A Bigger & Better Liberty Walk
Positivity Is The Key To Success

If I had to name the single best aspect of the Japanese car scene, it would have to be that nobody judges. I’ve touched on this before in some of my stories, but I can’t help returning to it every once in a while.

Having just spent some time stateside for SEMA, I was left really overwhelmed by the sheer size of the US aftermarket scene. What let it down for me though was how quickly people make snappy judgements and the automatic discrimination that comes from it. But what’s it all for? Is it all really needed? Why can’t people be left free to do what they like without someone calling them out for some reason or another?

If it wasn’t for the opposite mentality being the norm in Japan, many JDM styles would have never been born. That’s a fact. It’s exactly why guys like Kato-san at Liberty Walk are given space to thrive; they concentrate on developing a style, do what they like and in the process have a ton of fun.


There is a lesson we can all learn here, one that I am exposed to every time I visit Liberty Walk HQ just outside of Nagoya. And whenever I’m in the area I do try to stop by as there is always cool stuff to see, new projects in the making and the company’s most well-known cars on display.


Plus, it’s always cool to meet up with Kato and have a chat about what he has coming up for the year ahead. And trust me, his 2017 Tokyo Auto Salon line-up will be sure to shock as he dives even deeper into the yankee and bosozoku cultures he continues to draw inspiration from.


The first port of call for this visit was the garage building where cars are stored after they get built – Liberty Walk’s paint and body shop 20 or so minute’s drive away.


Inside the showroom there’s a huge amount of memorabilia to check out; it’s got that epic mancave feel about it that you get in many Japanese shops, TRA Kyoto and RWB included.


Included in Kato-san’s eclectic collection are plastic models of his most famous shakotan builds, all available to purchase.


If building model cars yourself seems a tad tedious there are plenty of diecasts available too, each in a variety of scales and all perfectly replicating the looks of the real Liberty Walk creations.

The Cars That Make LBW

I don’t know about you, but I do prefer the real thing, so I had to step outside to see what selection of cars were present on this particular day. I was intrigued by the presence of a brand spanking new 488 GTB. Of course, it’s hard not to draw certain conclusions, but I was told it’s owned by a customer (who owns another car), who just dropped by for a visit. Needless to say, the 488 will eventually get over-fenders – it’s just a matter of time.


If you don’t like that, there isn’t much Kato can help you with. He’s someone who is surfing a wave of passion and positivity, he’s in a position to do what he likes and draws much enjoyment from it. Negative opinions don’t even register on his radar and that is an awesome approach if you ask me.


Kato-san’s collection and taste in cars is pretty diverse, the only real common factor that links them is the need to make a statement.


For me, the Kenmeri he built in collaboration with Mizuno Works in 2014 remains his greatest creation. It’s the perfect expression of a shakotan car done right, and because of this it has an inimitable presence.


The greatest part of it all is that it’s not only for looks – it has substance too. That’s thanks to a fully-built, stroked L28 capable of delivering over 100 horsepower per liter.


The brown butaketsu Laurel is something else as well.


Then of course there are the Ferraris. Following this shop tour, stay tuned for a full feature on the F430 that LBW built and shipped over to the US for SEMA last month…

Growing The Brand

There have been some changes at the LBW HQ over the last months, and some of those things were obvious as soon as I arrived.


For starters, the main shop area, which usually has a selection of demo cars for sale lined up in front of it, has been completely renovated.


As with any recognized and loved brand, a move into merchandise is always an obvious progression. And while Kato has been creating and selling LBW t-shirts and other products for years, he thought it was about time to step it up a notch or 10.


And that’s where the more boutique-oriented feel for the HQ’s shop came from. While I was there, the staff were busy putting the final touches to the displays ahead of the official opening.


The other side of the building still houses the main reception and office area, and has been decked out with couches for when customers drop by to meet and discuss future projects.


The real new addition is right next to the main building, and here Kato hasn’t taken any shortcuts in creating the coolest chill-out area I’ve ever seen at a Japanese tuner shop.

Of course, there is always some cool metal on display to entice passers-by to stop and come in for a look.


