Again going of the notion of the 31st year of the F31, I kinda joked about it being the “Year of the Leopard”. Of course there is no Year of the Leopard in the Chinese Zodiac system. While I joke about it, this past 13 months (October 2017 as of this post) have been full all about the F31 for me in general. It was motivating, inspiration and humbling all at once. It has been all about direction and hitting milestones on for my personal journey.
In 2014, I sold my Black M30 (which I highly prized) to a family friend while I finish school. He was suppose to fix the body and repaint it. In 2015, I found out he crashed it. So my car was gone.
*While I am making this post from my perspective and experiences, it is also truly about representing F31club. This doesn’t account for the many milestones other M30s have made as well.
September 2016 – Catalyst
The true catalyst was when I went to Hawaii. I had to go for a week long cardiology conference and training seminar. I realized it wasn’t far from Ewa Beach and I remember a good chunk of the Hawaiian F31club brothers were there. After some messages, I was able to meet up with 4 members. I first met with Kenny (240sx) and Denny. They picked me up and we went to get some dinner. Next day, I met Renny (Onevia) and Mark (Strikevalk) the 2nd day and we talked til I think 4am… We all had to do something in the morning! But that night was kinda interesting. I rode in Mark’s SR20DET convertible and I saw Renny’s RB26DETT M30. The conversation we had sparked so much interest and direction in my head… I didn’t realize it was sparked in them too. The direction was of preservation of the M30.
October 2016 – Journey to Carshop Friend
A week later, I was heading for Japan. It has been 10 years since I was last in Japan. This time, I was with my wife and the focal point was to go to the 30th annual Leopard meet. I’ve been in contact with Kuze-san prior and we were suppose to meet at the meeting. When he told me he wasn’t able to go (meeting was on a Sunday), I said I would like to still meet with him during my trip. I told him I was in Akihabara for until Sunday morning, and he said he could meet me Saturday. I also mentioned to him I wanted to visit Carshop Friend and to tell Mr. Kanazawa I planned to visit. He said he could take me there. He then said the Kubo Family would join us.
For over 10 years and a missed opportunity to visit in 2006, this was a place many of the original members of F31club placed high on a list to visit. In a sense it was a pilgrimage. To visit Carshop Friend was to say it was a huge milestone.
October 2016 – 30th Annual Leopard Meeting
I was excited. This was suppose to happen back in 2007. When I arrived, it was a sight to see! This was the first time I’ve seen so many F31s in one location. Not only that, they had 8 M30s there too. Many of the guys on facebook came up to me. It was surreal and when I stopped exploring, I started taking pictures for reference. There were a ton of firsts for me. I’ve seen over 100 F31’s at that point… it was truly insane.
October 2016 – Osaka meet
Later that week, One of the Leopard Owners, Kazuho Tanaka, met with me in Osaka. He came up to me at the meeting and said, “You emailed me 10 years ago”. He picked me up and we hung out at a cafe. He then took me to his apartment where I saw his other Leopard. This was important because I had tons of questions to ask and he gave me some great answers!
October 2016 – Stance G Nation Odaiba
My last day before I headed back to America, I stopped by Stance Nation. I wasn’t originally going to go, but I had to meet up with Van Kulture Japan members, but also some of the Leopard family was going to be there. I also didn’t get a chance to take pictures with Ogawara-san, so we planned to meet there. I was late because I was at an Estima meeting earlier that day.
November 2016 – New Motivation and Mike
Once I got back, I started to get things in gear. First off, I went to get parts for people. I know a few folks needed parts, so I was able to pull from 2 cars in the junkyard. Started to think of getting an M30 again. I wanted one, but I didn’t know which direction on how to get one. Should I buy a cheap one that needs work, or pay the price for a better condition one? I also realized that I should have put so much effort into many things,
I met up with Mike (SlappinM30). He has been trying to meet up back in the days and the timing never worked out. But meeting with him was great and it sparked many ideas in my head.
November 2016 – F31roger 2.0
As I was browsing M30s, I came up one that was the Blue Grey storm color. But the condition was nice. Price was $2900. I talked with my wife and I decided to pick it up. I flew into to Portland Oregon, paid cash and drove it 9 hours to San Francisco.
the following week, many of my parts from Japan came in.
November 2016 – Meeting with Jay B.
Meeting with Jay was great. It has been awhile since I met with M30 owners. So we hung out for almost 2 hours during my drive down after buying the M30.
December 2016 – F31club resurrection
I met up with Jacy and he gave me the bare bones back up of F31club. I didn’t mind because I wanted something to get F31club started again. When I got the forums going, it was truly bare bones as many pictures were gone. I started to rebuild threads and added pictures and answered questions with confirmed information.
But I felt it wasn’t enough. Forums used to be the social point for cars, but that has changed to Facebook. Luckily, I took a wordpress class a few months prior and decided to make F31club with WP as the format. While it wasn’t perfect, it gave me something to build off the forums.
While I’m still working on it, I have been pretty happy with it. Keep in mind, I am not a webmaster.
January 2017 – The Plan and F31club
I kept in mind what was said about the 31st year of the F31… How can I make this year something, especially for F31club. How do I keep F31club going? I decided I needed to talk about the history of F31club and the people that made it great. So I started to reach out and find the core group of F31club. I started to get in contact with them and even made list of who I’ve talked to or reconnected with. This was important to me as I wanted to pay respects to THEM. While many of them have moved on to other cars or have stopped working on cars… I was able to get a hold of many, which to me was amazing.
So I decided to build a page dedicated to them. This eventually reached some of the members that were in Australia and Europe.
This is for you guys!
Not only that I felt I needed to explain things from my perspective.
As I said before, you can have a cool car, but be a total douche and you can have junked car with a cool personality. So my goal was to meet people whom I felt were cool and supportive. If I couldn’t meet them, then I would at least talk to them on the phone.
February 2016 – Failed Southern California gathering.
After getting things going, I wanted to put together a meeting in Southern California. We would base it off a big even, which was JCCS (Japanese Classic Car show) in Southern California. I counted the people that area and thought we could truly break the F31club meeting we held in 2006. But 2 of the main people I was hoping that would help bolster the meeting, both local stakeholders, backed out for other reasons.
Even with months of planning, we couldn’t get people together. So I kinda given up hope of getting tons of people together and realize it would probably be more individual meeting or even a smaller group meeting of 3 people.
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.
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.
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!
July 2017 – Mini meets
Between the series of travels to Japan, I did meet up with other M30 owners. Jacy (JCrapps), whom I’ve always liked rolling with. Ricky(C4nitriousboi) and Gill(GillyGil), we actually hung 10 years ago and Mike(SlappinM30) and Kue (F31pilot)… which was cool because I finally met Kue.
October 2017 – As of this writing, I’ve contacted a few people.
There might be mini meets in Southern California next month and I’m truly excited for that!