Saturday – Okayama, Gigantor, Kyoto, Fushimi Inari shrine, back to Tokyo, then Fujinomiya

 

I loved sleeping on the train. I got comfortable and even with the bumps, I still slept. I did wake up around 0530 to make sure I didn’t miss Okayama. The Sunrise Express makes a few stops along the way. When it gets to Okayama, they decouple the train, one going to North to Izumo and one going south to Kagawa. If I slept in, I would have woken up in Takamatsu.The one thing I didn’t like was that the Nobi Nobi seat does not have an outlet to plug in.. so my phone batteries were almost dead. My external batteries (small ones) were dead too.

I ate my food in the lounge car and brushed my teeth afterwards. I got to Okayama and the station is mostly closed. I went to the 7/11 there and by a bigger external battery.


Now I will back track. I have to stop by Kobe city and Kyoto (Kyoto). Then take the Shinkansen to Tokyo station to get my luggage and head to Fujinomiya where the Leopard Committee was setting up for the Leopard meeting the next day.


Once I got to Shin Kobe station, I took the subway Seishin-Yamate line Sannomiya station. I then jumped on the JR Sanyo Main line to get to Shinnagata station where Gigantor was located.

 

 

 

I walk a couple blocks and there he was!!! Gigantor!  After the devastation of Kobe City, Gigantor was made as a symbol of strength.

 


I reversed it back to Shin-Kobe station and jumped on the Shinkansen. But not before I saw the rare Neon Evangelion Shinkansen! It is the JR 500


I did plan to stop by Osaka and visit Jenesis, I didn’t have time since I would have to spend a few hours going back to Tokyo and then back to Shizuoka because of my luggage. So Osaka didn’t happen.

I did have to go to Kyoto. When my wife and I went here last year, we found many cool items and snacks. This made Kyoto a stop for shopping.

Not only that, Kyoto station is one of my favorite because of Escalator Mountain!

At this point, I bought some stuff for my kids and wife. This included cute bento boxes, Kyoto Blotting paper and tons of delicious mochi.

 

Next, I wanted to visit the Torii tunnel. It was famous in movies.. but just how many Torii is amazing.

Once you get past the JR gates, there are a ton of platforms next to each other. To get to Inari, you had to get on the Nara line (D). I believe Inari is stop 3.

 

But before I left, I had to visit the Fushimi Inari shrine. This is the Torii gate tunnel going up the mountain. Last October (2016), my wife and I did not get a chance to visit this Shrine as we went to Bamboo Forest and Gion… So I made it a must for this trip.

 

 

As I did in May 2017, this is also a spiritual journey for me.

 


I then booked a ticket for the Shinkansen for Tokyo station. It was about a 2.5 hr ride I had to take the Kodama Superexpress and not the Nozomi.

 

As soon as I got to Tokyo station, I quickly located my luggage on the underground floor, changed quickly and headed to Fuji station in Shizuoka.

Then from Fuji station, I took a taxi to Hana No Yu Onsen.

 

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Sunrise Express and meeting Kuze and Kubo-san

I have been fascinated with the Japan train system. It is intense, plentiful and resourceful when planning a trip. The complexity of the whole system is super interesting to me. One of the best youtube channels I follow is “Only In Japan” hosted by John Daub. One of the episodes, he takes the Sunrise Izumo.

The Sunrise express is the last night train in Japan. The Shinkansen has proven to be efficient. The appeal of a Night train (sleep while you cross Japan) is still there, even though the time is not get to a place is nothing compared to the speed of a Shinkansen.

Still, I wanted to experience it. I also figured I can cover ground while I slept, compared to waking up early and jumping on the Shinkansen to Kyoto. This would also give me some time see a few things on my back track to Kyoto.

Some basics:

  • Sunrise Express leaves Tokyo station, platform 9 @ 2200 (10pm)
  • Seats can only reserved at the station and usually booked weeks ahead of time
  • There are different seats available, I took the Nobi Nobi seat, which is basically a carpeted floor you sleep in.
  • There is no food available on this train, buy a Ekiben (station bento box) before leaving.
  • Food eating is only allowed in car #3, which is the lounge car with limited tables and window view.
  • Shower is limited to 20 cards. The cards only give you 6 minutes to shower and cost 320 yen (sells out quick).