The decor of the new cafe area of LBW couldn’t possibly be a better reflection of Kato’s character. It’s bright and full of energy, a real welcoming place to sit and have a coffee in.


And the little bar/cafe area churns out some damn good food too!

Never at any time are you not aware that you’re at LBW.


Some of the company’s products are also on display, like the ultimate bossman desk which comes with the entire front end of an over-fender-equipped Lamborghini Aventador grafted onto it.


There’s also a patio area where smokers can step out to, but in the more pleasant spring and autumn seasons it’s also the perfect place to sit down and relax while your car is getting slammed.


The decor also includes a vintage jukebox…


And taking center-stage, the biggest scale model that LBW currently sells, with a price tag as massive as the car’s size.


Passion, hard work and the unrelenting drive to move forward is what’s collectively made Liberty Walk so successful. Kato-san makes dreams come true for people who really want to stand out from the crowd, and in the process he’s started a bit of a movement. It’s amazing what positivity can do. I think we could all learn something from Kato’s approach.

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: speedhunters_dino



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While other people try to be cool he's just trying to be Kato-san. Not a bad plan.


Extravaganza - "marked by extreme freedom of style". Absolutely amazing


Panton, le corbusier, Teal-green juke box...... one of these is not like the others.   I would stop by here just for the interesting interior design.


I'm disappointed on the lack of Prius . :(


Wow, that model of the 458 has even better angles and proportions than the real car.


zapsnyder Exactly. You don't see Liberty Walk posting all up on instagram and twitter and facebook fishing for likes and views and subscribes and votes and a feature and what not, unlike almost everyone on this side of the pond.


My friend Natty-Stan managed to buy a set of over fenders for his maxima working only a few hours a week online (and some black bathroom sealant...) http://www.plasticstickonbonanza.com/rice


There are some strange comments popping up already..seems like people love to troll any article having to do with Liberty Walk, Rocket Bunny and Rauh-Welt.


Dino, while I totally hear you on the crap-talking of the American scene, I would like to point out that here in US and in Europe, I feel people do not have the otaku-ness, or maybe attention to detail that the Japanese put to their cars (OK, except for engine bay details). So when you go to a SEMA or car meet or show, you see a lot more half-assed builds. Cars with $100k in the body kit yet a dirty stock engine...baller paint and wheels but masking deathtrap suspension and cheap interior crap...we see it so much here. From what I see at American meets, you got 100 cars...5 are dope AF, 20 are pretty good, 60 are I/E/H, and the last 15 are deathwishes that probably shouldn't be on the road. There's a lot to talk shit about, especially when most of the lower-tier car owners are trying to act like their cars are in that top 5. It's a joke. It's typical USA bullshit. Why do something 100% when you can put in 5% effort and fake the rest with attitude?  That's why our aftermarket is full of cheap chintzy Auto-Zone chromed plastic shit. 

Trust me, I wish we would stop buying the cheap gaudy shit. It's shameful.

Meanwhile, props to Kato-san for getting a place that reflects how successful he's been. My hat is off to him.


JH4DC321 zapsnyder And that is what I think generates the hate. It's the people who do stuff to get E-famous/fully-sick-man comments that annoy the hell out of me. The guys/girls that just fit parts because they're cool, like the idiot civic drivers that fit quick release steering wheels, then crash because they drive down a freeway while holding the steering wheel out of the window....


That is a seriously nice building. Doesn't look like the kind of place you'd even take your car to get worked on. Haha. Oh, and Dino, any more pics of the LW Mini's? I don't think I've seen those cars on SH before.


Each Libertywalk creation lovingly says the following:

"Imagine all the people living life in peace"

To which I urge all SH writers to:


Not every article has to be defensive and regurgitation of perceived internet/scene/social media "hate"


Who the F cares if people express a negative opinion about a style of car. It's the owner's happiness that rules


I want to see more inspirational stories here. Less "lessons". More cars

Japan and every shop/tuner based there is on my bucket list to visit because of the articles that used to be written here.


