The Chronicles in Japan 2020 Part 1: Arrival and Tokyo Auto Salon…

2020 marks my 7th year in a row going to Japan. What once started out as a bucket list trip for me has now become a regularity. I never thought I’d have many of the opportunities that have been presented to be over the years but if there was one true “game changer” for The Chronicles, it most certainly would be my first trip to Japan in 2013. Going to Tokyo Auto Salon and seeing everything else that came with that trip really opened my eyes to a new level of potential for what I could do covering car culture—and I’ve been going back ever since. Every trip since has offered so many new opportunities to see more of what Japan had to offer. I find it funny now when my friends ask me if I’m going back to Japan every January because for me, it’s a certainty. Unless I’m absolutely unable to afford the trip, you’ll definitely find me there…

I’m sure I could offer you more insight on why Japan is so important to me, but if you’ve followed my work for any length of time, it should be very, VERY obvious to you. Sometimes I hear people say that “Tokyo Auto Salon is the same every year” so what is the point in going but TAS is honestly just a byproduct of the experience for me. I don’t go to Japan for Tokyo Auto Salon. I go to the show obviously but its not the only reason I go. Is it the same every year? Well, the format is never going to change. For one, the show is incredibly successful so there’s no reason to alter the formula, and secondly, it’s Japanese and they hardly change for anything. It’s just not in their mindset to alter what they think works. They’re so big on tradition that they’d often times fail before they accept the inevitability of change. But that’s a story for another time…

I walked into 2020 with a little bit of a dull feeling creatively. Looking back on 2019, I’d done so much and had tried so hard to continue to make The Chronicles the best it could be after a decade that I felt burnt-out. This isn’t unusual of course. It’s on-par with my lifestyle. Too much of a good thing can also be a bad thing and people need time to recover. I was looking forward to going back to Japan because it never fails to re-inspire and that is definitely what happened. Literally on my first night there I found myself re-energized with this renewed sense of vigor. I was ready for whatever Japan was going to throw at me. I’m trying this new thing in 2020. No matter what event I was going to, wherever or whatever car-related event I find myself at, I told myself I’d continue shooting photos. My whole new thing was this; as long as I could get one good photo out of whatever I was shooting, I’d say that it was a successful venture. I’d call it a “win”, you can say. Having put two successful books together and having to go through thousands upon thousands of old photos to find the right shot for each individual page has shown me that you just need one good shot sometimes. I can shoot hundreds or thousands of photos at an event and there could be one photo in there that could be “the one”. That’s the shot that I can pull from the batch and immortalize it in print. That train of thought has been very helpful lately. I think it has helped keep me not overwhelmed in any environment or situation when I’m trying to cover an event of any magnitude. If I can get one good shot, I’m happy. That one photo could mean everything…

It’s hard to keep other people as excited about Japan as I always am though. I think that regular life, having a job and/or family can really affect that excitement. That willingness to go to Japan just isn’t there compared to more important priorities that comes with life. With that said, I should mention that this year offered the least amount of people who have accompanied me to Japan. Only one person came along this time, Kenneth from Wekfest, and I didn’t even see him most of my trip because he was busy conducting Wekfest business while in Japan. That’s okay though. I go to Japan so often these days that it isn’t even remotely realistic for other people to have that type of time. I’m literally going back in a few weeks. It’s unrealistic. But this is more of a job for me than for others who look at going to Japan as a vacation…

My plan for this trip was pretty simple; go to Tokyo for Auto Salon, see whatever car-related stuff I could in the few days I was there, then fly to Hong Kong for a few days just to explore, and then I’d come back to Japan, on the Osaka-side, and do more car stuff over in the Kansai region. I had twelve days to see as much as I could, and now that I’m back, you get to see it all unfold in front of you on your computer or smart phone screen(s). If you’ve been following me on Instagram throughout the past two weeks, you probably have a pretty good idea of where I went but there is so much more that I haven’t shown you yet and I’m still in the process of going through all the content I captured both in photos and video. Hopefully you guys will stick around and check back for all the updates because there is some really great stuff coming in the next few days to weeks…

I landed in Tokyo about 3:30 PM or so on a Thursday. That would be around 10:30 PM back here at home in California, but the night before. Yeah, it sounds confusing and it can be, especially when you’re trying to communicate with a girlfriend back at home who is on a completely different schedule. I do this thing now where I don’t sleep the night before my flight so that I can just sleep a majority of the time on my way to Japan. It helps acclimate me to Japan-time and it also helps the 11-hour flight go by WAY faster. Yasu, who lives in Osaka, also flew-in to hang-out with me at Tokyo Auto Salon and landed ten minutes before me. We went to our AirBnb to drop-off our suitcases, grabbed some sushi for our first dinner in Tokyo, and made our way to the RWB Party. The Rauh Welt event is one of those gatherings that I always look forward to when I first land in Tokyo. We’ve gone pretty much every year but this year was a little different…

