Speaking as a true Honda enthusiast, it’s great to see how our subculture has come full circle worldwide. Within the last couple of years, it’s become very apparent that the entire landscape has shifted. We were all once utterly captivated by the Japanese and how they built their Hondas. Realistically, the whole American Honda community’s foundation was based on how Hondas were built in Japan. We owe everything to what the Japanese have accomplished and they will forever be an inspiration to us when it comes to building imports. We have grown over the years, though—and while JDM once reigned supreme, our community has shifted toward an entirely new direction. Japan-specific parts are still popular but American enthusiasts have found other ways to express themselves. You can’t complete your Honda build without having shaved, tucked or had something custom fabricated, and then there are others who are content with going all aesthetics for style. Low-offset wheels and the overall stance of a car have become so popular that it spawned its own subgroup.
In Japan, things haven’t really changed. As a whole, Hondas are still very racecar or track-oriented. People are mostly concerned only with functionality and tuning shops actually use their products for their actual purpose. Shops like Spoon Sports, J’s Racing, and FEEL’s Twin Cam are still going strong because their outlook on the Honda brand remains unaltered. If anything, their business plan has improved because their products are more readily available worldwide. Where the pursuit of function has endured, an entirely new group of Japanese Honda enthusiasts have come to be. This group is not so much concerned with functionality because they have adapted the mindset of those Americans who seek to build their Honda for style. They want to have American-made products, low stance and aggressive wheel fitment. Americans will never claim ownership to creating the “Hellaflush” style; after all, the Japanese have also been doing the same for years, as well as Euro enthusiasts. We can, however, take credit for making it unbelievably popular. That may be a good or bad thing, depending on which end of the spectrum you exist on in the matter, but stance and wheel fitment has become a worldwide phenomenon.
The American Honda community is very brash, and we want people to see what we have built in almost a braggadocios manner. We are a very competitive group and our Hondas represent that. You may not notice because you are in your element. We as Americans are very proud people. The Japanese, well, they are a little more reserved. They like to remain in control, fly low-key and they express themselves differently than Americans. Some Japanese have taken a liking to our automotive style because it is unlike their own. It’s different and new—all of a sudden, USDM-style has become cool. Cultural differences notwithstanding, the people of Japan have long been interested in American culture. They are interested in what we wear, eat or even how we decorate a house—everything we do just seems “bigger and better”.
Realizing their fascination with American culture, one would almost expect them to eventually adapt our automotive approach. The power of the Internet has helped to speed up the process, but the USDM scene has definitely found a home in Japan. USDM-style has also experienced a significant amount of growth in the last couple of years. It’s unlikely to ever catch up in size with the more traditional Japanese Honda community, but USDM Honda buffs are undoubtedly an established group. It’s interesting to see how ideas are exchanged between two different cultures and that’s why we say that we are happy to see how things have come full circle. Once upon a time we all looked to Japan for our automotive inspiration—how crazy is it now to see that they are looking back to us with the same fervor?