Here we go, again.
Back in 2016, after returning from Japan, it was in my heart that I knew I had to get back out there, so before I knew it, later that year, flights were booked for late June 2017, and a more structured itinerary was put down in preparation. It went something like this: Tokyo – Mt. Fuji – Hiroshima – Kyoto – Yokohama. All within a two-week timespan.
This post is a recollection of the memories, stored within the photos. Looking back at them, without sounding like I am blowing my own trumpet, my shooting skills also seemed to step up a marginal level.
I hope you enjoy, and maybe you too will take the leap to the farthest east.
Me and my sister landed in Narita International Airport around evening, and by the time we were out of the terminal and on the train to Suginami it was 9pm. The sunsets earlier than it does in the UK, so even in the summer the daylight passes sooner, unless you wake up and start your day very early. I caught this MX-5 RF the morning after our arrival in the morning traffic on the main road a few minutes from the AirBnB. A Club / Launch edition in that Reflex Blue Mica on factory BBS wheels is a quality sight. This car will take a very long time to get old.
A classic VW Beetle sat outside the apartment building we stayed in whilst visiting the Tokyo area. Even this car’s owner installed a double DIN multimedia system on the dashboard, but this is not surprising as the majority of vehicles on the road have them built in from factory, most with broadcast television!
An enthusiast’s machine. Not my ‘cup of tea’, definitely slow, but atleast the paintjob livened up the concrete jungle scene.
One of the coolest things Toyota created. I would grab one in a heartbeat, and I am not even into SUVs or offrading.
The infamous Shibuya Crossing. We did not spend much time here, as we were only passing by to get to Shibuya station, nor did we partake in the scramble. I know, how boring of us… Whatever.
This was a display arrangement in an origami museum in the city. Since the trip would be heavily car-related, it was only fair that my sister got to see something she would take interest in.
This was a Shinto shrine / temple we visited, located in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park area, knows as Meiji Jingu. It was built in respect and dedication to the Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken in the early 1900s. Thats all I know. I do remember the walkway to it must have been like a mile long it was endless, on top of that it was humid as hell.
We set out to Odaiba, which is an artificial island in Tokyo’s Bay Area. It is mainly home to entertainment and shopping outlets, attracting many tourists thanks to its scenic nightlife and modern architecture. This photo was the back end of the Fuji TV building, which I had no idea of at time of taking the picture.
At the ‘Sega Joypolis’ arcade (better described as an indoor themepark) there is a bunch of crazy interactive amusements. Simply buy an entry ticket and get unlimited access to games like Sonic Olympics (without the Mario because copyright laws, perhaps) and Transformers. I felt like a kid again. Except this surpassed Flamingo Land, Lightwater Valley, and Alton Towers. Easy. It was also funny how fate played out. We got to the Initial D station, and it seemed as if only the AE86 and Subaru simulators were operating, and I thought the RX-7 was out of service. Internally I was sulking whilst stood in the queue, but not for long. An attendant booted that badboy up, but I also remembered that players were not allowed to select the car they wanted. Nevertheless, it all panned out, and I got lucky draw of being behind the wheel of the yellow Mazda. The car’s have full interior, including seatbelts, and the rig rocks and sways in accordance to the game on-screen.
In my experience, the service I received all over Japan is impeccable. This was at a typical city restaurant in Shinjuku. You sit in a private booth, with a service ringer at hand if you need a waiter’s attention. Oh, and they cook the food right in front of you, which makes for a more engaging experience.
Now onto the exciting part of the journey…
You probably saw this coming if you read my last Japan blogpost. I revisited the guys at ‘Fun2Drive’, and this time it was time to get behind the wheel of the one and only ultimate supercar of the Japanese 90’s. First stop, Fuji Speedway.
The way the tours work, if you opt for the ‘Ultimate Hakone Drive’, is a steadily paced roll out on the touge leading to the area surrounding Mount Fuji, and then the afternoon is literally an all-out blast through the mountains and forests behind what was this time a definitely-modified, wailing-wastegate Subaru WRX STi, just like the one Bunta rips in.
Unfortunately, on this excursion, Mount Fuji was being a shy bugger, hidden behind the clouds.
I feel this car is so special, it deserves a full report. But for now I will keep it short and simple….
… this car is a driver’s dream. It was equipped with what I was told, a KeiOffice exhaust system that made a glorious naturally-aspirated V6 tune. I assume the suspension was standard, by looks and feel of the sensible ride height and shock absorption. This is the definition of sportscar, and I undersand why it was a supercar in its day. It shook up the likes of Ferrari and Porsche, nevermind the domestic rivals such as Nissan’s GTR, and Mazda’s RX-7. I am not ruling out the Toyota Supra, but that was a more GT vehicle, with a little more of a civilised character. Pushing this car to limits was an absolute joy, especially when you are behind an R35 GTR (that was driven by another member of the tour party) that struggled with all its weight in the tight and technical sections. I can and will never forget having the honor of taking the NSX for a ride.
Just about caught this snap of what I think is a Daihatsu disguides as a classic Mini? The owner kept/fitted a UK number plate behind the Japanese one, which I thought was funny.
There is not one bad angle on this machine
Just before lunch, two more joined the party.
Man, stock R32 GT-Rs look too good its bonkers. Simple body lines, subtly pronounced arch flares, those iconic 5-spoke wheels. I bet this was fun to drive…
We got about Hakone in a rented out Honda Fit (aka Jazz). Public transport is great in the major cities, but once you go off grid so to speak, it only makes sense to traverse the dreamy routes of the Japanese touge in a car. This new generation Fit/Jazz was a bit appalling though to be honest. The CVT gearbox was naff, as you would expect, droning through the ratios. But even the steering felt Audi-like, so numb. No complaints, as it was roomy and comfy enough, however.
