Having lived in Japan on and off for over 35 years, and permanently here as an expat for the past 10, you’d think I’d get jaded to the whole Japan Domestic Model (JDM) car scene, but surprisingly nothing could be further from the truth. It still fascinates me, primarily due to the window it gives into the broader aspects of Japanese culture and life. For example, I’m sure readers of Curbside Classic are familiar with such JDM stand-outs as the R33 Skyline GT-R, 3-Rotor Mazda (Eunos) Cosmos, and the Honda 660 Roadster. All fantastic automobiles only seen in very few countries outside Japan. But there is another category of Japan-unique vehicles that maybe you’re not as familiar with…
These are Japanese Pre-school busses. Pre-schools, daycare centers, and similar kindergarten level classes are called “Yochien” in Japan – they are privately run entities, as public elementary education starts at First Grade. Almost all use some form of customized minibus or van to pick up their students.
As noted above, Thomas the Tank engine is extremely popular in Japan…
But “Neko” busses (Cats) are also widely seen, including the ubiquitous “Hello Kitty”…
Even on small vans…
Perhaps the popularity of cat-themed busses is related to Director Hayao Miyazaki’s “Neko Bus” from his widely admired film “My Neighbor Totoro”
Of course, dogs are not left out…
And the Fox or “Kitsune” is renowned for a sense of magical mystery in Japan…
And being Japan, technology is always front and center…
It’s easy to see why Japanese children don’t seem to mind heading off to pre-school each morning. In contrast, growing up in central Ohio in the ‘60s, there weren’t any school busses in my neighborhood – if I decided to take the bus to school, I used public transportation. Here’s a representative picture of the bus I typically paid my 15 cents and rode to school……..it may not have cat ears, but I still have a soft spot for it…
We have a vast array of ex JDM vehicles here cars trucks buses, but I havent seen any Thomas the Tank engine themed ones yet, though I/m sure these would be popular with the preschool set here too.
Japan is… Japan. Israel was similar to Ohio then, we took regular the bus which happened to have a stop next to high school or – if we missed that – took the one to Tel Aviv which had a stop on the highway which we crossed (yes) and walked another 2 miles. And it looked something like this (Leyland Royal Tiger assembled in Israel, in case anyone asks. That style was known as “Lark” for obvious reasons):
Leyland buses and bus-chassis were really all over the place in the post-war decades, weren’t they ?
Below a unibody 1958 Leyland-Werkspoor. These public transport buses were called the “bolramer”, referring to the shape of the front windshield. Thanks to this shape the driver wasn’t hindered by reflections due to the interior lights. (Photo courtesy of Smiley.toerist)
Indeed. The sad story of how Leyland managed to lose it all, sigh…
That does look remarkably like a bus that ate a ’61 Lark. Interesting recycling of styling themes!
I had to walk to school !
Uphill both ways, I bet!
Ten miles each way and three feet of snow.
Me too !! But then again, it only took a few minutes. No noticeable difference in travel time between headwind and tailwind.
Thse GM “old look”buses remind me of what we had in Salt Lake City when I was growing up. We had a bus company back then called Salt Lake City Lines. Their buses had a white top with a pale avocado color on the lower, body separated a dark green stripe below the windows.
That cat gives me the creeps.
The cartoon cat? Ugh yes, it looks more cat than bus… And yet it is a cat with window holes in it…
Picture number 3, the locomotive, is not bad but other than that it’s too late for the eye bleach. Oh the nightmares I will have tonight.
I suppose a novelty bus would reduce anxiety in a small child but if one of these had shown up when I was a kid would have stayed home and grown up stupid.
Bet you the driver is “glad as hell” to unload those noisy, screaming kids in the morning and afternoon.
These are Japanese kids. They do not do such things.
I caught the tram to school. Great piece; nice bit of inducement to get kids to school.
I wonder if there was a city bus line in North America that DIDN’T use the GMC “Old Look” Buses well into the 1960’s. El Paso TX didn’t have daily school bus routes either, so high school students with no alternative would have to pack themselves, sardine-style, into city buses every day. I was very glad that I lived within walking distance prior to purchasing my first motorcycle.
That’s a good question Dave – I’m doing some research on a future post on these GM Old Looks now and found that GM controlled 84% of the transit and intercity bus market in 1956, so yes, they were everywhere…..
These are indeed awesome. I see Thomas the Toyota Transporter chugging by to pick up kids in my neighborhood every morning!
A Pennywise the Clown bus would rock. “All aboard Georgie!”
These are cute. Once again, CC provides the unexpected.
Just thinking of the buses used to get kids to school from outlying areas when I was at primary school, Apart from education board Bedfords there was one Austin and one 1940s Fargo/Dodge both classic relics now.
As a kid I walked or biked to school, and then took a regular yellow school bus (a late ’70’s International) to high school. A preschool bus here in Ontario would likely be van based. If I was a little kid I wouldn’t mind the Thomas The Tank Engine buses, but there’s no way I’d get on a Hello Kitty bus. No way. Nada. I can’t even imagine driving something like that. I hope the drivers are well paid.
These buses are just…horrible. The freak factor (and I don’t mean in a positive manner) borders on the absurdly campy. Even as a first grader, I’d be embarrassed to ride in such a vehicle. Barf.
Here in Canada, we get all sorts of Japanese vehicles imported once they’re 15 years old. I’ll bet you could pick up used ones for peanuts. What a great way to advertise your day care business!
So, when is Takumi going to drift these on Mt. Akina?
I love Japanese style! I almost cried from laughter but really love the appreciation for detail. Awesome post! Thanks, I needed this today.