Japanese Dream: Another Trip to Tokyo, and Beyond

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.
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.
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.
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…

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.

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…

Cadwell Park TrackDay – The Orange Peeled Off

Last summer on a visit to Cadwell Park, I joined Luke who, at the time, owned a homebuilt kit car. Now, I have never been keen on kit cars, especially the Lotus 7/Caterham “style” variety. It must be something to do with my awkward feeling towards replicated designs. This topic is something I could write on and on about, so I am going to stay on course for this one.

This particular machine Luke built in his garage is an MNR Vortx, space-frame tube chassis, fibreglass lightweight body, driven by a 1.8 BPZE engine from a Mazda MX-5 NB/MK2. The basic concept is excellent though, as I experienced in the passenger seat that day at Cadwell Park, which nestles in Lincolnshire, UK.

This blog post won’t revolve around his car however, as I did not get the best of shots in retrospect, but other cars were out there blasting around the 2.18 mile course which is actually designed for motorcycle racing; picture narrow track width and grassy runoff areas.

Waiting game…
Okay, I am going to have to open with this beauty. The FD RX-7 you see in front of you is a full RE-Amemiya GT kitted spec. The highlight of the car was the colour and unfortunately my photos do not do its aesthetic quality any justice in my opinion.
It was well put together and style like this is rare to come by, definitely in the UK anyway. But it sure is a treat when you witness something as wild, but simultaneously disciplined in the way it stands. I chatted to the owner briefly, I can remember him having some teething issues with a new single-turbo setup, which is a shame but I manage to catch a glimpse of the rotary ripping out on the field.
I do wonder what the status/condition the car is in at the moment…
Good luck trying to find a trackday where an MX-5 isn’t present. I mean, how could you NOT want to drive one of the purest sports cars ever created, on a racetrack?!
Future historic legend; flipped the FF (front-engine front-wheeled-drive) game on it’s head.
There were two EP3 Civic Type-Rs out that day, both equipped with this hatch mounted GT wing. Part of me sees the appeal in it, part of me realises it kind of looks out of place…
Maybe here, with the trimmed rear bumper, the spoiler’s toned down wing-stands suit the chassis more so. Downforce times call for downforce measures I suppose.
Luke getting a feel for the track more than the car, as he had already made some familiarity with it at a previous shakedown which did not go quite as he planned. Good to see him stretching its legs with confidence, albeit the day cut short because of an electrical gremlin…
The highlight of the car’s performance was most definitely its ability to change direction almost immediately. The G-forces you experience are atmospheric, and made me wonder what on earth F1, or even entry-level Formula cars for that matter, feel like.
One off incident occurred that day, which luckily was not too serious, driver was intact and physically sound after bouncing his Ariel Atom off the tyres midway through the day.
Taking a wander in the paddock area where both drivers and cars take a breather, I took a closer look at some of the motors attending. This K20 swapped EK9 was very nice and cleanly done. What is most impressive though, is the fact that the driver had one prosthetic leg, so the car was kitted to enable the driver to operate the clutch by hand control! Incredible.
This ‘RWB’ styled Porsche was cool. I know very little about these German powerhouses, but I have always felt that they have been held with high regard and respect as sportscars, so there must be something to them…
It did/does look good out there though, and it sounded even better.
One-make duel. For French cars, these hot hatches are not all that bad.
This Starlet Glanza is a very uncommon sight, so it was a breath of fresh air seeing it being thrown about. The deep turquoise colour suits it perfectly.
Track check up; the safety/pace-car M235i BMW for the grounds made its rounds.

I hope to return to Cadwell Park in the near future. The entire place has a cool vibe about it. That wraps up this “throwback” post. Getting out there and shooting more track events is one of my aims this year, so, until next time…

DriftCup UK 2018

Never really grew up with much, if any at all, drift culture involved in my car life. My initial exposure to the artform was probably as cliche as it gets: Fast and Furious Tokyo Drift. My brother introduced me to Best Motoring as early as I can remember, Japanese guys sending cars sideways, in both factory and tuned forms. It’s almost as if it was in their DNA, without sounding cheesy.