D1RGE The cheap chintzy shit and poorly built cars you speak of exist in Japan too....you only have to go to a few shows to see that. There are probably less of them compared to the quality stuff, but they exist there too. I guess it just comes down to them not hating on anyone, top notch build or povo spec crap.


zapsnyder Exactly! Lesson of the day, be yourself!


AceAndrew2 Definitely interesting!


RDS Yeah seems he got rid of them...


356A LOL, good try


Nickgenerazio32 Yeah and all of them just couldn't care less :)


Wonder what happened to the 326 Power GT86, it was parked outside the shop a few weeks or a couple of months ago, can't remember clearly


Spaghetti D1RGE Yeah I have to say, that exists in Japan too. In fact it's always been something I've struggled with over the years, people not putting due effort in some areas of their cars but concentrating on one thing only. But sometimes it's ok, a shitty drift car may have a crappy interior and have all the money spent on suspension, diff and engine mods to make it drift properly as well as the body to look good - and that's fine. It's the respected tuners that get me, they drop a ton of investment into a lot of nice upgrades but cheap out on other details that just end up making the whole car look half arsed. It's improved a lot over the years though...


Automotive obsession1 Nice slide show of pictures that you have obviously taken yourself. NOT!


Mitsuru At Liberty?


3nigm4 I've never shot any of them now that you mention. Might have to next time I'm over :)


This place is unbelievable! On my bucket list along with Rocky auto. DAMN!!!!


speedhunters_dino Automotive obsession1 He did put some links in the description.


Looks like the Kenmeri is still running fuseable links! keeping it old school.


RickKowalski Rocky Auto isn't too far away


niZmO_Man speedhunters_dino Automotive obsession1 I didn't watch that far lol


I was hoping he slapped some widebody kits on it , or do the same thing on new Prius , haha


I think the problem is in the western world where bandwagons are created and things get done to death, that is why ppl grow tired of seeing for example, yet another wide over-fender fitted GTR, Aventador or 458...

You de eventually grow to appreciate the work that people have put into a car whatever it may be! My passion since young had always been 70s Japanese cars and still is a passion of mine but I have noticed that with age I have started to like different styles and type of cars, even if something is not my cup of tea (not that I drink any of that stuff), I still like to admire the effort put in.


Waltizzle Well that's at - or should be - at the base of everything. Try to appreciate, and if you don't have anything nice to say move along.


I give the joke a....


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I would be more a fan if he didn't do pretty much the same thing to each car. 
"Hey wow take expensive car, fit riveted overfenders, slam it and call it a day. Ground breaking!"

But its his customers and not mine.


RDS +1!


Dino is touching here on something that became blatantly obvious when visiting Japan for the first time.

People there are raised to be polite and courteous. Even the language is built around different levels of politeness that does not exist in most languages. 

This mentality of respect and encouragement for one another in Japan is the reason why it has the most vibrant and exciting car culture in the world. It's because the creators of these styles and trends are free from judgement.

If they don't have anything positive to say they will keep it to themselves.

Unlike European and American kids that are taught to be criticizing douchebags from early on, to be opinionated and mostly to represent the views of the ones raising them. Essentially a cockblock for progress.

Thankfully Japan doesn't care about these people.


Thank you for this, its a real pleasure to read and look at.


The new additions look so good! Cant get any better than doing what you love and getting mad success from it. The new spot looks so awesome. Cannot wait to visit!


econti Have you considered that maybe he does "the same thing" to each car because that's what he actually likes doing? As opposed to adding mods for the sake of mods, or for the sake of pleasing others....?


I admire everything about Japanese car culture, their attitude, their appreciation and their acceptance. I just wish we in the western world would learn from them, people outside of Japan and much of the orient are just too judgemental! It echoes in everything, from cars to music, clothes to lifestyles, it just frustrates the crap out of me. Sure, I have done it, I'm not totally innocent but certainly the more I dive into the car scene the more I love other peoples approaches to what they do with their cars. If you wanna talk about liberty walk doing the same thing time and again, lower it, bolt some overfenders on and whack a massive wing on the back job done, then take a quick look elsewhere, as I think you will find there are general trends that most corners of the car scene follow. LB have a recipe that works for them and people love it, if you dont I suggest you look elsewhere for your idea of automotive heaven, just leave em to do their thing.

