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2012 Tokyo Auto Salon January 24, 2012

Posted by Dru in Japan, Tokyo.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “2012 Tokyo Auto Salon” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-M4

Last week I had written about going to the Tokyo Motor Show at the end of 2011.  In January 2012, a second motor show of the season called the Tokyo Auto Salon is held.  This is a very different car show compared to the Tokyo Motor Show.  The Tokyo Motor Show is a typical auto show that focuses on new cars and concepts from the major car manufacturers.  The Tokyo Auto Salon is a tuner car show that is similar to the SEMA show.  For those who are unfamiliar with the auto industry, a tuner car is any car that has been modified from its original form.  This can be anything from upgrading engine parts, changing the paint or any other part of the car.  It can be very subtle to very crazy.  The Tokyo Auto Salon is the best way to see all of the potential craziness people can do to their own cars.

The first thing to understand about visiting the Tokyo Auto Salon is to know where to go.  The Tokyo Auto Salon is held in Makuhari Messe in Makuhari, Chiba.  It is one of the most famous convention centres in Tokyo with concerts and various trade shows being held at all times of the year.  Due to the layout and cheap rent relative to Tokyo Big Sight makes this a very attractive location for trade show organizers.  The Tokyo Auto Salon is a large show that encompasses the main 8 halls as well as a small exhibition outside.  While they don’t make use of the entire facility, they made use of a huge space nonetheless.  Compared to the Tokyo Motor Show, it felt somewhat smaller, yet more tiring.  The show itself has a lot more to see and it is all crammed into a somewhat smaller space than the Tokyo Motor Show.  There are relatively less people at the Tokyo Auto Salon but with the area being more cramped makes getting around the show floor difficult.  When visiting the Tokyo Auto Salon, like the Tokyo Motor Show, I highly recommend going early and being as patient as possible.

As I mentioned, the Tokyo Auto Salon is very different to the Tokyo Motor Show.  It focuses on tuner cars.  The entire Auto Salon in 2012 was loosely divided into sections.  There were the custom car areas, the manufacturer custom car division, accessories, sound systems, paint, and custom car displays.  While there are many sub-sections in each area, they generally kept close to their theme.  All of the major Japanese aftermarket tuners were at this show.        Many of the well-known Japanese aftermarket companies such as VeilSide, Tommy Kaira, and HKS were present at the show.  Wheel and tire manufacturers such as Bridgestone, Yokohama, BBS, and Rays were also present.  You could easily spend hours just visiting these booths to see what new and innovative products they had.  Each company had their own theme.  HKS was very much performance based while VeilSide was all about looks.  The major Japanese manufacturers had their own booths as well showcasing the products of STi, GD, Nissmo and others.  These names may not seem very familiar but companies like STi stand for Subaru Tecnica International.  They are subsidiaries set up by their parent companies to be somewhat independent but loyal to their parent company.  In fact, most of the companies were fairly loyal to one or two manufacturers.  RE Amemiya is a well-known tuner company that is known for their ability to tune Mazda RX-7s and RX-8s.  It provided a lot of variety into the designs of each car that can be both a blessing and a curse.

The other aspect of the show is to showcase individual cars.  At the Tokyo Auto Salon, some of the aftermarket companies brought cars to be judged.  Other individuals from around Japan also brought their cars to be put on display.  Most of the cars on display in the general area were street legal.  By far the most memorable was one by NATS (Nihon Auto College).  It is a school that teaches the students how to fix and modify cars.  They modified a Lexus SC430 (SoarerZ40 in Japan) to be a modern take on the original DeLorean from the “Back to the Future” movies.  It was a work of art and craftsmanship that was nearly unmatched in the entire show.  There were other great examples of their work that was present in the auto show but that one still sticks out in my mind.  NATS is a great college that probably doesn’t get much attention overseas.  It is a very creative group of students and teachers working together like a master and their apprentices.  In fact, I would say that most of the companies at the show acted in a very similar way.  From my very limited knowledge of the aftermarket industry, a lot of it is art with a healthy dose of mechanics.  With enough time and money, you could create anything you wanted but you still need the ideas to make something good.

