I love Japan – I really do. I wouldn’t have spent more than half my life here if I didn’t. But there are some peculiar things about this country which casual observers just wouldn’t understand. Japan can be a curious place that’s full of bizarre surprise. From the sheer differences between Eastern and Western culture, to traditions and the weird things you come across during your day-to-day life. After a while that initial element of surprise slowly fades away; you continue to notice peculiarities, but – just like the locals – no longer give them more than a uninterested glance. Here’s a good example: if I happened to see a middle aged man dressed as a woman and sporting a disturbingly-short mini skirt as he casually awaits his stop on the train, it wouldn’t be anything that would particularly grab me. Live in Tokyo for some years and these sorts of things become frequent occurrences. Cars too, fall into this category. It’s actually come to the point where I just don’t even acknowledge exotics driving by anymore.
There are so many supercars out on the streets of the capital, and with the line of work that I’m in, even modified domestics have began to seem almost normal. Therefore, I can say the element of surprise is somewhat missing in my life. It’s not that I’m jaded, but more a case of being a little spoiled, if that makes any sense.
So I’m very glad that back in August, when I dropped by Rocky Auto to shoot its carbon Hakosuka, we decided to take the half-hour drive up to Watanabe-san’s private garage in the mountain area around his house. Because it was there – just a few kilometers from our destination – that I spotted abandoned Japanese classics scattered randomly across the hilly terrain on each side of the road, an culminating with a sudden high concentration of cars in a wide open space. So once I had finished photographing Watanabe’s garage…
… I just had to take the Lexus IS350 press car I was driving back down the road for a closer look.
It turned out that a long time ago this was a yard where Watanabe-san stored some of his stock. As business picked up he ended up moving his operation to the center of Okazaki city, while this area and the hills around it – which he owns – remained a space to keep cars he no longer needed.
After jumping a little fence I walked down the gravel path where a welcome sense of surprise hit me.
What the hell did I stumble on? But more to the point, ‘What a bloody waste.’
There is no hiding the fact that the sort of work Rocky Auto performs on vintage cars generally requires donor cars to be sacrificed. Engines need to come from somewhere…
… as do transmissions…
… and of course, the occasional body panel too. Over the years Watanabe-san has sourced an incredible number of donor cars – vehicles that were found at junkyards or bought cheaply at auction, like this four-door Skyline.
They have served their purpose and after being gutted they have been left here to rot away.Stuck in limbo
Seeing years’ worth of vegetation growing out of dashboards and engine bays was almost poetic. Once the pride and joys of their owners, they were now stuck here, in limbo, rusting away into nothingness.
I’m sure I’m not alone in seeing the potential in every single car that I noticed sticking out of the tall grass…
… cars like this S30 Fairlady, which wearing bolt-on fender flares and a ducktail rear spoiler, had obviously been someones modified project. The correct offset wheels are long gone, but even with chunks of paint missing, it’s hard not to think, ‘What if.’
Not too far away was this GC10 Skyline 2000GT; that unmistakable Hakosuka front-end instantly striking a cord with any enthusiast…
… despite this being a pretty run-of-the-mill four-door sedan. It was among some of the best condition cars in an eerie place I couldn’t help but baptize, The Kyusha Cemetery.
Nothing a bit of a sand-down and a fresh coat of paint couldn’t fix? Probably not…
Other cars however, didn’t fair too well – like this rolled and very sorry looking KGC10. A shell that could still donate both of its doors perhaps.
Did I say doors?
With cars filling the whole area right up to the…
… thick neighboring forest, I continued my walk.
The element of surprise was reintroduced with pretty much every other glance I took.The element of surprise
There were some slightly more modern cars laid to rest too, like this R30 Skyline sedan.
The one next to it, still proudly displaying its 1984 Nissan 50th Anniversary badge on the grille.
This 280Z was buried in foliage so deep that only a few sections were visible.
In fact, I had to take a bit of a hike in my flip-flops just to get to the front of the car.
This Mazda Savanna RX-3 looked like it hadn’t spent too much time sitting in the same spot…
… and seeing that it was positioned sort in the middle, I think it was probably one of the last cars to be added here. Curious faded light purple body color aside, this thing appeared to be in totally salvageable condition. With a bit of rust here and there and a nice set of Watanabes, it was just begging to be rescued!
… much like the 2JZ-GE or GTE, are some of the most popular engines that Watanabe transplants into the restomod classics that he creates, hence the R32 sedan and this Soarer being some of the other cars I spotted.
If you recall my story on the Rocky Auto secret garage, I did touch on the fact that the Autech version of the R32 sedan is a sought after model for Watanabe-san…
… mainly because it came with a hand-built naturally aspirated version of the RB26 – the RB26DE. Add a nice custom exhaust and a set of velocity stacks into the equation and you have the perfect engine to swap into a ’70s Nissan classic.
Out of all the cars I stumbled across, this one was probably saddest looking – a mid-’60s Datsun Fairlady 2000 that had been cut in half and turned into a place to stack random body parts.
All of this was conjuring up the same exact feelings I had back in 2009 when I came across a few decaying old Skylines up in Tochigi-ken parked in an abandoned gas station.
It’s exciting coming across a sight like this, but at the same time very depressing. Perhaps 20 or 30 years ago nobody really cared about these old cars…
… but now, as the vintage car scenes continues to grow every year, well it’s almost upsetting.
One more for you rotary guys. Gotta love the kaido racer influenced rear spoiler on this SA22.Rust has won the battle
Here is another unique find – a Datsun 410 Bluebird…
… a popular sedan from the mid ’60s that has done a decent job of fighting the unavoidable decay that years of exposure to the elements brings.
