My Adventures in Japan 2019… Part 4…


The concept of taking all these photos and documenting all these experiences is that they will have a long-lasting effect in the bigger overall ‘picture(no pun intended) of the worldwide automotive tuning community. I want not only myself, but you as a viewer to be able to pull these photos up some day and be able to remember these experiences. For the better part of a decade, I’ve been very fortunate and have been able to see a lot of things within this hobby that I don’t think many people will ever get to witness for themselves. It’s important to me to show you guys this stuff because some day some of this stuff will be gone from the physical world or things will inevitably change and we will need these assets to remind us of this moment in time…

I love going to Japan and exploring a lot of the unseen because there is so much that hasn’t been shown to the rest of the world. And if they have, chances are that they were told to a different generation and technology has provided us with new opportunities to re-tell old stories anew. Just imagine a time when you could search for say, “Trial Tuning Spirit”, and you’ll find photos on an old Japanese blogging site like Minkara and the photos will be essentially thumbnails compared to our current stream of high-definition media. Digital magazine outlets like Super Street has assets from shops like this and the cars that they have built but again, as technology continues to change, these photos either disappear as websites continue to grow or they’re just not viewable by today’s digital standards…

As I’ve state in the previous three posts, I decided to present these photos differently than I would have in the previous few years and have gone back to presenting them as I would have when I first start…as a collective of photographs and stories. Separating them would be just fine for organizational purposes but it can tend to change the narrative sometimes. Showing them as a package presents my perspective as I saw them real-time. My journeys to Japan are always interesting and often completely unplanned. I tend to do things a lot on the fly because it just seems more exciting and fun that way. Planning things out has never particularly been a strong trait of mine so I dive into things with no expectations and am just pretty much always fulfilled in my experiences. I have a general plan but just going off the cuff brings great surprises. This year, finally going to Trial was absolutely unplanned and ended up being one of my favorite visits…

Before that however, I explored and found myself seeing things I’d never imagined I would. In this post alone you’ll see photos from Garage Excellent, Sennard, and then Trial. Garage Excellent is a VIP-specific tuning and fabrication shop located in Mie Prefecture, an area known more for the Suzuka Circuit. After meeting Masao Hirano from Mode Parfume a few years ago, we got to know the guys from Garage Excellent as they have long been friends of Hirano. They produce some pretty insane stuff but what I set out to do was explore their lot outside which was filled with VIP cars from year’s past that have met acclaim and now reside retired in a sea of custom vehicles. Just a few miles away from Garage Excellent is a shop that is relatively unknown on our side of the pond. Sennard, or Racing Garage Suzuka Sennard, is a storied engine-building shop based also in Mie which has long been respected for creating some of the best race motors in Japan. Some of the most popular tuning brands from Japan that have become popularized worldwide use Sennard as their preferred private-label engine-builder. If you don’t know what that means, it means that these shops act as performance tuners who build engines but what they actually do is use Sennard to create it for them…and then they tax their clients for it. I’m gonna play my role as a politically-correct outside observer and not outright state what shops do this but it’s one of the oldest tricks in the book. It’s just ‘good business’. Sennard also stores a lot of old race cars that they have worked on over the years and their massive facility looks almost like a graveyard for Honda one-make race cars of the past. Just a quick look around revealed some very familiar faces, some surprising because we just never knew what happened to them until we saw them buried under a bunch of old race car parts inside Sennard…

Finally, you’ll see photos from one of Osaka’s famed tuning companies, Trial Tuning Spirit. If you watched our recent Japan Vlogs, you’ll see much more of Trial but when I wasn’t doing video, I was busy running around Trial trying to capture photos of pretty much everything in sight. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever have an opportunity to see any of this stuff again so I did my due diligence in documenting it all in the short time I was there. It’s crazy to also see some of their old demo cars just rotting away in their parking lot but that is just a part of the tuning culture there. These cars either eventually get sold off or they just get weathered over the years until all reusable parts are gone or the cars just decay. Mixed in there of course are plenty of modern demo cars and customer cars that are still being tuned to their maximum potential at Trial. It’s actually really cool to know that they are still a very popular tuning shop in Japan, and still producing great stuff in 2019. We don’t see the name pop up that much in North America anymore but they are still very much at the epicenter of Japanese tuning culture. I appreciate their openness in letting my explore as well. As with all the places we visit, it’s always nice to see how open they are and how accommodating they can be to complete strangers…

Wow, I’ve written way more than I thought I would for this post, haha. I guess we should get to the photos…

I should add that there is one more set of photos before this set is complete, and it is a good one. So stay tuned for that. Meanwhile, enjoy these captures from my visit to Japan…

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The guys huddled-up in front of a heat lamp in front of Garage Excellent. If you’ve ever been to Japan in January, you’ll know just how cold it is, especially out in Mie…

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Beautiful Toyota Century bagged on BBS LM wheels sitting out front…

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It was crazy to see some of these VIP builds, many of which have garnered a magazine feature or two, just planted outside of Garage Excellent…

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Some are still very much in “show” condition with wheels and all, some with missing body parts or worn paint from the harsh cold winters…

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This Kei car was one of the completed projects still looking pretty great and undisturbed…

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Next to the Century was this Toyota Estima which is one of the more popular VIP van platforms to mod in Japan, looking great in white, bagged and airred down on Work Meister M1 wheels…

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This Toyota Crown Athlete, also on Work M1, was in for some minor repairs to the front passenger side…

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This Nissan Cima looked like it had seen better days but was probably pretty stunning when it was all cleaned-up in its prime…

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As people cruise past Garage Excellent, they’ll be greeted with this old modded Mercedes S-Class that doesn’t look like it has moved in a few years…

