Why Minivans are Popular in Japan

Why Minivans are so Popular in Japan Car

Minivans are unique to Japan and cannot be found in other countries, but why do they exclusively exist in Japan?

From a global perspective, the Japanese car market is highly galapagosized (put in italic to show that it is a borrowed word), with each country having its unique market, including mini-cars. Among them, the minivan is probably the most representative of Japan’s Galapagos culture. I will explain why minivans are popular in Japan and why they are not popular overseas. Additionally, I have extensively written on kei-cars in the past, and the articles can be accessed freely in case you are interested in them.

First of all, what is a minivan?

According to experts in automobiles, there is no clear definition of what a minivan is. However, the minivan can be described as a 1.5 box or two-box-type car, and unlike a van, which is a commercial vehicle with a large cargo space to carry much luggage, a minivan is a car with three rows of seats that extend as far as the back door.

Many of them are sold for family use and are well equipped.

Image of a minivan

The image of the van, which is the basis of the minivan, is also very different between Japan and other countries. In Japan, the image of the van as a family car is strong, but overseas, the image of the van as a commercial vehicle prevails. This is because of the origin of the word “van” itself. It comes from the word “caravan” which means a covered cargo vehicle, and the image of a vehicle initially developed for cargo use has been retained.

Once the image of a car as a commercial vehicle is attached, it is hard to get rid of it.

The size of the car is just right for Japanese people

For Japanese people, minivans are large, but minivans are too small for people in the West. Initially, the minivan was created by taking a van that had existed in Europe for a long time and making it smaller for Japan. The minivan was initially developed from a van that had existed in Europe for a long time. This is how the minivan category was formed. Therefore, minivans that have been downsized to fit the Japanese market are too small for people in Europe and the U.S. who are used to driving vans.

Sliding doors

Sliding doors

I believe that the sliding door is one of the most important reasons people choose minivans in Japan. It is a great feature that prevents children from hitting the door of the next car when they get out.

However, this feature is not essential in other countries. In the first place, parking lots are much larger than in Japan, so there is no need to be so careful when opening the door. The difference in the way people feel about cars is also a factor.

They do not care about minor scratches and scrapes at all. There is even a popularized culture where people intentionally bump their cars to push other cars to make room for their own parking when parallel parking occurs. This is something that everyone does, so the person who is hit by the car is not particularly bothered.

For this reason, the door is not that important to them.

Popular Minivans in Japan



Toyota Motor Corporation introduced the ALPHARD in 2002 as a derivative of the Hiace.
Its name comes from the Greek word alpha, meaning the brightest star. As its name suggests, it is the most popular minivan in Japan.

The merit of the ALPHARD lies not only in its spaciousness but also in its lightweight. Its braking distance of 45 meters on dry roads is the shortest of any minivan in Japan, and it is said to be very safe. As a popular model, it is well known and has an image of “driving a luxury car” despite its reasonable price.



Freed is one of Honda’s most popular minivan models. It has a compact body size, but the interior is spacious enough for adults to sit comfortably. It is an ideal vehicle for families raising children, as it can be used not only for daily use but also for long-distance driving. Freed has a spacious interior with three rows of seats.

Despite its relatively high height of 1,710mm, the floor is designed to be low, making it easy for small children and the elderly to get in and out.



Serena is a popular car model in Nissan that pursues livability in its body. This car features outstandingly high livability for a car equipped with ProPilot (same lane automated driving technology). It also has dual back doors that can be opened and closed only on the upper half of the rear gate, making the back doors unusual for a minivan.

The emergency automatic brakes can detect vehicles and pedestrians, which gives a sense of security to the safety equipment. It also has a wide range of safety support functions, such as an around-view monitor. A variety of seat arrangements are available to make it easier for families with children. It is an efficient car that can be quickly loaded with luggage. It is truly a family car made for families with children.


  1. ocw5d says:

    Excelent postt but I was wonhdering if youu could weite a litte
    mor onn this topic? I’d be very thaankful iff you could elaborate a little bit further.
    Bless you!

  2. Muriel says:

    Appreciate it, Loads of forum posts.