#iamthespeedohunta: I Think I’m Turning Japanese

I’m still recovering from the wake of insanity that was my trip to Japan last week, but I figured this would be as good a time as any to quickly recap my recent adventures. The effort that Dino and I managed to pack into one week was incredible to say the least, and the result of which will be stories to come for weeks to follow. However, what you typically don’t get from those stories is what it’s like to actually be there, in the moment. I thought if I were out there living the Japanese experience via Speedhunters, this is the kind of story I’d want to see… Here’s a week in the life of a Speedhunter in Tokyo, I hope you enjoy.

I’d say my trip really kicked off bright and early on the Thursday before TAS when I arrived at GReddy for some special feature car shoots. Working closely with Dino on this trip has been eye opening. I’ve been to Japan four times before, all of which for Tokyo Auto Salon, but working with Dino was another experience all together.

Getting an inside scoop on projects before the rest of the tuning scene is even aware of their existence is this man’s bread and butter. First up on the chopping block was a car he was kind enough to set aside for me, the GReddy FR-S. Rest assured a feature of this car is on its way very soon!

While I was busy shooting the car, Dino was chatting with the guys from Trust and gave the president, Masaru Ikeda, a copy of Speedhunters Volume One which he and the guys seemed quite excited about!

Meanwhile, I heard a distinct buzz off in the in the distance, and as I turned around I saw a very familiar red FR-S pulling into GReddy’s driveway…

Of course it could have been no one else but the man-of-the-moment, Kei Mirua, fresh off an eight-hour drive from Kyoto in order to prepare his personal car to be displayed in the Enkei booth at Tokyo Auto Salon. He seemed a little bit out of it and complained of some back pain from the long drive and you could tell he hadn’t slept a wink the previous night…

Because he had been up helping Ueta-san put the finishing touches on the now-legendary-380sx. When the BenSopra vehicle hauler first pulled up I was actually inside having lunch, but as soon as I laid eyes on the car I knew immediately what all the hype was about. If you can’t tell from the look on Ikeda-san’s face, the car evokes feelings of joy from anyone in its presence.

I can get by okay in Japan without speaking the language, but there are times when I really wish I could have a conversation with someone, particularly in the case of Ueta-san. I’d love to be able to figure out what makes this mentalist tick, why does he do the absurd things he does to cars!?

These types of shots are usually some of my favorites when I look back at a shoot or a trip years down the line, but they rarely ever end up anywhere. Here’s a look at a sleep-deprived Mirua discussing the assembly of the rear diffuser with the BenSopra mechanic, while Dino looks on and Ueta-san is doing god knows what, probably sticker application.

After we wrapped the shoots at GReddy, we headed over to the Makuhari Messe to get a quick look at the Tokyo Auto Salon setup day. This was a new experience for me as I’ve never had the inside-access that Dino was able to provide… let me just say it’s good to have friends in high places!

Before heading back to the hotel to get some rest for the start of TAS on Friday, we had to make one last stop to attend the RWB meet in Roppongi,  one of the more posh sections of Tokyo. Of course being a big fan of RWB, this wasn’t a problem at all!

Sadly, I was so delirious at this point that I hardly remember anything, other than feeling very cold and tired when we met up with Luke Huxham, who you may know as Maiham Media. I was glad that we had been invited to come hang out and see some incredible Porsches, but I was more excited about the prospect of heading back and getting a good look at the inside of my eyelids!

The following day we woke up bright and early and made the journey back to Chiba for the first day of Auto Salon. Once Friday kicks off, the next couple of days tend to all blend into one and things get fuzzy very quickly.

One huge advantage we had working for us was the ability to get in before the public and even other members of the press, making it much easier to get clear, unobstructed shots of the cars. Once nine-o-clock rolled around the proverbial floodgates were opened, trying to get a decent shot of anything was borderline impossible.

Before long, every void in the convention center would be filled with bodies… it’s really a sight to behold and an experience that any JDM fan owes to themselves at least once in life.

One of my favorite things about Auto Salon is actually catching up with friends, both old and new, like my former boss, Super Street’s Mr. “JDMwong” himself.

