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no colour please, we’re japanese

January 23, 2008

Ask any UK used car dealer what the least popular colour for cars is, and more likely than not, he’ll tell you it’s white.

Just take one look at the streets and car parks of Japan, and you’ll see that, far from languishing at the bottom of the car colour league (and there is such a thing), white is by far the most popular colour for Japanese motorists.

Theories for this discrepancy abound – British folks, although fairly conservative, feel safely and anonymously hidden in their car, and so like a dash of colour to spice things up. For the Japanese, though, even this bold little expression of individuality is really sticking your neck out, and as a consequence white is the choice of the majority.

(Here at least the Japanese are consistent. The majority has a fervent wish to remain anonymous and hence white is number one. Many British have no great desire to stick out either, but call it privacy. We even crave attention, but are uncomfortable when we get it.)

Japanese roads then are full of white. For the imprudently bold, silver is permissible. Anything off-palette is punishable by social ostracism, or in cases of extreme garishness, death. No woman would marry a man with a red car for fear of her social standing and reputation.

Japan is changing though, and embracing the new century. Cars are being produced in all manner of offensive shades of pinks, yellows, greens, and other uninvited outbursts of individuality. All social standards are collapsing, in fact, as we look ahead to a bleak, colourful future.

no colour, please - we're japanese
8 Comments leave one →
  1. January 23, 2008 11:04 pm

    My students here in Osaka are mortified when I tell them that white is one of the least favourite car colours in Canada, for the simple fact that there’s a better chance of rescuers finding a blue or red or green car in a snowdrift if you ever go off the road in a storm. With a white car, the snowplow goes by, and they don’t find you again until spring.

  2. remora permalink
    January 23, 2008 11:21 pm

    well I’m rather partial to the brighter shades of peuce – have you sighted any?

  3. January 24, 2008 12:55 am

    I had a car when I lived in Japan. Guess what? It was white. Great post and photo. 🙂

  4. February 3, 2008 8:44 pm

    Yeah, a red car in Japan…every now and then something sporty might roll by, however rarely come across a family car that is red. Interesting post.

  5. February 5, 2008 6:49 am

    I’ve got a Mazda Bongo Friendee. Weird name or what? Imported from Japan and it’s green (God forbid). However, your post does explain why the vast majority of Bongo’s from 2001 onwards are silver. Even the two-tone ones are white over silver. Radical man!!!

  6. doctor pangloss permalink
    February 6, 2008 5:52 am

    FYI – Yes, I know who the elephant belongs to.

  7. April 5, 2009 11:08 am

    Wow. I’m surprised this never came up with my students when I was working for Nova in Kumamoto. One student told me her parents bought her a car for her high school graduation…it was purple. 🙂


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