Monday – Hakone to Mishima Skywalk

(UPDATED: gallery at the end)

The schedule had us going to Mishima Skywalk Bridge, a good 40 minute drive.


But also look at where Mt. Fuji (Fuji san) is located.


I woke up early because I had been packing all night. I tried to go to the hot spring, but there was a sign at the bottom of the stairs. So I opted for the public bathhouse. After that, I went back to my room and made sure that Mr. Tamai got the message that I left a bag of gifts in his trunk, just in case he decides to leave.

I went back to sleep, but this time on the raised floor. I woke up around 0800 am and went to get breakfast. Everyone was taking pictures. I saw Mr. Tamai and as soon as I got my stuff, I went back to my room, packed and got ready (I knew we were leaving soon). As I was walking with my luggage, I saw everyone taking the group shot… I seem to miss those often! But it is okay, I’m kinda the outsider, so I don’t mind.


Kubo san and I


Fujii san’s 3 Leopards!!! I’m trying to be artistic in my shot.


Gorgeous model and Fujii san’s Leopards


Kuze san telling me the plan.


The drive was pretty cool. I rode with Kuze san and enjoyed the good weather! Fuji san can be seen in the background, which I think makes these pictures awesome!


Once we got to Mishima Skywalk, we were directed to the reserved parking and started to set up.




My time was getting short as I still had to get to Narita Airport and do all the check in stuff. So I took some quick pictures when I realized I needed to leave.


Chief and Me. He is a naval captain.


Tamai san – Riding the leopard over 20+ years. Also leopard historian and Arai’s teacher!!! I am honored to have been in your leopard and the time you took to take me where I needed! M(__ __)M


Ogino san – Good to meet you my friend.

I left quickly and did not get a chance to take pictures with Club Treasure family and the hot models!

Mr. Tamai dropped me off and waited til my train left. Again I owe you sir!!






Sunday – Hakone to Leopard meeting

(update: added gallery at the end)

I woke up about 0900 (9am) and started to organize and pack. I was given quite a few gifts and had about 3 bags plus my luggage. I also had to take a quick shower. I got a message from Kuze san saying Mr. Tamai will pick me up at 1100 am, but then I got a message from Yousuke san saying Mr. Tamai will get me at 1000 am.

Regardless, he was coming and I was trying to get things organized. Mr. Tamai walked in and I told him to give me 10 minutes.

We loaded up and stopped by the Family Mart down the street. While we did this, it was the first time I had seen the entry card used on a Leopard!!! I had to video tape it!




During the drive, we watched 80’s Madonna videos/songs, Initial D battle stage and blasted Eurobeat (which Mr. Tamai says is driving music!)


The one thing I didn’t really expect was that Hakone would be mountainous!!! I was just looking at a flat map.. with that said, tons of turns!


I think the drive was like 3-4 hours. We took a route that was near the water. Very scenic drive.

The destination was Forest Hakone, a traditional Japanese hotel/resort with natural hot springs. Carshop Friend had rented out the whole hotel for the 2 days. When we arrived, there weren’t as many leopards, but then they started to pour in!!!


After people arrived, we went up to a small room and had snacks and beer. I didn’t drink beer, but I thought it was dinner, so I ate some sandwiches (I haven’t eaten all day).


Carshop Friend Models.. who were very friendly!


After this snack, the next thing was Mr. Kanasawa gave a speech in the next room. It was the history on how he started Carshop Friend. He talked about his first jobs and that he appreciated the F31. There were magazines passed around showing ads from Carshop Friend. He also talked about how he imported M30s.


Later he had a surprise!!!

Everyone sang Happy Birthday to the F31 leopard!

At first, I thought this must be something traditional in Japanese car culture, but Kuze san told me it was just light humor.


Then dinner time. I didn’t realize this as I ate a few sandwiches during the snack earlier (I actually thought that was dinner).

Of course beer got everyone happy! LOL. During this time, I went out to take some pictures of the Leopards.