My buddy Brandon Leung from Bowls was also on sight to film all the antics of the show…

As was my new friend Luke Huxham who was glued to the Fab Design booth all week. Fortunately, that meant free Red Bull for me! Thanks Luke!

Of course networking is also a huge component of any larger show, and I was lucky to have met Jeab from RWB-Thailand, seen here showing one of Liberty Walk’s models some of his prized photographs from the show.

Before I knew it, the wild man known as Kato-san behind the LB brand made an appearance, and true to his style quickly stole the attention of everyone around.

It’s pretty incredible seeing what Speedhunters means to the Japanese, and Dino has worked really hard to get us to the level of respect that our name earns there. It’s a humbling experience to see virtually every cool car at the show rocking a Speedhunters sticker.

One of the last things I remember doing before leaving Auto Salon was posing for a group photo with the Liberty Walk staff.

Once we decided that we had our fill of TAS, my buddy Peter Tarach from Modified decided to hang out with Dino and myself and make the trip up to Tsukuba Circuit. As much as Rod likes to give me a hard time about being jaded, he should have seen how excited I was to finally get out to an event at TC!

Yes, believe it or not there are still those moments, like this one – holding up an official Tsukuba photo vest – that make me feel like a kid again!

It was a day I won’t soon forget and I eagerly look forward to making my return to Tsukuba and perhaps driving the circuit myself.

The reason for the visit was of course the well known (thanks in large part to Dino) Battle Evome time attack series. There will be plenty more to come from that event soon, and I’ll also be doing my own post giving my interpretation of the event and what it means to a foreigner to walk around Japan’s time attack holy ground.

Due to the short nature of the series, lasting only two hours from start to finish, it was time to leave before we knew it. But not before giving one of our newest Speedhunters shirts to our friend Under Suzuki.

Next it was time to check out some of the Japanese countryside, another of my favorite things about the country. Don’t get me wrong, Tokyo is an incredible place, but you just can’t beat the touge roads!

As silly as it might sound, I was almost more excited to shoot our BMW M6 press car on the twisties than I was to shoot some of the incredible tuner machines we had lined up. I don’t know if it’s old age creeping up on me or not, but my god did that M6 look good up on Mt. Tsukuba! Obviously these were also ideal testing grounds for Dino’s research for his upcoming dream drive story!

With daylight running short, it was time to get everything packed up and head back to Tokyo for our third and final mission of the day, but not before grabbing a bite to eat at the convenient store at the bottom of the mountain…

Where we ran into a few real-life locals who were out drifting the passes! At this very moment I couldn’t help but smile and be reminded of Initial D. While I sat paused with a grin on my face, I turned to Dino and said “hey, we should give these guys some stickers!”

We went to the trunk and grabbed a few and walked over. Before Dino could even say a word, the owner of the white S15’s eyes lit up, he dropped his bumper and yelled “tsupido-hunta!?” It was a trip, not only that they had heard of Speedhunters, but how excited they were about it. We really are big in Japan, and it’s basically all thanks to the effort Dino puts into his work day in and day out.

After sitting in traffic for three hours, we eventually made it back to Tokyo, grabbed some espresso and a panini and met up with the guys from Liberty Walk. This is one shoot I’m really looking forward to sharing with you guys, I had a lot of fun with this one! While the Murcielago was interesting in its own right, the Aventador is just such a beautiful car!

The area that Dino had selected for the shoot seemed to be quite popular with other Auto-otakus because I think we saw at least ten other photoshoots happening simultaneous to ours! At one point another dude with an M6 came over and couldn’t believe his luck, and was hoping to talk M-shop with Dino…

Until he realized that there was a viscous Lambo on the prowl! It’s amazing how excited the Japanese get about their hobbies and it’s a trait I wish were more universal. It explains a lot about why they’re so good at what they do… simply put it’s because they have a lot of passion. This guy probably took forty photos before he eventually thanked us, hopped back into his M6 and disappeared.

The next two days after the Tsukuba-Touge-Lambo day it snowed heavily in Japan and Tokyo was gridlocked. I also caught a very nasty cold, likely from the lack of sleep and exposure to sub-freezing temperatures. When the snow finally melted and my fever subsided, I found myself at RE Amemiya with a full crew including Mike Garrett to shoot their newest wacky creation.

