In the United States, I was fortunate to have driven several Japanese vehicles since the day I turned eighteen. Today, I am still a proud owner and thankful for the many years of comfortable & reliable transportation they have bestowed upon my family and me. Now that I’m in Japan, a tour of a vehicle manufacturing plant has always been on my bucket list. Through the generosity of the Kanagawa International Fan Club, I would soon be able to check that off of my list! They introduced me to Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. Oppama Plant, which is conveniently located in the industrial area of Yokosuka City facing Tokyo Bay.
General tour admission to the Nissan Oppama Plant is free of charge. Two tours at 90-minutes each are offered daily in a group setting, Monday through Friday, at 9:30am and 1:30pm. These tours are in Japanese. However, if you are a foreigner requiring English translation, an interpreter is available only by request in advance. To do so, you must call 046-867-5013 to speak to a Nissan staff member for arrangement. If possible, please have a preferred date in mind by viewing the calendar of availability first. Dates highlighted in light blue indicate vacancy with the available capacity referenced as you click for more detail (Groups are 2 to 40 people). When I phoned in to make a reservation, an English-speaking staff member was immediately assigned to my call. Further into the discussion, she suggested obtaining my email address to make it more convenient for further communications regarding my request. This made it a whole lot easier for both of us!
The General Tour (Elementary School Tours are also offered) will gather in the Nissan Guest Hall which showcases three of the four Nissan models produced at the Oppama Plant: Juke, Cube and LEAF, a 100% Electric Vehicle (EV). The showroom not only highlights the driving forces behind the Nissan brand, but it also provides an overview of Nissan’s electric vehicles. Electric vehicles use only an electric motor, so they emit no carbon dioxide or other exhaust gases. As such, LEAF is an environmentally friendly model.
From the Guest Hall, you will be escorted to the second floor and into a classroom for a 10-minute video presentation. Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO of Nissan, provides welcoming remarks and sets the tone for the brief introduction of the Oppama Plant. The plant is the biggest production site of vehicles at 1.71 million square meters; the size of 37 baseball parks! There are 3,100 employees and currently running one shift. You will also learn about the Nissan Production Way (NPW) in which "Douki-Seisan" is the ideal method of synchronized production to ensure high performance delivery to the customer. Photo and video are prohibited during the rest of the tour, so cameras and mobile phones must be kept in the locked classroom or in small lockers at the Guest Hall entrance.
The tour continues onto a 20-minute bus ride. You will first travel to see the wharf, which is home to two logistics areas for export and domestic shipments. If five to eight proficient drivers are assigned to offload vehicles from the carrier, 100 cars can be moved per hour. Moving on, Nissan affiliate Renault (Paris-based) exports models here so they can be adjusted to Japanese specifications and sold to the local market. The route quickly then turns to highlight the Research Center, one of five Cafeteria's on the property, the Part Supply Center, Press Stamping Station, and Paint Shop.
Back on foot, the most exciting part of the plant tour is next. Have you ever watched Disney’s Monsters Inc. movie when Mike and Suli try to find Boo's door in the door-chasing scene? This was my immediate thought as I walked onto the Nissan assembly floor! Hanging above head and on the floor were shiny, bright-colored body kits, doors, cockpits, batteries and fuel tanks constantly running throughout the line. The assembly line is 650 meters long and workers are almost robotic, constantly on the go to manufacture the Juke, Sylphy, Cube and LEAF. It takes 16 hours to produce one car on the assembly line and there are 200 items to secure and check off. Throughout the process you’ll get to witness things like the emergency cord to stop the line, a helping arm to assist placement of the cockpit, the trim line, kit supply area, and finally, the free-roll test area where vehicles go through their final inspection before being driven off of the line and to the wharf. Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and watch your step! Robotic wagons are constantly moving from one end to another delivering small parts to the assembly line.
As we gather our belongings from the classroom, a cup of tea and a miniature Nissan LEAF model are given to all attendees. A quick Q&A and a brief survey are offered before a shuttle bus takes visitors back to Oppama train station. What a nice way to end a wonderful tour!
Access: Exit Oppama Station. 20-minute walk.