Tokyo’s New Hotspot: AKB Car-Spotting
Hunt The Streets

Some of the most common questions I get on social media and via email messages are about visiting Japan. These come from car enthusiasts across the world who are planning trips to Japan and are looking for tips about places to see or events to check out while they are there.

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While it’s quite difficult to keep track of events, the good thing is you don’t need to attend a big car meet or race to get a real taste of Japanese car culture. As I’ve said many times before, sometimes you find the coolest stuff just parked up on the street…

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And in my last couple of visits to Japan, there’s been one place which consistently delivers in the car-spotting department: Tokyo’s Akihabara district.

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Even without the cars, Akihabara is one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations thanks to its abundance of electronics stores, maid cafes and other otaku hangout spots.

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But rather than just being Tokyo’s capital of geek culture, Akihabara has also become a gathering spot for modified cars – particularly on weekend evenings.

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During my most recent visit to Tokyo, I ended up staying a short walk from Akihabara, so I’d constantly find myself walking the streets, camera in hand, looking for cool cars in the wild. It’s really one of the best things about traveling to Japan.

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And the machinery encountered during these strolls through Tokyo’s nerd town did not disappoint. From the funky and odd to the just plain cool, the streets of Akiba are ripe for car spotting.

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So with that said, let’s get right to it. Here are some of the most interesting machines I captured in the parking lots, garages and side streets of Akihabara Town…

Itasha Mania
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When you think about Akihabara’s otaku culture mixing with car culture, the first thing that comes to mind is itasha. Aside from organized meets, the streets of Akihabara are likely the best place in the world to see these colorful machines.

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And while this is something I’d never do to one of my own cars, I can certainly appreciate the creativity behind it.

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I can’t say I’d want to drive this colorful Toyota minivan myself, but when you see it parked in its natural habitat you can’t help but grin.

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I also like seeing how the itasha style has spread to all corners of Japan’s car scene. Here for example we’ve got a decked-out version of the VIP favorite Nissan Cima.

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Here’s an S15 with an equally extravagant livery. I’m no anime expert so I can’t recognize this design, but I’m sure someone out there can.

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And now we’ve got the king of Akihabara – a Toyota Alphard fully dressed in Hatsune Miku livery. This van was parked up on the street nearly every night I walked through. It certainly wasn’t hard to miss with its outrageous graphics and LEDs everywhere.

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I’ve always thought the Alphard and Vellfire look a bit like futuristic spaceships, but this is really taking it to another level.

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It’s also interesting to see itasha enthusiasts doing their things to obscure cars like the Sera – the gull-wing coupe that Toyota built in the early 1990s.

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The whole itasha movement is not just limited to four-wheeled vehicles either. I also came across several motorcycles and scooters customized in the same overt style.

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But why decorate your car with anime graphics when you can actually make it look like it came from an anime? Here we have a replica of Keisuke Takahashi’s Red Suns FD3S RX-7 from Initial D.

Hot Rods To Kei Cars
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I know itasha aren’t for everyone, but don’t worry – Akihabara also draws plenty of machines that aren’t covered with anime characters. In fact, some of the coolest cars I’ve ever found in Japan were discovered on the side streets of Akihabara.

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I’ve always dug the P10 chassis Nissan Primera, so it was pleasing to see this tidy example wearing a set of rally lights, mud flaps and some tasteful mesh wheels.

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When it comes to the modern crop of Japanese kei cars, the Honda N One is easily one of the coolest in the bunch. And as shown here, the little wagon looks damn good dropped on some nice wheels.

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If there’s one rule when it comes to car-spotting in Japan it’s expect the unexpected. A TVR Cerbera with a set of RAYS Volk Racing RE30s has got to be one of the most unusual cars I’ve ever encountered on the streets of Tokyo.

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Equally impressive was this Mercedes 500 SEL AMG in full 1980s gangster mode. Absolutely sinister.

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At one point I heard the unmistakeable note of a Subaru boxer engine and turned around just in time to see this Impreza STI roll by wearing a full WRC-style wide body conversion from L’aunsport. This is mythical stuff for Subaru fans.

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And to keep the rally theme going, how about a WRC-style Lancer Evolution wearing a version of Mitsubishi’s Ralliart team livery with some anime elements for good measure. Only in Akihabara.

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The S30 Fairlady Z is about as iconic as Japanese sportscars get, but it’s rare to see the longer 2+2 version of the car – especially one as clean as this. I dig it.

