Everything Is Better In Japan

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been told that everything is better in Japan.

It’s to the point, where I felt like I should push back against it. Hyperbole and exaggeration are the absolute death of a lot of good things, things that could never live up to the infinite hype laid upon them. Somehow, Japan is different, because it does live up to it.

When it comes to personal automotive preferences, I’ve been a German car owner and driver since I got my driver’s license, so it’s pretty obvious where my loyalty lies. In saying that, Japanese car culture has played a huge role in shaping my tastes over the years. For the better part of two decades, I’ve looked to Japan for inspiration and it’s never failed to deliver.

Still, there was a weight of expectation, and I worried that Japan just wouldn’t live up to it when my first visit eventually occurred, whenever that happened to be.

2018 Speedhunters X Japan by Paddy McGrath-1

Of course, I never doubted that it would be good, but the best? It would have to offer something extraordinary to outshine SoCal, which has stood head and shoulders above any where else that I’ve visited prior to Japan. There’s a lot of really good car culture around the world, but Southern California is a genuinely special place and offers something for everyone. If you can’t find something about cars to love in SoCal, then I really don’t know what to say to you. It’s a wonderful place.

However, it doesn’t even compare to Japan. Japan is without equal.

Speedhunters’ foreign contingent had been on the ground for four days already, just to take in the build up and hype for Tokyo Auto Salon. While Tokyo locals Dino and Ron have the show covered, we’ve been trying to absorb as much as we possibly can in our short time here outside the halls of Makuhari Messe. That means long days, short nights and a non-stop shooting schedule while dealing with pretty aggressive jet lag. But it’s not an issue when you’re surrounded by the most amazing automotive world that I’ve ever experienced.

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During this time we’ve been tripping over moments and adventures that I never could even have imagined. From hanging out with a clan of RX-7s at the world-famous Daikoku parking area and exploring used car lots and back streets to uncover so many unexpected treasures. Tokyo Auto Salon itself is a special occasion, but chasing a fleet of Italian supercars across Tokyo and right into the heart of Shibuya is something that I will take to my grave.

While all of these wild adventures are great, they require balance. On Saturday we spent an afternoon in a quiet area of the Chiba Prefecture with a humble business that specialises in rescuing vintage Japanese wheels and restoring them to new glory. We had the pleasure to speak with the people involved and to gain insight into why they do what they do and why they love what they love. For Sunday, there’s mention of kaido racers and lowriders.

While this is nothing more than an overview of what’s happening behind the scenes (and to prove that we’re actually working), we will be following up in the coming weeks and months ahead with all of these stories in detail, and hopefully many more. For now, I present a simple gallery to whet your appetite for what is to come, which is best viewed on desktop.

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Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
Twitter: pmcgphotos



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Cannot wait for the following months coverage.

Awesome work as always guys.

We thank you!


cant wait for the coverage about izanami!


Depends on what part of the culture, Australia and America far out strip anywhere on the crazy street car game, Australia the BEST 32,33,34 GTRs in the world. Japan is a dust bowl as far as drag racing is concerned.


If Japan had more space the drag racing scene would be big there, too.

lol drag racing.


I guess it depends on what you like.
A huge part of the world doesn't even care about drag :p


Sorry paddy i have to agree with John, having live in japan for two year made me realize the car culture wasn't the greatest. Don't get the wrong idea the Japan has the Best car people and location in the planet, but it shares in my opinion the best car culture with So-Cal/Australia. Drag racing is almost non existing, crazy 200mph car are far to few in between something the good USofA excels at. trucks? SUV? Classic cars? also very few. Like i said before what impressed me more in those 2 years of living in Tokyo was the people, trully unmatched.


The people are a huge part of what makes it special here. I don't disagree that SoCal and Australia have great car culture either, but there's something about Japan that just pips them, for me at least.


It's because you can find builds that would rival Instagram's latest trending dyno queen sitting on the side of the road, and you would never have known that car existed without first having seen it in person. In other words, it's because in Japan more so than around the rest of the world they truly build cars for themselves and not their 1,241 followers on Twitter.


