More than meets the eye.

Police cars in Japan are generally pretty easy to spot. Departments nationwide use a pretty much uniform black-and-white color scheme, there’s a large red light bar mounted on the roof, and a gold, star/flower-like insignia attached to the grille. Then, of course, there’s the large-font text, in both Japanese and English, that says “police.”

But Japan has unmarked patrol cars too, and they obviously don’t have any of those visual giveaways. For example, the one in the video below looks like any of a dozen other Toyota Crown sedans you’ll spot within walking a few blocks in downtown Tokyo, but is, in fact, a cop car.

So what does the officer do if he needs to reveal his presence and pull someone over?

When it’s time to drop the disguise, the driver flips a switch which opens a panel on the car’s roof, and a round flasher magically (well, mechanically) pops up into place. Later, if the officer needs to slip back into incognito mode, flipping the switch again lowers the flasher back into its hiding place, pulling the lid closed with it.

Here’s an overhead view of another unmarked Crown, in which the dimensions of the panel are easier to see because of the lighter paint color.

This feature isn’t exclusive to Toyota law enforcement vehicles either. Here, for example, a Nissan V36-generation Skyline (Infiniti G35 for those using non-JDM nomenclature) shows off the same trick near the moat of the Tokyo Imperial Palace.

On the one hand, this does lack the old-school drama of an undercover cop reaching his hand out the window and slapping a flasher on the roof by hand as the car speeds down the expressway, likely while his partner grumbles about how he’s “getting too old for this shit” and only has three days left until retirement when he and his wife can finally start their quiet dream life of running a ramen joint by the beach. This being Japan, though, it makes sense that even the police cars are essentially mechanical cousins to transforming robots.

Source: YouTube/rabin1553 via Hachia Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
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