Toyota Kaikan Museum and Factory Tour in Nagoya: The Best Stuff isn't in the Photos

Greeted by hundreds of these spiders with their webs all over the place, I made the trek from central Nagoya out to Toyota, an actual city named after the company named after its founder. In Toyota City, Toyota the automobile manufacturer is king. The people who live here likely work for Toyota. The businesses here likely supply to, or work with Toyota. And then there are the assembly lines and other plants Toyota itself has in town. The Nagoya area has a few Toyota sightseeing locations; I've visited one location each time I've headed to Nagoya. The first trip was to the Kaikan Museum and a factory tour.
Located on the company's main campus, next to the headquarters, the Kaikan Museum showcases the latest technology and current vehicles coming from the company.
Of course, that doesn't stop them from including some beautiful classic automobiles.
Hydrogen Fuel Cell and Hybrid technologies are on display; hybrid vehicles are extremely popular here due to the high price of gas and lack of space.
These personal vehicles are like segways and electric wheelchairs rolled into one. I got to sit in one, though it wasn't operational. There are some simulators that help demonstrate safety features such as safety belt pretensionerse. It's kind of fun, actually!
There's a model of the assembly line, too. In Japan, as elsewhere, Toyota cars are made to order. Custom colors, parts, and options are easier to provide if they're just made when the customer asks. Computers, robots, and humans all work together to deliver and assemble the correct parts into the correct vehicles.
My visit to the Toyota headquarters included a trip to an actual assembly plant, too! Reservations are required, but if made early enough and during off-peak times there should be no major worries. My tour wasn't full on a weekday. The factory itself looks just like the model. Parts are delivered and sorted at the receiving docks. After being stocked on shelves, workers grab the nuts and bolts and small parts that all go together to assemble the cars, using part sheets and robots to help make their jobs easier. Larger parts are managed by robots or power-assisted devices. Each worker assembles a specific part or collection of parts on the car, spending about a minute on each vehicle.

If there are any difficulties, light systems and message boards help fix the problems quickly - if it's not right the entire assembly line stops. And speaking of which - the whole floor moves with the car, so workers don't have to walk alongside moving vehicles. As for noise, it's surprisingly quiet. There are noises you'd expect, some banging, screwdriving, and so on. But it's quieter than the average bar. Workers have very strict schedules due to the assembly line process, but they change stations frequently to avoid fatigue and boredom.

During my visit, the tour included Kaikan, the assembly shop, and transportation to/from the assembly shop by minibus. There was no welding shop visit, although a video demonstrated the process. At the time of this writing, it appears that a visit to the welding shop is included. You are required to wear appropriate clothes, mainly no sandals or high heels.
Photos aren't allowed in the assembly building. If you ever have a chance to view a modernized vehicle assembly line, I highly recommend it! Back at the museum, the last part of the exhibits is a showroom of the current models. You can climb inside them, flip switches, so on and so forth. Because cars in Japan are smaller, they are fairly affordable. Cheap, they are not, but I'd be happy buying a Toyota here! Too bad they drive on the wrong side of the road here, so the steering wheel is on the right side.
This robot plays the trumpet! Toyota does more than cars; I'll get to some of their other ventures in a future post. Upstairs, you'll find a small gift shop with lots of Toyota goods at fairly high prices. Branded goods are amazingly expensive in Japan, not just here. There's supposedly a restaurant or cafe, too, though I seemed to have missed it and wasn't really in the mood to hunt for it due to time concerns.

But Toyota Kaikan is a highly recommended stop for car fans or just anyone interested in finding out how cars are put together! I understand Mazda has a factory tour in Hiroshima, too, though I wasn't able to visit due to timing issues.

To get to the Toyota Kaikan, take a train all the way to Toyota-shi Station and then a bus to the headquarters, or walk from Mikawa-Toyota Station as I did. Either way, expect to spend over an hour getting there from Nagoya Station. It's open 9:30-17:00, and admission is free, though they are closed on Sundays. Tours are also free, but are only given, with reservations, on weekdays at 11:00 (arrive by 10:30), and last two hours. They are in English and Japanese.

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