cars such as a Lamborghini Miura, Ford GT, Aston Martin DB4, and Bugatti EB110 in his garage so this is truly an enthusiast led meet.  As it seems to be the case with pretty much every cars and coffee event around the world, you have to up and early to attend these.  Generally, the Daikanyama Morning Cruise starts from as early as 7am and wraps up around 9am.

What makes this meet so great is the accessibility.  While some of the more famous meets such as Daikoku and Tatsumi are nearby, they require driving on the Metropolitan Expressway by car.  There’s no way of going there by public transport.  The Daikanyama Morning Cruise is literally a 5-minute walk from Daikanyama station which means anyone in Tokyo can go and have a look at the meet.  Since Daikanyama is also close to Ebisu, Hiroo, and Roppongi where a lot of expats live, it’s a great way to meet local and overseas enthusiasts.

This month’s theme was Volvo.

Daikanyama Cars & Coffee – Volvo is this month’s theme (photo by Ken Saito)

Daikanyama Cars & Coffee – vintage Volvo (photo by Ken Saito)

Bear with me here, I was adamant about how good the turnout would be; but as this was a Morning Cruise, it usually never disappoints.  One of the coolest parts of the Morning Cruise is a special display in the bookstore corresponding to the theme of the meet, so there were plenty of Volvo related books and magazines on show.  In the car park, the theme car section was full of Volvos from all eras with varying degrees of modifications.

Daikanyama Cars & Coffee – variety of Volvos (photo by Ken Saito)

Daikanyama Cars & Coffee – pair of Volvo P1800s (photo by Ken Saito)

The highlight was the pair of yellow P1800s, a coupe and a shooting brake.  These cars are a rare sight in Tokyo and even rarer to see a matching pair together.  They were displayed front and center next to the lineup of new model Volvos brought in by Volvo Japan.

What makes these Morning Cruises cool is the mix of support from manufacturers, clubs, and owners alike – which would explain the wide variety of Volvos present.  With a selection of varying degrees of condition from pure bone stock examples to classics and some modified cars, it’s interesting to see some of the personalization these guys do to make their cars stand out of the crowd.  Volvos aren’t exactly everywhere in Japan, they’re popular sure, but it’s not like there’s one littered around every street corner.  Yet these guys thought why not make their particular a bit different, so there were some with minor cosmetic modifications such as a Swedish flag sticker here and there, blue and yellow stripes on the grille, and maybe some Volvo owner’s club badges too.

Daikanyama Cars & Coffee (photo by Ken Saito)

Some went all out and just got a factory Polestar-tuned car.  These are rare, not many ended up in Japan so seeing a couple around the car park at the meet was a real treat.  I’m rather curious to see how the Polestar One and Two will be received in Japan, there’s certainly a market for a funky EV crossover but a large expensive hybrid coupe might be too close for the Lexus LC500h for comfort.

Daikanyama Cars & Coffee – Volvo Polestar (photo by Ken Saito)

Of course, being Japan some people just can’t help themselves but modify their cars.  Spend some time in Daikanyama and you’ll notice a recurring theme; it’s all very posh.  The houses, the people, and the cars are all very well kept and well to do.  There’s a lot of posh European cars driving around, it’s the sort of neighborhood soccer moms in Porsche Cayennes and Range Rovers would frequent.  So seeing a bright blue Volvo V40 with Recaro bucket seats and a carbon fiber bonnet and a Volvo V70R with a bodykit and white wheels here wasn’t exactly the norm.

But that’s what makes these meets, and pretty much any meet in Japan so enjoyable.  It’s all about the diversity and respect.  There’s no elitism or exclusion from these meets.  As long as you’re respectful of each other’s cars there’s no problem.  The organizers of the Daikanyama meet also stress to not make too much noise while leaving, as these meets do happen early on a Sunday morning.

Daikanyama Cars & Coffee – atmosphere (photo by Ken Saito)

It was more than just diversity among Volvos, as always there were other non-theme cars at the meet too.  One of the more interesting ones was the Toyota Origin, a sort of retro-inspired sedan from 2000 taking styling cues from the original Toyopet Crown but based on a more contemporary sedan.  Only around 1,000 were made and featured suicide doors before the Rolls-Royce Phantom had them.

Daikanyama Cars & Coffee – Toyota Origin (photo by Ken Saito)

Another Japanese rarity was the original Nissan Silvia.  A stunningly pretty car, only a few hundred of these were made with even fewer exported out of Japan.  The styling was clearly inspired by the equally pretty Lancia Fulvia and was the start of Nissan’s iconic Silvia sports car nameplate.  Rounding off the interesting Japanese vehicles was the Honda Acty Big Cab parked in the corner.  It’s always cool to see non-commercial use kei trucks in Tokyo as the purpose of these trucks shift from utility to leisure.

Daikanyama Cars & Coffee – Honda Acty Big Cab (photo by Ken Saito)

Daikanyama Cars & Coffee – DeLorean (photo by Ken Saito)

Some of the non-Japanese cars included a brand spanking new Porsche 911 GT3 RS which still had the plastic cover on its central screen.  It was conveniently parked next to a DeLorean with the most appropriate windshield cover.  On this side of the car park were a few colorful oddities such as a lovely blue Alfa Romeo Sprint Zagato, a pair of Lotus Elans complimenting the pair Caterhams across them, and one of the 1800 Renault Sport Spider produced.

Daikanyama Cars & Coffee – Porsche 911 GT3 RS (photo by Ken Saito)

Daikanyama Cars & Coffee – Renault Sport Spider (photo by Ken Saito)

With a different theme each month, the Daikanyama Morning Cruise is a meet you’ll want to come back to just to see what might show up.  It’s accessibility, growing community, and quality as well as quantity of cars makes it a staple in the Tokyo car scene.  If you’re in town during the second Sunday of the month, I’d recommend getting up bright and early to check one of these meets out.  You’ll never know what you’ll see there.  Plus, it’s a good excuse to check out one of the best book shops in Tokyo, if not the world.


Author’s Biography

Ken Saito is a Guest Writer specializing in Automobiles who resides in Japan. With a B.A. majoring in Media Studies with minors in Asian Studies and History from Victoria University in New Zealand, Ken has contributed to motoring websites like DriveLive New Zealand, CarsOfTokyo (Japan), Jalopnik (USA) and Petrolicious (USA), as well as magazines like Lords Magazine (France) and Automobile (USA).
Ken may be one of the few people to have been ‘canyon carving’ in a Cadillac SUV against a Ferrari F40…

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