I also found the photographer setting up for more shots. I asked to take a picture of me with the Leopards. I then asked him if he wanted to take a picture. I tried my best to explain to him, often times the one behind the camera taking pictures never gets a chance to be in pictures.


Iwashima san – Photorgrapher of 31st anniversary event!



I had to make a run to Mishima Eki, which was about 30 minutes away. I wanted to be dropped off at the station and take a taxi. Kuze san said it’s okay that Mr. Tamai take me!!! So before we left, I took pictures with Fujii san, Ogino san and Kuze san.



I had to meet up with my aunt because I had gifts for her and she has been holding my Estima stuff at her apartment (I didn’t realize how big they were!! sorry). I also needed to buy a bento box for Lucas and some small snacks for my family.

Mr. Tamai plugged in the coordinates in his GPS and we were off. But the shortest route was straight touge!!!

  1. I’ve drag raced in an F31.
  2. I’ve been drifting in an F31.
  3. Now I’ve touged in an F31.

30-40 minutes later, we were met my aunt at a store and bought stuff. We then went to her apartment. I couldn’t believe how tall those boxes were. I opened up all boxes and realize I couldn’t take the 2nd pair of Estima tail lights. I also couldn’t take my Kenstyle Grill either!!!



My aunties in Mishima, Shizuoka.

Mr. Tamai then drove back, busting touge style!


We get back to Forest Hakone and I start to pack. Kuze san tells me that bath and hot spring is open. I wanted to try the hot spring, but I had to get everything organized and started packing. I did most of the packing until I realized that I left one bag of gifts in Mr. Tamai’s leopard. It was late and I didn’t want to bug him.

As mentioned earlier, Forest Hakone was a traditional Japanese hotel. So besides the public bathhouse and hot springs, it was also sleeping accommodations. 3-4 people on the elevated floor. I was packing late in the night and Kuze san and others started to sleep. I passed out on the couch until about 0500 am.


Added gallery of pictures of arrival.



Saturday – Yokohama and Daikoku Futo

I woke up early and jumped on the trains that headed to Tokyo (had to jump lines at Ikebukuro station).

Once I got to Tokyo Station, I went to my locker and paid another 700 yen in late fee (700 yen a day, can hold 3 days consecutively without paying). I had put my new gifts from the night before and since I couldn’t check in til 1600 (4pm) I decided to just start hitting up the shops.

I jumped on the JR N’EXpress to Yokohama station.


  • Avante (Z31 shop)
  • Bee Racing
  • Nissan Heritage Museum (wanted to see the Zenki leopard)
  • Famspeed (since I am a former RX7 owner)
  • Arai would meet with me and take me to the leopard group
  • check in at my room (yellow indicator)
  • Hideya said he wanted to go to Daikoku Futo


Once I got to Shin Yokohama station, I headed to Kamoi station. I walked along the river (very calming, people were running, others were fishing or bbqing) until I saw a Toyota shop sign. I then got off the trail and it was right there across to Avante.

I talked to the Asakusa san and he spoke English well. He let me take pictures of the Z31s and we talked about cars for almost a good hour.





I then trekked back to Kamoi station and jumped Yokohama line for Nagatsuta station and switched to Tokyu Den line. Got off at Minami Machida station and walked to Bee-R.

I talked with the Imai san shortly as he was busy. He said it was okay to take pictures of the cars!



About a block from Bee R, was a thrift store. I went in there to check things out and ended up buy some old toys!


After that shopping episode, I jumped back on the train and headed towards Chuo Rinkan station. Once there, I took the Odyaku line to Minami Rinkan station. I got off here because this is where the Nissan Heritage Museum was. I waited for a bus, but nothing showed up, so I jumped in a taxi. Upon my arrival, Nissan was closed for construction!!!! Plus my taxi just left (after paying him nearly $10).

The people there called another taxi and offered me GTR water as a consolation prize LOL!

I headed back to the station paying a taxi again (wasted $20 total).

