Okinawa Tourism Information:TreesonaCarTop!?AMagicalCarthatMakesEverybodySmile

Trees on a Car Top!? A Magical Car that Makes Everybody Smile

post : 2015.09.24 18:00

“A car with trees on a car top” – that’s everybody has been talking about for years.

Many people might find it out on national media or local newspapers, but I bet only few of them saw the real one.

Why did it happen and what for? How did stabilize them? It is a deep mystery.
So, I asked the owner of the car why he started it.

His name is Mitsuji Chinen, the owner of the car. The car has nothing to with his job, but he uses it to commute to work.

He came up with this idea 7 years ago. The A/C of the car had broken when he returned to Okinawa from Yokohama. Since it costs to fix it, he gave consideration this matter. Later, he came up with the idea –  “if I created a shade on the car top, it might help to absorb the heat and cool down."

After much trial and error, he finally succeeded to build a base on the car top and stabilize grass.
And then, windblown seeds of plants began to sprout, and formed the current car top.

The photo on top was taken 3 years ago, and the car top did look like “a garden on the car” then.

“Things I planted were the grass and sunflower seeds only. Others are all windblown ones and grew up naturally. Moss roses were planted by a woman whom I don’t know very well. She insisted me to plant them because there wasn’t much flowers then, and they grow very fast lol.”

And here is the present photo. They did grow during the last few years. It is more like a sort of jungle than a garden.

Even though Chinen fixed the A/C., he hardly turns it on because he feels nice and cool when he opens the car window.

I sat in the passenger seat 3 years ago. This time, I felt nicer and cooler compare to 3 years ago. When he started a car, there was a shade on its dashboard, and I felt like being in the woods.

A banyan tree that grew for years, sea figs that grew rapidly, bird's nest ferns, bushy bird's-nest ferns, beautiful moss roses and begonias, lilies and more. These are all plants that grew up naturally here in Okinawa.

How he stabilize these plants on the car top …

The base is 6-layered structure, and its bottom is a sheet to change diapers. A coconut fiber sheet for green product is covered over it, and these are stabilized with a fishing line and a net. A green carpet look-alike is actually mosses that grew naturally. The mosses are the reason why he did not use soil at all.

Chinen is thinking of filing for the patent someday, so he cannot reveal the whole detail. He stabilizes them tightly just in case either side of the base go unloose and do not fly away.

Plants are never got broken by the strong wind or flown away, but he never drives the express way and tries to drive safety to prevent trouble just in case.

He takes care of them just watering them. He waters them first when he wakes up. However, the water gets evaporate, so he waters them every 3 - 4 hours. Since tepid water makes plants die, he tries to give cold water.

It is amazing that plants grow just by water at a place with no soil. According to Chinen, “Probably mosses turned out as natural nutritional supplement.” Vitality of the nature is amazing.

His dog, Tomato sticks her head out from the passenger’s window. She begs for water when he waters plants! How cute she is.

Chinen went through car inspection 2 times already after he started to grow plants on the car top. The plants/grasses were about 5 cm (2 in) tall for the 1st time, but they got taller for the 2nd times.

“Just like car top carrier, it is impossible to pass the inspection with the plants on. I did worry because I knew it is impossible to put them back as the way they were if I removed them. A day before the inspection, I showed up in my dream and said like ‘hey, why don’t you do like this?’ and told me the solution. But I’m going to tell you how to do it lol.”

For the inspection, he removes the plants on top, then put them back after that. Its height should be less than 3 m 80 cm (12.46 ft), and there is no problem as long as the plants’ width is less than the vehicle’s width.
*Few days after this interview, he contacted me and told me that he trimmed the plants’ width.

Even though he fixed the A/C, why he keeps driving this car? It is for one purpose, not to get an attention.

“It is an art when flowers bloom on top of a car. I would be happy if tourists saw this car and thought like ‘what a funky island Okinawa is!’ Sure it is painful and embarrassing when people point at my car and laugh, and it makes me feel like I don’t want to drive my car once in a month. But I’m glad that I continued this when I see children’s smiles and those people who wave at me and cheer for me.”

There is another reason why he continues to drive this car – to finish a story titled “Run! Little Banyans” and publish it as a picture book. Currently, he writes and posts the story regularly with photos on facebook.  

A brother and a sister named Gaju and Maloo grew up on a car top, and they can go anywhere.
Since their mother is not able to move, she asked them to look for “a singing tree,” so they go on a journey.
“If a singing tree is really existed, we would like to present the song to mom and tell how wonderful this world is to her.”
Chinen put Gaju and Maloo on the car top and drives them throughout Okinawa.

“We can’t do anything if we think it’s impossible before doing it. A brother and a sister in this story never give up even though others say that a singing tree doesn’t exist.
I also believe it does exist somewhere, so I will keep driving this car until I finish the story.”

It is a magical car which makes people smiles just by running.

If you get any chance to see it in Okinawa, please kindly wave at them. The story of Gaju and Maloo is also recommended because it makes readers feel warm by reading it.

Questions and inquiries on the car are accepted here.
“Run! Little Banyans” (English / Japanese)

Okinawa CLIP Photo Writer Takano Nakao