It hovered steadily for about a minute using four propellers.
Electronics firm NEC unveiled the technology at two brief demonstrations inside a giant cage in Abiko, near Tokyo.
‘Flying cars’ – correctly called EVtol – electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft – are defined as aircraft that are electric, or hybrid electric, with driverless capabilities and the ability to take off and land vertically.
The new vehicles aim to be better than helicopters, which are expensive to maintain, noisy to fly and require trained pilots.
It is designed for unmanned flights for deliveries, but could also be used in disaster relief operations.
The Japanese government aims to have people using EVtols by the 2030s and has backed the construction of a huge test course in an area devastated by the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disasters in Fukushima.
There are also hopes to use EVtols to connect islands in the Mie resort area, that are frequented by Hollywood celebrities.
Japan wants to become a world leader in the sector but could find itself competing with Dubai, which is also aggressively pursuing the technology.
However, there are still huge hurdles to overcome before EVtols can become commonplace – including battery life, the need for regulations and safety compliance.
An EVtol by Japanese startup Cartivator proved unsuccessful after it crashed during a demonstration in 2017, but the firm says it has since developed its technology. NEC is one of more than 80 companies sponsoring Cartivator’s flying car.
Ride-hailing app Uber is also launching its own version of the technology called Uber Air in the US and plans to start demonstrator flights in 2020 and commercial operations in 2023.