My last stop would be Fam Speed, but noticed that time was getting close to when Arai san or Nori would hit me up. I decided to get a foot massage instead. I walked by a sign earlier saying 2500 yen for 50 minutes. So I went there and got it. One of the best foot massages!!!! I am not joking. I always ask for pressure and when people do acupressure massages, they always work on the whole body. This lady only worked on my feet! After doing some heavy walking all week, I needed it.


Backstory: In 2005/6 – I emailed a few leopard owners during that time. I contacted Nori and Arai of Specialty. After meeting some leopard owners last year, I found the old emails and asked Makoto who they were and he pointed me to them. Nori was already my FB friend and Arai, I was waiting for his approval. After he approved, we talked a few times. A week before I headed to Japan, he called me on the phone. His English was pretty good. He said he doesn’t have his M30 anymore, but that is not the reason why I wanted to meet him. We communicated before and I wanted to connect based on that!

Arai got off work and picked me up at Yokohama station! I had so many questions to ask and he had tons as well! He took me to Tokyo station to get my luggage and then we went to near where I was staying the night.

He told me Mr. Tamai will take me to the Carshop Friend leopard meeting. Arai told me that Mr. Tamai was his teacher!

We rolled up to the Family mart (or was it Lawson?) and I saw a few leopards!!!

While I recognized Hideya and Ito from before, there were a few others I did not know and a few I’ve only talked on facebook.

Soon Arai and Mr. Tamai took me to my place. Mr. Tamai would pick me up in the morning and take me with him to Hakone, so he had to know where to pick me up. Afterwards, we came back to the Family mart parking lot and a couple more brothers were there. Yokota san had arrived. We have been FB friends, but we also emailed 10 years ago.

We left the mart and went to a restaurant’s parking lot.

Getting ready to leave.


Arai helped translate a lot of information and I asked them many questions. Arai had to work in the morning, so he told me that Mr. Tamai will pick me up and that Hideya would take me to Daikoku Futo.

Umezawa san and Oinuma san joined us. Umezawa san brought his KITT replica car! I also found out his handle was E wing, who had a Specialty hp with meeting photos!



Kimura san and cute son!


Yokota san!


Maeda san


Ito san


Ichikawa san



We waited at the restaurant’s parking lot because Hideya said Daikoku Futo had police there and we were waiting until it was clear. When that happened, some of the guys had to go home (I believe this was before 2200 (10pm)).

I jumped in Yokota san’s Leopard.

We arrived and Keiichiro san was video taping us rolling in. I went around and started to take pictures of many of the cars. The cool thing about Daikoku Futo is that the bathroom is always open and there is a Lawson across the parking lot (not to mention vending machines)… so you can literally hang out all night without having to leave to get food or use the bathroom.


Matuzaki san’s Skyline.!!!


Sano san arrived at 0337am


Here is our group shot without the gorgeous girl that was hanging out with the group! All the brothers that hung out, Hiroshi, Yuuya, Hisanori, Simazu, Sano and Hideya


Ogawara san, myself, Umezawa san, Oinuma san


As you see in this last picture, the sun is starting to come out! I can actually say I busted an all nighter at Daikoku Futo! I’ve been there in the past and only stayed for a couple hours.. but this was unprecedented!

Thanks to the brothers for hanging all night!!!

It was super early in the morning and we started to head out. Yokota san led the way, I rode with Hideya and Sano followed as we went back to Machida-shi where I was staying. Once we got to the uphill and confusing part, Hideya and Sano left and Yokota san took me to my place.

It was near maybe 0500 am. I crashed out as Mr Tamai was suppose to get me at 1000 am to take me to Hakone and the final leg of my Pilgrimage, the leopard meeting.





Visit to Avante – May 2017

Since the pilgrimage was about 31s, I wanted to see Z31 Fairladys. Now, I’ve known about Avante for awhile as my friend Jay had a Turbo Z31. We always looked at magazines and pictures.

So this was a must to visit.

After a quick walk along the river, I found Avante cutting into the near by neighborhood. I asked for the manager and Asakusa san came out. He spoke English and we had a good conversation about JCCS and SEMA. He then told me a few stories about some of the cars there (a there were US spec cars and a corvette).

