The Key to Zero is Love--Shared Commitment to Traffic Safety Transcends Company Lines


The Tateshina Meeting returns after a four-year break, with the shared desire to eradicate accidents as strong as ever. Cross-company discussions sought to learn from the past, and to shape the future.

Shoko-ji Temple stands in the scenic Tateshina highland in Chino City, Nagano.

The temple was erected in 1970 by Toyota and its dealers to commemorate those who perish on the road and pray for the eradication of fatal traffic accidents. Since then, a festival has been held every summer on July 17 and 18, with Toyota’s leaders and dealership representatives from around Japan gathering to pray for the safety of all drivers.

At this year’s 53rd annual event, Chairman Akio Toyoda, President Koji Sato, and other attendees lit candles around the temple grounds as a prayer for the departed souls of traffic accident victims.

The second Tateshina Meeting was also convened four years on from the first session in 2019. This gathering of auto industry leaders offers a platform for discussions and partnerships aimed at reaching zero casualties from traffic accidents.

Returning after the pandemic, the meeting drew around 100 key figures from carmakers such as Suzuki, Subaru, and Mazda, suppliers including Aisin and Denso, insurers like Aioi Nissay Dowa and Mitsui Sumitomo, and other related industries.

Discussion topics ranged from three-pronged* safety initiatives to preventing fatal accidents involving the elderly.

*An approach to eliminating traffic accident casualties through action on three fronts: cars (developing safe vehicles), people (raising awareness about traffic safety), and traffic infrastructure (improving road environments).

With the representatives of Japan’s 5.5 million-strong auto industry gathered under one roof, Chairman Toyoda began the meeting with a call to “make safety today’s top priority.”

Though somewhat longer than usual, this article features comments by attendees with various perspectives, which we hope will give readers an opportunity also to see traffic safety as the utmost priority.

A message to the world

The Mount Tateshina Shoko-ji Temple’s Summer Festival is held at this time every year.

This temple was constructed some 50 years ago, during a period known as the “Traffic War,” when road accident deaths in Japan were at their peak. We wanted to do whatever we could to bring the number of traffic accident casualties down to zero.

At that time, 16,000 people lost their lives in traffic accidents every year. Although that number has fallen to less than 3,000 today, we are still far from reaching the initial goal of zero traffic accident casualties.

A year before the temple’s 50th anniversary, Dr. Gill Pratt gave a presentation on safe driving here in Tateshina ahead of the Shoko-ji Summer Festival. On that occasion, Dr. Pratt noted that worldwide 1.25 million people had perished in traffic accidents in 2013.

More recently in 2021, that figure has increased to 1.3 million. Of that global 1.3 million, Japan accounts for 3,000. Having worked toward zero traffic accident casualties in Japan, I hope that this safety meeting, representing the 5.5 million people in our country’s auto industry, will serve as a first step in sharing our message with the world.

With the world focused on tackling environmental challenges, I would like to spend this day, and particularly the next hour or so, putting safety first. Today, let’s make safety our top priority.

Chairman Toyoda’s address was followed by the keynote presentations. The first speaker was Goro Okazaki, an automotive journalist and a Director of the Toyota Mobility Foundation (TMF), who outlined the history of safety technologies, regulations, and infrastructure development.