Teshima is a small island in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea between the Japanese main islands of Honshu and Shikoku. For long, it was just a small island, not known to many. Recently, the sleeping island beauty was kissed awake, to reach longer lasting fame for
a.) its art museums, and
b.) for being one of the chosen spots in Japan where one can get around with an all-electric Nissan Mobility CONCEPT, heretofore called NMC.
Announced in 2010, the NMC still remains a concept vehicle, mainly because the official status of this type of vehicle remains in a legal twilight zone in Japan. Officially, the NMC operates on a trial basis with special authorization from Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism . The trials are limited to certain areas, some as high up as Kobe’s Mount Rokko, some as suspenseful as the patrol area of a neighborhood watch in Yokohama, some as serene as Teshima.
As much as you would want to, you can’t buy an NMC, because it is not being sold. But you can rent one. The Nissan Car Rental station on Teshima has six NMCs, and you can’t miss them. The rental office is in the ferry station, the cars are parked across, and just before the boat arrives, the square in front of the ferry station is turned into a temporary NMC-wash when the cars get their daily shampoo and rinse from a nattily uniformed crew. Fresh off the boat, visitors are greeted by glistening NMCs, to be had at a daily rate of 8,400 yen.
A few drops of water glitter in the sunlight, reminding the traveler to visit Teshima’s main attraction, the Teshima Art Museum, called by Architectural Review “the best building that Japan has seen in many years.” Shaped like a water drop, the museum is home to an installation by the artist Rei Naito, where drops of water pop out of holes, roll across a concrete floor, join into puddles, separate again, linger, pick up speed, dawdle in one direction, sprint into another, and suddenly drop down a hole again.
The NMC is perfect for this location. The vehicle’s stated range on a single charge is 100km. A complete circumnavigation of the island however is completed after adding a mere 11 kilometers to the NMC’s odometer, past the island’s two gas stations, which the NMC never needs to drop in on. The NMC’s top speed is 80 km/h, more than generous for the island’s sedate driving habits.
In rural places around the world. it is customary to greet other motorists with a wave, or a nod. “On Teshima, locals greet other drivers with a bow,” tells me Sayaka Chiba, the Museum’s Manager, adding that the local greeting habits “limit speeds to less than 40 km/h.”
Past terraced rice fields and orange trees, through the narrow streets of sleepy towns, and along the barely wider main island highway, we drive through a primeval forest of chinquapin and saw tooth oak, passing farms and fisheries. We do it in a vehicle that does not disturb the serenity, the NMC rolls along quietly, and the only emissions are the oohs and aahs, emitted by the NMC’s driver and passenger. The car takes the curvy roads with aplomb. Although this project ended in March 2014, you can experience NMC in other places such as Hiraizumi, Rokko or Yokohama.