In the past, the RWB Party has always been held at the Hard Rock Cafe in Roppongi, which is in the city. It’s not too far away and offers a really scenic setting with all the other surrounding buildings lighting-up the event which is filled with customized, widebody Porsches. I found out when I landed that the RWB Party was moved to a different location this year. There was construction being done at the parking lot of the Hard Rock Cafe during that period of time so the meet could not be held there. Instead, it was moved all the way to Kashiwa, which is quite far away from the city and closer to RWB headquarters in Chiba. Once we wrapped-up dinner, we had no idea the event was an hour away and by the time we got to Kashiwa, the event was over! During our drive we saw a number of RWB Porsches driving the opposite direction which pretty much meant that cars had already left before we got there. We decided to go anyway just to see whatever was left. That, and it was pointless to turn around since we had already covered most of our 1-hour trek. When we finally parked, the RWB Party was definitely over. There was like, three cars left. But I reminded myself that I just needed one good photo and this drive wouldn’t have been a complete loss…

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I ran over to the parking lot where the RWB Party was and captured this shot of Takashi Mori’s ER34 Skyline GTT just as it was exiting. It was dark and hard to capture Mori’s Skyline but there’s no way you’ll mistake the iconic taillights of an R34…

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Something about the vibe of just being in Japan again just really made me excited for what was to come in the following days…

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The only RWB Porsche that was still parked at the lot was Nakai’s personal 993 Cabriolet which you’ll be more familiar with as RWB “Spearmint Rhino”, notably named after his Las Vegas strip club adventures a few years back…

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That “one photo” I was looking for that evening in our failed attempt to attend the RWB Party was of this Porsche 930 RWB on Panasport G7 C5C wheels. I posted an alternate shot of it on my Instagram feed which tells the whole story of why going to Kashiwa that night was totally worth it…

Here’s the caption for the photo that I wrote out that evening…

I was too preoccupied with dinner last night that I didn’t realize how far the new location for the annual RWB Party was. As it turns out, it was all the way out in Chiba out of the city and away from Roppongi where it is usually held. While running around the area looking for whatever Porsche’s were left that hadn’t left the event yet, I came upon this RWB 930 on Panasport wheels. As I was taking photos of it, Yasu and Masa were hanging out and an older woman comes up and starts chatting with us. She looked like she had just had a few drinks and was pretty chatty and she was joking around saying the Porsche was a rental car and giggling about it. We thought she was just a random drunk lady but she was actually the wife of the current owner of the Porsche. She told us that her husband used to have a turbo 911 and was a pretty loyal customer and friend to Nakai from RWB. I don’t know if the details are 100% accurate since she was a bit tipsy, but her husband had gotten sick and couldn’t keep his car anymore, but since he was such a loyal customer and friend, Nakai actually gave him this 911 which was one of his own personal cars. As I finished up getting this photo, her husband hops in the car and drives off, waving to her and speeding past her. We totally missed the whole event, but the few minutes we were there was totally worth it. Hopefully it is one of many random great moments to come…

That one photo and the story that came with it was definitely the one I was looking for, I just didn’t know it yet, and it genuinely made me excited for my trip…

The next day was already the first day of Tokyo Auto Salon. Yasu and I arrived super early trying to beat the crowd that would be flooding the many halls of the show that day, but we arrived so early that the show hadn’t even opened yet…

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To kill some time, we walked the parking lot to explore and see if we could find any gems. There wasn’t much that early morning, but we did come across this Ferrari 355 Berlinetta on BBS LM wheels…

Once we got into the show, I already knew what I wanted to see straight away. Yasu got a call and had to run off to meet someone to give them passes inside so I ran over to Varis, one of Japan’s premiere aero parts manufacturers…

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I wanted to go to Varis first because I was excited to see the new Varis A90 Supra kit. The initial photos of it during its clay modeling stage made the kit look pretty incredible so I wanted to see what the final product would look like. I can’t say I was disappointed since Varis pretty much always delivers, but my only gripe was that I wished it could have debuted in a different color. I almost felt like the metallic gray and the orange accents really didn’t do the lines of the kit justice…

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Overall, the Varis widebody kit is great, especially the rear quarter panels and the door cap which flows so well with the stock body lines. The kit isn’t too over the top as well and leaves a lot more to be done when they put together a more aggressive “Kamikaze” kit in the future…

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The Runduce A90 Supra also debuted, but with a less-aggressive, carbon lip kit which was also produced by Varis…

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The Garage Revolver/Varis A80 Supra looked a bit different this year, rocking a Rothmans-inspired livery and Volk TE37V Mark II wheels…

