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JDM Survival Guide

Phi Phung
Sep 1, 2008
Photographer: Henry Z. DeKuyper

Planning a trip to Japan?
Be careful of that guy on the forums. Wannabe experts crowd the Web, dispensing advice on everything from where to stay to what shops to find the best deals at on that Mugen exhaust. Too bad the closest most of these experts have gotten to Japan is Los Angeles' Little Tokyo district. Don't get us wrong, the Internet is a solid resource for quality info, it's just that sometimes you have to hunt really hard for it. Behold: Honda Tuning's guide to visiting the land of the JDM. Read. Learn. Travel.

JDM Tip #1: Plan your destinations and make your in-country travel arrangements before you leave the U.S. Japanese cities are cramped, the addresses won't make sense to you your first time there, and the streets are small. Most tuning shops are located in the sticks and, contrary to popular belief, are nowhere near Tokyo, so it's a good idea to figure out how you'll reach them prior to setting out. Getting lost and showing up at closing time won't make you popular and won't earn you that Spoon piece you came for. On a side note: Even the natives find Japan's address structure confusing. Why do you think they've all got navi?

2018 Honda Civic
$18,940 Base Model (MSRP) 28/40 MPG Fuel Economy

JDM Tip #2: Exchange your currency at Narita Airport. Many hotels offer exchange services but limit the amount. If you plan on buying parts or hitting the junkyards, you better have fat pockets because stuff isn't exactly cheap there and plastic isn't as widely accepted as it is in the U.S. Make a budget for yourself and get your cash once you step off the plane-you can always exchange back.

JDM Tip #3: Avoid the taxis. Narita Airport is about an hour away from where you want to be. You have three choices for getting yourself to Tokyo: taxi, bus, or train. Taxi is by far the most expensive and costs roughly $200 to reach central Tokyo. Buses are more affordable at around $30 but can be slow depending upon traffic, which there's usually a lot of near the city. Avoid the hassle and take the train. It'll cost you anywhere from $20-$30 and only takes an hour to get to Tokyo Main Station.

JDM Tip #4: Japan is only the size of California, which means most of the circuits are fairly accessible. Motoring and track events are going on all the time, so plan your trip according to something you'd like to hit up. Chances are you'll get to see a lot of the cars made famous in Japanese video and print publications all in one place. It's also a great opportunity to meet some of the country's finest tuners.

JDM Tip #5: Determine what parts you'll be hunting for before you leave and do your research. Most shops will charge you full list price. Depending on the exchange rate, this can be a discount in itself but assume nothing. Oftentimes, once you factor in shipping and transportation expenses, it's often cheaper, not to mention far more convenient, to order it from the U.S. Reserve your purchases for the ultimate rarities-the stuff you simply cannot get in the U.S., however, e-mail or call the shop in advance-there's a reason this stuff is rare. The worst part is to show up and have the shop guy explain to you that they don't have it in stock because it's so rare.

JDM Tip #6: If you don't speak Japanese, find a translator. Shops in Japan don't mind if you come unannounced, but they can't really help you if they can't communicate with you. Sure, you can point to a catalog or a display all you want, but this gets old quickly. Having someone help communicate for you can make buying a set of K20 cams a lot easier. On a side note: Most school-aged Japanese people speak English-if you ever need directions or a quick translation, look for the youngsters.

JDM Tip #7: Consider shipping parts home. Depending on how much you buy, this might be more convenient. Remember how far the airport is? Dragging a Sheep Dog muffler and two pieces of luggage to the airport on a train is never fun. The Japanese post office is easy to use, most of which employ English-speaking workers.

JDM Tip #8: Don't be an idiot; respect the local culture. Foreigners, especially Americans, are regarded as brash and rowdy. Don't fall into this trap, especially if you plan on visiting shops. Japanese people are big on manners so remember that you aren't in your own country. Just because they sell beer in vending machines doesn't mean you should walk the streets drunk. If you ride the escalator, stand to the side and allow others to walk past. Japan is a fast-moving culture and is one that takes lazy Americans more than a few days to acclimate themselves to. Oh, and if you ride the train, don't make a ruckus. Nobody else does.

JDM Tip #9: Get off your damn cell phone. The Japanese value their privacy and they hope for you to do the same. Want to look like an idiot in Japan? Bust out your cell phone on the subway and start talking to a friend. Nobody else is. Want to look like a bigger idiot? Bust out your hanky and blow your nose in a crowd.

JDM Tip #10: Have fun and be realistic. Most people are limited on time when they visit Japan so don't try to accomplish too much. Also realize that you're likely to come across more rare JDM Honda parts in Southern California than you are in Japan so don't be disappointed if you don't come home with what you wanted. Most importantly, don't forget to relax, take in as much as you can, and don't stress yourself out looking for that discontinued Toda header.

Don't Forget:
Up Garage
Up Garage is a chain store featuring new and used high-performance and OEM parts. A bit overpriced but a must-visit location for JDM noobs.
www.upgarage.com

Autobacs
Think of it as the JDM Pep Boys, only better.
www.autobacs.com

Honda Collection Hall
Honda's official museum located at Motegi Twin Ring raceway. Enough said.
Phone Number: 0285-64-0341

By Phi Phung
10 Articles

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