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Nissan’s new Heritage Zone celebrates the past at its Yokohama headquarters

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Nissan’s world headquarters in Japan is a hive of activity. Descend the escalator that leads from the foyer that connects with the parking garage, and the open floor below hums with endless activity – and only the gentlest of hubbub to greet you. Blue-suited outside businessmen, not quite sure where to turn. Internal functionaries scurrying from meeting to meeting, crossing the courtyard as the quickest means through the sprawling building. Slack-jawed fanboys gasping in wonder. (Okay, that was me.) They’re all part of the 13 million visitors who have come to visit in the last decade.

Against one wall, on the right as you descend, near the gift shop, there is a display floor – often with a conservatively-dressed spokesmodel announcing the highlights of what you’re looking at. In Japanese, of course. That area in the lobby of Nissan’s Yokohama headquarters has, for a decade, hosted a rotating cadre of Nissan products, old and new. Sometimes you get lucky, and there’s the history of the Nissan GT-R for you to examine (as happened during our visit in 2016). Sometimes, Nissan highlights a car you’ve never heard of – or something that sold a zillion copies but was built to be merely transportation. It’s entirely luck of the draw. There is also the Gallery, essentially a long, naturally-lit hallway that serves as a timeline for Nissan’s history.

Nissan Headquarters Heritage zone video wall

A video wall in the Heritage Zone will offer additional history lessons. The footage in this photo is from the video at the bottom of this story. Photo courtesy of Nissan.

But Nissan, ever keen to draw a line under its decades of car-building expertise, has a solution. On September 27, Nissan opened its new Heritage Zone, a new permanent public exhibition space at its Yokohama headquarters. (The opening coincides with Nissan’s 10th anniversary in Yokohama, having moved from Ginza, Tokyo, previously.) To celebrate, Nissan selected 19 heritage models to be displayed for a limited period, including an early Datsun 14 roadster, a Giovanni Michelotti-designed 1960 Skyline Sport, and an early Silvia coupe. (Nineteen vintage cars are the most that have ever appeared at Nissan HQ simultaneously.) Other vintage Nissans will be rotated in and out over time. Nissan’s new Heritage Zone will also include a Special Exhibition corner, designed to focus on a specific theme (and Nissan’s involvement with perpetuating that theme over the decades); a wall-mounted 220-inch LED video screen that will play rare footage from Nissan’s archives; a library featuring vintage books and magazines; and a model car wall, which provides a quick-and-easy timeline of both Nissan’s evolution and the changing trends of the automobile as a whole.

Nissan Yokohama Heritage Collection model wall

A special exhibit section will show off specific themes. The wall behind it is an extensive timeline of Nissan vehicles in model form. Photo courtesy of Nissan.

The Heritage Zone is free and open to the public. It’s certainly easier to get to (and into) than the Nissan Heritage Collection at Zama, where most of the display cars will come from; access to the Heritage Collection is available by appointment only, with reservations available exclusively via the (Japanese-language) website. Its location, an hour by car from Nissan HQ, isn’t exactly convenient for the more casual traveler. The Heritage Zone will be a far more convenient stop, if not as obsessively comprehensive as the collection at Zama. For a closer look at the Heritage Collection, however, Nissan made this video chronicling the contents of the Zama museum.