CR 1

Two of the things Japan is best at making are cars and cute characters. Sometimes these two worlds combine with itasha, cars slathered with painfully geeky anime graphics.

But itasha rely largely on decals, making them a literally shallow way of mashing up automotive engineering and cuteness. Isn’t there a more dynamic way to fuse the two?

Why yes, there is.

Noodle lovers should instantly recognize that adorable face as belonging to Hiyoko-chan, the mascot of the Chicken Ramen line from Nissin, instant noodle maker/purveyor to bachelors and students the world over.

CR 3

Hiyoko-chan has been heralding a hot and easy meal for over half a century now. The cute little duckling has built up such a fan base that Nissin annually holds a nationwide Hiyoko-chan Bus Tour. Given the timing of when the above photo surfaced on Twitter, it’s likely it was taken as the bus was heading home from its March 8 appearance at the Aeon Mall Makuhari Shin Toshin shopping center in Chiba Prefecture.

Japanese Internet commentators were both startled and delighted by the unexpected encounter.

“Nice! I’d love to have this chasing after me!”
“Hey, I know that guy!”

Of course, you don’t need to be a trained mechanic to notice one potential problem with the unique design: a complete lack of windows! How does the driver steer? Does he rely on an array of cleverly concealed camera, or does he just barrel blindly down the road, confident that other drivers will notice and make way for the careening canary-colored vehicle?

The answer is neither, as the Hiyoko-chan Bus doesn’t have a driver at all. Don’t worry, the character hasn’t become sentient. Actually, Hiyoko-chan Bus is a bit of a misnomer, as it’s actually not a bus, but rather a camping trailer with a specially-designed shell.

CR 6

The trailer gets pulled around by a car that’s pretty mundane (aside from its Chicken Ramen paintjob).

CR 4

On the one hand, this does sort of ruin the illusion, as it means when the Hiyoko-chan Bus is in motion, the little chick appears to be moving backwards. On the plus side, though, this also means that if you’re following along behind it, you get to gaze at his adorable mug for the whole ride.

CR 5

The next stop for the Hiyoko-chan Bus Tour is March 15, at the Kyoto branch of department store Daimaru Matsuzakaya. Where Hiyoko-chan’s adventures will take him after that is still a mystery, but for diehard ramen fans who want to follow their icon, Nissin’s homepage has an interactive map that’s updated as the information is announced right here.

Sources: Byokan Sunday, Nissin Chicken Ramen
Top image: Byokan Sunday
Insert images: Walker Plus, Twitter, Ameblo, Yahoo! Japan