One other aspect of the show is the women.  No auto show would be complete without having beautiful women posing in front of the expensive cars.  The Tokyo Motor Show was the same yet very different.  The women at the Tokyo Motor Show had to either fit in with the theme of the manufacturer.  Many times you would see women in the strangest costumes just to fit the theme.  At the Tokyo Auto Salon, that seemed to be less apparent.  Most of the women at the show were there to get as many people to their booths.  You could tell which booth had a woman modeling by the crowds surrounding them.  If there was a large crowd, it was highly likely that there was a woman there.  It was a bit sad as the most beautiful women, rather sexy looking, were getting the most attention.  The women who dressed in a regular way or those who didn’t go the extra mile to look beautiful or sexy didn’t get large crowds of men with cameras in front of them.  It is an unfortunate part of life that men usually think predictably.  Each booth that had girls had a slightly different taste but in general.  When you see a few booths, you have basically seen all of the girls as they all have girls that are differentiated by the colour of their clothes and a little difference in taste or style but generally it is similar and gets numbing after a while.

There are several final thoughts I have about the show itself.  My first thought is that it was cramp and crowded the entire time.  At the Tokyo Motor Show, I had a lot more energy to see the entire show whereas at the Tokyo Auto Salon, after an hour or so I was exhausted.  I would also say that the types of people that went to the show were different.  The Tokyo Motor Show is geared towards the average person.  I saw more families at the Motor Show compared to the Auto Salon.  I also saw more young people and “gangsters” at the Auto Salon.  While I would not say that they are gangsters, some of them did fit the bill in terms of style.  There were also more camera geeks who would do anything to push their way forward to get dozens of photos of the same girl.  It was annoying and difficult to manage.  For those who love fixing cars and seeing tuners, I highly recommend visiting the Tokyo Auto Salon.  In fact, you might enjoy it a lot more.  Unfortunately, since it is a tuner crowd, expect to see a plethora of Nissan GT-Rs, Toyota Prius’, and Mazda RX7s.  It is an unfortunate reality that domestic cars will get more attention as it is cheaper to buy a domestic car than an imported car and easier to get parts for it.  Either way, there are some great cars to see and if I had the time and patience, I would go for a second day as well.

2012 Tokyo Auto Salon is part of a series of posts about various car and bike shows in Tokyo.  To read more about the other car and bike shows, please follow the links below:

Information:

Tokyo Auto Salon:  http://www.tokyoautosalon.jp/

NATS (Blog with Tokyo Auto Salon information):  http://www.nats.ac.jp/pc/as/ebizo/index.php?day=20120114

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Driving in Japan (2010) [Part I] September 21, 2010

Posted by Dru in Chugoku, Japan, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Driving in Japan (2010) [Part I]” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-tq

For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while now, you know that I have had many trips in and around Japan, along with many road trips.  I have been taking road trips almost every year now on either a motorcycle or in a car.  In 2007, I took a trip to Hokkaido by motorcycle.  It was my first road trip, and a terrible one at that.  I was alone, cold and wet.  For my second trip, I rented a car for just a day and drove up to Nikko.  The route brought back a few memories of my trip to Sapporo, but with all the comforts of a car.  It was a pretty easy trip, but it taught me the pain of driving in the city, and trying to return to the city on a Sunday night.  One word can sum up that experience, traffic.  Last year, I had my epic adventure, and the last one on my bike.  I took a trip by ferry and rode my bike around Shikoku for two weeks.  It was a wonderful holiday that restored my faith in driving and riding in Japan.  It helped a lot that I went with a friend from Osaka.  Recently, June 2010, I embarked on my big road adventure of the year.  I headed to the San’in region, along with Hiroshima.  What follows is a recounting of what happened as we conquered the roads that lay ahead of us.

As many of you know by now, I have written about my adventures in San’in already.  I have talked about Tottori and Shimane.  My journey started with a flight from Tokyo to Tottori.  I left in the early morning and had time to spend an entire day in Tottori city.  I visited the Tottori Sand Dunes and that was pretty much it.  The actual adventure didn’t start until the next day.  We got up early again as we had a long day of driving ahead of us.  Thankfully, we had two drivers, one being myself, and the other being my friend from Osaka.  We rented a Mazda Axela, which is a Mazda 3 in North America.  It was a little big for what we needed, but we were expecting a total of 4 people in the car, but one person bailed as she booked the wrong tickets for the trip.  The car itself was big for what we needed.  We could have gotten a compact car instead of this one, but the added size made the trip very comfortable.  When we got the car we spent a few minutes fiddling with the GPS navigation system before we took off.  The GPS was easy for us to understand, but it would take at least 2 more days before it was easy to use.  If you ever rent a car in Japan, be sure to learn a little Japanese, or have a good understanding on how to guess the menu system.  It was difficult to use, but we all had various degrees of Japanese knowledge which helped us a lot.