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Mismatched body panels and the sound of a worked SR20DET – it’s not hard to think this 180SX sees its fair share of sideways action.

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Not all the cars you see in Akihabara are of the extravagant variety. This Civic Ferio Si sedan was simple and to the point with a set of TE37s and a few other functional upgrades.

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You know what’s missing from this selection of cars? Some good old fashioned Americana. Oh, nevermind… Check out this beautiful Shoebox Ford I found parked on a side street one night.

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And as cool as the Shoebox was, it pales in comparison to this Ford Roadster I found parked in an Akihabara back alley. I certainly wasn’t the only one stopping to grab some photos of this bare metal finished hot rod.

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So there you have it, just a small taste of the car culture you’ll find on any given night in Tokyo’s otaku paradise. Be sure to check out the Bonus Images chapter below for more Akihabara street sightings.

Mike Garrett
Instagram: japanifornia_media
mike@speedhunters.com

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66 comments

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1

Came for the FD, stayed for the......everything. Never thought Akihabara would be such a good spot for car spotting. I may have to go if I ever get to go to Japan.

2

You took a picture of a builder's van, what on earth gave you the urge to do that?

3

Want moar, best type of post: parking lot spotting or street snaps.

You doin' great job with Car Spotlights etc., but this is so awesome, like watching wild animals. And simply to do it.

I wish there will be more post like that (like "old times")

I bet you got thousands od unused "surprise street snaps" ;)

5
Chris 'Haffy' Hafner

American van in Japan, reverse import you could say. It'll be definitely a rare beast.

6

AEROHUNTER It's a Dajiban. You can't get more American/JDM than that.

8

Great stuff SH!!!! You guys are on fire right now, everything this week has been top shelf!!!

9

Wait till they feature nascar styled vans maybe then he'll understand

10

Ohhh that blue subaru is so refreshing to look at.

11

Yea I need moar. I like the chaser and white gt-r styled er34 with mismatched rims. You guys have all the fun

12
clevernamehere

I didn't think it was possible but your posts are getting better and better, every single time. If you ever leave Speedohuntas I'm sure half the of the readers would go with you...

13

You mentioned something about smiling when seeing itasha in it's natural habitat. This is exactly why if I can ever get my hands on a lamborghini, it's going to have leopard print and 8 other crazy colors/patterns all over it. Lights everywhere. Because that's the type of style where you really don't give a flying fuck what people think, and those people aren't offended. In fact they smile at the damned things.

14

Mike, F 1.2?

15
Chris 'Haffy' Hafner

So it's actually Japanese? Looks alot like a GMC van.
Serious question

16

Chris 'Haffy' Hafner Its an old Dodge van, i.e. "dajiban" haha. One man's trash is another man's treasure.

17
Chris 'Haffy' Hafner

Ahhhhh I do feel a little dumb :)
I'd rock this.........bagged on thrusts! Lol

18

Yes. My body is ready.

19

Chris 'Haffy' Hafner  Did a little googling on it. They seem to favor Watanabes (what else?) on their Dajjibans over there. and it looks awesome.

20

...does the girl in the 3rd picture have lights in her dress?

21

You missed the jackpot, and that is UDX uderground parking lot!  That is where car meetups and photoshoots are at.  I go there a few times a week.

22

For a person who absolutely detests Imprezas, that Blob eye actually looks pretty damn cool. Some weird and wonderful cars present, but the thing that intrigues me most is that Evo 7 in front of the WRC05 replica, what was it rocking? But other than that awesome post

23

PFULMTL yeah you're right speedhunters must go there....there so many things to choose from......than sightseeing in the streets XD

24

MOAR LOVE LIVE ITASHA SPOTTED!!!! IN AN S15 AND A SUZUKI SWIFT XDDD but here's more love live itasha......on an alphard

25

Yea it's a new fad. Or new STD.

26

I love this! I don`t understand the newer bug convertible at the end though...are they rare there?

27

jdizzlemo no but it have Bentley rims

28

Not one but two subies. My faith in SH is restored. TY
And yes, the things I would do for that widebody kit.... you have no idea.

29

Neon skirts, gotta love Japan

30

Many thanks for the car spotting tips, planning a trip to Japan next May, will have to review all the museum articles as well.
That Impreza STI is really impressive and driven by a woman, thumbs up!

31

Great to see this car again! just brought back a ton of memories from when i spent time there back in 2013. Here's a picture of it in 2013 parked in exact same place, similar livery and all.