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We first saw the Varis FK8 front bumper on Luigi’s Civic Type R at the 2019 SEMA Show but for TAS, Varis had their own completed FK8 CTR wearing their complete kit…

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The Ito Shokai “G-Man” FD3S RX-7 on display at the RE Amemiya section of the show wearing a complete aero kit manufactured by the legendary RX-7 tuner…

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One of my favorites from this year’s show was this widened Mazda Eunos Cosmo coupe on Work Wheels. I’ve always been a fan of these cars since they are such an oddity and has this incredibly ’90s quirkiness to them. It’s so rare to see them heavily modded and this one is a great example of what potential they have. The custom body color, the wheels, custom fenders/rear quarters, and all, this car is just so cool…

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Little known fact about the Cosmo is that it was the first production vehicle with a Japanese-produced twin-sequential turbo system. And it was also the first production vehicle with a 3-rotor 20B-REW engine in it. This Cosmo however, doesn’t have the factory twin-turbo set-up and has a naturally-aspirated 20B with individual throttle bodies equipped…

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A closer look at the individual throttle bodies with the carbon fiber velocity stacks…

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The centerpiece of the RE Amemiya booth this year featured their widebody SA22C RX-7 which is powered by a twin-turbocharged 13B engine swap…

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A new RE build that debuted at TAS 2020 was this FD3S wearing original RE Amemiya aero, but with a majority of the aero pieces color-matched. The intent of this RE customer car was to be an homage to one of their classic builds which brought RE Amemiya to fame but imagined with a more modern aesthetic…

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One of the more surprising arrivals at this year’s TAS event was the Blitz A90 Supra. I’m sure most of us are very familiar with the original Blitz JZA80 Supra and the unique aero package they offered but I doubt anyone expected Blitz to develop a completely new face for the current generation Supra. The front fascia definitely gives the Supra a look completely unique to other A90 Supras and the more I look at it, the more I think I like it. It’s such a completely new approach to one of the most polarizing aspects of the new Supra which is the face…

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The rear of the Blitz GR Supra has also been widened but the lines are incredibly subtle, compared to say, the Pandem or HKS kit. It’s overall look was so unique that it actually won an award in Tokyo Auto Salon’s “Custom Car Contest” category which is voted on by show attendees..

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One more shot so you guys can get a better look at the Blitz GR Supra…

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Tokyo Auto Salon has always been known for its elaborate displays and one of the best ones this year had to have been HKS and their two widebody A90 Supras. One which has more of a traditional HKS-look with their classic livery applied and one completely unique to anything else they’ve ever put together…

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The face of the HKS Premium Supra kit presented in classic HKS fashion…

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This, of course, is a completely different Supra than the one we saw at SEMA 2019, though it also wears the same Advan GT wheel but in a different colorway…

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It’s interesting that people often think that the HKS Supra is running a Pandem kit. They both look completely different even though both are designed by Kei Miura from TRA Kyoto. I guess I see the confusion since everyone associates anything with bolt-on body panels as “Rocket Bunny” but if you actually looked at both cars, it’s very obvious how different they are…

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Classic Craftsquare carbon mirrors used on the HKS Supra…

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The Supra that everyone was talking about at TAS 2020 was this white A90, also built by HKS Japan but executed in matte white. Like the HKS Supra next to it, it also wears the complete Premium widebody kit but the carbon pieces on this particular kit are done with forged composite carbon fiber technology…

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You can really see the lines of the HKS Premium kit better with the car dressed in white…

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A glance at the rear of the HKS Premium Supra with its forged composite carbon fiber rear section…

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This is the more “street car” variation of the HKS GR Supra and it sits so perfectly on new Advan Racing R6 wheels in red…

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The DZ Garage FD3s running an RE Amemiya aero kit with the “AD Facer 9” front made famous by the original RE GReddy9 2002 FD…

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The Knight Sports RX-8 race car, which has competed at the Macau Grand Prix piloted by Super Taikyu driver Tatsuya Tanikawa…

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Under the hood is a Knight Sports-built 13B turbo engine…

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Car Modify Wonder returned to TAS once again this year with a pair of red S-chassis builds…

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Wonder S15 Silvia Glare-equipped Silvia on Rays Gram Lights 57Extreme wheels…

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The Car Modify Wonder PS13 coupe had two different sets of wheels on each side because it also featured two different looks, one side with their bolt-on fender flares and the other with complete replacement rear quarter panels and front fenders…

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Speedforme S30 240Z democar with their full kit and FRP fender flares…

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2020 marked the debut of a new Speedforme S30 build, this one actually built in collaboration with Wald. Under the carbon fiber variation of their fender flare kit were a new set of Wald 3-piece wheels…

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Clean black Porsche 964 Carrera RS on Speedline wheels…