Mostly unimpressed with the way Speedhunters coverage/articles derail when it comes to Japan. I love details, love technical descriptions and history of cars and parts, like it is done with many of the features and events. But when it comes to Japan, articles much too often derail into spiritual praising right in the first paragraph. Japan, a way of life, we are unworthy... the Japanese are only cooking with water too, and by the looks of things, in the big picture, don't do anything exceptionally better or "more true" than the rest of the world. But going by the praise on here all we car fans have to aim for is "being more Japanese", in the way we life our hobby and build our cars... it's tiring to read it again and again. And probably far from the truth, looking at other sources you will see that the typical Nippon car fan does just as much stuff for the giggles without any deep spiritual meaning as Gary from Worcestershire does.


Have you ever been? I'm asking that sincerely and not as a snide remark. It's very different to anything I've experienced before.


Have you been there bro? Sounds like you havent. If you did, you might change you view somewhat. I lived there for several years - even had the pleasure of working at Grand Slam Pro in Machida, so got to experience car people who did things properly pretty well. I miss Japan a lot now. It's like nowhere else and deserves the plaudits. But it's just a bit crowded...


@pigsofdarkness i dont know if he's ever been but i lived there and visited multiple times, i agree with his sentiment. The article has a click bait Title and has stamens such as "However, it doesn’t even compare to Japan. Japan is without equal" when in reality So-cal and Australia not only compete, in some cases outshine japan. The USA alone outshines japan in motorcycles, off-road vehicles and classic cars to name a few. Our criticism isn't for japan its for how the article reads and portrays an opinion as fact.


wholeheartedly agree


Simple gallery? It’s kinda BAMMMMM ... In your face...
Looks like several years of impressions to me. Looking forward to the follow up!


Image 9 got my attention the most. Would love to see the Japanese approach for this "old" Bimmer.


That acid orange VT...


I know. That poor thing needs to be put out of it's misery.


Are you kidding?! It's GORGEOUS


I need to move there ASAP


Those wide rx7's look pretty wild. Also, that last shot is pretty cool. You guys should chill with those boys and bust your eardrums lol.


We did, on both accounts.


Thanks for the photo of the M35. Do you have anymore on this?


Afraid not, as above, it just showed up in a car park and vanished again.


Damn, what a shame, thank you.


Would love to see a write up on something different.. like that nm35 Stagea perhaps?


It just showed up in a Super Autobacs parking lot and vanished again. Maybe another time?


Good, yes. The best? No way.

California and the U.S. on the whole have everyone beat in that category. Once upon a time I would have agreed with you in maybe the 90s, but the whole "Japan heading the tuner scene" has died long ago. Top Fuel NHRA (Fastest accelerating cars in the world are made here and raced in So Cal). The U.S. has legal events like the Texas Mile, etc. Top speed records have bounced between Bugatti and a few US manufacturers more than once.

A company from Utah smacked HKS in the face at a big time attack shootout last year (LYFE) and we have the INDY 500. We pretty much have everything from low riders to INDY cars locked up out here. Don't see how Japan is better.


I really don't know, John. Don't get me wrong, I - love - California and US car culture, so this isn't an attack on that, rather just praise for how good it is in Japan. I'll hopefully try and figure out a little bit better in my own head for future posts.


Nobody cares about drag tacing dude, lol. gtfoh with that


alot of people would say your very wrong



Dare I say it, but their's the perfect reason why youre argument fall's apart.


Plenty of people do.


JohnB and I agreeing is rare but, there are plenty of people who are into drag racing. Furthermore there are so many different flavors of drag racing that discounting its relevance to the global car scene is just silly.


Not knocking it, I love it, but Drag racing seems almost too simple for Japan


I know you only make these types of titles to attract attention but it’s really not necessary and is very off putting.


That green bike is sick! Does SH ever do features on motorcycles??


Agree- If anyone knows the model lmk!


Can we some more info on that awesome wide body Lamborghini Diablo? Thank you


There's a future story planned on that evening run :)


Stories from Japan are the best stories!

Your experience seems unbelievable. Japan is on my bucket list for so many years now.