After shooting the Europa, we decided to make a stop by Akihabara, which is one of the more interesting areas of Tokyo. Known the world over for its electronics stores and other strange otaku related shops, like some of the stores Mike visited last year.

There’s a lot to be seen in Akihabara as this is the birth place of many strange things like the Itasha car scene (think giant perverted anime graphics on tuned cars.) We decided that it might be fun to split up, walk around and see what kind of stuff we could find. The resulting post should be as bizarre as you’d expect, so look for that one soon as well.

The next day Dino and I took a little trip to TRD, which was a mind blowing experience if I’m honest. What happens behind the doors there often defies words… when you take a company with the budget and resources of Toyota, and combine that with real racing know-how and state-of-the-art tooling and machining capabilities, you get some incredible cars!

I’m really excited to share the two cars we shot with you guys soon, I’ll be covering the Griffon concept, while Dino will write up the quirkier ’80s-themed car. The good news is that while both of these are really just research exercises, there are a handful of parts derived from both of these cars that will be on sale early next month!

My last day in Japan was spent at the newly remodeled Type One, which is the official garage of the Honda tuning super brand Spoon Sports. While this wasn’t my first time to Type One, it was my first time since the remodel and also my first time actually getting to sit down and chat with the man behind the company, Ichishima-san.

We presented him with a copy of the Speedhunters Volume One book, to which he replied half-jokingly “it’s too heavy!” I found that quite funny coming from a man who built his brand’s reputation off the slogan “we know the meaning of light weight.”

To coincide with the remodel of Type One, Ichishima-san was also excited to show me their new webpage, which has some interesting features like maintenance tips. Unfortunately it’s only in Japanese, but you can try your luck with an online translator or just sit back and drool at all the pictures.

While I was there I also took my time to shoot the new shop for a tour post and also spent a fair amount of time with this beautiful EK build to show this amazing work-in-progress to the Speedhunters audience. I also learned that Ichishima-san has an epic photo stance of his own… maybe he’s the Speedhunter after all!

Anyway as you can certainly tell, there’s plenty of work still to be done and many stories left untold. That said, it’s time for me to get back to work so we can get you the goods, but I appreciate you guys taking the time to read this. If at some point in the process you thought “hey, that looks like fun” I encourage all of you to save up your pennies and book a flight to Japan. It’s something you’ll never forget!

More stories by Sean Klingelhoefer on Speedhunters

More from Tokyo Auto Salon 2013 on Speedhunters




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Lukey Strawbridge

Articles like this make you feel as if I was partly there for the trip, keep the great work up! Japan must be visited sometime.




Hey Sean, forgive my cultural ignorance here, but what's with the Japanese and their white facemasks? Does everybody in Japan wear one of these when they're sick so as not to spread their contagious illnesses around, or is it so that healthy (if slightly hypochondriac) Japanese don't catch something from a sick person when attending a large event or visiting a place where they expect to encounter large crowds? This doesn't seem to be an idea that's caught on in 'Western' countries. Definitely not in relatively sparsely populated New Zealand.


@Speed_Kiwi No worries man, that's actually a question that gets asked a lot. To be honest it's a bit of both scenarios you proposed. In my case it was me trying not to get Dino and the people we visited sick out of respect. In typical Japanese life you are in much closer quarters to other people than we are used to in western civilization, in Japanese culture there simply is no "personal bubble." Therefore if you're riding the train, you're probably going to be physically touching several other people so as you might imagine, sickness can spread very quickly.


Sean, I was in Tokyo (for the TAS) myself for 3 weeks, and just came back yesterday.
Having said that, temperatures in the Tokyo/Chiba area were prohibitive, and you managed to go to Tsukuba in a t-shirt?!
I was in Ogikubo/ Type One a few days ago as well and saw the same exact cars. The peeps at Type One must have thought: "another gaijin!"
Fun times.
I'll be back in Osaka this summer.


@JDMized Lol yes Alex it was quite cold, in fact I think that running around Tsukuba in a tee shirt is probably what got me sick! All in a day's work though I suppose lol. 
I think Type One probably thought "another gaijin, cha-ching!!!" lol. Definitely hoping to get out to Osaka and/or Nagoya later in the year myself. Safe travels!


