TOKYO -- Win, lose or draw, the 3 1 st Tokyo Motor Show, which opens Oct. 27 and runs through Nov. 8, is a "can't miss" for the world's major automakers.

Industry analysts feel the biennial auto showcases here, although dull and boring compared to the glitz and glamor in Frankfurt, are becoming ever more important for foreign automakers as they edge deeper into the domestic Japanese market.

So far this year import sales have been brisk while sales of Japanese makes have remained virtually flat. One result: To get more cars sold, Japanese auto producers have been energetically launching new models well ahead of the show's October opening. Yet the 1995 showcase is important to them, too, and the theme this year is "Dream the Dream -- Cars with That Feel," which some translate loosely as "Cars are fun to drive."

The Japanese economy has begun to recover, and Japanese automakers want to capture people's attention with new cars," says Peter Boardman, an industry expert with UBS in Tokyo. More than 350 companies from 14 countries are expected to make an appearance, and a number of new models will be on display, with the focus of attention on sport/utility vehicles (called RVs in Japan).

For example:

* Honda Motor Co. is expected to show a new Legend and a "Toy ta RAV4 look-alike" RV based on a Civic platform, with a 1.3L or 1.5L engine. Toyota Motor Corp. may show a minivan dubbed the "Odyssey-killer" in a lefthanded compliment to the competitive Honda model.

* With its 660cc mini-Pajero RV selling like hotcakes in Japan, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. (MMC) is expected to introduce a 1.3L up-engine version retaining the same basic sheet metal.

* Fuji Heavy Industries may show a Subaru RV based on the Legacy, with new bodywork and heavier springing, and possibly a Legacy-based 4 door Serai woody" semi-wagon as well.

* Mazda Motor Corp. is expected to unveil the new Sentia/929.

* Nissan Motor Co. may unwrap the Camino, a Sentra-based minivan, as well as Primera sedans and Terano SUVs introduced earlier.

There may be surprises from any or all of the major Japanese carmakers because, unlike their European competitors, they are reluctant to reveal new model details in advance of an auto show. Perkier designs are a distinct possibility because "the emphasis on low cost lately has not worked, and Toyota's new vehicles, for example, have been too bland," says Andrew Blair-Smith, an industry analyst with BZW (Japan).

Concept cars will include an MMC model irreverently referred to as a "Batmobile," a sports car and Hummer look-alike from Toyota and Nissan's 2L RV answer to the Toyota RAV4 (scheduled for future production.)

The shortage of room at the Nippon Convention Center in Makuhari Messe southeast of Tokyo is already creating problems. The turndown of Chrysler Corp.'s request for more space almost turned into a diplomatic incident before a compromise was reached, and some European makers feel so pinched they reportedly plan to pitch a tent in the Makuhari Messe parking lot.

A tip for those planning to attend the 1995 show: If you are not lodged in one of the six hotels near the Convention Center, you would be wise to take the train from Tokyo's central station.

Traffic congestion is severe, and driving can take two hours -- or more.