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Hanging Out With Naked Dudes In Japan - Driver's Seat

Apr 27, 2007
0706_turp_01_z+turbos_tokyo_auto_salon+roberts_favorite_car_at_the_show Photo 1/1   |   Hanging Out With Naked Dudes In Japan - Driver's Seat

The title caught your eye, huh? Please stay with me long enough to explain-you at least owe me that. I just returned from Turbo's Tokyo Auto Salon (TAS) tour. The night before we left Japan, Ross Wilson of AVO Turboworld took his employees and I out to a traditional Japanese onsen, or hot springs bathhouse. Everyone says if you go to Japan you have to try an onsen, so after a delicious dinner of Japanese-infused Hawaiian food across from a U.S. military base we went to this oft-heard of onsen. It's basically a bunch of naked dudes sitting around in the hot baths (pools) talking business, hanging out with friends, or just relaxing. Posted on two different signs is a "No Tattoo" rule, which mostly refers to full back or sleeve Yakuza-style ink. Luckily I'm Yakuza-tatt free, so I'm good to go. We, being adventurous, head to the outside bath, which means you have to walk stark nekkid (no robes here) in 40-degree weather before you hop into ridiculously hot water. The water is so hot you are trying to decide if it was better freezing your tail off or being boiled alive.

After the initial shock of the hot/cold extremes, and of hanging out with strangers in the buff, you forget all about it and just let your muscles relax. We talked about cars, of course, and it was a great way to conclude our trip to TAS. After walking miles crisscrossing the TAS showcase halls and exhibitions, my feet hurt and my brain was dizzy from navigating the tangled web of Tokyo trains, so it was a relaxing way to unwind.

So the next time you visit Japan, hopefully on Turbo's TAS tour next year, definitely take time out from the car culture to experience a traditional onsen. Knowing you certainly don't want any photos documenting the onsen to assault your eyes, fear not, this issue is filled to the brim with TAS coverage.

TAS was a cool show to take in, as it is every year; and Turbo's tour was a success with over 60 people attending. My personal faves of the show were a K24-powered Toyota MR-S and an all carbon-fiber Top Fuel S2000 that shattered the Tsukuba track's record in the FR-class. Coming in third would have to be the 1973 old school Skyline on display. Out in full force were the J-style models in their minimally covered vinyl outfits. Not out in force, however, were lots of new products to share with you. Unfortunately, there hasn't been a lot of innovation in the past year-likely due in part to the slowed economies in both Japan and the U.S. While we were hoping to see more power-producing parts introduced (we were sadly disappointed) we settled for the few new items that were debuted.

Notable newbies included Blitz's new line of wheels and GReddy's big-brake kits for several of our favorite cars including the hachi roku.

For me, the true highlight of TAS this year might just have been the big Snap-On Tool booth. Quadrupling in size from last year's display, a full-sized Snap-On truck had a light shining down from heaven (OK, the ceiling) on it and loads of goodies were on sale. Can you say, "kid in a candy store"? I definitely blew my allowance. I consider a Snap-On drink holder, broad view mirror, screwdriver handle key chain, work suit and hoody all major necessities (the tools themselves are actually way cheaper in the U.S.)? So hit me up next year and join the Turbo TAS tour. I promise I won't make you go to an onsen with me.

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Tech SceneJDM Without TryingIt's easy to appreciate all things JDM. We can. And since most of the aftermarket parts manufacturers in our country mostly supply cars with leaf springs and pushrods, it makes it almost second nature. Before you get your panties in a wad, we'll acknowledge that there are some companies based out of the U.S. that make some of the best parts we could ever hope to put on our cars, and do. However, the majority of the kind of high-performance stuff we're after is made in Japan. That's just the way it is. In America, building a car to JDM standards has been a sort of benchmark a lot of enthusiasts strive for-and for good reason. Japan offers much of what you want: rare, lightweight, forged wheels; carbon-fiber body parts that fit how you'd expect them to; titanium engine insides. We like seeing cars with this kind of stuff. But the JDM mindset took a turn for the worse somewhere along the line. Enthusiasts slowly began spending more time and money searching for stuff like JDM armrests and coin trays than they used to looking for stuff that actually helped them go faster. Not all of them, but enough to notice. It's gone as far as becoming a sort of cult following, with JDM entries in car shows now a common thing, and winners strutting home with trophies because the clock on their dash has an orange amber. To each his own, but it still bothers us a little when we see somebody shell out 100 bucks for a cigarette lighter.

Maybe that's another reason why we enjoyed this year's Tokyo Auto Salon so much. Oh, yeah, we just got back and you can see all of our coverage in this issue. We got to see all the cool JDM high-performance parts and gear we spend all our money on. We also saw those non-essential OEM JDM doodads and knick-knacks (visors, floor mats, ashtrays) that enthusiasts over here sacrifice their food money for. But it's different in Tokyo. It's great seeing all of the JDM cars and parts we can't get over here and, frankly, it's pretty cool seeing cars that are totally JDM without them even trying. But the great thing about the cars at the Tokyo Auto Salon is that they all pretty much resonated one thing: high performance. If some little plastic piece was swapped out of the interior of the J's Racing, K20A-powered Honda Fit or HKS' EVO, you can rest assured that there was some sort of ulterior motive of the performance variety behind it. Most cars at TAS are purpose-built, with parts added that serve, well, a purpose: to make gross horsepower and go obscenely fast. While there weren't really any American cars to speak of at the Salon, I doubt that if any one of the fine Japanese tuners exhibiting there got their hands on a Cobalt SS that the first thing they'd do would be to log onto eBay for the ber-rare USDM-only coin tray. I suppose it all boils down to priorities. For every guy that gets excited over the ultra-rare, JDM-only dome light, I'd like to think there's still at least four or five guys like me spending money on something that'll just end up getting covered up by the oil pan.

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