“tsupido-hunta!?”  Awesome Japan!
thx for the article.


@sean klingelhoefer LOL. They didn't score any "cha-ching!!!" as a matter of fact Takahiro Yoshizawa (the engineering manager), gave me some free Type One stickers before I left....good peeps!


@sean klingelhoefer  @Speed_Kiwi Of course there's option 3 for the ladies slash... fashion concious types *cough* where we wear the mask to avoid the winter air from drying out our skin.


It's silly but sometimes it takes things like this post to make me appreciate being in Japan just a little more.  This country really is amazing and when it comes to cars it has the means to blow your mind.


@Speed_Kiwi Wow I never even thought about that, seems like there are dozens of uses for a mask! It makes me feel more Japanese just putting one on lol.


Thanks for all the work you do bringing us the outstanding stories and features you'all do for SH.
You do know you are feeding addictions, right?


This has to be one of the most complete articles and maybe one of the best you have done so far Sean. Maybe it was just because I was there but you really got a sense of your trip over here. From the photos to the words it's really easy to see how awesome the car culture is and how big of an impact dev.speedhunters.com is having in Japan, an achievement SH.com and Dino should be proud off!


there nothing wrong turning japanese. there cool folks in my opinion


thank you for this post, this makes me wanna go to Japan even more!!


i LOVE Japan!!!


i LOVE Japan!!!


i LOVE Japan!!!


i LOVE Japan!!!


Hahaha. Cool post what a fun diverse trip of auto action =]


Hahaha. Cool post what a fun diverse trip of auto action =]


Hahaha. Cool post what a fun diverse trip of auto action =]


Hahaha. Cool post what a fun diverse trip of auto action =]


@LukeHuxham Proud I am. Tabun...


@LukeHuxham Proud I am. Tabun...


@LukeHuxham Proud I am. Tabun...


@LukeHuxham Proud I am. Tabun...


Superb post Sean.  What a week uh!


Superb post Sean.  What a week uh!


Superb post Sean.  What a week uh!


Superb post Sean.  What a week uh!


@JDMized  @sean klingelhoefer What? The great Alex was in Japan and you didn't even bother to say hi. Offended I am.


@JDMized  @sean klingelhoefer What? The great Alex was in Japan and you didn't even bother to say hi. Offended I am.


@JDMized  @sean klingelhoefer What? The great Alex was in Japan and you didn't even bother to say hi. Offended I am.


@JDMized  @sean klingelhoefer What? The great Alex was in Japan and you didn't even bother to say hi. Offended I am.


@JDMized  @sean klingelhoefer What? The great Alex was in Japan and you didn't even bother to say hi. Offended I am.


@sean klingelhoefer  @Speed_Kiwi Hope you stocked up.


amazing post sean... very well done... and waiting for the many awesome stories to come :)


Awesome post Sean!  You really captured the awesomeness of your trip.   UGH... you guys are killing me with all these posts.  A year and a half ago I decided I wanted to move to Japan for a few years and get some sort of job; JET, ESL, something in my field, whatever.  But I just cant seem to catch a break.  I hope at the very least to be able to afford a trip there sometime in the next year or two.Keep the awesome posts coming!


@LukeHuxham Thanks Luke, it was an eye opener visiting Japan as a Speedhunter, something I look forward to doing more of in the future!


@speedhunters_dino A killer week indeed, I don't know how you do it year after year Dino - my brain would explode!


@SVT_Bryan I'm glad you got a kick out of it! If anything I'd say hang in there, one day your luck will change - in the mean time you can keep coming to Speedhunters to get your fix :)


@ZiadHumayun Lots of killer stuff on the horizon for sure!


@Davide Prata You've gotta do it man!


@tegseeker589 Speedhunters: for addicts, by addicts.


@sean klingelhoefer  @speedhunters_dino i would be absolutely in heaven year after year lol


@roryfjohnston There is such a great sense of pride that people take when it comes to even selecting a vehicle, let alone modifying it. A very unique culture for sure, and one that the rest of the world can definitely take notes from.


