I am a car guy, always have been and always will be. Though I enjoy working on and building cars, I long ago made a decision to not retire from this profession and instead invest my efforts into my new work venture. Still, I enjoy all aspects of the automotive tuning world and my time abroad in Japan sure reminded me of that love.
I spent a lot of time car spotting while in Japan, collecting parts for my own cars back at home from various shops like Up Garage and Autobacs; and I even attended a couple of car events. When I wasn’t out sightseeing or at work, I was definitely spending some time with this unforgotten passion.
I wish we had tuning shops like this one in the U.S; Up Garage is just freaking amazing! The prices are very reasonable and the amount of used car parts available is pretty impressive. I managed to score a few parts for a couple of my cars: a ‘85 Toyota Corolla and a ’91 Toyota Land Cruiser on the cheap!
Autobacs is not as good as Up Garage in my opinion yet it’s still worth checking out if you happen to spot one. Autobacs does not sell good used car parts like Up Garage, instead they sell a wider range of new aftermarket parts. I also noticed that each Autobacs seems to have a service center. I did buy a couple of things from an Autobacs but I didn’t leave feeling like I just scored a good deal as I did when shopping at Up Garage.
I saw loads of nice cars on nearly a daily basis. I didn’t always have my camera at the ready but when I did, I was sure to snap a quick picture or two. There are a lot of nice, new and classic cars roaming the clean streets of Japan. But to my surprise the place I car spotted the best cars was in the southern most part of Japan, on a small island: Okinawa. The enlisted military members stationed in Okinawa love their Japanese super cars and they aren’t afraid to show ’em off either. I’ve never seen so many Nissan Skylines and RX7’s concentrate in one place, Japanese super cars seem to spawn out of Okinawa!
Now I have to admit, I’m not much a fan of car shows. I mean, I see the appeal in showing off your well tuned art-in-motion to other enthusiast but isn’t cruising down the street more than enough?! Anyway, even I can appreciate a good car show from time to time. I especially enjoy checking out old school classics at shows, everything else I much rather prefer to see and hear out on the road or track.
There are several accessible factory tours in Japan, so far I have visited two: The Mazda Motor Corporation Factory Tour and Museum in Hiroshima and the Toyota Factory Tour and Museum in Nagoya. I visited the Toyota Factory Tour in 2009 and the Mazda Factory Tour in 2016. There are two more Factory Tours on my to do list: Nissan in Yokohama and Honda in Hamamatsu. There is a steep entrance fee for the Toyota Tour and you have to make prior reservations. The Mazda tour also requires a reservation but the entrance is free! You can register through phone or email at: http://www.mazda.com/en/about/museum/reservations/ . The factory tours lasts about 90 minutes and they really add a lot to Japan travels.
Any old school Toyota Corolla enthusiast should not miss stopping by at this gem of a shop. Carland is found in a quiet neighborhood in Kyoto. Getting there is fairly accessible but really out of the way from all the other tourist sites found all-over Kyoto. The shop mechanics on site don’t speak any English so you should prepare yourself by learning some Japanese or bring someone that speaks the language. It was a dream come true of sorts to show up, make conversation with the mechanic, buy some souvenirs and ask permission to tour the shop grounds. This place was definitely a travel highlight for me.
Japan does it best. From building cars to drifting cars, Japan has tons to offer all its car loving guests. Attending a drifting event in Japan was a dream come true for me. There are many events on and off the track throughout the year and all over Japan you just have to keep your ear close to the ground and attend any chance you get. I have only scratched the surface of all that Japan’s Motorsports has to offer and my list of experiences in this area is only going to keep growing. My dream to meet Keiichi Tsuchiya in person and ask for an autograph is still in the works.
Anime, music, dramas, martial arts, food etc. are some of the many reason why many people are fascinated with Japanese culture. But not me, in fact, after several years of learning the language I’m still not interested in anime or dramas or all the other stuff, except the food of course, I learned and was fascinated with Japanese culture because of Japanese cars. I am proud to say that what first motivated me to immerse myself into the language and culture has not changed. Happy Travels!