Our first leg of day 1 was a trip along the coast.  We started with a short drive on the mainland to avoid the traffic and made good time.  We reached our junction, ignoring our GPS all the time.  We had our own route planned and the GPS was guiding us to the “best” route but not the most scenic.  Thankfully, we had enough knowledge of the road to navigate smoothly and soon enough we were pros at navigating.  When we hit the coast, we took our sweet time and stopped at a couple beaches. We got our feet wet and took many pictures.  It was a perfect start to the day.  Driving up and down the coast on the Sea of  Japan is amazing. I have heard from many motorcycle riders that the coast is amazing, and I would have to agree.  I would love to just rent a car, or even bring a bicycle to the area and just enjoy the trip.  I was told by a friend that taking the train is also spectacular, but I tend to get a little antsy on trains after a few hours.  At least with a train, I could drink alcohol and not worry about getting into too much trouble.

My friend from Osaka did the first leg of driving.  He handled the coast very well, which was pretty easy.  There weren’t too many turns and the signs were easy for us to read.  We had one tough section through a small town called Hawai.  The pronunciation is the same as Hawaii, and the town played with that name a lot.  Everywhere you went, you saw Hawaii signs and tourist attractions that were a little tongue in cheek with references to the beautiful island resort.  After the town, we switched drivers as my friend had bad experiences driving on small country side roads.  It was my first time to drive in a few months and over a year since I had last driven on the left side of the road.  It was a little shaky at first, but I got my road legs back very quickly.  Aside from getting used to the car, which happens with almost any new car I drive, things were easy.  We were quickly headed down the road that we chose, but we soon reached what looked like nothing more than an access road.  Being in the countryside of Tottori, some of the main highways between cities are more akin to an access road rather than a true road.  Unlike North American streets where designated highways must meet a certain criteria, in Japan, it just indicates the road.  Our first “moment” came as this access road was about 1.5 lanes wide and we came across a truck.  It was a big truck and a challenge.  I was facing the challenge of passing this oncoming truck with only a few centimetres on both sides of the car.  The truck driver was kind enough to stop on the side and let me do all the work, but considering his side had a wall, and mine a drop into a field, it wasn’t that bad.  Creeping slowly, I passed my first hurdle.  Little did I know, this would only be the beginning of our journey of the day.

The route we took to Daisen, our first real destination, was simple enough and only a few points of caution.  My map had a few warnings that the road we were about to embark upon was closed during the winter months due to the weather.  This didn’t worry me too much.  We had a nice car, supplies to keep us fed and hydrated, and lots of time.  By the time we reached the road, things changed very quickly.  The first challenge of a small countryside road was past, but we had another road that was also only 1.5 lanes wide.  Being the countryside, and having seen the last stretch of road, I thought that this would be a short stretch of narrow roads.  I was wrong.  We also had to contend with a few construction signs with which we had no idea what they meant.  After our trip, we reviewed photos of the signs, and the sign said that cars were not allowed in, but when we went, it had a sticker on top saying it was “cancelled”.  Essentially, we got lucky.  We ended up doing most of the trip up and around Daisen on the narrow style road.  I have had experience on these types of roads before in Canada.  In Victoria, there are a few nice places like this.  The road is narrow and the vegetation is abundant.  On this road, it was the same.  The overgrowth from the bushes and trees made it a challenge to drive.  Being a kinder driver, I took a little more time to get around, along with the fact that I was worried about oncoming traffic, whatever it may be.  We spent roughly an hour or so going up, down, and around the north side of the mountain in what was one of my toughest drives ever.  The road was immaculate, and the beauty of the forest was unrivalled.  If I had the chance to skip that area, I would probably say no.  It’s something that has to be seen and experienced.  Before long, we were at Daisen-ji and taking a long deserved break from the car.

