Words by Niky Tamayo | Photos by Ken Tamayo
Japanese culture is an eclectic mix of Western, traditional, and futuristic influences. Nowhere is this better seen than in its railway system, which ranges from jam-packed urban subway systems, to quaint, picturesque rural lines that allow travelers to savor the sights and foods of Japan in slow-moving comfort. But when asked to consider a “Japanese train,” most people immediately picture the Shinkansen, or the “bullet train”. This land-bound jet-liner is one of the most iconic symbols of Japanese progress from the 20th century.
Perhaps not quite as iconic, but equally pervasive in Japanese culture, is the minivan. While the modern minivan is arguably an American phenomenon, Japan has put its own unique twist on it. Where the US minivan is a fop to the so-called “soccer mom”, the Japanese minivan is an ostentatious status symbol. In a land teeming with diminutive Kei cars and bicycles, it’s the king of the road. And they don’t come much more kingly than the Toyota Alphard. Its reign is so dominant, in fact, that there are more of these vans in Japan than Corollas.