I don’t even really know how to begin this because it’s been really hard for me to jot down words to explain my first ever trip to Japan and then to kick it off with Tokyo Auto Salon. As far back as I can remember picking up tuner magazines back in the states I have been amazed by the “Japanese styling” of cars. It was cool to see America’s interpretation of what they thought was cool in Japan, whether it be picking little things that the Japanese did to their cars or build that were built to replicate “JDM” styling as best they could. In the month of February there was always a special issue that featured a aftermarket parts event known as the Tokyo Auto Salon and I can remember the first time I had put my eyes to paper and seen photos of this show I had a huge grin from ear to ear. This was the first time I had seen how insane the attention to detail was in Japan on literally anything they put together for display at this event. I knew then that one day I would take the trip to Japan and attend this event.Fast forward to 2017, I had just relocated to New Zealand with Steph and we had begun planning our trips while we were on this part of the world and I realized that a trip to Japan was in reach and not just a crazy idea. literally a few days later I was having a conversation with my good friend Ernie from Zestino Tires USA and he tells me that he’s going to T.A.S. 2018 with Zestino Tires and I had mentioned that I was planning on taking that trip as well. If you know Ernie well then you would know how good he is at talking you into something, and over the next few weeks he had kept on telling me “you should come” and what sealed the deal was him offering the opportunity to not only meet him out there but to travel with him and our friend Eddy through Japan and get some new content for Zestino. By this time I had already been saving towards the trip but once he extended the invite to work with Zestino again I knew that in 2018 I’d make my first trip to Japan.Now that there is some back story to this whole trip, lets get to the real reason why y’all are here. So we land in Haneda Airport and its Day 2 of the T.A.S. and Steph and I are well rested after 2 very long flights but now it’s time to get moving. We exit the airport and take a shuttle straight to the Auto Messe because there are 4 hours of the show left. after a few stops and a short walk (with all of our luggage) we arrive and make our way into the show. Luckily getting in was very smooth since I had already been accepted as media to the show and that line was empty so we walked right in and I took a second to soak it all in at the top of staircase, I had really made it out there and it felt good to check something like this off my bucket list.With only a couple of hours left I got straight to work in the hall I was in, I had done some studying of the map prior to arriving so I had some what of a plan of attack for the afternoon, but once I was ready to get shooting I quickly forgot everything and was just so excited to see all the cars and companies I have only seen on print or online. The closest booth to us was 326 Power and their line up was really more than I had ever expected. Having drooled over their cars on numerous sites over the years it felt unreal to be standing right next their cars and take my own photos of them, and this was the case for the rest of the afternoon.I had also ran into my friend A-Bo who I hadn’t seen since LowStyleHeroe’s Vol. 1 back in the states and luckily Ian was right there to translate, but then Mr. 326 Power Mitsuru Haruguchi pulled up to the scene and things got real funny real quick as they posed for the cameras. For those who don’t know there are plans in motion through LowStyleHeroe’s to bring over Haruguchi’s famous BN Sports FC3S over to the states for a restoration job and to be debuted at SEMA later this year and of course for Haruguchi to drive it along with others at a event just as A-Bo did just last year.L-Tide is a compnay I was familiar with thanks to my friend Sam over at Central Pine USA who has quite a few cars in the CP stable who have some interior pieces produced by them. Now back home things are a bit more subtle as far as interior goes so it was awesome to see how creative and talented this company really is with their display vehicles that were placed throughout the halls.AIMGAIN and Liberty Walk (LB Works) are both companies I am used to seeing back home, but to see their display cars felt like I had never seen them before. I know theres lots of people who are over the bolt on widebody kits but damn it’s cool to see how aggressive a car can get with a kit. Two platforms I was excited to see all kitted up were the AIMGAIN NSX and the LB LC500, both companies making a car that is fucking hard from the factory and then turning them up by 400%.This car was the talk of the show even before I had landed in Japan. Kato-San is a man of many surprises, and this year was no different. He had pulled the cover off his latest creation on the first day of TAS and it was the most talked about car on the gram since. “how could you chop up a Miura” “why would anyone drive it like that” “who would anyone put flares an a 1.5 million dollar car” were all over the comments that followed any photo of this car. If you as me I dig it fully, and if it makes you feel better it’s actually a replica Miura.It was also real cool to see Nakai-San’s RWB dubbed Stella Artois in a booth with Deep Lifestyles and bringing some LA street styling to Tokyo with from was I can tell were some chola inspired outfits on their models. None the less it did make me feel like I was back home for a few minutes. I had to support this and got myself a phone case and a vanity plate just because.The show had come to an end but the night was not over by any means. Now it was time to figure out how to get back to the hotel that Zestino provided for us. Long story short Steph and I got lost in the shuffle that is the Tokyo subway systems. After what seemed like hours of trains and walking we made it to the hotel, but couldn’t find our group but luckily A-Bo walked in and let us know that everyone was out getting something to eat after a long day. We ended the night on a great night with friends, both old and new and I was ready for more of what Japan had in store for us.
