Entering this year with no day job, after taking the voluntary redundancy option offered by my company, its safe to say I have plenty of free time. I feel like I may aswell share this bit of information with you, even though my unemployed status shouldn’t really make any difference to you. But I bet it has now spurred me on to take any opportunity I can to do what I truly value as worthwhile.
Originally I planned only on returning back to Japan next month, but since I had nothing better to do, I decided to get flights booked and make it out earlier than I had originally planned. I mean, Osaka Auto Messe was coming up, and its been a side of Japanese car culture I wanted to check out first-hand. This prompted me to get on Skyscanner and start scouring the cheapest dates to fly in and out of Nihon. I peer-pressured Luke into coming along for the journey, as I thought it would be interesting getting his take on the country.
Thankfully, we made it out of Manchester Airport on the 9th of February, as it was a close call with ‘Storm Ciara’ going crazy in the UK disrupting a few flights that day. I think as we boarded the plane, the wind and rainy onslaught calmed down, so our pilot must have just sent that shit and prayed for the best. Above the fog and clouds, it was all good and our 12 hours+ journey officially commenced.
We landed in Narita on the morning of the 10th, giving us a full day to get settled into our Shinjuku accommodation. It was cold. More so than I had expected. I have always travelled to Japan in the summer season so I presumed their winter wouldn’t be as bad as the UK’s. I didn’t have a clue though, winter in Japan gives your body a new type of chill and we were there during the tail-end of it! To top it off, the small apartment we stayed in had no insulation which apparently is commonplace due to the insanely hot summers.
Cold weather rant over. This was no Jet2 holiday to Tenerife. The first thing on the itinerary was completely worth perpetually shivering myself to sleep for. Luckily jetlag didn’t affect me as much as it did Luke, but we were as fresh as daisies on the morning of the 11th, ready to get trackside; TC2000 trackside.
I had contacted Karl (@hashiriyajapan) prior to arriving in Japan, as his continuous stream of images of car culture, in his now home country, caught my eye immediately a while back. Being a fellow Brit, he must have been open to my enthusiastic approach when I contacted him via IG, and being a kind enough bloke, he offered to give me and Luke a lift to the Zummy event at Tsukuba, as it isn’t easily accessible via public transport.
Its a given that Japan never fails to deliver on the automotive front, but Tsukuba on the otherhand – it knows nothing other than to provide us carnuts with a unique experience. Part of it might have to do with the nostalgic element derived from back in the day, playing Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport, or watching the Best Motoring series, and discovering this brief – yet technical – racing circuit.
The most popular viewing area that’s pretty much accessible as soon as you enter via the paddock entrance, is above the pits, so we hung out and watched the ‘Premium’ group go out and run the session in the typical Attack format: 3 laps, one warm-up, a hot-lap, and end the run on a cool down. A few cars might have had a couple more, but the majority were using their seat time as a dress rehearsal for the [then] upcoming Attack Tsukuba event.
The vantage point gives you a chance to get some cool top-down angles of the machines in the paddock area. Not one but TWO Innocent Blue Mica FD RX-7s were present, so you know I had a good day. In Japan these Mazdas are quite common, on both the track and street. You can’t blame ’em…
The Toyota Supra hasn’t been synonymous with Time Attack, most likely with its disadvantageous heft rendering it a relatively poor performer in the tight sections, something TC2000 is mostly comprised of. Although, this angelic white A80 present on the day looked at home out on the track. The aero it was equipped with was really gritty and homemade, giving you a sense that it was built to be run hard.
The good looking one out of the Takahashi bros. was out running the course that morning too. I think that’s the driver donning the green Efini branded racesuit. A klassic look effortlessly achieved on a klassic car: RE-Amemiya GT-AD aerokit, sensible wheel fitment, and topped off with Ganador wing mirrors. All tied together by that Competition Yellow paint.
Congrats to the Hokkaido Dream Racing team and their monstrous 700HP+ 13B FD, becoming the fastest 3rd-gen RX-7, lapping TC2000 in 54.666 seconds at the weekend’s Attack round! I am glad I got chance to see this thing haul some real arse around Tsukuba earlier in the month, albeit briefly, but holy shit does it move!
Another contender busting out his own PB was Ryo Kaneko, or as I would like to call him, Mr. Timeless, after reading about him as a person in 80R Vol.2 by Sean Lucas. The subtle but effective addition of the wide rear quarter panel and carbon hatch must have helped him attain the result on his hot lap. This Civic is a real NA powerhouse, as its ‘Frankenstein’ K-series engine churns out over 330bhp!
A familiar sight that morning was Usui-san and his NA Roadster, as its not a car you can simply just gloss over in passing even with its compact dimensions. I visited his shop in Gunma Pref. if you remember last year’s Japan blog post, where I got to meet the man behind such a wonderful machine. Its been dosed with a few changes, mainly consisting of new wheel and tyre setup, along with a livery delete.
