Dog space in the dashboard, sideways parking, a front that becomes the back. . . John Simister on Japan's new wheezes

Specifically, you can enjoy steering the Fine-X nose-first into a parking space then sliding the rear end in to complete the manoeuvre, thanks to four independently steering wheels able to turn sideways. It's a parkophobic's dream, able also to do an about-face in its own length by steering each wheel through 45 degrees and making the rear wheels rotate in the opposite direction from the front ones.

As you might expect, in a show strong on hybrids and cars powered by electric fuel cells, the Fine-X with its vast gullwing doors and vegetable-matter, CO2-neutral interior features both technologies. And back at Honda we find fuel-cell technology pushed ever further with the long, low, sleek FCX concept, whose "vertical flow" cells are so compact they can fit into the structure's backbone. You can also feed the FCX the hydrogen it needs from Honda's Home Energy Station, which converts natural gas into hydrogen and minimal carbon dioxide.

The hydrogen is stored in tanks, and can then be used both to power your fuel cell car (which converts hydrogen into electrical energy and water) and heat your house (electrically again via a domestic fuel cell, using the energy content of natural gas much more efficiently than a gas central heating system). It's an intriguing prospect, with the notion of how to tax the gas for its different uses one of the many hurdles yet to jump.

If the FCX shows a serious view of the mid-term future, and the handsome Sports 4 concept shows the nearer-term by previewing the likely look of the next Honda Accord, then the WOW is a fine bit of frivolity. The initials stand for Wonderful Open-hearted Wagon, a car in which not only you can have a fine time but your dog - or dogs - can too. The Japanese nation's love of dogs apparently exceeds even our own, so the chihuahua compartment in the dashboard (complete with air-con supply but not extraction) should go down well.

Bigger canines have their own built-in basket area, if you fold down the middle seat row, and the rear bumper has a low-level cut-out in the middle to create easier ingress for lazy mutts. Will the Bow-WOW ever make it to Crufts? "There's no plan right now," says the WOW's interior designer, Kota Hagiwara, "but we'll get reactions from the show. It can carry other pets too - cats or even a snake."

Next to Honda's stand, Suzuki had plenty of "Small Cars - for a Big Future". Mom's Personal Wagon is a compact MPV in metallic brown with a creamy-beige interior, very 1970s; it's a preview of the next Wagon-R. The Ionis is a little fuel-cell car with a sad face, while the PX is not so small at all. It's a metallic-looking MPV with ribbed sides and a rounded shape reminiscent of a 1930s American Airstream caravan.

But the cutest small Suzuki concept is the LC, whose initials stand for Life Creator (as in "get a life"). It's a two-seater coupé with a 1950s feel: round headlights, flanks reminiscent of a Ford Anglia 100E's, and a pair of "horn rings" within the steering wheel which actually operate the sequential gearbox. It also has a rainbow speedometer.

Subaru's centrepiece was the B5-TPH, with a powerful flat-four engine running on the high-economy Miller cycle and looking (misleadingly) like it might preview the next Impreza. Such an engine has poor low-speed pulling power, but a slim electric motor between engine and gearbox fills the power gap and makes the Subaru a hybrid. Its lithium-ion battery can reach 95 per cent of its charge in five minutes.

Behind the scenes, Subaru has severed ties with General Motors (which means the death of various future Subaru-Saab collaborations, such as the B9 Tribeca-based 9-6X). GM's shareholding has passed to Toyota in an intriguing web of interconnection, so it will be interesting to see what happens .

Meanwhile, Toyota itself had more than just the Fine-X among its Tokyo concepts; the i-Swing is equally wacky, a kind of stand-up, enveloping scooter with a wheel either side and a nice line in balancing acts. You steer it by moving your body, as if on skis, and if you want to go faster, a third wheel adds stability as you change over to joystick control. A pair of antennae on the i-Swing's top makes it look some something straight out of a science-fiction comic book.

