The show, originally called All Japan Motor Show was first held in an outdoor venue called Hibiya Park, the show was considered a success with 547,000 visitors over ten days and 254 exhibitors displaying 267 vehicles, but of the number of vehicles only 17 of them were passenger cars as the show was dominated by commercial vehicles. In 1958, due to construction of a subway and underground parking lot near Hibiya Park, the show was shifted to the Korakuen Bicycle Racing Track. The show, as the previous year was marred by heavy rain, in 1959 the event moved indoor to its newly opened Harumi Showplace venue which was three times the size of its previous venue.
Onward from 1973, as the organisers decided not to host a show for the following year due to the international energy crisis and the show became a biennial event. The show relocated to its current venue, the Makuhari Messe in 1989 and due to high public demand for vehicles in everyday use and the fact concept cars dominate the show, the show returned to being an annual event from 2001 to 2005 with a show for passenger cars and motorcycle and another for commercial vehicles for the following year. However, from 2007 onwards the event has once again returned to a biennial schedule which combines both passenger and commercial vehicles, including motorcycles and auto parts.
The first Tokyo Motor Show was held in Hibiya Park from April 20 to April 29, 1954. Of the 267 vehicles on display, only seventeen were passenger cars, which reflected the paucity of personal family transport in Japan at the time. Trucks, buses, and motorcycles made up most of the exhibits. Approximately 547,000 visitors attended the show over the ten days, where the most prominent cars were the Austin A40, Hillman Minx and the newly introduced Renault 4CV, as well as domestic vehicles such as the Prince Sedan AISH, Toyota Toyopet Super RH; Datsun Passenger Delux (Model DB-5), Ohta Sedan and Van, and three-wheeled vehicles from Daihatsu.
The second Tokyo Motor Show was held over twelve days, beginning on May 7, 1955. Almost 785,000 visitors attended, among them HIH Prince Akihito. The highlights of the passenger cars on display were the new Datsun 110, Toyopet Crown RS and Toyopet Master RR.
Passenger cars began to assume the greatest prominence at the third Tokyo Motor Show which opened on April 20, 1956, thanks in great part due to an initiative spearheaded by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry called the "people's car plan". Although its stated target of a four-seat car capable of 100 kilometres per hour and available for ¥150,000 was unrealistic — despite being twice the national average income at the time, it was still only one fifth of what a typical vehicle cost — it was given credit as the spur for domestic automakers to strive to lower their prices.
Although only 527,000 people visited the fourth show between May 9 and May 19, 1957, significant vehicles made their debut; the first of the long running Toyota Corona and Prince Skyline were introduced, as well as a prototype of the Datsun Sports.
The 1959 show opened on October 24. Notable premiers included Mitsubishi's first own passenger car, the Mitsubishi 500.