First picture - Kills IT! Who cares about Texas mile, when there is Wangan :)


unfortunately with sanctioned events now Wangan isn't relevant. I don't think there is anything that has come out of Japan that is road legal that would take on the likes of the 2500hp Gallardos and Vipers people in the states are building now. The Japanese have been obliterated by the US based drag scene and outted in the world of circuit racing by Australia and Europe


who cares about the wangan when you have tx2k every year with speeds upward of 200 on i10, and 1200-2400hp highway monsters haha


Why not be happy to have both?


ahhh very true senpaiiii. FULL SEND ON ALL THE MAD THINGS


Team Pantera of Japan? ;)

I'd also settle for the Strongers CC. Interested to see what lowriders you dig up. I remeber not too long ago when there was worry lowrider content would get flamed here. Great to see times have changed.


I had an eye out for team Pantera but I didn't come across them, unfortunately. TAS is just insane with people when the public are let in.


Well thanks for looking! I'll jeep waiting for their occasional Facebook posts.


Genuinely sorry about that. I only seen afterwards that the four-turbo S14 was there and I had no idea about that either.


I don't usually comment but these shots are breathtaking! Those Lamborghinis, and that Chaser! Absolutely gorgeous! I'll be looking forward to these stories, that's for sure. Keep up the fantastic work and remember to have fun!


Thank you, Daniel.


your mock zenophobia has triggered a tsunami of manufactured outrage, prepare yourself for the hate...cool pix tho


I'm curious as to what you think is xenophobic in this?


Ready for more race inspired sport bikes in the last photo


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Typical Americans getting all upset that someone is better than them at something and trying to defend their honour because they are in the land of the self righteous and home of the violent "ohh rah!". Get over it lads, you cant be better than everyone at everything ever. Its OK, calm down. The British invented Cricket as a sport and we suck at that but we don't try and tell everyone else we are better at it because we invented it, we just accept that other places are better.


The problem isn't even that Japan is "better" (subjective and debatable anyway), it's that they're hugely overexposed in car culture. If you're into cars right now it's just "Japan this, Japan that, Japan is better, Japan Japan Japan." Lowrider meet in the US - meh. Lowrider meet in Japan - MUST COVER NOW NOW NOW! Like I said on another article, it's like we've got this stupid system where Japan absorbs all the world's car culture and then feeds it back to the rest of us through sites like Speedhunters.


Because they do it with more passion, flare and accuracy than any other meet. How many times have you heard the phrase "white guys cant own lowrideers". A lot and theres so many in the USA (compared to other countries) that its just another lowrider meet. Yet in Japan where the cars are rare, the scene is rare and they attack it with so much passion that yes, its better. Japan does every scene better than the country it originated in, its just a fact. There is no animosity, prejudice, judging peoples cars.....they just enjoy the scene they are in and are respectful but with such a keen detail that its only natural they do it better, and they do.


Here in Alaska I have seen a white guy driving a lowrider. Older, gray beard, looked like a college professor, kid in the back seat, pulling his lowrider Town Car into a show happy as could be - may have also been a part of a (i.e. the only) local lowrider crew.

That's not even the point though. The point is. people anymore treat Japan as if it's the true source car culture and pay less attention when it happens at the actual source. It's not even a question of quality, it's a question of authenticity, and I can't believe I even said that as I'm usually the last one to rage about . On top of which, the tendency to feature a lot of stance and JDM-inspired builds when you do feature a US car (even if you do feature some true USDM as well) makes it seem a little like you're featuring the same car culture all over the world. Same is bad! Japan should be just one country among many, not the place that represents every other country and that every other country tries to emulate.


Man everybody sure does not know how difficult it is to take pictures there. People just walk right in front of you. Not to mention all the walking. A marathons worth. Did not include all the drinking and not sleeping. I went and average slept 4 hours a day Friday-Sunday. I flew out Monday and walked into the door of my house 12:30 a.m. What an adventure and sight it was. Now back at work and worn out. I went to sleep at 1:30 a.m. woke up at 6:00 a.m. and back to work.


That article title is everything wrong with this site in a nutshell. Like I said on another article, it's like we've got this stupid system where Japan absorbs all the world's car culture and then feeds it back to the rest of us through sites like Speedhunters which completely ignore non-Japanese car culture when it's taking place at its source rather than in Japan. Quite frankly, it needs to stop, and I'm going to keep saying this until Speedhunters heavily rebalances their coverage - then maybe find another site and do it again.

