Held at the end of March each year, the annual Tokyo Motorcycle show is a "hands on handlebars and bums on saddles" kind of event which, as well as being a world showcase for the latest innovations from local manufacturers, aims to function as a shop window and proving ground for the millions of motorcyclists in Japan. So while Honda's 750cc NM4 Vultus was the star of the show, there were plenty of other new and interesting machines for crowds to get astride and even ride. Here's a look at some of the highlights.
The motorcycle market in JapanThe Motorcycle market in Japan has gone through some tough times recently. Sales declined in 2012 compared to previous years, though last year they bounced back by 4.4 percent to 419,398 units. Domestic production has also seen a decline, falling from 595,473 units in 2012 to 563,169 units in 2013. Of the big four, it was Yamaha who just nosed out Suzuki to become the largest manufacturer in 2013 with 173,918 units. After Suzuki (173,319 units) came Honda with 141,800 units and finally Kawasaki with 72,651 units.
At this year`s show there were several distinct types of machines on display. These ranged in price and scale from the small step-through scooters, to the big American Style Cruisers. Machines under 50 cc are the market leaders in Japan with over 238,786 sales in 2013. Their popularity is mainly due to the non-requirement of a motorcycle license for car license holders, so they are commonly used for local commuting and home delivery.
However, the 50 cc machines are experiencing a slight decline of sales (3 percent in 2013) compared to a rise of 23.5 percent for machines over 250 cc machines. By the end of 2014 it is expected this number will rise even more significantly. This shift comes from the fact that bikes over 250 cc mark a crossing point where the top end of the big scooter market meets the bottom end of the sports bike market. The real sweet spot in this market comes around the 400 cc limit, where the rider in Japan is required to take a special license.
The stars of the showThe highlight of the show was undoubtedly the new Honda NM. There were long queues waiting patiently to get astride and get the feel for this new feet forward, 750cc motorcycle design. It's popularity can be attributed to similarities with the futuristic motorcycle ridden in the classic Japanese animation film, Akira.
Japan is Harley Davidson`s second biggest market and all of the big four manufactures have their own Cruiser style of bike, all of which made their presence felt at the show along with other big American names such as Indian and Victory. The next step up for Harley fans is the three wheeled Lehman Trike, and if that's still not enough then perhaps the 445 hp Boss Hoss will satisfy your Cruiser cravings.
Three wheel leaning machines were also in evidence at the show with Yamaha showing its TriCity concept (production is slated for the end of the year) and a world launch by Adiva. The 200cc AD tre 55 incorporates a retractable canopy covering its two seats. Also on the Adiva stand was the AD trike, a single front wheel leaning Trike with room for two people.
The middle ground in the Japanese market belongs to the Sports Racer, and there was no shortage of these for crowds to paw over. Also much in evidence was the Café racer. Along with true stalwarts of the style like Triumph and the Royal Enfield Motorcycles, there retro-styled racers in every major manufacturers range at the show.
There were also some homegrown classics at the show with some manufactures outing new versions of their 1970's machines. Most notable of these was Honda with its Ape and Monkey Bikes.
Click through to our gallery for more of the highlights from the Tokyo Motorcycle Show.