Photographing a Kei Car

A kei car or kei jidōsha (“light automobile”) is a category of small Japanese vehicles that includes passenger cars, vans and pickup trucks designed to comply with Japanese government tax and insurance regulations. The cars feature yellow license plates with black numbers for private use and yellow numbers on black background for commercial use. Because regulations only restrict physical size and engine displacement (currently 660cc), manufacturers have introduced many technologies associated with larger vehicles to the class. Kei cars are often available with forced-induction engines, automatic and CV transmissions, front-, rear-, and four-wheel drive, air conditioning, GPS, and other features.


While successful in Japan, manufacturers consider the genre too specialized and small to be profitable in export markets, which is why we rarely see them here. One kei car that has a large cult following here and in the UK is Nissan’s Figaro that was only manufactured for one year—1991. Because of the USA’s 25-year import rule, Figaros are now entering the country. And just between you and me, I would love to own one.

One of the joys of the Tokyo Motor Show, at least for us Americans, is that we get to see cars from around the world that are not imported into the USA. In addition to French cars, which have not been sold in the USA since the 1991 Peugeot 405— Columbo drove a Peugeot 403—you also get to see Asian cars that never make it here, such as the class of automobile know as kei cars. The above image of a Daihatsu XL-C was shot at the show using a Canon EOS Rebel and EFS 18-55mm lens (at 22mm) and an exposure of 1/100 sec at f.5.6 and ISO 400.

We are going to be taking a Holiday Hiatus until the New Year when we will be back with all new blog posts. In the meantime, please visit our other sites, ‘Saving the World, One Pixel @a Time’ and Mirrorless Photo Tips, where we will be posts each day, Monday through Friday, into 2017. In the meantime, we would like to wish you all the Happiest of Holidays, the Merriest of Christmases and a Wonderful New Year.