Underneath all that rust there is still lots of character from a bygone era.
The next generation of the Bluebird, the 510, was also well represented with this 1600 Deluxe sedan.
However for a lot of the cars there, there is no denying the fact that rust has very much won the battle…
… there is very little that can be done for many of these cars…
… they have literally become part of the environment that surrounds them.
After spending 30 minutes or so wandering around I had to get back to my second photo shoot of the day…
… so I slowly began to retrace my footsteps back to where I came from; quietly leaving these cars in their undisturbed, and likely final, resting place.
So it seems that Japan can still surprise me. My Speedhunting adventures definitely take me to some pretty cool places, but this particular ‘car yard’ is one that I definitely won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
we need to save them !!! how could we just let them sit there and rot away im going to japan just to save at least one of those beautiful cars
haha thats were i picked up my datsun 2008 it was mising the left door and interior but it was the car i was loikng for no my datsun has camberd whells and slamed ASF
This reminds me oh so much of my dads own "stache", except its full of wrecked modern cars, American muscle, and even a B110......
To own all those cars, some still with the potential of a good life. And to just let them fade away with the elements of time. Should it be a wasteful disgrace, or an honorable final resting place. Can't say id argue against being buried amongst the fairladys in the shadow of Japan's skyline....
I see a yellow Nissan Stagea next to the Datsun 410 Bluebird! That is also a classic!! No pics of the Stagea?
I love to go there and save the Mazda Rx3. I love old school rotary cars. That is my dream to get a RHD RX3
Kinda reminds me of my dads farm, except its rotten escorts and old quattros. Ill keep buying lotto tickets.
Well I could show all of you many yards just the same as this here in Japan, if you go to the Tokyo-2u Facebook page you will see many there also. Go to the Tokyo-2u workshop / wrecking yard in Sendai and see 25 x 510's .........
Sweet read. As much as I would have liked to fix up and drive one of these cars. I love seeing pictures like this. Its almost like an art form seeing a bunchof cars that have just been parked for an extended period of time
Wonderful story, and although they are well past their last legs, thank you for placing them on a pedestal which we can call appreciate equally albeit with a tear or 10. Do you know if there is a contact number for Wanatabe-San, That Fairlady must be saved at all costs?
Absolutely breaks my heart to see these wonderful cars in such a state of disrepair... I want to save them all! Interesting story though, nice one Dino.
@datsunsss I'm really glad to see this went down so well with everyone, well not the state the cars are in of course lol
@daskulthomas Now you are talking!!
Dino I never got this. Can you please explain
"happened to see a middle aged man dressed as a woman and sporting a disturbingly-short mini skirt as he casually awaits his stop on the train, it wouldn’t be anything that would particularly grab me"
Why is this normal in Japan?
Btw great story
@reno808 Because it happens so damn often in Tokyo! Get close to "strange" neighbourhoods like Akihabara and the freak count shoots up. I keep seeing so many old dudes dressed as girls...must be a popular thing these days lol
U can bury me there. I want that autech r32 shell... N the shark nose z? Is the a place where they keep zombie drift missiles? N Dino u been holding out on us since august?? :P
@d_rav Haha yes, the delays of life
It always makes me sad to see stuff like this. I understand the point that not every car might be used forever, but i see a lot of parts there that could be sold for great money and i've been looking for a car like the Savanna RX-3 for forever so i wonder why noone in japan ever searches for cars like these, buy's and sells them. this sound's like a great business idea for me. Buy cheap abandonned cars, part them out or if they're restoration worthy restore them or sell them as projects.
I hate the fact that people like me have to search complete classics or a lot of rare parts for their japanese J-tin, just to see the cars and parts scattered around any abandonned backyard or a random field in japan. too sad.
Great article but this pretty much describes how I feel now. Such a shame to see some of those cars rotting away like that, particularly the RX's and the S30 (and the Autech), but I guess donor parts have to come from somewhere...
It is sad to a degree but if there were no donor /parts cars there would be even less shining examples of things like the cars rocky auto produces. It enables them show the world how awesome all of these vintage cars are and recieve the exposure they truly need to keep the good examples on the road and driving.Sure here in NA we all cry tears and what not seeing those kind of things but I'm sure there are plenty of people in japan that if they took a walk around a sun bleached junkyard in AZ or somewhere comparable they would see fields of old gm mopar and ford products and think just the same of us.We all want what we don't have right?
This breaks my heart to see such beautiful, and even some rare cars just left to rot like this. :( I wanna pick them all up, and just rebuild all of them to their former glory.
Hate things like this, it makes me want a ton of money and time to fix up all of the cars that are fixable!
@MarcKelsey I'm sure they would
Nothing worse then old cars sitting in a field.Its actually quite irresponsible aswell.The fuilds can leech into the soil and pollute the groundwater which may be used for drinking water.
You wouldnt dump your old computer in a field so why should you do it with a car ??.
@JDMDONG Wouldn't it be the same way with every junk yard on earth?
Amazing post Dino. A great find and some amazing photos! An awful shame to see the cars decaying but I guess that's just the other side of the vintage scene.
@MilesHayler Thanks :)
I love going to junk yards. Yes, it sucks at times to see cars rusting away but there is something about them just being there. Makes me want to grab my Pentax and head to the local backwoods junk yards.
I certainly would've found myself in tears. As inevitable as it as to do this to some of the less fortunate cars to give life to others, it would be overwhelming to be surrounded by so many cars with so much soul laid to rest.
Id like to see more of that 280zx with the spoiler hiding next to the van. http://www.speedhunters.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Kyusha-Cemetery-17-800x533.jpg
@DavidKarey That was a bit hard to get too...