Leave well enough alone. Be grateful. It’s good enough for government work. Work with what you have. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Don’t you know kids are starving in Africa? For many, what they have—what they’ve been given, what they’ve been able to scrape together through their own means—is enough.
And then there are the outliers who demand more, and push themselves to achieve it. For them, standard-issue is merely a starting point. Not that what they have is insufficient, but where there’s the opportunity to make something one’s own, they seize it and get to work on realizing their vision. They tinker and tweak and what-if and thumbnail and spitball; they’re so busy working that only when they look up can they realize how far they’ve come. Frequently, their efforts become a tangible reflection of their experience and their determination. Done properly, the result is also reflective of the journey it took to get there.
Scott Kanemura is one of these outliers. Inevitably, the Torrance, California-based promotions-company owner starts small: a splash of ink on his arm, a lowered (if dilapidated) early Toyota Hilux in his driveway. Next thing you know, his entire back is a mural combining Japanese and Christian imagery, and his little Hilux is pumping out 739hp and 641 lb-ft (at 24psi) to the rear wheels.
The ink started as a simple memorial to his father, Frank. “He had my name and the names of all of my siblings tattooed on his arms,” Scott recalled, “and after he passed in 2006, I got his name in kanji on my arm.” Soon Scott added a koi, a brocaded carp that is a Japanese symbol of hard work, with a name that is a homonym for affection. Quickly his ink expanded to a pair of half-sleeves, until finally he went for the big one: a full back piece. “I’m not the smartest person around, so I’m willing to work harder and longer than most. [Once again] I picked a koi. In the bible, the devil is referred to as a dragon or serpent; if you look at the tattoo, there is a dragon’s head on a koi. That’s my inner self: sometimes a hard working koi, and sometimes influenced by not-so-good things turning me into a dragon. The samurai is God; He is killing the dragon-headed koi. The meaning [is my desire] to kill my inner evil before it turns into a dragon and to bring me back on the path to be a nice person.” The story tells itself, if you know what you’re looking at. That said, “I really don’t give a crap about what other people think, or if it’s not based exactly from the bible.”
Scott’s “inksperience” gives you an idea of just what happened with his slightly mental Hilux. “My tattoos snowballed from a little kanji character into two half sleeves and my whole back. Likewise, the truck was supposed to be something to tinker with and it snowballed into this import-style monster.”
Now, a word about “import style” here. Scott has been into the import scene for better than three decades now, so he’s seen a lot of trends and styles come and go. “You know how lowriders aren’t just a car, they’re a lifestyle? It was the same thing with import style, but it got diluted over the years. When we were growing up, it didn’t matter if it was a Toyota, a [US-made] Pinto or a [European-built] Capri... back in the day, it was more about style; lowered, with widest rims you can fit, and of course power. It didn’t matter where the parts came from; it doesn’t matter if it’s made in Compton or Japan, as long as the parts are quality and cool. Nowadays it’s JDM this or USDM that, but... I’m trying to bring import-style back to its roots.”