The Best Car Magazines In The World?
Magazine Hunting In Japan

Ever since I was 11 years old, a car magazine has never been far from hand.

Today, my apartment is full of them. If I’m flying, a recently purchased issue is tucked into my carry-on. During the week, I keep one in my briefcase for those rare quiet lunch breaks at work. Since moving to Japan nothing has changed. In fact, I’ve found myself in car magazine heaven.

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06995

I remember very well the first car magazine that was truly mine (as opposed to one pilfered from my old man): the December 2001 edition of CAR, featuring a 996 Turbo, ageing Lamborghini Diablo VT 6.0, and E46 M3 finished in stunning Phoenix Yellow on the cover – a Christmas gift from my parents. It was the PCOTY (Performance Car Of The Year) issue and although I knew nothing of oversteer, steering feel or lateral Gs, for some reason I was captivated by what lied within. Fifteen years later and I’m still gripped by the same enthusiasm for printed car content. Pictured here is a shelf dedicated to the Japanese-language mags I’ve picked up over the last 12 months.

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06999

Throughout most of the world car magazines – and magazines in general – have been dying a protracted death. As readers turned to digital sources soon so did the advertisers, and many staple titles in the automotive publishing world disappeared as they began to realise that the high-speed, low-cost online model was not just a passing fad. The glossy mags I coveted as a youngster not only fostered my interest in cars but also in automotive photography and writing, and in a way led me down the path I’m still following to this day as a Speedhunter. Seeing them disappear from the shelves, one by one, was kind of like losing old friends.

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06903

But is it any surprise that in Japan, this ‘inevitable’ trend doesn’t seem to be taking root? Sure, the younger generation seems to be less interested in cars than ever before, but a quick stop into any newsagent reveals that there’s still a huge and varied fanbase for the automobile and the publications that celebrate them.

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-07035

The cover photo of this story is the automotive section of the store closest to my house, and represents what you’ll find at any decent-sized metropolitan newsagent. How does it compare to your local? Even here, every base is covered – from your selection of classic domestic car magazines…

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-07038

To specific issues for the latest models, including the cheapest performance car currently on sale in Japan – the Suzuki Alto Works. The turbocharged kei car is receiving a huge amount of support from the aftermarket and is becoming a super-common sight at track days. I think I should drive one soon to see what all the fuss is about.

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06919

These model-specific magazines aren’t released on a regular basis and lack any of the ‘filler’ content you might be used to seeing stuffed into car magazines. They are a must-have for budding modifiers; each issue is thick with parts reviews, DIY walk-throughs, tuning tips and more, but as a result, they are typically priced a little bit higher than a regular monthly mag.

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06899

Hyper Rev churns these out for almost every model of interest, just a small selection of which you can see here.

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06951

Rev Speed is interested in one thing only: the pursuit of constantly lower lap times. In addition to in-depth coverage of the Japanese time attack scene, the magazine also hosts its own popular events throughout the country.

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-07033

Some magazines are less concerned with technical specifications and more about the driving experience. The team behind Motorhead – a magazine many of you will already be familiar with – has recently launched a new title called Gentleman Drivers. The paper stock, photography and overall design is beautiful, but the ¥2,000 price tag reminds me that I’m poor just as the Ferraris inside do (I guess it’s all part of the experience).

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06916

These premium titles are a more recent addition to the shelves and represent innovation from an industry usually criticized for lacking any. Instead of trying to compete with online publishers, they are offering a tangible, high quality product experience and are charging appropriately. I’m sure GT-R fans out there would die to get their hands on a copy of GT-R Maniacs, which brings together everything I love about Japanese car magazines into a single package.

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06918

Specifically, an obsessive enthusiasm for a single car, a preference for function over form, and beautifully photographed comparisons of rare and modified specials.

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06952

At the other end of the spectrum long-time staples Best Car and CarTop serve up the latest industry and model release news, and have an uncanny ability to correctly predict the exact details of future vehicles from Japanese manufacturers, oftentimes even using the internal product codes to really rub in the fact that their sources are the real deal. When it comes to Japanese cars, I can basically ignore anything speculated by the international media unless these two publications are saying the same thing.

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-07036

Style Wagon accommodates the huge legion of minivan drivers who want to stand out from the crowd. Because nothing attracts beautiful women like the family van riding on 21-inch wheels and pushed low to the ground by the weight of your six children in the back. Right, Dino?

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-07037

I don’t have time to go into them in depth here, but there’s also typically a great selection of motorsport-specific publications to choose from.