After a few hours of rest it was time to head down stairs for a quick breakfast before we loaded up the van and headed to the 3rd and final day of the Auto Salon. You know the saying “time flies when your having fun” well that saying must not apply to Japan, and it’s a good thing because a full day at the show felt like I was there for ages! I knew I had so much time this day that I didn’t waste any time, especially since I got into the venue 30 mins before it was flooded with people, I took this opportunity to get some flicks in of my favorite cars without any obstructions in the way, or at least that was my goal.One display I was excited to visit was Origin Labo. because on the way to Japan I had seen some posts on the gram that showed a few of their cars and Naoki’s S13 Silvia at a lowered show height and needless to say I was more than excited to check out what they had going on. Once I arrived I was immediately blown away by the JZX100 Chaser that hard a set of bedazzled headlamps and a S13 180SX that was rocking their new super wide widebody kit that boosted the cool factor a massive amount.T-Demand was next on my list to make a pit stop at, one to buy a phone case and of course to check out what they had to show. Back in October of 2017 my friend Sam introduced the States to a complete T-Demand Lexus LC500 and I have been in New Zealand so I didn’t get the chance to see it in person but that was all about to be alight because Japan had one for me to drool over. Everything about both of their booth cars oozed sexiness. the shape of both the LC and the Camry right beside it were both executed perfectly. Words can’t even explain it so I’ll just leave these here for all to see.Around lunch time Ernie had grabbed us and we literally ran across the entire convention center and outside to where the D1GP expo was taking place. Not only did I get the chance to witness some legends like Naoto Suenaga from Team Orange and Daigo Saito and his Corvette drive in their home land, but I got the opportunity to get up close and personal with them and even catch them off guard in the back of the track track which was nice to see them not in celebrity mode. This was also the time where Zestino was out testing their new tire design and red smoke tires, and once they were warmed up the entire audience was covered in a huge plume of red thanks to Naoto and his S15.Before making our way back in to the halls we took our union break and tried to figure out what to capture next, but the truth was that I had actually managed to cover the entire show, so for the rest of the afternoon I casually walked through the booths and talked to with some vendors from some of my favorite companies. I basically did this for the rest of the day and really only busted the camera out for some funny moments. Like the time I caught A Bo a.k.a. Mr. Steal Yo Girl and Steph sharing some snacks and a laugh and him connecting with some fans. The Tokyo Auto Salon is now my favorite show I’ve had the pleasure of attending, the cars were great but the people that I was with are what made it memorable. I look forward to returning to Japan every year now to catch up with the friends I’ve made out there.
Before I end this, I just want to take a moment to dedicate this whole write up to Ernie (Fred) because it was because of this man right here (far right) that it was even possible for me and Steph to make the trip to Japan. I know that he was really looking forward to my blog post(s) on the whole Japan trip and that actually goes through all the pictures and reads the entire posts because and that’s one of the many things I appreciate about him.
For those who don’t know my friend Ernie has been missing since the end Jan. and if by any chance he’s reading this, I just want to say that I love you man, and I miss our convo’s and I hope you make it home soon!