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TRA Kyoto had a nice four-car display once again this year with a couple of new debuts on-hand…

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We saw this new Pandem V3 widebody kit at SEMA but Tokyo Auto Salon was the first time Japanese auto enthusiasts got to see the new TRA Kyoto-produced kit in-person. The two-tone paint job and similar wheels may make you think that this is the same car that was at SEMA but this is actually a completely different Silvia…

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The Pandem FC3S RX-7 isn’t particularly new but it did see a debuting rear wing addition that was an option for the kit…

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We also saw the brand new Pandem Corolla Levin widebody kit on Dai Yoshihara’s K20C-powered 86 at SEMA but Daisuke Miyazaki from Todoroki presented his own iteration for TAS 2020 adorned in bright green with anodized orange Work Equip 40 wheels…

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Pandem Datsun B110 coupe featuring a set of Racing Service Watanabe wheels and a 10,000 RPM A13 engine…

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Kurumadoh Custom Factory AP1 S2000 with a stroked 2.2L F20C powerplant featuring TODA Racing camshafts and an HKS GTS7040 Supercharger…

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Kansai Service R35 GTR paired with the new Advan Racing R6 wheel…

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Kansai Service BNR34 Skyline GTR also on the new R6 wheel…

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Yokohama Advan wheel-designer Osamu Hagiwara’s personal FD3S RX-7 is looking good as it ever has where you’d usually see it on display at the Advan wheel booth at Tokyo Auto Salon…

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On his FD is the new Advan R6 wheel that he designed paired with Project Mu big brakes…

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Masahiro Ozaki’s ZN6 86 is one of Japan’s most polarizing builds, featuring 326power “Gacha-bari” wide fenders paired with 3DStar front, sides, and rear. I remember seeing the build-up for this ZN6 when it was still white so I was interested in seeing how it looked in person. Certainly not my style but the execution is pretty good…

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The Forge Tech display featured a Lamborghini Urus this year lowered and sitting on Forge Tech x LB Works 24-inch wheels…

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I specifically took a photo of this Urus just to show you guys the massive front brakes on it. Consider the fact that this is a 24-inch wheel to really understand how big these fucking brakes are…

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Kuhl Racing Japan once again presented the world with yet another beautifully built R35 GTR. This year they went a little more subtle, if you can call it that, with a custom white paint job by Rohan Izawa Art Design with details you can only see at the right angles with the right amount of light placed on it…

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Here you can see more of the paint details applied by Rohan. It’s one of those cars and paint jobs that you really have to see in-person to really truly grasp the quality and finish of…

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There are a lot of new aero parts packages for the new A90 Supra but one of my favorites is the Kuhl Racing widebody kit which debuted at TAS 2020. There’s something about the lines that flow so well with the stock body. I also love the fact that it has no rivets on the panels but the panels themselves aren’t molded into the body either. There are times when a car can look a little too smooth with panels grafted and molded together. The Kuhl Racing kit presents its aggressive-side without overdoing it but is also quite polished in appearance…

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Mizuno Body Works Toyota Celsior (UCF20/21) with a G60 Century front-end conversion. The front fenders and rear wheel arches have also been radiused significantly to bring the body lower to the ground and to house K-Break Hybreed Fivesta wheels…

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Classic VIP styling on the Century-faced Celsior with a J-Pop idol airbrushed on the inside gas lid…

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Liberty Walk Performance and ASSC decided to collaborate on a Lamborghini Huracan build as well as some joint apparel and accessories for TAS 2020…

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Liberty Walk Ferrari 458GTB with a full dry carbon aero kit…

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One of the most talked-about debuts of Tokyo Auto Salon in previous years and just sitting on the show room floors now for all to see was the LB WOrks Ford GT/Miura Concept. Still looks fantastic by the way…

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Quietly making its debut away from the huge Liberty Walk display just a few feet away was the new LB Works Honda NSX widebody kit…

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I know it is an older platform but it was surprising to not see it inside their elaborate display. The kit overall isn’t too crazy, compared to some of their other stuff, and considering some of the other builds that debuted under their umbrella that weekend, I guess I can see why. I think this kit might do pretty well though in the future, as NSXs become a little cheaper and with this aero package not being too overly wide or aggressive…

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You’d expect them to just go fucking apeshits with this kit but I guess this appeals to the NSX owners who aren’t trying to make their cars look like a transformer. I like it. Not much else to say about it…

On that note, I’m gonna cut Part 1 off here. There is so much more to come still so stay tuned!! It’s gonna get fucking crazy in the next few days. Thanks for looking!!…

One thought

  1. As always an awesome feature. and I loved the LB Works NSX kit but Ok I was hoping for a little bit more of that oddball 911 from Ant Dreams that was in the film. I saw that and had to have spent a few to many hours looking for more information on it.

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