Japan
Page creation 30/06/2009
All rights reserved DSinAsia 2006-2016, except otherwise indicated
A great shot, taken during a  "Foreign Car Show" organized
in Enoshima, a seaside resort area near Tokyo, on May
14th & 15th, 1960. It was rumoured that the exhibition had
to be held outside Tokyo out of concern that the domestic
car manufacturers would not appreciate... The interest for
foreign cars was simply huge,  but  the so-called
liberalization of imports mostly translated into a marginal
increase of import quotas, and taxes remained high.
At the Enoshima event, cars from all European and
American makes were presented, but this memorable
photo shows the level of interest the DS was attracting in
those days. The plate shows "Citroen" in handpainted
Japanese, and the car is indeed an ID19, still without a grip
on the bootlid, which is to appear the following year only
(Jikayosha - The owner driver, July 1960).
Above: Mr Ogawa, company President, with his 1962
ID19. His comments: "The very day I bought this car, I
drove all the way to Karuizawa, and I liked it at once. This
is a car for real car amateurs, not like these American
cars". How about that. (Car Graphic, July 1962).
Above: Mr Masuda, a general practitioner, with his 1962
DS19. He says: "I have tried many makes, but I became
a Citroenist from the day I got my 1954 2CV. The other
day I drove it to Akita prefecture, everything was fine. I
think Citroen cars are superior because of their comfort,
and also because they are economical. The more I drive
them the better I feel. Very good cars indeed." (Car
Graphic, July 1962).
Mr Aoi is a die-hard Citroen fan. In a Car Graphic
interview (November 2005), he recalls his first encounter
with the ID19, at the "First Osaka Foreign Car Show",
back in 1963 :

"I had seen some pictures of the car in magazines, but it
was the first time I could see the real thing. I slowly
moved towards the car, watching avidly, when Mr
Hatsuya, a Director of the Citroen representative
company in Japan, Nichifutsu Jidosha, started a
conversation with the words  "Nobody dares getting
close to the car, even though it is 20 years ahead of
other European or American makes !  If you do come
close, you have to be a real car amateur..." Hatsuya-san
went on explaining everything about the car, from the
hydro-pneumatic suspension to the reclining front seats.
Frankly I was not so much interested in this car before
the show, but then I became totally enthusiast about it."

A few days later, Aoi-san ordered his own ID19, which
he received three months later. But the costs were
expensive (210% import tax, plus the yearly expenses of
all kinds), and after a few years, Aoi-san decided he
could not to use the car anymore. He went on driving a
GS, a 2CV, a SM, then another DS.... But this original
ID19, 28.885 km only, is still today in his garage !
The photo on the left above was taken when Aoi-san
drove his ID all the way from Osaka to Harumi, nearby
Tokyo, in 1965.

The other photo, above, is very interesting: it shows
Aoi-san with another ID, which he was asked by a friend
to purchase from... Honda, yes, the carmaker, who had
bought this car in order to study the front wheel drive
technology.
Mr Hayashi, the owner of a drugstore in Omiya, has a
passion: the restoration of old Japanese-made cars.
One of the cars he uses daily is nevertheless a Citroen
ID19; he explains why he loves this car:  "Because one
day will come when you won't be able to drive a car with
a personality any more" ("Watashi no Kuruma" (My car),
November 1974).
Mr Sugiyama (third from right) is probably the most
famous Citroenist in Japan. A gynaecologist in
Yokkaichi, not far from Nagoya, he was President  of the
Citroen Club of Japan during many years, and has
owned several Citroens, starting with one of the very first
ID19 (Citroen Japan Club News, Autumn 2004).
What could be the reactions of the first Japanese adventurous motorists who purchased a
DS19 or an ID19, when the liberalization of car imports took place, gradually and partially,
around 1962 ?
The "French cars" section of a book
published in November 1960, titled
"Yasashiku jitsuyotekina gaisha no chishiki"
(An easy and practical introduction to
foreign cars), gives a good idea of the
mood surrounding the appearance of the
new Citroen. Hereafter a few selected
extracts:

"The French love novelty and rarity. They
like to discover new things." (When the first
DS appeared on a Tokyo street) "people
were gathering around it and wondered
aloud "What is it, a Studebaker ? Or the
latest Toyopet ?" Well, good point, they do
have something in common. But the reality
is that almost no one could tell it was a
Citroen."  (...) "Compared to other brands,
very few Citroens have been imported into
Japan after the war, and your average
Tokyoite probably does not know this
brand. No import has been made since
1953, so the number of Citroens still
remaining today in Japan is declining year
after year, and apart from the true
amateurs, most people have forgotten the
existence of this manufacturer. Today, only
a handful of people still keep their 11CV,
which ceased production in 1957, or their
2CV, which was difficult to obtain."
"During a Car Show the other day, the cars
that attracted everyone, starting with young
women, were the DS19 USA type, and the
ID19 Confort."
The first DS in Japan all bear these side mirrors on top of both wings, seemingly added by the importer for local
regulatory reasons. Fine pictures, taken in 1966, found with many others on the following site (Japanese):
http://blog.goo.ne.jp/koyapop/e/23f65e6421ed247fd1fcf0cad085681b
Back to our guide to foreign cars, "French
cars" section. The writer explains:

"When it was unveiled, the car took the
front page of newspapers worldwide, Japan
included; five years have passed since
then. That's because Citroen refused to
export the car to Japan. What could be the
reasons ? Two assumptions can be made:
1- Service and maintenance could not be
ensured in Japan.
2- Contrary to other countries, Japan does
not have an established tradition of car
engineering. It may have been feared that if
the car was exported here, the know-how
painstakingly accumulated over the years
by Citroen would have been absorbed (as a
matter of fact, in order to study the
pneumatic suspension, the import of one
car had been considered, in vain)."

The author continues his glorification of the
DS: "The particularities of the Citroen can
be summarized as follows: comfort, speed,
power, fuel consumption, superior handling,
durability, easy maintenance. All of it has
been achieved for the first time in a single
car."

The author then concludes with a highly
premonitory remark: "Due to the high cost
of development and marketing necessary to
reach this result, it is said that Citroen will
never be profitable with this model. But
since this company lives off profit made on
the truck business, the commonly accepted
view is that it should not be a problem."