I was given the okay to take pictures. Asakusa san said he might travel to the US for one of the shows, and I told him I’d like to meet with him state side if he does come to JCCS or a big show.


Additionally, I found out that my friend Hideya supports Avante and is a customer. I am hoping if I see Asakusa san will come to JCCS.



Leopard gathering and to Daikoku Futo

A week before I headed to Japan, Arai san called me. We talked on the phone about scheduling.

When I planned my trip, I tossed out ideas and if someone wanted to meet up, I would definitely set it up. Since I was in Yokohama that night, I had mentioned to Daikoku Futo.

I did not have a solid plan as I did  not know who would be coming. Oinuma san texted me and sent me an idea for meeting up. Hideya and Sano did the same. Nori san as well. I didn’t know if they were coordinated, so when I was talking to Arai and Nori, I just mentioned those names in passing and Nori san said he would invite people to the gathering.

Arai said he would get me when he got off work, so my plan was to work my way down to his work location in Yokosuka. I got about half way when he called me. He said he’d pick me up at Yokohama station. Shortly we went to Tokyo station to get my luggage.


Arai san confirmed that everyone knew of the meet up and we were going to meet them there.

When we arrived to the spot, I saw Hideya and Ito. The other friends I have only seen online. Arai also told me that Mr. Tamai would be the one who was going to escort me to Hakone the next day.

After dropping off my luggage to the location I was staying at, we came back to the location and Nori san was there. We decided to go to another location to meet others.

Soon Umezawa and Oinuma san showed up. Hideya said we were waiting for Daikoku Futo to be clear. A few brothers left as it was getting late.

It has been over 10 years since I been to Daikoku Futo. My first time was in 2001. It was like the Option videos back then. During that time, the parking lot was packed and there were Skylines, Supras, Older Evos, and RX7s for the most part. I just remember all the blow off valves that went off that time.

In 2006, my friends and I were trying to go there, but the police had shut it down. This is 2017 and the car scene has changed a bit.

We got the okay to go to Daikoku Futo and headed out. I rode with Nori-san. Upon arriving, we had some f31 brothers there who taped us arriving.


I started to go around and talk to many people. I saw an older skyline. I wanted to take pictures of it, but I waited til the owner came back from Lawson. I started to talk to Matuzaki san about his Skyline. Very nice. I took quite a few pictures of his car because it was amazing.




There were other cars there, not in abundance like before. But I enjoyed them.


It was insane to stay there all night! I’ve been there a few times, but this was the longest and it was great to spend time with many of the guys. Nori and Umezawa use to have their Specialty websites and I would admire their photos.

Now I have my photos with them!



Friday – Tokyo and Saitama

So this was gonna be the “Impacted day”. After coming down from Sendai, the plan was in this order:

As seen in the map (red are race shops, yellow was my place of stay, green were other places to check, blue was the bike rental).

Goals 1:

Get to blue location (bike rental – 100 yen for 4 hours).

  • Blitz (furthest left red marker)
  • Jun Auto mechanic (closest to blue maker)
  • Then bike to Suginami Anime Musuem (closes green maker)
  • Bike to Spoon Sports and Type One (the furthest away red markers)
  • Then check Nagano shopping center.

This was suppose to get done by 1130 am (the map makes locations deceptively close!)


Get on a train to East Tokyo, Adachi area. Yokota san said he would meet me at Daesha Mae station and we can go around.

Goals 2:

  • Star Road – it is a shop I have been wanting to visit as I am former S30 and S130 owner (yellow marker).
  • Matchless Crowd Racing
  • Yashio Factory

Yokota san had to work and so I would attempt to go this direction if I had time. (which did not happen).

Suenaga and Taguchi san (from Van Kulture) and I planned to meet in Saitama, I would make my way up there.

One the way, I would stop by 3 shops before the evening settled (I’m thinking like 1800 (6pm). And that didn’t happen either.