Anyway, moving on, thanks Dino, this article gets the thumbs up from me. You can post one on this subject weekly as eventually people might actually drop their single minded approach and start to appreciate what others do. Even if they wouldn't do it to their own car.

That shop and cafe look amazing!! Nearest thing we have to that over here is the Ace Cafe in London, but that is a seriously cool hangout spot for car lovers, seeeeeeee embrace the culture. Oh how I wish it was done like that over here...... *sobs*


I think what appeals to me most is how much Kato-san believes in his own brand and vision. As mentioned in the feature and in numerous comments below, he really seems to enjoy what he does, and that is one of the foremost qualifiers of 'cool' in my estimation.
I have heard through a reliable grapevine that he is not the easiest guy to work with on the assembly side of things, but I suppose there is something to be said about celestial standards. Definitely rather that than some bozo who just rushes projects out the door for scene points.


cynicalyricist econti True. Kato does specialize in body mods and the look of the car. You can send it to a different tuner if you want engine work. He takes care of the outside. I've never thought less of his work because he doesn't do everything else. He is at the top of his game at what he does. Why the hell does he need to step off into other areas that maybe dont interest him, or that other shops do so much better?


TurboHippie You are right there, we certainly need to think about this sort of thing a bit more often. Thanks for the feedback you and everyone else has brought to this post!


AlexGut A cockblock for progress. There you go, can't be put any better than that!


econti But that's just it! It's like saying Mine's sucks because all they do is bolt on turbos and other bits to an RB26 and give it 600 HP. He's found his calling, a recognizable look and style for his company and he's sticking with it. Isn't that what success is all about?


RDS speedhunters_dino I'm sure he would do that if anyone approached him and requested it!


speedhunters_dino The owner posted this 7 weeks ago on his IG (@ug.kazuya )  It's for sale on the Liberty Walk stock website: https://goo.gl/yhwJsO


I cannot believe that some one can earn      $9119

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Oh God! I would kill for these Die-cast Models!


It's actually not like saying that at all. 
If Mine's only ever had one setup that they used, and yet it was continually hailed as being groundbreaking and a game changer, then yes, you would be correct.

All Rocket Bunny overfenders look very similar. They (almost) all involve chopping expensive cars which is somehow regarded as cool just for the action of chopping. They all have exposed rivets. They're all very very low. 
And yet every time he does it it's trumpeted as the Next Big Thing.

The dude obviously has talent, and to me it's a shame it's not being used to create new styles and set more trends.


Bunny cafe v. LB cafe



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rally2727 Haha good one!


Onecton Well you have to if you want to collect the big ones. $10k a pop


Turbology That is the most important thing. If he doesn't believe in it, who will! He seems to be an awesome boss for all his staff, full of positivity, gives awesome team moral and everyone seems to be loving it.


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speedhunters_dino For sure! It really boils down to perspective and circumstance. Many have walked that path of naysayers and doubters before, this is merely a horse of a different color. The sneers and jeers of Audi's earliest Quattro rally cars are well-documented.
And now? Imagine if Audi had given up on AWD. In fact, I would argue that their entire modern brand and design concept is founded on it! But to come full circle, they believed in their vision and technology, so they endured, and now Quattro is synonymous with AWD (and safety).


AlexGut good observation, and I would add the Japanese tendencies for extreme concentration, focus and dedication to their interests. Whether growing the perfect individual grape or getting a Ferrari fender arch just right, there seems to be very little half-assery in Japan.
Beyond the inherent Japanese politeness, I believe that, by default, eliminates quite a bit of the potential for 'haters'. D1RGE touched on this idea with his SEMA observations, which unfortunately (and laughably), tend to be more true than false. Jankiness exists the world over, but the response to it is NOT universal.


scrolling through- thinking about how this guy makes his money - then I fall on a $8800 die-cast- and it hits me - that's how! - then I think - who is buying that?

the Japanese definitely corner the market on style.......... and I'm ok with not liking some of it


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