The Motherload
japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06895

As good as my local newsagent is, I knew for this story I wanted to show you somewhere a little bit more special. Amongst high-end boutiques and embassies in the trendy Tokyo suburb of Daikanyama sits T-site, a massive mixed-retail space that serves as the flagship for the country-wide Tsutaya Books chain.

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06900

It’s worth visiting for the architecture alone, but it’s the automotive section that really needs to be seen to be believed; in itself it’s larger than many whole book stores! I’d wager that if you can’t find it here, you’re probably not going to find it anywhere.

But be warned – this place poses a serious threat to your bank balance. Beyond printed goods, there’s always a selection of interesting collectables available such as these limited-edition Singer scale models from Japanese company Make Up Co Ltd., selling for about $US250 each.

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06915

Of course, you can find the same sort of model-specific magazines as a regular newsagent…

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06950

As well as long time favourites like Option - this month’s issue headlined by a rotary comparison at Tsukuba Circuit and a “Step Up Tuning Plan”. Option is probably the most prolific tuning magazine and can still be found at most convenience stores.

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06920

But due to the sheer size of Daikanyama T-Site, there’s really no base left uncovered.

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06922

Even JDM-market favourites like the Mitsubishi Delica get their own thick custom bibles. And it’s not a one off – this is Volume 7!

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06921

Inside you can find extremely detailed DIY guides for every conceivable job that the home mechanic might attempt.

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06941

There’s even magazines specific to fans of ‘camping cars’, which are usually converted vans; RVs are a very rare sight on Japanese roads.

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06936

Although it’s technically not a car magazine, Garage Life is one of my favourites to leaf through. Instead of focusing just on the cars we put inside our garages, the magazine looks at the space itself including building design, tools, artwork and anything else that makes up these ultimate man caves.

Being Japan, there’s some crazy collections to be found of course.

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06954

As we know the cycle of Japanese car culture influencing American car culture influencing Japanese car culture is still going strong, and there’s a bunch of interesting magazines that try to make sense of it all. Despite mainly containing cars built in Japan, magazines like Stance and NS sit alongside the American publications.

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06934

It’s also nice to see one of my favourite home-grown Australian mags, Fuel Magazine, on the shelf, albeit also shoehorned into the American section.

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06944

It’s worth nothing that in Japan, it’s perfectly acceptable to stand in a store for hours leafing through the magazines (the same thing would get me chased out the door in Australia!), and it’s impossible to resist doing exactly that with the huge variety of vintage car magazines. I must’ve simply forgot to take a snap of G-works, which is always packed full of highly tuned Hakosukas and Fairlady Zs, and is my favourite of them all.

Whether it’s old rotaries or obscure sporting Mitsubishis that tickle your fancy, you can always learn something new within these pages. It’s funny how much misinformation there is out there in the ‘English language’ world about Japanese models; so much of this never filters through to the ‘collective knowledge’ on forums, wikis and so on due to the language and access barrier.

Blast From The Past
japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06904

But the real reason I love visiting this particular book store isn’t for the huge collection of current magazines…

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06905

It’s for the massive backlog of ‘new old stock’ magazines still available to purchase.

The prices are comparable to the new magazines, which to me represents pretty good value if you’re a die-hard GT-R fan.

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06908

It goes without saying that these are an absolute goldmine for those enthusiasts that chase period-correct style and ultra-rare parts from the likes of Nismo, Mugen and Mine’s.

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06909

450PS was a very respectable number for a street-driven GT-R back in 2001, so things have changed a little bit.

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06911

Half the fun in these vintage magazines are the dated advertisements. I guess a flip phone can now be considered old school!

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06910

It’s also interesting to flick through the dealer classifieds and see what your money could’ve bought 15 years ago.

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06914

¥5,300,000 (about US$80K) would’ve been top dollar for a GT-R back in 2001, but try getting your hands on a Bayside Blue V-spec II with 9,000km on the clock for anything close to that today.

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06923

Of course it’s not just the GT-R that gets some old school love, Subaru…

Mazda and in particular the Roadster (Miata)…

And Honda are available amongst others. This could be some good inspiration for Project NSX!

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06947

The largest section of vintage magazines is reserved for Car Graphic, one of the oldest and most respected new car publications in Japan. Issues have been released on the first day of every month since April 1962 and a good portion of those can be found on the shelf at T-site.

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06948

It’s great fun to hunt through the issues to find the original review for your car, and I couldn’t resist taking home the December 1985 issue that pitted the FC3S Mazda RX-7 up against the brand new Porsche 944 Turbo, as well as a track test of the stunning Nissan MID4 Concept that unfortunately never made it to production.

japans-car-magazines-blakejones-speedhunters-06996

The only problem when heading to T-Site with an addiction to print like mine is that it’s always guaranteed to be an expensive visit. With a few new (and old) issues added to the shelf I should be satisfied for a little while longer, and at least I can be glad that my yen will be contributing to a good cause: keeping the amazing car magazines of Japan alive for a few more years to come.

