In a world which was far less connected then than it is now, Japan came into the motor industry relatively late. Most of its oldest best-known car companies were founded some time after their European and American equivalents.

Even when Japanese cars were at last being built in very large numbers, they were almost unknown here. It wasn’t until 1965 that a Japanese model (the Daihatsu Compagno) first went on sale in the UK, where it was received politely but without much enthusiasm.

Since then, things have changed dramatically. Not only are Japanese cars a very common sight in this country, some of them are even manufactured here. According to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the sixth most registered car in the UK so far this year is the Nissan Qashqai, built not in its company’s home country but in the north-east of England.

The Qashqai is of course an SUV, and the Japanese brands also figure highly in the hatchback, estate, premium and pickup sectors. What we’re interested in at the moment, though, is their sports cars. Most countries where cars are built at all have a history of making these, but some of the most interesting and exciting from the last few decades have come from Japan.

What follows is our choice of 20 particularly significant examples. Since we had to draw the line somewhere, we have excluded saloons and relatively low-powered vehicles regardless of body shape, so don’t expect to find the Subaru Impreza or the Mazda MX-5 on this list.