The Toyota Century is a very special vehicle

The Toyota Century is a very special vehicle

The car's interior was so spacious around my feet that I was tempted to stretch even my toes out. The soft black leather seats were comfortable to the touch.

For the first time the other day, I took a ride in a luxury Toyota Century vehicle.

I was in the rear seat as the car rolled along an avenue in central Tokyo. I was a bit uneasy about the ride. It felt like every pedestrian was watching me.

Michiharu Ishikawa, 59, a taxi owner and driver, gave me the ride. He said all of his customers have made prior reservations because they want to be in this vehicle.

I am happy when my customers are happy," said Ishikawa, a resident of Saitama. It makes me think I didn't buy this car in vain. A court ruled last month that the government of Yamaguchi Prefecture made an illegal expenditure in purchasing a Toyota Century to be used for its guests of honor.

The vehicle costs more than 20 million yen per unit, a number that is several times as much as other luxury cars. The plaintiff argued that the purchase made with taxpayers money was too expensive.

In other prefectures, the Toyota CenturyToyota Century has been replaced by different models as the official vehicle for senior officials to use, including governors.

The Century is a top-of-the-line, full-size sedan that is the pride and joy of Toyota Motor Corp. the manufacturer. It carries original phoenix emblems that are not found on other, run-of-the-mill Toyota automobiles.

The Toyota Century is used in the imperial household.

It is understandable that politicians, government officials and businesspeople hold special feelings for the century as a symbol of their success. Yet they can go for rides in a Century at their own expense, rather than the public s, if they are so eager to do so.

I was curious to learn how fans of the Toyota CenturyToyota Century across Japan are feeling about the hubbub in Yamaguchi Prefecture, so I asked Ishikawa if the news had upset him.

He said no. That strengthened my belief that the Century is so special. The Toyota Century, however, is not to blame for the fuss.

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that covers a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. The column, written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, provides useful insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.