I wanted to try this, so I asked Kuze-san to see if he can reserve me a ticket. He told me he got me one!

 


The plan was to meet Kuze-san @ 2145 at the platform so we can exchange gifts and he would give me the ticket and I’d pay him.

Earlier that morning, I had put my luggage in a locker in the bottom floor of Tokyo Station. When my dinner with Original JDM guy took longer, I rushed to get to Tokyo Station, but I was still short on time. I was lucky to grab some clothes earlier “just in case” as I the night before it rained hard. I arrived and only had a few minutes, so my luggage was left at Tokyo station. I only had the bag of clothes, gifts and essentials with me.

As soon as I got on, I tried to get a shower card, but I did not have enough change. I only had my loaded Suica and 1000 yen bills… One of my neighbors tried to help me out, but by the time I got went to get the shower card.. sold out!!! I really wanted to try the shower on a train deal!!!

 

Anyways, it was good to see Kuze-san and Kubo-san! I always enjoy their company.

 

This was a great experience for myself. This is the last Night train in Japan.

 

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Enoshima Island mini meet

After my trip to Saitama and Refresh 60, I went to Yokohama station to meet with Satoshi-san.

We drove to Enoshima Island. As we were approaching Enoshima Island, it was gorgeous to see from the road!

My goal was to see the Iwaya caves, but we parked on the opposite side of the island and tried to get to the caves via the Southeast, which was rocky and along the water. We reached a point where it was just too much rock to climb and decided to head back. I also realized that it was getting late and I had promised to meet JDM guy in Shinjuku @1930 (7:30pm).

So we just talked about and left. The plan next time is to have Mark come along.

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Visit to Art Planning Yuuma – September 2017

I have always wanted to see a Dekotora truck, but I have not been able to catch a glimpse of them. One of my friends told me that there is a shop near Mizuno Works. I figure after I get done with Mizuno Works, I’ll just walk right over there.

Mizuno-san offered to take me back to Yoshikawa station, but I mentioned I wanted to see Dekotora truck and he said that is his friend, so he took me there. Upon arrival, I saw one that was being worked in their shop. Kobayashi-san came out and introduced himself and gave me a business card. I asked questions and he said it was okay to check out the truck.

The truck was insane to see in person. I mean this isn’t as wild as some I have seen in the magazines, but just looking at the craftsmanship… pretty impressive. I asked about the bumper and how long it takes to make, he said about 3 months.

The truck had really nice interior.. I mean they had a chandelier in there!

Again, I had to thank Mizuno-san for taking me there and Kobayashi-san for letting me check things out.

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Friday – Mizuno Works, AP Yuuma, Refresh 60, Enoshima Island, JDM guy dinner and Sunrise Express- 2017

It was gonna be a busy day. I actually had to carry gifts for the people I was going to meet.

I woke up early and packed my luggage. I would leave to Tokyo station, leave my luggage there and head to Saitama again. I was also going back to Enoshima Island in the afternoon, but at 2200, I would be meeting Kuze-san at Tokyo station for the Sunrise Seto train. So I decided to just carry essentials.

 

This time to visit Mizuno Works.

I took the Blue line subway to Shin Yokohama station, then a Shinkansen to Tokyo station. Had my gifts and a set of clothes in my gift bag (these were durable grocery bags from Costco). I am glad I did that (more on that later.)

I headed on the JR, knowing I would have to jump train to get to Yoshikawa station (as I found out last night).

 


Once I got to Yoshikawa station, I knew it was about a mile before I could reach Mizuno Works. It still pretty early as well, so when I got to the 7/11 there, I just had breakfast for 30 minutes.

Mizuno Works

Art Planning Yuuma

 

I headed back to Shin-Yokohama station via Shinkansen and I remember my friend Hector telling me about Refresh 60, A Datsun Bluebird specialist. I asked Kuze-san through text and he gave me the address. When I looked at the address, I saw that the shop was between Shin-Yokohama and Yokohama station by the Blue Line subway. So I decided to stop by real quick.

Refresh 60

Afterwards, I jumped on the Blue line again and 3 stops later, I was at Yokohama station. Satoshi-san said he will meet me there and we would go to Enoshima Island together. I did want to take go to Ofuna station and take the Monorail to Enoshima station, but since time was limited and Satoshi-san said there was traffic, I went with his plan.

