Since I started at Super Street in '11, Tokyo Auto Salon (TAS) has been the main event I look forward to attending every year. It's the Super Bowl of car shows where the biggest and the best tuners from all corners of Japan debut their latest parts and demo vehicles. It's been that way for decades, even before I was brought onboard SS. In fact, this year's TAS celebrated its 36th anniversary (that's older than me!). I've been lucky enough to go to four of the last five Auto Salons; however, for this year, I decided to take a break as our Tokyo-based contributor David Ishikawa reported on our behalf. Did I feel a bit of FOMO after seeing what I missed? You bet I did! So, I came up with a game plan to check out my first Osaka Auto Messe (OAM).
Truth be told, TAS often overshadows OAM. It happens around Valentine's Day every year (barf!), and it's an entire month after Auto Salon. Traveling-wise, when people think of Japan, they're also trained to think of its largest city, Tokyo, and its biggest show, Auto Salon—we've been advocates of this for years. But that doesn't mean what Osaka and OAM have to offer is subpar. Far from it.
Osaka is 350 miles south of Tokyo and is Japan's third largest city. Most people compare Tokyo to New York, while Osaka is often compared to Los Angeles. Osaka isn't as hectic, people are more laidback and casual in how they dress and talk, plus the car culture of the Kansai region has a bit more character and originality. Tokyo is obviously Japan's economic powerhouse with more than 30 million people, but Kansai has a huge population as well at around 17 million people, which includes big cities like Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe. Car-wise, the area is home to a number of shops, big 'n' small. RAYS operations and manufacturing, for example, is based in Osaka. There are also several "mom and pop" shops nearby such Five Mart/Osaka JDM, Tactical Art, AP Garage, Speed Forme, and more. You're likely to see more dope cars on the road in the region as well; it's not uncommon to find modified Hondas and Toyotas parked outside restaurants, or to see an R34 Skyline cruising down the Loop 1 freeway.
This year, OAM celebrated its 22nd show, and while I mentioned that it's smaller than TAS, it's by no means insignificant. 217,000-plus people came through the three-day extravaganza. OAM is held at Intex Osaka exhibition center, and it's easy and quick to get to from downtown. Another thing I noticed were the sheer number of car enthusiasts on hand. Walking TAS, I got the feeling there were thousands of people there just killing time on a weekend who weren't real car guys (or there to creep on the models), while at Auto Messe, I could tell right away there were more true fans in the house who could appreciate the variety and quality of cars at the show. It was also fascinating to observe the large number of families and little kids walking around, hopefully meaning a new generation of enthusiasts is in the making.
What's also great about OAM is that not only will you see plenty of underground grassroots builds from the local scene, but all the big dogs from TAS made their way down south to Auto Messe as well. In addition, there was a substantial number of VIP cars present—an entire hall was dedicated to all things big bodied and slammed. In total, Auto Messe had 639 cars on display.
I admit, it's hard to compare anything to TAS, but after going nearly five straight years, switching things up to Osaka Auto Messe was one of the best things to ever happen to me. The people of Osaka are incredibly nice (dare I say nicer than Tokyo), the food is equally amazing, getting around is a walk in the park, and the car culture of Kansai is one you can't miss.
1. SUNNY SIDE UP
This Nissan Technical College took five of its best students to build this Sunny project, which uses an SR20DET swap, S15 chassis, custom widebody, and much more. You're a 4.0 in my book!
Think the S15 Silvia is dead in the aftermarket world? Think again. Legendary drifter Ken Nomura and his company, URAS, have developed a new and aggressive aero package for the S15 called the "Type-GT." Under the hood is a built 1JZ, in case you were wondering.
3. WAGON WARRIOR
This is something you just don't see every day: a Time Attack-ready Subaru Forester (SF58) widebody built by GarageKM1.
4. RAYS OF LIGHT
Lots to see in the RAYS booth, including this BMW M2 on the new TE037 6061 wheels and the Gram Lights 57CR in new, limited-edition Sakura Pink.
5. GOIN' GAZOO
Move over, Mercedes-AMG Project One, McLaren Senna, and Aston-Martin Valkyrie... Toyota's Gazoo Racing has just developed this 986hp Super Sport LMP1 concept road based off its TS050 hybrid race car. F*ck yeah!
6. KUHL IT NOW
One of our favorite body kits for the Toyota C-HR happens to come from Japan's Kuhl Racing. This is its demo car that features one wild paint job, air ride suspension, and 20" concave wheels.
7. R U DOWN?
Mugen's RC20GT Concept is based off of the FK8 Civic Type R. It's been bashed countless times by social media for its questionable exterior and wheel choices, but the fit and finish in person as well as the seats, steering wheel, and digital display are hard to ignore.
8. OH, SNAP!
This Daihatsu minivan is just plain badass with full Snap-On tools integrated into its trunk, which includes an air compressor. It's also got a full 'cage, Work wheels, HKS parts, and more.
9. JUST THE TIP
This Toyota Celica from All Car Create RIAN is super clean, minus the exhaust tip...
10. TOP NOTCH AND TOPLESS
An incredibly well-done Lexus SC in the VIP hall of Auto Messe.
11. POPULAR DEMAND
T-Demand is one of the more recognized brands when it comes to air ride and VIP styling in Japan. Its Lexus LC500 was an obvious showstopper, but we couldn't help but give props to their dumped '18 Camry as well!
12. GOOD FORME
You'll read more about Speed Forme later in this issue, but here is a customer's S30 Fairlady Z the company built for N's Factory.
13. THE NEXT STI?
The Subaru Viziv Performance Concept STI looks part angry, part amazing. We hope the next-generation STI will retain some of the concept's awesome features.
Boxster/Cayman duo - Pandem widebodies, air ride, and more
15. A LA MODE
This new widebody conversion from Mode Parfume for the AP2 Honda S2000 is receiving a mix of love and hate. What are your thoughts?
16. ROUGH RHYTHM
This Porsche 911 might look like any other Rauh-Welt Begriff build, but the rear fenders have recently been reworked to be wider than any other RWB 993 out there.
17. ALL WALD
One of the nicest displays of cars belonged to Wald. Nothing but full catalog luxury cars, and we can't complain about their models, either.
18. EURO MAGIC
Euros were surprisingly well represented at Auto Messe this year. These Volkswagens from the Voomerman/Euro Magic camp were two of our favorites.
19. AP CLASS
No two cars drew larger crowds compared to the slammed Hakosuka Skyline and BMW 2002 from AP Garage. Their full feature is only a few pages away...
20. HONDA HEAVEN
Our friends at Five Mart/Osaka JDM were the cover feature of our Japan issue in '12. Known for everything from Kanjo racing, to hard-core track cars, and even hard parkers, Kazuhiro Furukawa has been an icon in the Honda community for close to a decade. At Auto Messe, he showed off a B16-powered E-AH, Mugen CR-X, a first-gen CR-X, and a Civic Type R. Is there a heaven for JDM Honda fans? Quite possibly here...