By David Millward, Transport Editor
It includes everything from futuristic concept cars to designs tailored to the peculiar needs of the Japanese internal market, with the country’s crowded cities.
“Japan Car” looks at the vehicles as “mobile cells”, based on the philosophy of Kenya Hara, one of the country’s most prominent designers.
“Although the history of cars in Japan began with an attempt to emulate the West’s automotive technology and culture, the context of Japanese lifestyles and Japan’s particular route to industrial development has given Japan’s cars their own unique characteristics and individuality,” Hara said.
Mr Hara believes that the car will be seen as a driver’s private space, with greater emphasis on internal comfort rather than speed.
“Cars are being designed from the inside out,” said Andrew Nahum, the Science Museum’s principle curator of technology.
“They are increasingly being seen as somewhere where you spend part of your life and they are your private space.”
This is reflected in some of the cars on show, like the Nissan Cube or Daihatsu Tanto – boxy affairs which could hardly be described as slender or elegant.
Some will be familiar to British eyes such as the Mazda MX-5, which is now commonplace on our roads.
Some have claimed it is little more than a copy of the classic British two-seater sports car – but with greater reliability.
But to the Japanese it is drawn from the “soil and spirit” of the country, even if it was inspired by classic cars from Britain.
Now Japanese manufacturers are at the forefront of developing new low-carbon designs, with the petrol/electric Toyota Prius hybrid now commonplace on Britain’s roads.
But others will follow and some are also on display at the museum, including the similarly powered Honda Insight hybrid, which is also on sale in the UK.