Goals 3:

  • Garage Hundred One (Miata/Roadster shop)
  • Techno Pro Spirit
  • Orangeball tuning
  • Viper


Out of those 3 goal sets, I was only able to do the first one. By the time I got to the rental bike, there was a hold up in communication, took an extra 15 minutes. It also started raining, so I went to 7/11 and bought an umbrella.


I then started to head towards JUN and it really felt longer than I expected. I checked my phone (keeping use to minimum since battery life was short). Finally when I found JUN, I don’t think they were open, so I said, let me get to Blitz. I sped on my bike as much as possible.

Finally, I get to Blitz. A guy (his name is Jun) came out and spoke English. He started to talk about the Kei car photoshoot going on and said it was okay to take pictures. While there, 3 other Americans arrived and asked about Silvias and drifting. This is where the bomb hit. I’ve noticed that there wasn’t as many Silvias and Skylines as my early 2000’s trips. Jun then told them that drifting has kind of slow down, but people are tuning the new 86 model, parts are drying up and that RB motors and skylines have been drying up do to exports to North America and Australia. The guys, who seemed younger, were kinda blown away as I was. But it made sense. The guys were really into drifting and S chassis… so they didn’t care about the other cars at Blitz. I started to take more pictures.

During our conversation, I mentioned I was from the Northwest and Jun said he used to work at Fastlane…

This triggered another long conversation and brought up tons of names I haven’t thought of in years. He then told me he graduated from Piece College…

Anyways, that took longer (as usual) than I expected.



I high tailed it to JUN, where I was allowed to take pictures of the motors. This was the Auto Mechanic shop, so I didn’t see any demo cars.

I just snapped some shots of the displays and talked to the person upfront.






I then high tailed it to Spoon Sports, which was way down the road!!!

I came upon it and saw the clean old school Honda. I went inside and talked to some staff members. Very cool people. One guy mentioned the showroom was down the street at Type One.

I headed to Type One which was 10 minutes down the street. Upon arrival, I met the mechanic and he told me the showroom was upstairs.



Things took longer and I must have lost weight that day because I haven’t biked in a while and I was hauling. Legs were sore. LOL.

I got back to the bike rental and returned. It was nearing 1500 (3pm). I realized that my goals for other shops were not going to be met. I knew that it would take almost 2 hours to get to Musashi Takahagi station, where Suenaga san said he wanted to meet.

I jumped back on the train at Kamishakuji station and headed for Hon Kawagoe station. I switched a train at Torokozawa Station. Once I got to Hon Kawagoe station, I asked where is Kawagoe station. It was a few blocks away.

Again, deceptively short distance on the map!


I had to walk out and head south a few blocks. But the street was a shopping street, so I had to buy a few things for my family while there.

Jumped on the Kawagoe Line.

When I arrived, Suenaga san messaged me and picked me up. I was waiting for Taguchi san, as he was delayed.

Suenaga san took me to his place and I checked out his leopard and other cars. We talked about some cultural differences and he showed me his Suzuki Mighty Boy and Cresta.



Himura san showed up in his bB.

Taguchi san hit me up and said he was at the station, so Suenaga san and I went to go pick him up. And then Yamashima san stopped by too! It was the first time I was able to check out his Y31 and it was SUPER CLEAN!!!



I had a blast hanging out with everyone again and was very interesting talking about cultural differences. It was the first time meeting Suenaga san and Himura san. Good folks!

Suenaga san dropped me off at the station and made talked to person about getting back to Kami Igusa station. There would be a train switch at the next station.

This is where the night took a wrong turn… or in my case, wrong direction.

The black maker is where I started and I was suppose to get to the red maker on the far bottom right of this map. At Higashi Hanno station, the guy pointed me to the wrong track and I ended up at Higashi-Agano station (indicated by the yellow maker).

Now this was the last train and this was past midnight!


My phone was nearly dead and it was a small rural station. I didn’t know what to do, so I started walking. In all honestly, I felt safe as it was Japan. The cool thing was a bunch of FRS (86) guys doing runs up and down the street. I later came to a Family Mart.