Honestly, automotive weeabooism runs so deep at this point that I've had F-bombs tossed at me for daring to state that rock makes better driving music than Eurobeat. No one noticed when the last of the Ford Capris or Sierra Cosworths became US-legal because they were too busy drooling over Skylines - when you know they wouldn't even care if it was a Renault or a Ford instead of a Nissan. Ticks me right the heck off, I tell you.


Ford Capris or Sierra Cosworths became US-legal

As an owner of many Capri's in the past and currently 2 Xr4ti's, I think that these cars have been legal for quite some time over here in the US, but just don't attract interest here, as they are weighed against more modern sophisticated offerings; people like what they like, I can't even pretend to change anyone's mind on that, nor can anyone else I think.
(The proceeding statement, was not intended to be inflammatory)

Paddy, I like most of the work you've done and hope you keep it up for a long time.

As a war mongering, jealous, gun wielding, violent, arrogant American (I could go on, but I won't), I can appreciate Paddy's opinion on Japan. I've traveled a bit and I can't think of many places I've been to, where the people were so cool and welcoming to foreigners. There's something about Japan's car culture that I can't put into words, that set's it apart from other places.

I think from my narrow perspective, it comes down to attitude or the lack thereof.


While I understand your frustrations, to say that we 'completely ignore' non-Japanese car culture is just not true. Japanese car culture has been a huge part of Speedhunters since day one and remains so, but we've also brought countless Scandinavian, American, British, Australian, Kiwi, South African, Irish, German, Italian and Middle Eastern builds, events and stories to the site too, to name but a few.

I had to Google 'weeabooism' but if it makes you feel better, I'm more of a metal man when it comes to driving music. Each to their own, however.


I guess I really can't say you "completely ignore" US & other non-Japanese car culture, but I can say you need to feature a lot more of it that ISN'T drifting- or stance-related (both trends that just plain need to die on the international stage).

But still, what of the cars that are now US-legal but that no one cares about because they aren't Japanese. No one had a good answer for that one except a dislike and a slag-off about drag racing (which I never mentioned).


Again, we feature lots of non-drifting / stance stuff from the world stage and I have no problem showing more of it, but it's a reflection of current car culture that so much stuff today is drift / stance. Point taken, mind.

As to your second point, from a personal standpoint these cars have always been legal where I'm from, with people building and modifiying them since they were new. As such, we're not seeing anything 'new' about these cars coming from the US at the moment, which might explain the lack of interest about them. That could always change, however.


No one cares about drag racing and so what if speed hunters is all about japan car culture.to be honest it's more interesting than American and Australian car culture


I can't believe the STUNNING quality of the photographs! BRAVO!!! A large part of appreciating automobiles is the visual experience. I will be spending a lot of time on this site.


Please give us the Diaboli front end shot as a wallpaper for mobiles! Looks so sick!


The typical enthusiast really does only one thing: strain their car and project fantasies on their “heroes”. Admit it, your weekender can use some work... damn right it could.

Japan, while there’s every type of person everywhere, has A LOT of the rare kind of enthusiast: what I call the keepers. They don’t strain, they maintain. Yeah “rebels” like RWB and Top Secret, etc are “Japanese” in nationality, but their spirit is more western, which is why their personal preferences are Hard Rock and Marlboro, etc.

So when talking to So Cal/Aussie/Swede enthusiast, you get a whole steaming pile of “status” poseurs, a handful of mechanics, and a sprinkle of passionate individuals. So sthu and GO to Japan. Speak w them, like you would in your “idealized” cars and coffee or brand group. You’ll get it why it feels like Automotive Mass.

So next time that awesome Ferrari-Tifosi/Superbird/911 GT2/Cummins/Lambo/Stang/Polestar/RUF/Shelby/Whatever owner drives by, TALK to them... and 9 times out of 10, don’t be disappointed when you realize that Japan had an insane more percentage of true enthusiasm.


Will there be anymore info/pictures on the Stagea?