The highly-modified Garage Vary widebody remains unchanged as far as I can tell, except for the removal of those roof-mounted vortex generators which I thought looked pretty snazzy. Everything about this attack build is right, with the rear-end being jacked, giving the little Mazda an aesthetic we need to see more of…
An FD I was surprised to not have seen before ever, was Oouchi-san’s white stallion. Many of the RX-7 chassis ran fitted with these ReadyGoNext vented carbon bonnets, which I think is a really good look that’s got to be functional with all of those louvres. I’m liking the vivid blue painted Enkei RS05RR aluminium wheels, the car looked great flying up the main straight!
A lot of this red FD was easy on the eye too. I like how it was kitted with a healthy balance of aggresive aero, but in keeping with the factory bodylines. Maybe that has a lot to do with how the chosen paint colour accentuates every curve. The fact that it retains the twin-turbo configuration is also highly commendable in my opinion.
Wow, clearly Seven’s Day occurs more than once a year in Japan. I’d be the last to complain about the relatively high volume of FDs present that morning. It’s arguably the best FR platform for time attack, and then to couple that fact with the huge aftermarket support available – default option if you ask me. This one wears an RE-Amemiya GT face that blends rearward nicely into a pair of TCP Magic front wings.
Was also cool to see both Okamura-san from Yashio Factory and Youtuber Sammit out at the event, giving the shop S15 a shakedown.
Having a seasoned spectator guide us around was handy, especially when it came to setting up sniper at this in-field spot where I was able to get shots of cars going into turn 3 after the chicane. Shout-out to Karl for the insider’s tour, haha!
This vantage point inboard of Dunlop corner also lent some good angles. Wish I had my wide-angle on me at the time but I made do with what I had. I can remember having my desktop background set to a photo of that KBC CP9A LanEvo you see above, as it wears a distinctive livery design which I think is inspired by a bullet train’s colour scheme if I’m not mistaken. Google ‘E7 series shinkansen’ and you’ll see what I mean.
A bunch of classic Minis were posted up on this overflow paddock area. Can’t remember if they were due to race or just had a running session booked for later on that afternoon. Luke and I chuckled when we saw the West Yorkshire-based custom wheels manufacturer windscreen banner slap on the pastel grey-green car. Bit of home away from home.
After having seen the ‘main event’ as it were, we headed back to the paddock area before making an exit. It was a public holiday that day (Emperor’s Day?) so Karl had plans to spend the rest of it with his family.
The Attack Premium class competitors started packing up their gear. Its always a cool sight watching the cars being loaded onto the articulating bed of the ‘car-carrier’ trucks. Oh, and here is a good shot (minus the distracting rusty lamp-post) of the TCS Usui MX-5 and its new RS Watanabe wheels in a bright silver finish which look the business!
One last walkaround; I could have stared at a lot of these motors for most of the day if we had time. There is so much detail some of these cars have, especially when it comes to bespoke custom modification. Not only that, its the style in which the cars are presented in – ‘how’ a car is built for Tsukuba-running transcends ‘what’ is built.
Forget the fancy, schmancy cookie-cutter parts that you see in abundance on those IG and YouTube “builds”. Enhancing a vehicle’s character and truly enjoying it is what I define as a manifestation of automotive enthusiasm.
Something you certainly do not see often is a 1-of-200 Tommykaira ZZ!
A very clean targa-top 300ZX was about to tear it up on TC2000, sat behind its younger 350Z/Z33 Nissan bloodline relative.
Mazda2 / Demio love in the carpark, with this beast of a Mini parked a couple of spaces away. Carbon roof + riveted fenders + gussetted cage + split rims + lampless front = one hardcore boi.
The FR version of Fiesta/Focus STs of Japan(?)…
Karl’s FD2 sat-nav displaying the famous course layout we all know and love.
If in Japan and in doubt of where to eat, save time and just run over to a 7-Eleven. And take the photo. Obligations.
After some good ol’ pieces of seasoned beef, smoked mackerel and a hard-boiled egg, we headed back down to Saitama where we would catch the train back to Tokyo. Karl pointed out these expansion joints most bridges in Japan have built into them for when earthquakes occur. This avoids cracking and fracturing of the structure – nifty.
Cannot believe I missed Tsukuba Circuit’s gift shop when I first visited for Idlers Games last year, so you know I had to grab a couple souvenirs. Very reasonably priced official merch, might I add, quality is pretty nice too.
Thats all I have for you from our first proper outing a couple weeks ago in Japan. I reckon I’ll throw up all the Osaka Auto Messe content next, so keep an eye out for all of that! Thanks for making it this far down!