The day after the NSX experience, before leaving for Hiroshima via shinkansen (bullet train), we decided to visit a local shrine in Hakone, almost as if we were ritualistically receiving blessings, but this was not the case.
Both, Buddhist and Shinto shrines and temples dotted about all over the country are peaceful and tranquil places to visit.
To Hiroshima… On arrival in Hiroshima, I went for a cycle down the main strip towards the Hiroshima Memorial and Hiroshima Dome, which was where the atomic bomb was sadly dropped down on at the end of the second World War. This cloud formation looked cool, sort of resembling a butterfly… I wish we spent more time in Hiroshima, as it appeared to be an interesting place and had a different vibe in comparison to Tokyo. Not as crowded and frantic, but still a metropolis boasting with culture. Spy the Subie
We took a day trip to Miyajima island, off of the coast of Hiroshima. It was a decently sized island, but again, time didn’t allow for us to stop as long as we would have liked. Not only that, but it was scorching that day, even being by the sea.
Now in Kyoto, we stumbled across this small shop on the way to the Manga Museum. I am a big fan of the M2. This one apparently donned KW suspension and these funky BBS wheels that I have never seen, ever. Somebody please educate me on them! Cool decal Function and form in harmony It’s obviously apt to see a TRA Kyoto Pandem designed widebody kit grafted onto a MKII Golf. Not only that, but if my intel serves me right, this exact model was used as a demo in the 2017 Tokyo Auto Salon! What are the chances. Spotted this whilst strolling Nishiki Market These things look so at home in Japan, I don’t know why. Maybe its in relation to the classic designs of both the vehicle and the buildings.
So, after trekking about the western regions of the country, we hitched a bullet train once again to Yokohama City, which borders Tokyo’s outer area. This time the rental car was a Mazda Demio (Mazda 2). In comparison to the Fit, this was the better performer. And, Japan get these in an All Wheel Drive variant?
That night was the 7th of July. That only meant one thing. Time to hit the expressway and join the rotary klan…
Again, this year, the plan in my mind did not materialise in the way I had pictured.
Using Google Maps, we navigated ourselves to Daikoku Parking area in the Demio. This route to this spot is a headache and not as straightforward as you might think, with the rest of Japan’s transportation systems being so streamlined. It wasn’t meant to be, I must have driven through the same toll gate twice, but couldn’t find a way in. Luckily, the police were shutting the parking area down at that time.
If I remember correctly, I think we were about to give up and just abort mission, but as I was about to make way to Yokohama, I spotted this guy with a backpack on foot who looked either lost or eager to get to where we wanted: 7’s day gathering. So, for some reason, I pull up, roll the window down, and ask him if he is a local in hope of getting some direction or assistance. Turned out he was from the States, and was in the same situation I was in last year. We told him we would give him a lift, as he had a good-enough idea of how to get to the secondary meetup location: Tokyo Bay Aqua-line…
Carboys congregate. Upon arrival I was blown a-fucking-way, so much so I did not know where to point the camera first. Here is a Silvia S15, with what looked like a custom engraved bonnet, similar to those found on cars built by Kuhl Racing. In the flesh/metal, these look nuts. On the move A Scoot 4-rotor FD RX-7, built for speed, designed with style. Still cannot believe I got to witness this, totally unplanned. The classic formula This lady-driven attendee was wild. I admired the out-there styling, it stood out without a doubt. Amongst the plethora of Japanese metal was this plush Cayman GT4, which I will admit is my favourite Porsche at this moment, discounting the 911 GT2 RS. But as soon as this showstopper pulled up, ever so nonchalantly, it was horded by those in the vicinity. I normally don’t find white cars attractive, but this was an exception. I still can’t see why people find the exterior of the new NSX so distasteful. Maybe it will become used to in the years to come. Simple, but so sick. So much character, this beauty of an RX-3 Savanna coupe was tucked in the corner of the second storey. A mint 99-spec, and when I say mint, I mean ridiculously immaculate to the point where it was as if it had been frozen in time. The interior got down to business though. The owner, who actually spotted me drooling over his pride and joy, allowed me to sit in and give the machine a rev or two. This car’s steering wheel inspired me so much that I imitated the style with my MX-5 NB. Coolest mode of city transport I spotted a fellow NB! My favourite of the night, no question. No way will this car get outdated The first EK9 (I think) I saw the entire trip This ER34 Skyline I first read about on the Narita Dogfight website, along with an incredible 180SX built by the same owner. It has that optimum balance between substance and style. It was time to leave, I wish I stayed deep into the night and got to experience what might have been an even more unforgettable experience, but I couldn’t be selfish, so until next time…
On the last day, we took some time out to visit the Nissan Global HQ Gallery, which includes a floor completely open freely to visitors, where both new and old vehicles and technology are put on display. Not only that, but there was also a live RC-car race hosted by Tamiya.
I hope Nissan comes out with groundbreaking next-gen GTR. It is about time, anyhow. Cars you won’t even have to drive… how fun. The only Z-Tune I’m gonna be able to afford right now.
So, there you have it. My second Japan journal entry, hopefully you saw some stuff you thought was cool and intriguing, some maybe even motivated you to get yourself out there to explore the epicentre of car culture.
More to come…