@speedhunters_dino  @JDMized Ahh man, missed connection! Maybe next time I can introduce the two of you and take the gloves off ;)


@speedhunters_dino  @Speed_Kiwi I got a family pack to hold me over lol.


@sean klingelhoefer  @tegseeker589 yes sir indeed!!! motivated addict myself :) cant wait to finish up the hatch!!


Awesome post! I really wanna go back to Japan now. This just motivated me to get my school done faster now.




@sean klingelhoefer Thanks.  and Yes, I'll definitely keep sticking around here.


@sean klingelhoefer Look forward to it!


@speedhunters_dino Proud you should be. Tabun...


some much coming soon!!!
when i go to Japan, i wanna hang out with you guys!
Speedhunters should orangise start organising trips! Dino can be our tour guide!!! lol


Your trip to Japan sounded awesome Sean. (Like a new level of awesome).
Now I am way more excited to get to Japan than before.
As you said the passion the Japanese have for the things they like, is very great.
Cool post !!


IT was a GREAT story. Keep it coming


@sean klingelhoefer , do many people in Japan speak decent English? It doesn't seem like it...


No they don't, but they usually speak better English than I do Japanese, so I can't complain.


@jzx81 Ya it was definitely a good time, I always look forward to heading over to Japan, but working with Dino was something else. Hope to go back by the summer when it's not quite so cold lol.


@Nikhil_P While that sounds like an awesome idea, I think Dino's got his work cut out for him as is haha!


you guys rock


I feel terrible for Type One, having that knock off T1R crap completely ruin their reputation simply by having people not knowing the difference between the two, thinking they are the same thing. Parasites of this industry, even knocking off the names of super reputable people.


I don't think anyone confuses T 1R with Type One obviously.


Broken record here...Awesome post Sean, looking forward to the next couple you have promised us!!


Awesome Sean! Can't wait for all the Type One goodness! Make us Honda nerds proud! 
I went to Type One right before they released their S2000 widebody aero and got a sneak peak while I was there, and got to meet all the mechanics and Ichishima-san and his wife. All fantastic people, it really bums me out to see how happy people are to buy replicas in the U.S. and completely take advantage of the hard work the small team at Spoon and Type One put in everyday.
I have been drooling over the Type One blog for years.




Awesome post! So much to look forward to, can't wait!!


haha ew you went to Akihabara on purpose?


@speedhunters_dino  Dino I will say this; you even took a picture of me at TAS (sitting down in front of Nomura Ken's 86) and you even posted that pic!
Jokes asides, there's a bunch of people on here that never went to Japan, so they rely entirely on what you guys write.
Going to Japan and be immersed in the car culture is the ultimate trip for most of them.
This trip was Sean's 4th trip(?)....which he tagged along, he seemed very enthusiastic, not only by the sheer experience, but for the fact that you were a "senpai" and acted as a "tour guide" for lack of words.
You live there, and hopefully speak the language fluently enough to get around just fine.
From experience I can tell that MOST people are a bit intimidated about visiting Japan due to the language barrier, and even if they are not, like Sean mentioned, he wished that he spoke the language so that he could have a conversation with those folks in the industry, and pick their brain.
Whenever I read your posts I can't stop shaking my heads on the fact that you hype things up to no believe. You always try super hard to make things look like out of this world, and it works out just fine since YOU ARE ONE OF THE FEW GAIJIN WHO LIVES IN JAPAN AND REPORTS BACK.
I guarantee you that if more gaijin would live there and do the same job you do, you would have to raise your journalism-standard to keep the audience entertained.
I spent my junior/ high school years in Japan and I visit the country at least twice a year, I grew accustomed to the culture, the history, the nuances, AND the car culture, it doesn't phase me anymore. I love Japan and its people, but I don't go around inflating stories up to those people that never visited the land! You tend to sugar coat things to increase interest/ traffic. I don't get impressed, sorry. (reading stories about driving an R34 with a Tomei exhaust and some Volk rims up the local mountain pass doesn't spice my interest).
On this past trip I ran into a bunch of familiar faces from the US that work in the JDM business walking around in group, scared of getting lost (or together to help each other, LOL).
Speaking the language fluently, I don't have that problem. I GUARANTEE you if more gaijin spoke Japanese, consequently they would understand the culture a bit better; and therefore wouldn't be so surprise about your overly-exagerated stories.
With that said, I have no real desire of saying hi or strike a conversation to you.