Note:  This is part one of a two part series.  Please continue reading in Part II.
For further reading about the San’in region, please follow the links below:

Driving Information:

Chugoku Expressway (Wikipedia – English): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chugoku_Expressway

Chugoku Expressway (Wikipedia – Japanese): http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/中国自動車道

Izumo Orochi Loop (Wikipedia – Japanese): http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/奥出雲おろちループ

Drive Plaza (Information on Expressways in Japan including travel times – JAPANESE): http://www.driveplaza.com/

About Touring in Japan (English): http://www.e-wadachi.com/howto/map_e.html

How to Cycle Around Japan (This is for cycling, but it’s very useful for driving as well): http://www.e-wadachi.com/howto_e.html

Touring Mapple (Official – Japanese): http://touring.mapple.net/

Rental Car How To (Japan Guide) [Note: There are links to major car rental companies towards the bottom of the page]:http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2024.html

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。


Hiroshima November 11, 2008

Posted by Dru in Chugoku, Japan, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Hiroshima” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-2z

In February 2006, I made my first trip to Hiroshima.  In October 2007, I made my second trip to Hiroshima.  Hiroshima is a well known city.  It’s the first city to be attacked by a nuclear bomb in 1945.  Today, Hiroshima is better known for being the home of Mazda and Hiroshimayaki (Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki).  The city itself is very similar to many other medium-small cities in Japan and has a very interesting street car system.

In 2006, I arrived into Hiroshima in the afternoon.  I had previously spent a couple days in Kyoto and was extremely tired.  I had a nice curry rice lunch before embarking on the trek into the city itself.  My first afternoon/night was spent at Hiroshima castle.  It’s a very nice place to visit and relax.  There are many places to climb and explore.  It is best to go there early as the castle grounds close early.  Unfortunately, I didn’t arrive until after the castle itself closed, and the grounds were also closing.  All I could do was take a few pictures and venture back into the city.  On my second trip to Hiroshima, I had a lot of time to enjoy things.  I could visit some of the ruins of the old army barracks, explore the outer wall, and quickly visit one of the restored sentry walls.  It was a very peaceful place.  I do recommend visiting the guard wall located at the main entrance of the castle grounds.  It’s very beautiful and it has a unique smell.  The castle itself isn’t amazing.  The outside is the best, but paying the entrance fee is nice to get a good view of Hiroshima city.  Inside, it’s a museum where you can look at how the castle used to look, and even try on a few pieces of samurai armour.  Bring a drink when visiting the castle grounds as you will probably get thirsty.

The second place you must visit when going to Hiroshima is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.  It’s a section of Hiroshima that was the focal point of the nuclear bomb.  It’s something you should see when you go to Hiroshima, but be warned that I found it very depressing.  It’s a necessary place to remind us of how devastating a nuclear bomb can be.  The first stop for most visitors would be the Atomic-bomb Dome.  It’s the ruins of Hiroshima’s Industrial Promotional Hall, and one of the only standing buildings in Hiroshima after the bomb.  It’s a humbling sight and when I visited the Dome, it was cloudy, cold, and surreal.  I had a truly eerie feeling looking at the dome.  After visiting the Dome, a quick walk around the Memorial Park is a must.  There are various memorials and statues erected to remind us of the death after the bombing.  The Peace Memorial Museum is something I wouldn’t recommend unless you have extra time and nothing better to do.  The artifacts and mannequins are amoung the most sobering and depressing things I’ve seen in my life.  They have a few recreations of the aftermath of the bombing, various descriptions of what happened, and also many artifacts from after the bombing.  The images you will see will be burned into your mind forever and you will probably feel extremely depressed.  I regret entering the museum, yet, I’m happy I did.  It’s a necessary evil in order to understand the true effect of nuclear weapons.

When you have finished visiting the sights in Hiroshima, the main shopping district is very close.  There are many things to see and do, but if you have been to other mid sized cities in Japan, the shopping arcade will be nothing new.  However, do try to find some okonomiyaki, oysters, and momiji manju.  When you need some dinner, Ebisucho is a good place to find good eats.  There are also many good restaurants near Shintenchi.  If you are looking for gifts to bring home, the best place to visit is Hiroshima Station.  Inside the station, there is a huge Omiyage floor with lots of things to buy.  If you are travelling by Shinkansen to Tokyo, make sure you stock up on food and drinks on the way home.  It’s a very long journey if you are using a JR Pass, or about 4 hours if you use a Nozomi train.

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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