32

http://sfbay.craigslist.org/eby/cto/5110410202.html
Totally off subject... buy this someone. Please!

33

johnbezt I commend you on your vision.

34

AM81 cool car. Very very rare. But good luck finding parts for it:p

35

Street car spotting is one of the best things about getting out in Japan, both during the day and night. My last time in Hiroshima there was a crew of modern US muscle cars doing laps around the area where Okonomi-mura is, and as much as I'm not into US muscle, let alone modern ones, it was just cool to see a dozen of them all modified and cruising around. There's always plenty to spot over on Odaiba as well, but I can't say I've found Akihabara to be the place.....maybe next time.

Great article, more like this would be great because as someone said, street/carpark spotting pics are some of my favs!

36

Nobuis I'm not sure that the livery is from Touhou but good thing you got the pic

37

They don't spare the bicycles either! Here's an itachari I spotted 
https://flic.kr/p/9WVChJ

38

That Z! 

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Screw your wheel arch gaps, I wanna drive!

39

Here's a few I spotted in AKB myself... Decent spotting area!

40

love the shot of the sti with wrc parts, then the evo with wrc parts.  :)

41

When we went back in 2012, I found Akiba to be the same. I mean, Tokyo at a whole is excellent for car spotting, especially when compared to NYC or Boston, which I am way more familiar with. Ginza wasn't bad either - tons of high end cars in that area. The Japanese love their Porsches and exotics for sure. That said, we went to Akiba 3 times during our stay as my wife and I are anime fans as well as car enthusiasts. That area never disappointed whether we went during the day or night. GTRs, Evos, STis, Silvias, they were all pretty common in the area - plus so many of the oddball cars you don't expect to see as Mike's post hints at. Odaiba wasn't bad either, especially since the Wangan passes right through there and there's a local Super Autobacs located there as well.

42
MarioTetsuyaBautista

Gotta stick to my Japanese Culture.  Bringing itasha style to the United States

43

Pity its not got the full WRC front end as well, but loving the wide arches on the GD Scoob!

44

speedhunters needs to do a proper itasha article one day...

45

tbtstt So much presence!

46

Judau Yep, cool how all the different areas all have their own feel in terms of cars.

47

MrDonut Nice Z31!

48

Spaghetti Thanks!

49

koko san Enjoy!

50

jdizzlemo Dem Bentley wheels tho.

51

PFULMTL Been there many times, actually. Will whip something up next time I'm in the hood. ;)

52

HLB Perhaps...;)

53

Nick. F4 actually. Keepin' it real haha.

54

clevernamehere Haha. Thanks for the support.

55

Matt Khoun Certainly caught my eye!

56

Twitch_6 We try out best. :)

57

@Matiz Noted. :)

58

tunerguy21 Please do!

59

Ahh, you had that ISO cranked up. You had decent light in the darkest shadows.

60

I love Akihabara! Even during my last trip to Tokyo, I probably spent half of my trip at otaku heaven. Pretty much everything that I love is there, hahaha. Also I just wanna add, if anyone wants to spot some cool cars can also visit Akihabara UDX parking (which is not too far away from the Akihabara station, you can't miss it!) These were some photos that I took there... (even though they said no photos were allowed, haha) https://www.facebook.com/muzaffarmusa/media_set?set=a.10152743036159843.1073741857.725604842&type=3
BTW, the character on the S15 is Nico Yazawa from Love Live! I also managed to talk to the owner and apparently his friend (driving the yellow Legacy wagon in my album) owns a sticker shop called "Team" which does a lot of itasha designs for customers. http://team-inkjet.co.jp/

61

In New Zealand I despise what most people do to their old school Benzes, but it's nuts, the W201(?) above looks pretty much similar but is actually nicely done. Weird isn't it? That we can look down on cars in our own region but in different contexts they're cool? Anyway I would never want crazy livery on my car but think it is really nice what they do. Japanese counterpart of low rider custom paint work. I owned a Swift, that one is mad! And OMG, Primera! Lol they're one of the most popular cars amongst thieves in NZ but that one is nicely done. Even if it is missing the rear mudflaps!

62

Mike Garrett oh goodie....I'm looking forward to that sir.......soon :D

63

I spotted that same VW Beetle with the Bentley wheels a couple weeks ago when I was in Tokyo... took a photo in exactly rhe same spot.

64

Sadly, nobody have ARIA itasha.

65

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