Through My Lens: Tokyo Speedhunting
Rough World

In reality, Speedhunters has only just scratched the surface of Japanese car culture. With Dino taking point and Mike and I helping out every now and then, we search far and wide all over the Land of the Rising Sun for the hidden shops and ground-breaking garage builds. You just never know what you will find when you are hunting for speed in Japan.

While I travel to Japan every year, I’ve missed out on the Tokyo Auto Salon for nine years running. So this year I figured it was time for me to go back and check out first-hand how the iconic tuning event has evolved. But that’s not all I did though…


As soon as I arrived in Tokyo I hit the ground running and immediately met up with Dino. Our first stop was the RAUH-Welt meet at the Hard Rock Cafe.


Right away I recognized some of the more famous RWB cars, as well as some personalities, like Mark Arcenal from Fatlace. Did you guys know that he designed the Speedhunters logo?


Apart from the time Dino and I raced in the 12 Hours of Motegi, I had never seen so many RAUH-Welt machines in one place.


It was really neat to see Speedhunters stickers on RWB cars that I had personally never seen before as well.


A few narrow body cars even came out to join in the fun.


As the Porsche movement continues to grow, RAUH-Welt is only getting bigger. Although, because of guys like Nakai-san and Magnus Walker, air-cooled machines like this 993 are nearly impossible to find in North America now – or at least for a decent price.


While it’s easy for many people to knock these guys for cutting up the bodywork on 911s, in my eyes, by doing so the cars have become something greater. Not only does it add value, it’s evident that these repurposed Porsches are actually being used.


At the end of the day that is what Porsche ownership is about – actually using the cars on the street and enjoying them. That’s what every RWB owner does, because it’s what Nakai-san preaches.


As airplane food leaves a lot to be desired, the long flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo left me starving. So after the RWB meet Dino took me to one of his favorite local burger joints. Trust me when I say that I always have my fair share of authentic Japanese food when I’m in town, so one burger doesn’t hurt, right?

Tokyo Drift

After dinner our next stop was a car meet held inside a large parking structure in an Odaiba shopping center.


It was already very busy when we arrived, so I knew it was going to be something special. Most people arrived by car; some came by taxi, but this guy rode a very interesting motorcycle on air ride.


As we were walking in, the unmistakable sound of a 4-rotor pulled up to the entrance. It was an FD3S Mazda RX-7 powered by a 26B. Just your everyday Tokyo street car…


There was a security guard/ticket attendant who was letting people in and raising the gate for them. He didn’t seem to mind the sudden wave of highly modified cars.


As we walked deeper into the parking complex I could not stop hearing the Teriyaki Boys song in my head. It was like we had walked onto the set of The Fast And The Furious.


People were all lined up as the cars pulled in, and some of drivers actually gave it a bit of stick and drifted around the tight corners.


I just could not believe how many people had shown up to this meet. Even crazier, half of them seemed to be foreigners. With all the conversations in English going on, for a moment it felt like I was back in Los Angeles.


As Dino and I explored, we soon caught up with the 4-rotor FD3S and its owner who was revving the custom-built engine for the assembled crowd.


Underneath the hood is a 600 horsepower beast of a motor that revs out to 10,000rpm. It didn’t sound anywhere near as loud as Mad Mike’s drift car, but this car runs a proper street exhaust system of course.


The actual structure was only two levels, but it was massive compared to anything I have seen in Japan before.


There were definitely some Auto Salon worthy builds among the crowd of cars too.


There were also a few American cars and trucks scattered throughout, including this GMC pickup on air bags.


Who let that Chrysler sneak into ‘Skyline Only’ parking?


Of course, being Japan there was no shortage of extravagant builds. Who needs a contact patch anyway, right?


So many of these builds had their own personal style, whether it just be the type of car, a certain accessory or accent, or sometimes just outright weirdness.


There were some interesting characters in the mix as well. Who knows, maybe some of their work is more in the ‘grey area’ as this man put it.


Everywhere I looked there were clean builds, which was great as Dino and I had actually headed here with the hopes of making a few new connections and lining up some cars to shoot for full features.


Some guys even brought along their full-on drift cars. It’s amazing what you can get away with in this country.


Vertical doors anyone? There seemed to be a type of build for every taste at this meet.


I don’t think I have ever seen a Mitsubishi 3000GT this clean in North America – they all seem to be wrecked or beaten on quite badly.


While I know these type of pre-TAS meets don’t accurately represent Japanese tuning culture, I could still appreciate the type of cars that had been driven on the street to attend. I definitely hadn’t been to anything like it before, either.

Hot Auto Salon Nights

While the Tokyo Auto Salon was cool, I found myself being constantly elbowed in the face by guys who had just turned up to shoot the girls. It was quite hard to battle with then, as I was there for the cars, and they were their for personal reasons. You can check out more TAS 2015 show coverage here.