Over at Lexus, Toyota's luxury brand, things were much more serious. The LF-A two-seater sports GT reappeared in almost production-ready form with its mid-mounted V10 engine, even while development prototypes howled around Toyota's test track, and the LF-Sh previewed the form of the next "flagship" Lexus which will soon replace the LS430. The concept has four-wheel drive and a hybrid powertrain, and is able to scan the orientation of its driver's face to help predict an accident.

At Nissan, a throng of people pored over a feast of concepts. Weirdest is the Pivo, whose people-carrying pod turns through 180 degrees, so what was the front is now the back. You need never reverse-park or make a U-turn again. There's an electric motor for each axle, and drive-by-wire controls for motor, steering and brakes mean no knitting of mechanicals when the about-face takes place. Cameras create images on the inside of the windscreen pillars to display the view that the pillars would otherwise block.

At the opposite extreme of the auto spectrum is the concept study for the next GT-R, due for production in a couple of years' time. Previously, this fastest of Nissans, invariably with six cylinders, twin turbos and four-wheel drive, has been based on a Skyline saloon, but this time the GT-R is a model in its own right. It's a low, aggressive-looking machine, and it would be a surprise if Nissan didn't go racing with it.

By contrast, the Foria concept (as in euphoria), designed by the British Royal College of Art graduate Richard Winsor, at Nissan's Creative Box studio, in Tokyo, is a clean, restrained and slightly retro look at a possible replacement for the Silvia/200 SX.

Just as good-looking is Mazda's Senku, a rotary-engined, four-seater coupé with one huge, rearward-sliding door on each side. It's a hybrid, inevitably, and its huge Mazda-shaped front grille lights up with a graphic depicting moving rotary-engine graphics. The Senku is a futuristic flight of fancy, but back in the land of reality, it is about to put a hydrogen-fuelled version of the rotary-engined RX-8 into limited production and will later launch a version of the Mazda5 MPV with that same power unit.

Mitsubishi's concept model for the Evo X looks modern, racy and less embarrassing than the outgoing Lancer Evo IX, and is the pinnacle of a proper Lancer range that we'll see in the UK - including the hatchback, or Spotback, version previewed at September's Frankfurt show.

We, in Britain, may also, unlike the rest of Europe, get the cute, rounded 'i' supermini; despite its tiny 660cc engine, it won't end up any cheaper than a base-model Colt, but it's an interesting city-car alternative.

DaimlerChrysler divested itself of many Mitsubishi shares recently, but retains about 12 per cent equity and a desire to continue technical collaboration. The corporation made its own presence felt at Tokyo with the Mercedes-Benz F600 HYgenius fuel-cell car, and the Chrysler Akino concept, a little MPV with rotatable front seats and a sofa-like rear seat, mounted asymmetrically. It's like that because there are two doors on the left, but just one on the right. The car is named after its US-domiciled Japanese designer, Akino Tsuchiya.

You see ever more imported cars in metropolitan Japan, many Audis among them. So Audi chose Tokyo to reveal its Shooting Brake concept, finished in white - which is Japan's favourite car colour, for its ability, in Shinto lore, to protect occupants from hostile spirits. The toothy front grille looks like the worst excesses of mid-1990s Korean car glitz, but otherwise the Brake represents what could become the next Audi TT.

Volkswagen revealed the biggest show surprise of all, a car previewed nowhere. Not the Polo GTI, which has Japan as its first retail market ahead of Europe, but the metallic orange Eco Racer. It's designed to show how an ultra-economical car can also be fun to drive, in this case 83mpg, 0-60mph in six seconds, and 143mph. It achieves this with a lightweight, carbon-fibre body and chassis and a new mid-mounted, common-rail diesel engine of 1.5 litres able to deliver 136bhp and 184 lb ft of torque. The two-seater Eco Racer can be a coupé, a convertible or a low-windscreen speedster, and Volkswagen says a test car has genuinely achieved all those figures. Driving fun with a clear conscience. Sounds just fine to me.

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