Blake Jones
Instagram: blaketjones
blake@speedhunters.com

ADVERTISEMENT

Comments

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the Login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry, you must be logged in to post a comment.

50 comments

by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest
1

ES4 is a good magazine. Mostly modified Europeans cars.

2

Max Power..!!!

3

Bewbs!

4

For a lot of Asians, Option Magazine. I did sunscribe to Turbo magazine during its infancy.

5

Grassroots Motorsports
Racecar Engineering

Are two of the best regularly issued magazines available in wide circulation in the US.

6

I wish we had even half the pure love/knowledge of cars here in the states. I'd fund it all if I had the money just from my love of physical (and no guesswork) paper references for everything even the small jobs or even at least some older modifications that are tried and true. Just referencing a owners manual is not enough, I need the torque spec of every bolt in a Mazda Rx2 sedan 12a 3 speed manual gosh dang it, and I need it on my home made bookself.

7
Richard Shumack

OI! Street Machine CNT!

8

go to book off. my first trip to japan 5 years ago, i loaded up on 100-200y back issues of option and drift tengoku. hauled a stack magazines back in my suitcase.

Author9

Book Off is great - but be prepared to be disappointed if someone else has cleared out the cool stuff before you get there!

10

Try "Power Techniques" magazine from Greece... Maybe not as good in quality as these Japanese magazines, but one of the more technical magazines on modified cars in Europe, easily best on modified cars in Greece I'd say... EDIT: Recently changed its name to "Power Automotive Magazine"...

Author11

I'll keep my eye out for a copy next time I'm in Europe.

12
StreetStatik.com

NZ Performance car in 2009-2013 was a bloody good publication. now the photos are far to oversharpened and it hurts to read
I'd say my favourite mag to read and flick though due to its layout/typography/photography and every issue just feels special is FUEL MAGAZINE. I'm sure there's some better stuff out there but these mags are just beautiful to flick through, as too the Speedhunters Annuals (only have issue 1 and 2)

13

Fuel is lovely

Author14

Another vote of confidence for FUEL - each issue really feels like something I want to keep forever!

15

Modified was my frist. Great magazine I learned a lot from it. I was sad to see it go away.

Author16

Did you keep your copies at least?

17

I love how almost every niche in Japan has a magazine for them.
I remember seeing one for model makers that was just close ups of F1 cars from every angle.

For the English speaking world, I'd say the UK has the best offerings for me. Octane for classics, Evo or Car for new stuff. Racecar Engineering and Race Tech for the real techy stuff, and from that sprung Track Car Performance and Historic Racing Tech.

From the USA, Grassroots Motorsports, as mentioned above, is great and really makes racing/tuning accessible for those of us that can't afford the toys the subjects in Racecar Engineering use. Surprisingly, Super Street is actually not bad now. It's all tuner car features and a little tech thrown in without all the T&A that made it embarrassing to buy.

18

Came here to say that Grassroots Motorsports is the best US publication, IMO.

19
ReallyForeverAlone

evoUK is on another level.

Author20

I'm a long time EVO subscriber - the combination of the photography, cars and writing can't be touched at the moment, in my opinion.

21

This place in Paris is good too https://www.librairie-passionautomobile.com/

22

Are there any archived sections dedicated to the early 2000s drifting magazines in stores like that one?

Author23

Tsutaya doesn't have archival drift magazines as far as I know. I'm sure there's somewhere in Japan that does, though...

24

fuel magazine is excellent great quality hardly any ads and not badly priced

25
ThosePeskySkids

Huge amount of knowledge contained in those mags when you think of it. I personally could probably spend weeks looking at the pictures alone!! Brilliant article, Blake.

PS it's "motherlode" - 'lode' being a deposit of, for example, gold in a mineface. Never mind the spelling tough, the sentiment is 100%. This is gold.

Author26

Thanks for the feedback on both accounts! You've got to see it in person, any possible niche you might be interested in has a huge depth of available content.

27

Here in Japan, Tipo and Old Timer are my favorite ones... In France (I'm french) it would be "Auto-Rétro"

28

So cool! I knew Japan had a decent selection of magazines but there's a lot more there then I thought. I could & would sit there for hours!
You didn't happen to see any Mazda Capella GC reviews in the Car Graphic? Was new in 1983. I find any content of my car in Japan very hard to come by.

Author29

I haven't seen a review specifically for that car but then again I wasn't looking. I would guarantee Car Graphic covered it at some point, though.