Enoshima Mini meet

 

Satoshi-san dropped me off at Shinagawa station and said it was closer to Shinjuku station. I took the train to Shinjuku where I met up with Original JDM Guy.

Meet with Original JDM guy

We had somewhat of a dinner snack and I didn’t realize I was behind in time! So we both walked to Shinjuku station and he said Tokyo station wouldn’t take that long to get to.

The train took 3 stations to get to Tokyo, and I still had to get to platform 9. Seeing how I didn’t have time to get my luggage, I ended up leaving it in Tokyo station. I got to the platform with my essentials and gifts. I thanked Kuze and Kubo-san. Before I got on the train, I got an Ekiben (station bento box) and started to say my good byes.

Sunrise Express and meeting wth Kuze and Kubo-san.

 

That was a long day and took me from Yokohama to Saitama to Yokohama again to Tokyo for a train headed to Okayama.

Visit to Mizuno Works – September 2017

I’ve seen Mizuno Works’ cars in many magazines and even scale models. So I’ve been trying to go there since May. Unfortunately, my time in May was not enough to get there and I have always made it a mission.

Now, I used to love wild styles and would want to make my cars like this. Mizuno Works was a huge inspiration in the mid 2000s for me. So it was only proper for me to try and pay my respects to this Mizuno-san.


After dropping off my luggage at Tokyo Station, I headed to Yoshikawa station. This would take me a few station switches, but it would be easy to get to Yoshikawa station. Since I started early, I walked the near 1.5 miles to near Mizuno Works. I had some breakfast and then went to the shop.

Upon arrival, I a worker saw me and said he will get the manager. The manager was Mizuno-san himself. I introduced myself and told him why I stopped by. He said I could take pictures, but 3 cars were customer cars, which he asked me not to take pictures of (in which I complied). He offered me coffee and we sat and talked. He told me about his travels to America in the 90s. I asked him more questions and then he showed me around his shop.

Some of the cars he had there were awesome. There was this sleeper of a car… with a huge turbo!!!

I bought a few items off him. He said I could take more pictures of his wheel collection and I did. He then got busy with customers on the phone and people doing construction at his shop. I didn’t want to take too much of his time, so I thanked him and then he said he will take me to the station. That was really cool. I told him I wanted to see Art Planning Youma and he said that is his friend, so he took me to that shop and introduced me to the owner.

Here are my pix.

 

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Meeting with Original JDM guy

Original JDM guy and I have been talking for bit. We had some common interests. I told him I was gonna visit Japan and if he wanted anything from here.

Before I posted the picture, I asked if it was okay. He told me that he would like to be anonymous, so I will keep it that way.


Our commonality of talking about cars also progressed to how families are raised and our societies differences between US and Japan. But also talking with Original JDM guy was very interesting because we talked about THE era of Honda tuning. In fact, he talked more about the LA Import Scene from the 90’s!!! I didn’t get into it until 1998.

Understand this, I rarely talk to anyone from that era, especially from LA (where I felt the import scene all started). So to converse with someone that was from that era and understands it, was nostalgic to say the least. The era we talked about was one of pioneering for Honda and that is something that I don’t think many newer generation owners can ever experience. They are replicating cars that have been built 100s of times over. There is nothing original with building a 240sx, Civic or RX7. It is not anyone’s fault, just an observation. The newer generation have information at their finger tips with social media and swap write ups that have been around for years. If you really look back at the import scene, Hondas really made it happen. Not taking anything away from the TRUE Enthusiasts of the other platforms neither.

We also talked about my old cars. He brought up my Vigor and I haven’t thought about it in a long time. It has been 13yrs since I enjoyed it. Back then, I was trying to take advantage of free websites and Fortunecity had free 100 mb websites… so I had my own page there for my 2 sedan builds. (While I had my EG civic, FC rx7, Infiniti M30, 240sx fastback, I dedicated my fortunecity page to the sedans I had, My Acura Vigor and 1990 Toyota Cressida. I bought my Vigor silver and my Cressida white, but I wanted to go with the VIP look, so I had them painted black. Unfortunately, that fortunecity page went down awhile back and all the pictures I had on there were gone.)