Damn. I really missed out on those kebabs didn't I?


@JDMized It's ok Alex, you didn't need to retort with such a long response, I wasn't looking for an answer. You are free to have your own opinion, who am I to stop you. I look forward to your usual hate in future posts ;)


best part would have to be meeting locals that are out there on the touge keeping it real


Wearing that face mask is as Japanese as you can get. The only way you can top that is if you were eating sushi at the same time without taking off the mask.


@sean klingelhoefer  @Speed_Kiwi Yeah i got real dry lips while i was there from the cold air you need lip balm


@Mike Garrett Yep, they were right around the corner lol.


@K's hahaha, ya it's not my part of town, but interesting nonetheless.


@KE20 It was definitely a highlight of the trip for me. Even just watching all the cars making loops and passes through the canyon roads while we were shooting was pretty incredible. It's almost like a free circuit-at-you-own-risk. They place certain static obstacles like lane dividers and these weird bumpy-things but aside from that, the roads are almost unpatrolled. There was everything you could imagine from young kids in tuned Hondas and Nissans to older gentlemen in supercars.


@andrewhake Haha ya it was a lucky break coming in an discovering a new build that happens to be a chassis people care about (not another CR-Z or something). I'm definitely looking forward to sifting through all of this stuff and cultivating some interesting articles from it, hope I don't let you guys down. :)
I agree it is a shame that people don't seem to mind buying lesser product, but it's a fact of life. If Spoon were put out of business by it, then I'd say it's a serious problem, but as is they seem to be alive and doing just fine!


@speedhunters_dino See, I am a very articulated person (unlike you). 
If growing (professionally) is something you're not interested, keep writing for those gullible folks :)


@speedhunters_dino See, I am a very articulated person (unlike you). 
If growing (professionally) is something you're not interested, keep writing for those gullible folks :)


@JDMized  Dino is just another weeaboo. Let him be lol


Lol don't know if anyone else noticed but dope supremexnorthface jacket and wtaps vans I have them both, haha.


Wow. Living the dream in Japan! Need to vist ASAP


great post. And nice WTAPs Vans Sean!


@sean klingelhoefer
Do you know anything about the old black Toyota Crown (?) on the truck at GReddy?  I love the wheels and general appearance of it.


So jealous of your trip.  You did it all it seems like!  Thanks for sharing.


@Tofunator Haha thanks man, good eye!


@Tofunator Haha thanks man, good eye!


@bmw325_num99  @sean I think it's one of either Ueta or Miura's personal beater cars, probably brought it with so they would have something to drive around Tokyo while their cars were stuck in the Messe at Auto Salon.


@bmw325_num99  @sean I think it's one of either Ueta or Miura's personal beater cars, probably brought it with so they would have something to drive around Tokyo while their cars were stuck in the Messe at Auto Salon.


Jesus Christ Sean, this post is packed full of stuff to make me jealous, RWB, SPOON, Tsukuba... and a personal M6 to drive yourself around in! Glad you enjoyed it man, if this kind of stuff ever becomes mundane its time to give it up. Until then though; get some more posts up, I'm hooked!! :D


Woah, this post is absolutely amazing, really makes me wanting to visit japan even more! So jelly, lol. It looks like the new things you can do there can never end and not only automotive orientated, that is. :)


@Robo_No1 ya this was one of those weeks where felt like pinching myself just to make sure it was really happening. I live a very lucky life, that's for sure.


Sean, you know "turning Japanese" means "masturbating," right?


@sean klingelhoefer  @sean Thanks!


As fun as it sounds, seems like you guys covered a whole bunch while you were over there and had to do a lot of hard work as well! Iv already enjoyed a few of the articles you guys have done, keep up the good work!  You guys rock, am dissappointed I wasnt able to grab that vol 1 when it was dropped :(


that why japan cool


@Jdmcolliemane You're absolutely right, it is fun for sure, but it's also definitely work. It's not like we're just there whistling and eating candy.


much intrested now to save up money to go there pretty good shit there is