30

I wish I could read japanese!

31

Used to subscribe to Nostalgic Hero/Hachimaru Hero and got it delivered from Japan to Canada. Really good stuff there!

32
MPistol HVBullets

I still miss the early Brian Scotto days of 0-60 magazine -still missing just a few issues in my collection

33

Meanwhile in America I'm still mourning the loss of Mini Truckin' and EuroTuner :(

34

Sure, the younger generation seems to be less interested in cars than ever before...

I can assure you right now that there's still quite a few of us young ones who are crazy about cars (myself included.) ;)

Author35

Me too mate, but the Japanese youth are undeniably less interest in cars than they heyday of the 70's and 80's.

36

"CAR" "Intersection" "Grand Prix Internantional" the holy trinty of car mags everything else is for kids

37

Tsite is my MUST Visit place everytime i'm in Japan. In fact, i always book my accommodation to be close to Daikanyama/Ebisu for that very reason. Need a place to drop off all them magazines after each visit! When you live overseas and have gotten used to paying double (or more) sticker price on those magazines, everything seems like a bargain when in Japan! Even 2000yen magazines! (Imagine having to pay close to 4000yens for them)

You should do a post on the bargain vintage used car magazines that can be found at Nakano Broadway too! It's a treasure trove! Condition aren't mint but good enough for casual collectors like me. https://garage36.wordpress.com/2017/03/24/tokyo-toy-otaku-2017-nakano-broadway/

Hope you don't mind me sharing my last T-site visit too. How i wish i can go back asap!
https://garage36.wordpress.com/2017/01/26/tokyo-auto-otaku-2017-daikanyama-t-site/

Author38

Nakano is a treasure trove but I found things were pretty highly priced, good to see there's some decent value mags. I'll take a look for those next time. Thanks for sharing!

39

I grabbed the GTV Car Graphic. 500Yen.

decom_321fe65e1a88436622cb75f0cff13f83_5992bf9f16a80.jpgdecom_321fe65e1a88436622cb75f0cff13f83_5992bf9f16a80.jpg
40

Yes...G Works & 80's Hero !! (Not many bookstores like this in Canada anymore).

41

Maybe not as cool or obscure as the other publications mentioned, but I really enjoy getting my Road and Track issue every month. For 20 CAD$ a year, it's a steal.

Author42

I picked up a R&T when I was in LA last month. The actual magazine looks (and is) cheap - but the quality of content inside is really, really high. The in-depth McLaren F1 feature really blew me away.

43

Nice write up. Used to subscribe to or buy literally dozens of different titles a month, now... none. Same with glossy coffee table books on cars and bikes. One thing that I've noticed, as good as online content is, very little of it has the same depth as a well written printed article.

44

When I was visiting a friend while living in Japan we went to a Nissan dealership. They had this cool poster of a GTR hanging on the wall. It was about 4ft x 3ft, so pretty huge. I asked the manager whom I was speaking with if I could purchase a copy and he said "one moment". I thought he was getting me a copy but he grabbed a knife, cut the thing down, and handed it to me for free. I carried that roll through the air port and now have it framed on my wall. Ive searched for a copy forever and it turns out its the same picture shown above on the magazine back of the gold city skyline with the guy standing next to his silver GTR.

DSport is hands down the best mag in the states.

Author45

That's an awesome story, and the perfect souvenir to remember it by!

46

I use to buy Japanese car magazines in London and Paris but they were always wrapped in clear film. Making difficult to know exactly what you were buying. Is that not the case in Japan?

Also can you give us the address of the T-site shop please?

Author47

They are very rarely wrapped (unless you're in a university district, they hate the students clogging up the stores haha). The address is:
DAIKANYAMA T-SITE / DAIKANYAMA TSUTAYA BOOKS
150-003317-5 Sarugakucho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

48
Christopher Rodriguez

No one has mentioned Sport Compact Car? I have numerous old issues, i loved that mag. I still have where they tested Paul Walker's R34 around the 2Fast 2Furious days and they broke it lol.

49

I remember when I found out Sport Compact Car Magazine would be folding. I felt like a longtime friend had died. They were really the first magazine I remember seeing as an impressionable youth that put performance and function over form, style, and the story. I continue to follow Mike Kojima's no-nonsense engineering first pieces over at MotoIQ.com, but its just not the same without the glossy magazine in my hands as I hurry back to read it after retrieving it from the mailbox.

50

Performance VW magazine. Definitely grew my love for stripped to the shell race-style VWs. And VWMotorsports shifters!

OFFICIAL SPEEDHUNTERS SUPPLIERS