Tokyo:Japan has long been part of the Formula One circus and has three teams racing this year, but their fortunes differ considerably in the lead up to the opening Grand Prix of the season.
Toyota has had solid testing and is in good shape going into the first race in Melbourne next week, but Honda continues to struggle since last year's disastrous performance that rendered just six points.
Meanwhile, the financially-embattled Super Aguri, the first all-Japanese team in the sport, will start without a proper rehearsal.
The cash-strapped outfit skipped crucial pre-season testing in Barcelona, blaming "elements out of our control".
Toyota's Jarno Trulli of Italy marked the fastest time of one minute 20.801 seconds in the pre-season group testing at Circuit de Catalunya last week.
The team's other driver, Timo Glock of Germany, was 11th fastest among the 19 participating cars.
"Even though this was only a test, it's nice to see the mechanics and the guys smiling because the times are good motivation," said Trulli, who got his first win with Renault at the 2004 Monaco Grand Prix before moving to Toyota.
"There is still room for improvement but this shows the team has done a good job over the winter tests," he said.
"Of course we won't know the real running order until Melbourne but I'm quite confident for the season. It's definitely looking much better than last year, so I'm happy for the team."
But for Honda, England's Jenson Button and test driver Alex Wurz of Austria were the bottom two, highlighting the strife the team faces. The experienced Rubens Barrichello is Honda's other driver this year.
Honda's engineer Steve Clark said the team was evaluating revised suspension settings to address the handling concerns that the car has been experiencing.
"We have been doing a lot of work to overcome our handling issues but the pace and the lap times are not there yet," added Button.
The 28-year-old, the 1998 English Formula Ford champion, posted his first Formula One career win at the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix, bringing Honda their maiden victory after 39 years.
To bolster their chnaces, the team late last year brought in Ross Brawn, a 10-year veteran of Ferrari, as its new team principal to work alongside chief executive Nick Fry.
Button, speaking to reporters in Tokyo before Barcelona, expressed confidence that Honda can do better this year.
"I must say I'm very happy with the way things are going. We are making improvements at every test in many, many areas," Button said.
"I'm looking forward to 2008 and also the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne."
Aguri Suzuki, who was the first Asian to stand on an F1 podium when he came third at the Japanese Grand Prix in 1990, founded Super Aguri in 2005, but it has constantly struggled both on the circuit and with its finances.
There has been repeated pre-season talk that an Indian consortium led by the Spice Group telecom company is interested in buying into the team, but only if it can have Indian driver Narain Karthikeyan in the cockpit.
More recently, reports said a consortium headed by a British company and a Middle Eastern sponsor, with possibly some German involvement, was also keen.
The Honda-backed team, which has retained both Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson as its drivers, scored just four points in the Constructors Championships last year.