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Rally Nippon Tokyo-Kyoto 2009

The 2009 Rally Nippon saw some 60 rare classic cars leave Tokyo on 17 October. The 1000km UNESCO-supported route led past numerous World Heritage sites on its way to Kyoto, with much historical interest along the way.

Participants gathered early in the morning at Tokyo’s National Theatre, in front of the Imperial Palace. More than 120 Japanese and international automobile enthusiasts took part, in 60 cars built before the end of 1969 – but there were also some far older models, such as a 1948 Roselli 1100 Sport from Italy, and a 1929 Bugatti T35C.

Rally Nippon Tokyo-Kyoto 2009 Rally Nippon Tokyo-Kyoto 2009

The four-day rally led the cars through the historic village of Shirakawa-go in Gifu, and past such locations in Nara as the Heijo-kyo ruins, Yakushi Temple and Nara Park. Then it was on to Kyoto and the Toji Temple, Shimogamo Shrine and Tenryuji Temple, before the journey finally ended at Ninnaji Temple at 3pm on 20 October.

In addition to the official UNESCO World Heritage sites (there are 14 in Kyoto alone), the rally visited temples, shrines, villages and regions which are not yet on the UNESCO list. The aim was for the classic cars to serve as ‘Special Messengers for Future Heritage Sites’, helping to draw attention to places of cultural significance that deserve to be preserved for future generations. ‘The classic car’, explained the organisers, ‘is a symbol of our technical heritage’. It’s an interesting viewpoint – and one we might use to good effect in Europe.

There’s further information on the Nippon Rally (currently, however, only in Japanese!) at Those interested in the Japanese classical period and related events might also want to look at the website of the Tokyo Concours d’Elegance ( Or click HERE to find a list of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Japan.

Text: Jan Baedeker
Photos: The Rally Nippon Foundation Kyoto

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