The guy at Family mart called the taxi and also called the hotels to see what was available. Once he secured these, he ask if I had cash to make sure I could pay for the taxi. He had limited English, but he did a great job of tell me that the Heritage hotel at Hanno Station had a room for 11,000 yen.

I hate that price, but at 0200 am, what can I say?

I took it and the taxi was about 3500 yen to get to Hanno station.

I’m not bitter about it at all because I feel it was a great day and this particular experience taught me to never take the last train! LOL. The guy at Family mart did everything he could when he did not have too and I gave him a gift for that. I learned a lesson from him as well that I will pay forward.

I set a massive amount of goals for the day, in which 1/3 of it was accomplished. Again, I didn’t expect to spend more time at each shop conversing with people. It is what it is and next time, I’ll do more to spread out the plan.



Visit to JUN Autoshop (Engine Building shop) – Tokyo – May 2017

I stopped by JUN to check out the engines that were on display. This location did not have demo cars, but I was able to check out a few things and even got some cool stuff.


Visit to Blitz – Tokyo – May 2017

I biked to Blitz which was deceptively further away on than it appeared on the map. Ogino-San came out and greeted me. He spoke English. While talking to him, 3 other Americans were there.

We got into discussions on drifting and older cars. These guys were expecting to see skylines and S-chassis cars.

Ogino san told them that things are changing in Japan and that many older cars are not on the road as much. He talked about the Skyline dilemma with Skylines and RB motors being exported and the domestic costs going up.

But it was kinda enforced when we looked at the cars in Blitz’s storage. They were all newer cars. Ogino san told the guys the next chassis to build was the new 86 (FRS or BRZ) as everyone is making something for that car.

After those guys left, Ogino san asked about me living in the Northwest in the early 2000s. I brought this up when we were talking to those guys.

This is where it got kinda interesting. Ogino san used to work at Fastlane and we started talking about those times and the people. He also graduated from Pierce college, which is where I had also graduated.

It was an interesting connection.





Visit to T-Crimb May 2017

A year ago, I was looking at Toyota Hiace vans (I’m a huge fan of them) and came upon T-Crimb’s video done by a guy named Steve (on youtube).

I followed additional videos and found T-Crimb at a few Sendai events.

When I looked for T-Crimb and seen the shop was in Sendai, I really wanted to stop by.

When I arrived to the shop, Shindo-san was out getting some parts. He came 10 minutes later and gave me the okay to take pictures!

He pulled out their demo Hiace. It was pretty big. A Grand Cabin Hiace.

Shindo-san cleaned it up, turned on when the ICE system and lights… It really was a work of art!

The inside was seriously like a house on wheels. It is pretty much a van dweller’s dream.

See for yourself!


Shindo-san also had a R33 Skyline sitting out front. I asked him about it and he showed me some videos on youtube. He uses it for drag racing.

Shindo-san is a great person and his shop had a few Hiaces. I was very impressed with their demo Van because it was super luxurious and well put together.

Thank you Shindo-san.



Visit to T Selection – Sendai – May 2017

When I went to the Estima Meeting in October (2016), someone mentioned T Selection to me. When my friend in Sendai said he would meet me after his work, I figured I would see what was available near there. Sure enough T Selection wasn’t too far.

One of the Van Kulture brothers, Dell, posted a previa that was being turbo charged. This slipped my mind, but it wasn’t til later when it was pointed out to me. I figured it was still a project. Keep this in mind.

When I got to T Selection, I wanted to see the vans that were built. I was surprised to see other cars that were built such as Celsiors and a Kei car. The manager gave the okay to take pictures and I started with looking at the Estimas. I saw this blue slammed one and started to take pictures. He then opened up the sliding door, with custom hinges. He then showed me it was a PREVIA (not an Estima). But let me point out why it was interesting.

  1. Preiva
  2. Dual sliding doors with custom hinges
  3. Dual charged (turbocharged added)
  4. Converted to manual

I started to asking questions and he told me it was one of the few Previas in Japan. It was a well done car and as I said, I was quite surprised at all the work!


After being blown away, I started to look at the other vans and cars there. There was a good bunch of finished cars and cars that looked to be in progress.