Nowadays, especially because of the Internet, the passion for drifting, as both a sport and an automotive ‘scene’, has spread to all pockets around the world. Even managing to worm its way into Wigan, UK. This was my first time attending a dedicated drift competition event, which appeared to have more focus on the drivers and cars, instead of acting as an all-in-one festival type of event as can be seen with the more commercially popular shows. Less circus, more circuit…

Low Supra; such a graceful silhouette
Sileighty chassis S13 will always be my all time favourite from the Silvia selection. This Vertex kitted example caught my eye.
Very unusual sight. A Porsche 944 is definitely something I did not imagine encountering when I was picturing all the machines that would be competing before arriving at Three Sisters Race Circuit. No idea why the ‘PORSCHE’ decal is out of line on the door, but I’m feeling the mismatched wheels.
One of the more serious-looking entrants I spotted that day with the tailpipe looking like a bazooka.
Back to front. Hardcore boyz don’t need rear bumpers. And check out that front camber; nuts!
The format of the race was a basic lead-and-chase run. The classes of cars were separated so that similar power and tune cars were pitched against each other to keep things fair. Judging drifting is subjective but only to an extent, as clipping points and proximity act as measurable markers for high skill and precision, which win you points.
The drift section was short as only the first 3 corners of the track are used from the pit-exit, but this allowed for higher frequency in runs and gives chance, to those who need it, for seat time in a competitive environment.
I loved seeing the less powerful machines, particularly those in NA tune, being pushed to the absolute boundaries. This Corolla was cool-looking.
If I remember correctly, that S14 rocked a R35 powertrain, so it sang some beautiful songs as you can imagine.
Here comes trouble. This RB26DETT-powered non-GTR R34 Skyline was dominating every session, it just goes to show how capable the chassis is, even in FR layout. To be honest though, this was far from stock so my comment is near enough irrelevant with this machine.
Coming in hot. I liked this take on the E36 coupe BMW, makes me wonder what it would look like with those headlights in combination with a full front face… The front and rear quarters don’t really flow, but that adds to its quirky character.
ACCIDENTS DO HAPPEN – DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME (ON THE STREET…)
Very well styled. The S13 coupe Silvia does grow on me from time to time, this is a great looking model if done right

‘Lancaster Insurance’ Classic Motor Show 2017

Me and my cousin made it out to the NEC in Birmingham to attend the Classic Motor Show in one of the biggest venues in the UK. This was also exposure for me to cars I would not usually be interested in so I thought why not venture into the unknown. I think it was my narrow mindset that led me to presume all I would see is a bunch of Minis, Jaguars, and Fords. But, the photos you are about to view completely dissolved that idea, and I was pleasantly surprised!

As soon as I saw this Lancia Delta Integrale HF I was that excited, I forgot I had my DSLR, so unfortunately for you, this picture shot using my Samsung Galaxy A3 camera will have to suffice; fortunately for me the momentary chance of sitting in this mint example is forever burnt into my mind.
I think if I remember correctly, the seats and door cards had plastic wrap protecting them, which is no surprise since this was an import from Japan. Everything was built to be used as I could tell from the Recaro recliners and MOMO steering wheel w/o an airbag, but at the same time, the tan/beige interior softened the feel of the car. There’s more to the “Evolution” nameplate besides Mitsubishi Lancers you know…
I bet you can’t guess what this Mazda 20B rotary was planted in…
Impressive indeed. Pipey McGraw from Muttley Racing built this E-Type inheriting a very unorthodox power unit. I guess it was a good job I went to the show, as this kind of Jag was not one I had expected to witness! As amazing as it was, the car now runs off of a BMW E9X M3 V8, which isn’t a bad substitute to be honest.
Brap-o-clock.
European manufacturers know/knew how to put together a road-going hatchback that could teach a few higher-price-tag machines a thing or two when it comes to tackling a back country road. This 106 Rallye is no exception, damn, I would even openly admit that it is my favourite Peugeot!
The DeTomaso Pantera is a car with very niche appeal. Something about the silhouette of these mid-engined monsters, combined with their classic Italian flair is something to be admired.
A proper rallying legend on display. Easily the one of the best looking liveries of all time. It is a shame that this photo was the best I got.
Modern metal, BMW switched up the vibe with this F90 M5
My pick of the show was this gem. I know pretty much nothing about Mini Marcos except that I won one on Gran Turismo back in the day, but this GT is very quirky and looks like it would drive well. The concept of the car: hyper-lightweight, minimal body overhang, a seemingly appropriate width-to-length ratio, and a simple naturally-aspirated engine. I say, that is the winning formula.
This Morgan Aero8 caught me off guard, with its elegant color co-ordination along with those OZ magnesium centre-lock wheels. And they are factory-fitted of all things?!

JAE 2017

Continuing on with the modified Japanese car scene, this final instalment fast-forwards two years on from the 2015 show. This time round, the venue the organisers chose to hold this even more vast event was Newark Showground down in the East Midlands near Nottingham. I remember being at the show, and being overwhelmed by the number of cars on display, along with the intense heat that summer. I also found it funny looking back at these photos, noticing the repeat sightings of certain cars that I had shot during the 2015 JAE. Hope you enjoy this set, this bunch is what caught my eye.