Anyways, it was a great conversation with Original JDM Guy and when we talked about publications, he mentioned back in the days that Sport Compact Car was quarterly and people going to Battle (Battle of the Imports) with basic mods… Wow.. that brought back my memories when Washington state followed California a few years later.

Anyways, it was awesome to meet him even though it was short. He brought me to this small spot to eat and it was also great! Some of these skewers I have never tried before.

 

Go like the page on Facebook and enjoy the posts on there. The original JDM guy page has glimpses of the past  and getting opinions for “Good buy or Good bye”.

 

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Visit to Refresh 60

So my friend Hector told me about a Bluebird specialists in Yokohama. He wanted to get some Refresh 60 stickers.

I was never a Datsun 510 owner, but I do admire them. When I was younger, I was always a S30/S130 Z and ZX guy. I liked 510s, but they were becoming something similar to Imprezas and Civics… people were buying them and increasing the prices…

When I stopped by, I had a hard time finding the shop as I didn’t see any cars. I then saw “Refresh 60” on the window.

 

Inside, I saw the store full of items everywhere.. I thought it was a garage or storage place (some shops have separate locations for these reasons).

I was welcomed by Obata-san. I asked if I could take pictures. He gave me the okay and outside. He bought me a drink and said “have a seat”.

We talked for a good 40 minutes and I asked if he had any Refresh 60 stickers. He said he didn’t. So I thought it was one of those shop owners who were protective of his products.

He gave me some Nostalgic Hero magazines and we talked soem more.

I had to leave and I thanked him for his time. He also thanked me.

In retrospect, I didn’t know what was going on until I got back to the US and looked up his website.

 

Let’s translate:


I didn’t realize it when I was there. We joked about parts being made in Taiwan and China. We talked a few other things and he told me about his travels to Philippines.

 

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Thursday – Saitama and Little Trees

I arrived at Haneda airport around 1430 (2:30pm). I immediately got my luggage, got my passes and filled up the Suica.

I took the Tokyo Monorail to Tenkubashi station and got on the Keikyu line and headed to Tobe station (just past Yokohama station). That train ride took longer than I thought it would. I got off, walked to my hotel, and checked in.

I quickly packed my things and headed to Saitama. I jumped on the Blue line subway to Shin Yokohama and took the Shinkansen to Tokyo Station.

Then I would stop at Akihabara station. I would then jump on the Tsukuba Express and had to Yashio station.

My stops would include MCR nad Tec Arts. Again on map, it didn’t look that far… but they were. Not only that.. it was raining.

 

After those visits, my feet were soaked from the rain.

Visit to MCR

Visit to Tec Arts

Saitama mini meet

 

Here are some pix on the train stations on the way there.

 

After meeting with Suenaga and Hiruma-san, I had to catch the last train from that station at 2220. I was about to get on the wrong platform until they both yelled to go to the other side!

I took a train to Ikekuburo Station, then to Tokyo Station then to Shinagawa station and finally to Yokohama station. By the time I would get to Yokohama station, all trains and subways were closed, so I couldn’t get to the next station by subway or train. I had to walk (it wasn’t far and it was absolutely calming to walk in Yokohama).

 

The calming 2 mile walk to back to my hotel.

Saitama mini meet – September 2017

After visiting MCR and Tec Arts, I had to go to Kawagoe area. I had to give something to Suenaga-san.

It was Thursday and the only time I could visit him. But it was getting late and last time I was there, I got on the last train going the wrong way, which I ended up staying the night in that region (additional $110 for a few hours sleep), my luggage in Tokyo station and a paid, unused hotel room.

I made sure I knew the last time the trains would run and how long it would take. This day, I had to return to Yokohama (compared to Tokyo, which was closer).

Which meant I couldn’t spend as much time as before.


I arrived and Suenaga-san and Himura-san picked me up. I came to his place again and gave him the golden package. Both Suenaga and Himura-san gave me gifts as well!!! Tons of great reading material!!! Thank you brothers!

 

 

Young Auto!!!!

 

Some awesome cars!!!

 

Magazines, cars, Leopard trunk lock and key, cars and pattern light!!!!

 

It was a short time and we laughed about it! But we plan more for next time. I’ll go out his way again and spend time with my brothers!!!