The Saga of the Wandering Leopard
I can be an extremist at times. When I get motivated, I can be overly dedicated to that topic or object, especially if I feel it serves or can represent something of significance. Sometimes I do these things ambiguously (self serving and for the bigger picture/greater good).
October 2016 was the first time I went to Japan with the sole purpose of meeting the Leopard community. Before Facebook, many of us on F31club were on their homepages in the early 2000s. I wanted to take it a step further and meet many of them because I respect what they have done and idolized their cars.
Tanaka-san mentioned to me that 2017 is important because 31 years ago, the Nissan Leopard was released. So you see the 1986-2017= 31 years of F31 Leopards. The respect and symbolism for the number 31 was important and interesting that these guys cared enough to keep track.
I knew that the Leopard community in Japan would be doing something spectacular. Mr. Kanazawa invited me to Nostalgic 2 days in February (2017), but I couldn’t make it. I didn’t have enough time saved up. But it was a blessing in disguise as Kuze-san had told me that they were planning a meeting in May.
The meeting was going to be held in Hakone, a mountainous town. Carshop Friend would host. I didn’t know, but it was mainly for Carshop Friend customers. So when I found out other Leopard owners would not attend, I made it a mission to meet as many Leopard owners before that meeting. Not only that, but I felt I had unfinished business with a few Leopard owners that I contacted 10 years ago (Yokota-san and Yosuke-san).
I also wanted to meet with Taguchi-san and Noguchi-san because they have helped me with F31club.
This trip was about meeting people, with or without F31s.
After mapping out what I wanted to see and do in the 9 days in Japan, I realized I would be wandering Japan.
What I didn’t expect was to travel to Japan 2 additional times in 2017. I’ll explain below but it became another symbolic meaning for 31.
Below are the 3 times I went to Japan in 2017.
3 times in 1 year – “31“
- Wandering Leopard – May 2017
- Wandering Leopard and cub – August 2017
- Wandering Leopard saga continues – September/October 2017
Additionally, If I include October 2016 as of this writing (in October 2017), it is actually 4 times within a year.
Wandering Leopard Pilgrimage was born
If you know me, I have a dry and cheesy sense of humor. I was talking to a Leopard owner and when I told him my intentions during the 9 days, his translation was:
Another person said I was a “Leopard maniac”.
So I figured “Wandering Leopard”
Pilgrimage is the word I always mention when I go to Japan. I feel as a Japanese car enthusiast, going to these famous gatherings, shows, seeing infamous tuning shops and cars… it’s paying respect to them. So that is how the name came about.
Since the date of the meeting was the end of May, I set up to go around during the week.
After I set up the days, I contacted many people and said I will be in Japan and if you give me time, even short, I will make all effort to meet them. Once people confirmed, I based my schedule around their availability.
Taguchi-san and Noguchi-san lived the furthest away, but I wanted to dedicate time to meet them because they have helped me so much. It was the least I could do.
Also Okuni-san (who I met last year at the October 2016 meeting) said he wanted to meet with me. His friend Ishii-san also said the same.
I also met with Leopard owner’s that were not at the October 2016 meeting.
- Cruise to Mishima Skywalk – May 2017
- 31st Anniversary Leopard meeting in Hakone – May 2017
- Leopard gathering and to Daikoku Futo – May 2017
- Visit to Bee-R – Yokohama – May 2017
- Visit to Avante – Yokohama – May 2017
- Saitama mini meet – Van Kulture, bB, and San Ichi club – May 2017
- Visit to Spoon and Type One – Tokyo – May 2017
- Visit to JUN Engine build shop – Tokyo – May 2017
- Visit to Blitz – Tokyo – May 2017
- Visit to T-Crimb – Sendai – May 2017
- Visit to T-Selection – Sendai – May 2017
- Visit to Toyota Automobile Museum – Nagoya – May 2017
- Visit to R31House – Gifu – May 2017
- Visit to Miyoshi Racing RE344 – Okayama – May 2017
Wandering Leopard and cub
This happened out of nowhere. It was just an idea, but became a reality really quick. My son Jacob was celebrating his birthday in the Philippines. My family (wife and kids) would be there almost a month before I would go there for 2 weeks. I asked my son what he wanted to do for his birthday, he said he wanted to go to Japan. My wife didn’t take it serious, but honestly, I kept pushing for it.