After we all chatted for a bit and had some hot coffees from the vending machine outside, we hopped into Masaya Urata from Garage Excellent’s Toyota Hi-Ace van and headed over to Sennard to check-out their facility…

I had never been there prior so I had no idea what to expect. The photos themselves aren’t that plentiful because the facility was pretty dark. And whatever light was available was very dim and mismatched in color so it didn’t make photos very easy to shoot…

I did however, manage to get some shots in here and there…

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One of less than a handful of J’s Racing EK racecars residing inside Sennard, this one with a Seidoya livery you might recognize. It didn’t look like there was any damage done to the vehicle, just possibly retired now or in for repairs with some parts awaiting installation…

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Many of you guys will recognize this one, the Bride EK9 Civic Type R that once wore full Air Walker aero, now retired and serving as a parts shelf with some of its aero still installed…

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One of the newer Hondas inside Sennard was this Honda Fit race car which competes regularly in a Fit one-make race series…

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One of the more recognizable race cars inside was this J’s Racing EK, still wearing its J’s Racing Hyper ECU livery. I thought that it might have just been shelved because it needed some repairs…

…but walking over to the other side, the driver’s side, revealed much more…

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…As you can see, it definitely isn’t suitable for competition anymore looking as if it might have been wrapped around a pole at some point…

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Here’s the rear of the J’s/Seidoya #69 Civic which was raced often in the Suzuka Clubman Endurance series. If you want to see what it looked like in competition, CLICK HERE…

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The front of the Bride EK9 CTR, with the Air Walker bumper sitting on top of the hood….

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AP1 S2000 wearing a Spoon Sports S-Tai front with J’s Racing fenders and Mugen carbon hood…

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The S2000 was one of the more complete vehicles which sat inside Sennard. What was behind it was particularly interesting…

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…lurking in the shadows was the Vision Technica GK5 Honda Fit race car, a competitor in the Fit 1.5 Challenge Cup series…

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Racing Garage Suzuka Sennard, or simply referred to by the Japanese as “Sennard-O”…

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…Where life in a Civic race car often begins and eventually ends…

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I really wish we had more time in there and there was more light. Nonetheless, a great visit all-around…

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A day later, we were back in Osaka visiting our friends over at Speed Forme. Just about a block away was the world-renowned Trial, or Trial Osaka, or Trial Tuning Spirit. Whatever you want to call it, all you need to know it by is the famous red logo…

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We explored for a bit before talking to one of the employees from Trial, who was happy to see us and allowed us to look around and snap as many photos as we wanted. One of the first builds that caught my eye in the parking lot was this BNR32 Skyline GT-R, which just had a fresh set of Volk TE37SL wheels mounted…

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Not too crazy of a set-up on this GTR which wore a Top Secret front lip and hood…

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Not too far away was this Mitsubishi Evolution V, which had appeared to have seen better days but still looked very aggressive with the huge front canards and ARC oil cooler protruding out through the front grille…

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The Evo also looked like it had Varis rear over fenders, carbon doors, and modified wide front fenders paired with a GP Sports Chockets front bumper…

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Posted in front of their work bays were different Skylines from varying generations…

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A customer’s Top Secret-equipped R35 GTR on Volk TE37Ultra wheels…

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Looked like whoever owned this R35 either worked at or owned a local medical center, which makes sense with a salary to build a full Top Secret GTR…

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BNR33 Skyline GTR looking very period-specific on the 17-inch BBS LM wheels in their original fit and finish…

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The old Trial “Tryforce Zelda Type-M” R33 GTS Skyline demo car is now for sale, perhaps it has been for sale for some time now, and shows its age from its weathered condition. This car can be had for about $8000 USD now…

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How many of you remember the Trial Tryforce Zelda 3-spoke wheels?…

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The car still looks to be completely 100% intact as it appeared in many magazine ads back in the day…

For reference, and proof, here’s what it looked like in its prime…

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Anyone looking to own a piece of history for a good price, hit-up Trial and grab that R33. It looks like it could use a good home these days…

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It’s missing its sideskirts but also chillin’ outside was the old Trial S15 Silvia democar, still looking pretty great even with the peeling clearcoat and weather-worn body…

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The chassis and engine dyno room inside Trial, now appearing as just a storage unit with a clean BNR34 Skyline GTR and custom bike inside…

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Though there were many relics from tuning year’s past at Trial, they did have some new stuff on hand to see, including their recently developed Trial 86 democar which wears a complete Tryforce aero kit, minus their vented front fenders, equipped with an HKS GT Supercharger…

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I can mark another bucket list item off my personal photography list after getting a shot of a car in front of the Trial garage door, which has been used so often in many magazine features over the years…

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Just a cool and massive facility filled with tuning history on a beautiful evening in Osaka…

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I wonder if this kit will ever get popular over here in North America, perhaps paired with bolt-on over fenders which seems the route of choice now for many 86/BRZ owners…

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A customer and his NA1 NSX on BBS wheels just after getting some maintenance done…

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You may not here from them much these days, but there’s no doubt that Trial is doing just fine with a bay full of cars to work on and a product list that any tuning shop would want…

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A completely random trip that worked out absolutely beautifully. I really would not have wanted it any other way…

On that note, this wraps Part 4 of 5. Next-up is my photo set from my first-ever visit to M&M Honda in Fukuoka. I’m still in the process of finishing those photos up actually but so far they look pretty great so I’m excited to show them to you guys. Thanks for looking and make sure to come back for those!!…

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1 comment

  1. I thiiink that the front bumper on the Evo is actually a GP Sports Chokets piece. Great work as always Joey 👍

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