01/20/2007: "Midnight Tokyo Cruise"
On the prior post, I shared my experiences with a Nissan automotive forum that I frequent (NICO). While I enjoyed a warm reception from the other users, I happend to also find another American which just happend to also live in Saitama (my prefacture). Not only that, he lived only 20 minutes away by train. Neal is a permanent resident here in Saitama with his wife/kids and works as an English teacher near his train station. He invited me out, after reading my post, to hang out and spit the shit about cars for awhile. We had a good time and he even showed me that we lived really close (5 mins) to a famous car shop by the name of Yashio Factory. The first time we went by, but it was closed, so we could only see the exterior. After a few hours and some good conversation, I headed home.
On the next friday, we met up again and decided to go cruising on the famous Tokyo Wangan and C1 loop. When I was younger I played alot of Tokyo Extreme Racer and got pretty familiar with the roads in the game. When playing though, I knew it wasn't real and thus assumed that the roads were made up just for the game. Turns out though, that the roads in the game were almost dead on to the real roads surrounding Tokyo. Needless to say, I was surprised and excited when we traveled through some of my favorite areas in the game. So before I get started into the detailed events of the night; I put together a short 2:46 video of us cruising the wangan and C1 loop freeways in central Tokyo. While by no means is it professional quality, it does give a look into the feel of driving the freeways here.
mmm that was fun. Anyway, back to the story. Before we headed out to the freeway we thought we might as well stop by Yashio factory again so I could take pictures of the outside this time. To my surprise though, they were still open! Even at 9pm! There were two mechanics working on something when I walked up and timidly asked for their attention. I tried to explain to them how famous their shop was back in the states and that I came to check it out. I also asked if it was okay to take some pictures and they agreed.
What was most surprising to me was how small the shop was. I had always imagined it a larger sized building with massive machinery. I guess their suspension pieces must have alot of the work subletted to other shops (for example the powder coating and whatnot). They do have one other location, but it's their older location where they only store their cars. We didn't stop by that shop this time since we were on a limited schedule. Rest assure though, at that shop, there is a sea of S15 Silvias all sporting their famous pink color paint.
A small showroom/slash office in the corner caught my eye and I asked one of the mechanics (which you can see in the below picture) if it was alright if wandered in. He said yes and as I walked in I saw a car celebrity sitting and surfing the internet in the corner. It was the owner! If you know anything about Yashio factory, or have ever watched an Option video, you know Okamura-san. I got to talk to him for a little bit and he seemed a little surprised on how we got there and in what car. Quick to jump to the opportunity, I asked for a picture shortly after our conversation and he said sure.
OH Snaps! Excuse the redeye and grainy pictures, it was pretty low light and rushed. I thanked Okamura-san and soon left as I didn't want to take up anymore of his time. We then headed out to a gas station to fill up a bit on the Laurel. My previous notion was that you never pumped your own gas, similar to Oregon, but I guess that just depended on the gas station you visit. This one was closer to the normal pump in california (with the exception of the much higher octane ratings).
2,000 yen later we headed towards the onramp/tollbooth. Opposed to the bazillions of yen I spent in Yokohama for tolls last weekend, the wangan and C1 loop are much cheaper. You pay 700 yen and are free to drive it for as long as you want. So you could fill up your tank, pay your toll, and cruise for the whole night if you so desired.
That's Neal, and no he doesn't normally have hillbilly teeth (although it'd be funny if he did). The second picture is the tollbooth and bathroom area where I took a quick tinkle. The C1 inner and outer loop wraps around the main sections of Tokyo. The offramps were for popular places such as Shibuya, Ikebukuro, and Shinjuku. It's very popular on friday and saturday nights for modified cars to cruise around the loop (which takes about 20 mins to go around one lap) looking for other cars to race or mess with. There are also parking areas that are similar to our rest areas in America where cars will come meet and hang out. After we wandered the loop for awhile we went to the bigger of the rest stops and ran into a car meet moving into full swing.
This is the parking area shown above. Just like home, people stood in their little groups, cold as hell, talking about different car related topics. Near the back end (heh) of the parking lot there were some bathrooms and vending machines where you could buy hot drinks (coffee and cocoa). Many people also retreated to that spot for conversation since it helped shield against the wind.
While sitting in that area I saw a pretty zesty FD RX-7 parked and saw a guy and a girl walking away from it and towards the hang out spot. FD's and Skylines are my favorite cars as many of you already know, so I walked up to the guy and asked him if it was his car. Much to my apparent sexist surprise, the guy just pointed to the attractive Japanese lady and said it was hers. Shrugging off my embarrassment, I asked her a bit more about her car. Turns out among the many obvious hot mods seen below, she took out her twin turbo setup for a Trust TD-06 Single turbine.
Pretty nice huh? Girls here are on the same level as guys when it comes to tuning it would seem. Furthering that new discovery, I walked up to another guy and girl walking away from this R32
and I did the same thing, getting the same response from the guy (pointing to the girl that is). Wow, that was her Skyline. Her car is actually an HCR32 but has an RB26 mated up to an RB25 tranny transplanted under the bonnet. Light tuning such as boost controller, intake, and exhaust followed suit. I spyed a top secret sticker on her engine and asked why it was there. Even more surprising, her entire car was put together by the famed shop. She also seemed to be active into the cruising/racing cause on several occasions she would follow a car out of the area full throttle and return minutes later to repark. (small sidenote: you can see the girl that drives the FD standing next to her car below and the girl who drives the R32 above).
Near the end of our time at the meet, an R34 parked and got out with his friend. A man in his mid thirties owned it and was friendly enough to talk to me about his car for a little bit. The R34 was much hevier tuned with his HKS turbines, Apex'i power fc, etc. etc.
The man seemed very surprised I was talking to him at all and asked what I was doing there. I explained I was studying at a school in Japan and was here for awhile and was in love with Japanese sports cars. He laughed and nodded to that then went back to talking about the car. While I don't speak Japanese that well at all, I think when it comes to talking about cars, my skill is much higher then when I talk about anything else. Knowing alot more adjectives, verbs, and nouns in conjunction with my desire to talk about the cars is helping improve my conversation skills.
After we were done talking with the nice feller, we jumped back into the Laurel and headed back towards the train station so I could head home. On our way though, we ran into that R34 again. I think he noticed it was us cause after the freeway offramp, he flexed on us pretty hard and launched his car at the light. It took no time at all for him to disapear from sight. The sound was also amazing coming out of that RB26 (which you can hear a bit in the video at the beginning of the post).
I liked cruising the highways quite a bit and am looking forrward to doing it again. This next week I'm starting the process to get my Japanese drivers license. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoyed the post!
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Tuesday, February 13th
> Hot chicks with FDs and 32's... man I'm already there...