Located in the centre of Japan's main Honshu Island, Toyota City is, as you would imagine, a place dominated by one of the world's leading car manufacturers. In the early part of the last century under its former name of Koromo, the town was undergoing steady decline as demand fell for its main commodity, raw silk. However since 1934, when automobile producers were invited to build their factories there, the area has prospered with the population rocketing to today's 350,000, 25 times higher than the figure in 1930. In 1959 Koromo officially became Toyota City.

Surrounded by acres of rice paddy fields and vegetable, peach and pear farms in the Aichi prefecture near Nagoya, Toyota City is far more than simply a home for car workers. There is a nature park nearby, which from 25 March-25 September 2005 will be the scene of EXPO 2005 - the world's first fair of the 21st Century. And helped by the company's international outlook, its residents are among the most broadminded of Japanese, having taken advantage of opportunities to travel far and wide.

While it may be regarded as a city of the future, there is plenty of history in the neighbourhood. Toyota is the homeland of the Matsudaira clan, from which Ieyasu Tokugawa came from to lay the foundations of the Edo shogunate (1603-1867). Tokugawa emerged victorious nearby at the Battle of Nagakute (1584) in one of the greatest military engagements in Japanese history.