I’ll take any excuse to visit Japan really, but I had to divide time to see the typical family/tourist attractions, see some history (I love Japanese history) and of course meeting with anyone that was able to. This time I would stay around Tokyo and show my son around. I would mainly focus on using Tokyo Metro’s subway system as much as possible, but JR lines happened. We would look at toys and manga and while I did plan to check out car shops, that part never materialized. I started mapping out what I wanted to see and what Jacob wanted to see. The Pikachu, Pokemon and Shinkansen Festivals were impromptu in my schedule, but worth checking out.
I had Dinner with Kuze-san and his daughter Kyoko. Next day I had lunch with Ogawara, Itabashi, Kimura-san. Kimura-san brought Hyogo too (in May I met them). What was cool was that even with language barrier, Kyoko and Hyogo were able to play and goof around with Jacob. I also had to meet Satoshi-san who was in Hawaii for the last 3 years working. I had gotten in contact with him through Mark.
- Thursday – Narita Airport, Shinjuku (Godzilla head), Reiyukai Shakaden Hall, Tokyo Tower, Zojo-ji Temple, SL Plaza, and Hakuhinkan Toy Park.
- Friday – Akihabara (Tam Tam, Golden Age Toys, Trader 3, Animate, Mandrake), Shikansen Festival, Ryōgoku Kokugikan (Sumo Hall), Odaiba (Trick Art Museum) and Iidabashi mini meet.
- Saturday- Yokohama – Pokemon Festival, Yokohama mini meet and Iidabashi mini meet.
- Sunday – 47 Ronin gravesite, Tokyo Dome City, Sunshine City (Pokemon Mega Center), Nakano Broadway, and Akihabara (cars)
- Akihabara Night – 8/13/2017
Wandering Leopard Saga continues
It was good to see Ogawara-san again in August. He came out both times to meet me. Then he sent me a message after I arrived back in the states. Something I had a gut feeling, but wasn’t sure.
Since I knew this year was the “31st year of the Leopard”, I asked in May if they were planning another Nationwide Leopard meeting. A couple guys said “no” because the previous year (2016) they had a big event (the first meeting I went to). Then Ogawara-san gave me a hint saying there is a secret going on and it was special. Right then and there, I knew a meeting was gonna happen. I mentioned it to my wife, jokingly, and it was jokingly received. Then Ogawara-san posted this:
I knew I had to go. There was also a few important favors that I needed to keep. Again I started planning and I wanted to experience as much as possible this time. Some of the goals I set the previous trips didn’t work out, such as visiting a few shops, was a must this time.
So I started planning.
This was going it be unique as one of the nights, I would take Japan’s last night train, Sunrise Seto/Izumo from Tokyo to Okayama. This let me cover ground to Okayama while I slept. I would then make my way to Shizuoka for the welcoming party.
I tried to set some milestones that were Leopard related:
- See the Zenki convertible
- See Umezawa-san’s M30 convertible
- See the R31 wagon with the Zenki front
- See a Red Zenki Leopard (rare color)
- See Sugiyama-san’s Nismo Leopard wing (rare part)
It was ambitious, but I was able to see 3/5 of the those mentioned. I wanted to do this to say I saw this things as a leopard enthusiast and for F31club milestones.
- Visit to Matchless Crowd Racing – September 2017
- Visit to Tech Arts – September 2017
- Saitama mini meeting – September 2017
- Mizuno Works
- Art Planning Youma (Dekotora Truck)
- Refresh 60 (Datsun 510/ Bluebird specialist)
- Enoshima Island meet (with Satoshi-san)
- Shinjuku meet with Original JDM Guy
- Sunrise Express meet (with Kuze and Kubo San)
This does conclude my 3 trips to Japan for 2017. My goal was to meet fellow Leopard owners and our relationships have changed dynamically as I’ve met many people a few times. Their perspective of ownership of an F31, their pride into this specific car… made me realize that the few of us (Mark, Renny and myself) fell in love with the right car 12+ years ago.
Now planning for next year!