Dino actually touched on this in his post, but you can’t knock these guys for being creative. Check out the rig that has four cameras on one tripod for catching every moment. I see that Japanese triple redundancy backup coming into play here, but only the best for the most important of footage, right?


While the Tokyo Auto Salon was awesome, what I was really looking forward to was our Speedhunting sessions after the show.


The Italian Speedhunter living in Japan tells me how lucky I am everytime I see him, because shooting cars in Japan is tough.


Because of the issue of physical space, the language barrier and Japanese business etiquette, I agree with him, but Dino often forgets that Japan has some of the coolest cars in the world. Plus, we know you guys can’t get enough of our Japanese content.


In between a non-stop shooting regime that saw us come away with 40 stories in the bag, Dino finally took me for a ride in his Bayside Blue R34 Skyline GT-R.


After which the proper Italian thing to do was to grab some espresso and drink it outside while the cool cars of Tokyo drove by.

Tatsumi PA

While Daikoku PA is a great place to go, every time I venture to Japan I always find myself there. This time I really wanted to go to Tatsumi PA. It’s much smaller, but it’s one of the coolest places I have ever visited as a Speedhunter.


Exotic cars come and go all throughout the evening, so you just have to sit there and wait. In the distance you’ll hear the exhaust note of something expensive, which will get louder and louder and eventually pull into Tatsumi.


If you drive something fast and expensive, you bring it here to play with others.


This is where Japanese business men with a lot of money come to unwind after a hard day at work.


Of course, there are the younger generation tuners and car nuts as well. All sorts of cars come through, and how you enter and exit is a statement in itself.


Some guys like to roll in slow, park up and enjoy a hot coffee and conversation with friends.


Others only come here to find someone to race. You can usually tell if that’s the intent as those cars will often have their front license plate removed.


I’d say about 90 per cent of people who leave Tatsumi PA put pedal to the metal; shifting at redline and letting the exhaust note sing through the crisp winter air.


You can tell which guys like to push it by mentally timing how long it takes them to make the loop: Route 9 onto C1 then back on the Wangan, which is exactly 17.5km.


Sometimes it only seems like a blink of an eye between a car leaving and the owner being back and sipping on coffee again. In that case you know they went really hard.


It’s fun to watch the interaction, as some owners will wait for others to go before they go. Once a driver takes the lead, many people will follow.


Even one of Nakai-san’s RWB creations showed up for a piece of the action. To finish off our night we knew we had to pay a visit to Daikoku PA though.


With a mini Speedhunter in tow, we arrived at the famous rest stop to see what automotive treats it had to offer.


On this trip to Japan my main focus was to pick up as many car features as I could. Daikoku rarely disappoints, and scouting this parking lot is the easiest way to find something unexpected.


I ended up featuring this really awesome VW bug, which Mike posted about earlier in the week. The paint was unbelievable, and the style was like something I’d expect to find in Southern California. It was just beautiful.


Besides Dino’s R34, for getting around we had a loan of the ultimate Japanese lens mule: the all-new Lexus RC F.


Expect a full drive feature from the the streets of Tokyo soon. Yes, we did drive it straight through the heart of Akihabara. No, we did not check-in to any love hotels.


While in Japan I also had the chance to check out some grassroots drifting – my first time doing so in the motherland. We went to Nikko Circuit and I was amazed at how many cars showed up for this event.


As someone who works within the drift scene, it really amazes me to see how much people think they know about drifting when they have never actually traveled to the place where the sport originated from.


These guys were having real fun, and guess what – they didn’t need much more than 100 horsepower to slide around and make it look awesome.


What’s more fun than being able to keep your foot to the floor and using momentum to drift. Kid approved apparently!


Do you recognize the lead car here? I featured it last year, for its simple street drift style.


That said, Dino and I each picked up three features from this single event alone. Dino kicked them off last month with a look at a cool, carbureted Levin.


One of the last things that we did before I left was to pay a visit to Daigo Saito’s new man cave and check out his 2015 Formula Drift R35 GT-R drift car build.


While I still have difficulty with the language barrier, Japan is not so foreign to me any more. For you true Speedhunters out there, it should not be either. Now more than ever it’s easy to save up your pennies and make a trip out to the Land of the Rising Sun. That is exactly what I did many years ago, armed with my very first DSLR, a kit lens, 256MB memory card, and an undying passion for cars. So what are you waiting for?

Larry Chen
Instagram: larry_chen_foto



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Great stuff - like you, I went to TAS for a stretch (2002-2005) and then stopped going due to misc. reasons.  I still visit Japan regularly and will definitely be doing more "speedhunting" this year!  I love how you can find amazing cars (in so many different styles) wherever you go.


20B RX-7 needs a feature! 

