A Car Nerd's Guide To JapanAn insider look at car culture in Japan.  

If there’s one thing I hope you learn from reading A Car Nerd’s Guide to Japan, it’s that there’s never a shortage of car-related events in this country. The regular meets and events make it the ideal melting pot for this unique car scene to grow and evolve. It’s almost hard to keep up with everything going on here and makes it harder to figure out which events to attend. But when I heard Speeedhunters was throwing a show at at Fuji Speedway, I didn’t hesitate putting it on the calendar for October.

Like many others I got my first taste of the Japanese car scene from reading articles on Speedhunters, particularly those from Dino Dalle Carbonare. It’s one of the best sites out there for photography, car culture, motorsports at every level (especially grassroots), tuner cars, builds and more.

Plus, Dino has helped navigate my way around the local car scene in Tokyo too, and when Bingo Sports held a track day at Fuji to show off some of their cars a few years back, he kindly brought me along. To this day that remains one of the best and craziest things I’ve experienced at Fuji. So in a way, it’s come full circle.

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As this was the first time this show had been held I didn’t know what to expect. I just knew there’d be a good mixture of cars. I wasn’t disappointed.

I got to Fuji Speedway around noon and by then the event was in full force. Around 300 cars had showed up with the sort of mixture you’d expect from Speedhunters.

This show was put together to celebrate their 10th Anniversary while at the same time launching the Speedhunters Live platform. Dino said they chose to kick it all off in Japan as “that makes up their core to what they cover and their audience loves.” 

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They’ll be planning to bring the show overseas from next year and judging from the quality and quantity of cars at this first one, it’ll be something keep an eye on.

For those familiar with Speedhunters you’ll recognize a lot of the cars here. Most have been featured cars on the site while others we’ve seen at various other meets and events. Around 300 cars showed up and the turnout could only be possible after years of covering the car scene as well as being part of it. The last time I can recall an overseas publication holding a “show” in Japan, it made the news. Luckily, that wasn’t the case here.

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Like with most Japanese car shows and meets there was a nice, relaxed vibe. People catching up, appreciating each other’s cars, and a chance to see a featured car in person. One of the things that was important for the show and for Speedhunters was no discrimination for what cars were allowed to turn up, meaning there was something for everyone. From slammed vans to wide body Porsches and drift spec 86s, all corners of Japanese car culture was represented.

The Old & New 911 Flatnose kit was one of my favorites. While everyone was gawking over the new Porsche 935 from this year’s Rennsport Renunion, this custom flatnose based on the Porsche 996 and 997 had more or less the same effect for a much more affordable price. The whole kit is roughly $13,700 before taxes, considerably less than the 935’s $817,000 asking price.

There were two at the show in different shades of blue. This darker one with the gold wheels was particularly nice.

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Another crazy car that caught my eye was Takashi Akimura’s purple RX-7. I’d seen this car around on social media, but to see it in person for the first time was crazy.

One could be forgiven for thinking Akimura-san has an obsession with purple cars from the amount he posts on his Facebook page. His Abflug RX-7 may split opinion but I have nothing but respect for the story behind it.

Speaking of wild body kits, it was almost like a who’s who of body kits at the show with cars sporting kits five RWBs to a Veilside Fortune RX-7 and a Rocket Bunny 350Z. There was a surprising amount of Pandem cars too. It’s a sign that these widebody cars aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

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That said, it did make seeing simpler mods all that more refreshing. The row of four R32 GT-Rs and the Supra T-Top come to mind.

It’s not a proper Japanese meet without some hilarious oddballs. The red convertible Toyota Celsior (Lexus LS) was a surprise. I had only seen one before but with the later generation Celsior. It’s an interesting take on a luxury sedan but as someone who loves convertibles it’s an idea I can get behind. Not too far from the convertible Celsior was perhaps the best Nissan March Convertible I’ve seen.

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Something that’s always interested me was the prominent minivan culture in Japan. I guess it’s almost like Japan’s equivalent of the pickup culture in America.

The stuff gathered here was nuts. A Toyota Prius V with Ferrari 458 wheels. A Previa with a matching mini Previa. A slammed Honda Odyssey and StepWGN. That Advan-livery HiAce was peak JDM van. I’ll need to dive deeper into why minivans are still so beloved in Japan. Watch this space.

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The cars out in the parking lot were pretty awesome too. From the Nissan Laurel with R35 wheels to the the Reims Blue Mitsubishi Evo VI with a couple of Ferraris in the back. The owner of the lone wide body RX-7 at the very back of the spectator car park knew full well he’d put it in a picturesque location, so it would’ve been rude not to take a pic of it.

Elsewhere at Fuji, there were a few events happening on the main circuit but when I got word a 300ZX IMSA was there, I had to go check it out.

I left the show before it wrapped up, which turned out to be a mistake on my part. Unlike other shows in Japan where the cars are static displays, the Speedhunters show held a “rev off” battle and even a limbo competition. Next time I’ll have to stick around for longer.

It’ll be interesting to see how this concept will evolve in the future but if the hour I was there was anything to go by, the assortment of cars and the inclusive and relaxed atmosphere will translate well to a city near you.

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