Why are fender mirrors popular in Japan?

Cars sold in different countries are known to have their differences: from small appearance tweaks and name changes to complete engine and exhaust overhauls.

For the most part, these changes are made to make sure the car fits in with the country’s culture and adheres to any pollution or safety regulations.

For example, vehicles that are built and sold within the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) can be very different from their American counterparts. More power, better features and much less rust.

A cool feature that you will often see on Japanese cars is the fender mirror. It’s sometimes called the ‘hood mirror’ or ‘third mirror’ – an extra side mirror that is designed to help with visibility.

So where did the fender mirror originate? And why is it still used on taxis and passenger vehicles in Japan to this day? Let’s find out.

What is a fender mirror?

A fender mirror is a convex mirror attached to the side of a vehicle for the purposes of increasing driver visibility and observing other lanes of traffic. It also aids the driver in parking and manoeuvring. 

From the Suzuki Samurai to the Nissan Skyline GT-R, there are many examples of cars being produced in Japan with fender mirrors from the factory. It’s not uncommon to see them used on vintage cars in other countries, too – like the British-built Jaguar XK120.

One of the first road-going examples of a fender mirror in use was Elmer Berger’s ‘Cop Spotter’ in 1921 – often fitted to the passenger-side fender of vehicles like the Model T Ford.

Fender mirrors are cool, they reduce blind spots and they provide a number of other benefits to vehicle owners – especially taxi drivers. Read on to find out why fender mirrors are so popular in Japan.

Why fender mirrors are popular in Japan

Fender mirrors are used to increase driver visibility and reduce blind spots. They also help with navigating narrow streets and busy roads: which is why they are so popular with drivers in Japan.

If you have been lucky enough to visit Japan recently, the Toyota Crown Comfort taxi is a common sight on the roads. In fact, the Toyota Crown Comfort accounts for approximately 70% of all taxis used in Japan.

The Crown Comfort is reliable, cheap to run and features a pair of elegant chrome-covered fender mirrors.

Fender mirrors are useful as they protrude less than regular wing mirrors, which helps when navigating the tight turns and sharp corners of Tokyo.

As fender mirrors are mounted at the front of the vehicle and away from any pillars, there are no real blind spots. This is extremely useful when changing lanes and parallel parking.

They are simple, effective and an icon within JDM culture. But the future of our beloved fender mirrors could be threatened by modern technologies…

Why fender mirrors could soon disappear

Modern car design and new technologies such as 360-degree parking cameras could mean that fender mirrors become obsolete.

Car design in the 21st century revolves around sleekness, minimalism and advanced technological features. While they’re great for safety, fender mirrors are considered to be a thing of the past. They don’t really fit with modern car design. 

Plus, they’re not great for aerodynamics.

Furthermore, many modern car manufacturers believe their new tech will render fender mirrors useless. Why would you need an extra mirror when you have front, rear and side parking cameras built in?

But let’s not get carried away, here. 360-degree cameras still have a long way to go before they’re considered perfect. When they actually work, it can be disorienting and objects often appear closer than they actually are through the display.

Fender mirrors are nowhere near as popular as they once were. As sleek car design and innovative new tech pave the way for modern motoring, they could become even more endangered.

But they work, and they work well. Taxi drivers in Japan continue to swear by them. The JDM community will always love them. In my opinion, they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. 

Conclusion

Quirky, cool, ugly – whatever you think of fender mirrors, there’s no denying that they work. Whether you need help with parking, navigating narrow streets or manoeuvring in heavy traffic: they’re the perfect example of function over form.

What is your favorite vehicle to feature fender or hood mirrors? Let us know below!

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