I been wondering about that car for awhile


Love this to bits.

I'll be over again this summer! Wish I could drive around my own 32 over there.


You guys really have no equal when it comes to coverage, excellent job again.


Please tell me you are going to feature that orange KP6- Starlet!I haven't seen a single one being featured here and it makes me sad.I can understand that one of the reasons is that it's overshadowed by the Hachi,but these little pocket rockets are amazing cars!!


Frozzy why this car (i have seen also others cars too) have the red strip in the licence plate?


Great article guys.
It almost felt I was there alongside you....almost.


Hi Speedhunters,

thanks for all your articles, it really brightens my days especially when it comes to automotive culture in France !!

I'm going to hometown Tokyo on the 2nd of March until the 16th, but I haven't been there in 12 years, could you possibly let me know of a couple of solid car meets in the Tokyo aera please?

Domo aligato!


@Nuno Frozzy I've read somewhere that it's a temporary plate so that it can be used on the road. It's not really registered. I found this link:


I lost it when I saw the orange Supra --- Plus I love them Supras and I love the movie. LOL! Awesome stuff! :D


Nice coverage. I was also at the RWB and Super Street meets.


Awesome photos and writeup Larry!


This story was so long.

But it still wasn't long enough. I can never get enough of Japanese culture. And while Dino does an amazing job, I don't think it'll ever fully be covered. That blows my mind. And then there's Europe, and England, US, even Mexico has some amazing stuff. Cars are awesome, I guess that's where I was going.


when I die I hope I come back a rich business man in Japan !


RULING post Larry, thank you!!


someone please tell me what the red car is in the 6th picture from the bottom. number 75


So much love for Japanese car culture!


Larry, I'm curious what kind of lens/aperture/shutter speed/iso you are shooting at for the night shots? They have such a wide dynamic range! I know you were probably switching lenses and all that depending on the shot but I'm curious, on average, what your night time shots are set up like?


That orange Starlet is looking gooooood!


simply had to play teriyaki boyz while reading through the second chapter, it just looked like in Tokyo Drift haha
Awesome job you've done, as always, and please tell me you shot a feature of this The Fast and The Furious style Supra, would love to see what exactly this build is about!


Great article. 40 stories from Japan? Can't wait to see what you have found


Great article and pictures....256MB memory card long time ago! :)


Japan is the heaven of modified cars!


I'm in Japan in around 2 months and I can't WAIT! Can anyone tell me if either Daikoku or Tatsumi PA's are accessible by any other way but car? I'm largely confined to walking or trains and heard taxis can be pretty pricey but I would love to hit up either of these spots in my time there...


That 26b FD....feature please!!!!!!!


The Japanese PAs are calling my name.  Remind me of the big parking lots we meet up at right off of our pretty nice highway system here... except for on the ultimate extreme level!  Do you have ANY more pictures of the 512 M?  First pic, Chapter 4, Tatsumi PA?   Looks like possibly a Koenigg car or something?  I have a soft spot for 512Ms for personal reasons and I NEED more pictures of that one!!!




Can't wait till I finish college so that I can visit Japan and see some of these amazing cars... You should keep the ce28n's on your car forever Dino!


I second the comment below on a feature on the 4 rotor RX-7 please! Would love more details on the build.


this is the kind of posts, that i love from speedhunters.


paablob hoy justo miraba un mini documental hecho por GoPro sobre los bosozoku. Nada que ver con esto :p


@Zayne that'd be a toyota cressida


Dino looks like a GIANT :D


hope there's an upcoming feature on that cool bike :)


OH GOSH! this post is amazing, love the history, thanks for sharing more about the speedhunters magic !


THANK YOU for this article, Dino and Larry! Japanese car culture at its best: parking area meets, grassroots drifting....Hell, that´s exactly the stuff, why I began to read here on Speedhunters!


Is Tatsumi PA accessible using public train transport? As in I stop at Tatsumi station then walk about 10 minutes or so as per Google maps result showing?


its crazy to think that I went to 3 events that was being mentioned in this post! Was kinda glad I finally get to go to Japan and do things that I was only able to dream of doing, but yeah... for those who never went to Japan yet, I really do say it was totally worth it. Even though I got to stay there for a whole month, but to be honest... its never gonna be enough. (and I was only in Tokyo, still have yet to venture out to the other prefectures yet!) Also glad I managed to meet up with both Dino and Larry during the RWB meet, and even when I didn't get talk all that much or met you guys again after that, but glad I to know I was out there doing pretty much the same thing as you guys did! (albeit only on a personal level) To be honest even when I was only in Tokyo there was just too many events to cover. On the same day when you guys went to Nikko Circuit there was also Battle Evome at Tsukuba on the same day, but in the end I decided to stay in Akihabara for some rave party.
Haha, I'm sure Dino might be surprised to see this being posted. ;) (The Speedhunters being the Speedhunted!) Anyway, I still haven't finished uploading the photos from my trip yet, but hopefully I can finish uploading all the photos when I have some free time. (just been real busy with work after I came back, and also having my personal car project going on at the moment) Hope to see you guys again in Malaysia too someday, there are certainly a lot of gems here which just needs to be featured on this site!


Brett Allen as far as I know, both places need to be taken by car, especially Tatsumi! I heard you can take a bus to Daikoku but the bus doesn't really stop there but rather only as a rest area. If you go off there you either have to take a taxi or hitchhike back. (sadly I didn't get to go to Daikoku during my trip) However if you want to do some car hunting I can recommend going to the Akihabara UDX parking. You can certainly see a lot of cool cars there and best part its too too far from the Akihabara train station!


Great work (as usual)  Larry and Dino.  But as much as I love your work done throughout the Kantō, Omote (Chūbu) Kansai, and Chūgoku regions, it would really be enlightening to bring Northern Japan into the limelight.  Let's see more from Tōhoku and Hokkaidō, especially during autumn and winter.  Let's see Dino's R34 in action up North hammering Rte.339 Dragon Night Line  龍泊ライン Cape Tappi out on Aomori's Tsugaru peninsula or exploring Sapporo's nocturnal street drift scene mid-winter before retiring to Susukino's Ramen Yokocho ラーメン横丁 for an authentic bowl of Miso Ramen.  Do I hear . . roadtrip?


@Yik Han I've already asked this once before, and was told you can only get to it by car.


Can't wait to get back to car things planned this time, but I'm sure more than a few will creep their way into the trip. Great coverage as always!!!


Please cover the Itasha scene over there!


ANKRacing me too.........


Can't wait to see the article on that Evo 9 Wagon I see Dino hunting in this article!
Great stuff Larry!


FUCKING BRILLIANT ARTICLE LARRY! It's stuff like this that makes me want to live in Japan.


smithadamb Coming up pretty soon :)


t5endorphin I'm really planning a trip to Hokkaido once the snow melts :)


Muzaffar Musa Speedhunters Haha you spotted us!


SonnyNguyen In Japan I am! Pretty normal elsewhere lol


@BlueCrysis It's coming ;)


Japanese-Based-Speedhunters - Maybe you can track down one of the last Racing Honda City Turbo II's? apparently it's lurking in Japan somewhere...last spotted 2001..


Feature on yellow bike peeeezz!!


TheDude69 NO


Anyone know the colour/color blue name used on the RE Amemiya RX7 ?

Give Us Our Wagons

Read this with Teriyaki Boyz on in the background! Great read, also must ask where are all the wagon features, there hasn't been one so far!


Great read as usual. I'm huuuge into cars, building something nice for myself. Do You think It's worth visiting Japan especially to see cars, and some nice events. I've never been there and I think It would be difficult to see something really interesting without any contacts in Japan. Thanks for replies


The whole car scene in Japan looks like a big movie scene. it's like living a script and you are the star!


All the times I've been in Tokyo, and I've never caught a good PA meet. I'll be back around Golden Week. Any tips?


Hey Dino/Larry, found this Very cool Japanese City Turbo II site, Are there any leads in here as to the current whereabouts of any of these cars over there in Japan? Be a Great Speedhunters Story tracking these cars/owners Down ay :)


Yeeeeeeah I wanna see more from these guys!  -  - Go find em' Dino!


jhnosko I was using my 85 f/1.2 and 35 f/1.4, There was very little available light so I was shooting pretty slow, mostly around 30th of a second or slower to keep my ISO down as low as possible.


Nice to see some "Y" number cars making the trip to Odaiba from Yokota. Dino, if you could only have been in Tokyo during the bubble. The meets are awesome now, but during the bubble you had folks like HKS and Trust showing up with their test mules and too much else to mention.


milkplus TheDude69


We went to Japan in late 2012 and while we only did one actual "car event" (the JAF Sprint Race at Fuji), I had my head on a swivel the entire two weeks. The number of awesome cars I saw there was absolutely incredible. We were on a private tour walking through the outskirts of Kyoto and I found myself staring at a super clean Kenmeri GTR (or replica) in a random residential parking lot. We were on a bus tour near Hakone and I saw a bright yellow R34 GTR and white R32 GTR blasting up an on ramp. We were walking around Ikaho at the foothills of Mount Haruna (Mount Akina to those Initial D followers) and I saw what looked like a full time attack ready S2000 ease on to the gas at the bottom of the hill just to hear it screaming all the way up. I cannot wait to go back and thank you Larry for this post - it brings back great memories!


I love the Japanese carmaker. love it
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Is there any place to find out about these meets and shows, when and where they're on etc? I'll be in the Tokyo area from 17-31st of May.