There’s a magazine in Japan called Garage Life, and it’s one of the coolest automotive publications ever created. Think of it as a glimpse into the lives of Japanese people who have created unique spaces to store their vehicles.
In a country where having a garage is a bit of a luxury in itself, Garage Life meets with home owners who have created true automotive-themed sanctuaries. The garages featured within the magazine’s pages are a true celebration of the passion, and sometimes obsession that Japanese people have with cars. And like anything originating from Japan, it’s the execution of these spaces that really sets them apart.
I’ve always wanted to bring a garage-themed series to Speedhunters. Cars and architecture coexist beautifully, and today I want to show you inside a private residence that exemplifies the fact.
Chiba-san is a true connoisseur. His love for cars, especially those from Ferrari and Lamborghini, is very much driven by a deep appreciation and understanding of what these brands are, and where they came from.
Built around a decade ago in a quiet and fashionable residential area in the southern part of Tokyo, Chiba-san’s house intrigues from all angles. You enter through a massive door in the center of the modern concrete structure, which leads into a wide-open marble entrance, or genkan as they’re known in Japan. Here, you remove your shoes and slip into a pair of house slippers.The House
This wasn’t supposed to be a house tour. I assumed that we’d only have access to the split double garage at the very front of the building, but Chiba-san had no reservations about welcoming me into his home and allowing me to roam around freely, camera in hand. This was amazing; not only did I get a feel for how well it was was all designed, but also how Chiba-san’s passion for cars is reflected in almost every room.
Chiba-san and his family spend most of their time in the split-level living room, dining room and kitchen area. Despite all the concrtee, there’s a warm and welcoming ambience with plenty of places to sit and relax. Music is always playing in the background, diffused in every room through Bang & Olufsen speakers in the walls and ceilings.
Alongside select pieces of art, black and white pictures of old Ferrari F1 cars decorate the walls.
The huge windows in this part of the house give the feeling of being perched over the simple and minimalist grass area below, but your eyes instantly focus on the red and yellow goodness stored away in the garage space on the other side of the garden.
To the side of the living room is a covered patio, which also has a perfect view of the garage.
There’s a cool water feature that follows most of the perimeter. Close your eyes and your mind may be tricked into thinking you are next to a stream in a peaceful wood by Mt. Fuji.
Follow the second ramp of stairs down from the grass area and you arrive at the lower level of the house and the master bedroom.
The theme is very much repeated here: massive windows to allow in natural light, and a majestic view to the garage. Imagine waking up in the morning, pressing the button to raise the motorized blinds, and seeing all your toys neatly lined up.
Here there’s also a lounge and TV area so you can catch one last Netflix episode before going to sleep.
While it was all about vintage Ferrari racers upstairs, the bedroom walls have a distinct Lamborghini theme.The Office
Exiting the master bedroom, you make your way back up to the entrance.
Then up to the second floor and one last flight of marble stairs to a small landing area at the very top of the building.
Chiba-san is a bike enthusiast too, and it’s here on the landing that he displays his Snake Motors K-16 under a few pictures of his cars. This bike was a collaboration build between Seino-san of Moon Auto and the famous Japanese director and actor Takeshi Kitano. Seeing this bike put a big smile on my face, as I actually featured the production line at Moon Auto when I put together the Retro Car Kings show for Discovery Channel back in 2012. Click here to see more.
Follow the corridor and you’ll soon find yourself in Chiba-san’s office space.
I could have spent hours in here; Chiba-san’s collection of model cars, books, magazines and miscellaneous memorabilia is as impressive as it is massive.
Yes, that’s a very large Ferrari F1 model car.
Right next to the office is Chiba-san’s reading room. This is the place he relaxes and gathers his thoughts in.
At this point of the tour we stopped by the living area for a quick break, before moving outside. I had already seen so much, and to be honest was feeling a little overwhelmed, but really, we were just getting started.The Garages
At the front of his house, Chiba-san opened the metal doors to reveal the treasures inside.
Rather than going for traditional shutters, custom steel doors that are hinged in pairs and set on sliders were specified for the build. When closed, these create some real contrast with the reinforced concrete.
The paved area in front of the garage provides more off-street parking, although I had to move the Morgan 3-wheeler that I was driving on this particular weekend so Chiba-san could fully open up the doors.
Garage one on the right side of the house has four car spaces, and behind those is plenty of extra room for an interesting line-up of bikes, which I’ll get to shortly.
Let’s start with the first two cars, which I’m sure are Chiba’s favorites: the Lamborghini Diablo GT and what has to be one of the cleanest Ferrari F50s I’ve ever seen.
The GT variant was Lamborghini’s wildest Diablo, a road-going representation of the GT2 race cars that the company was campaigning back in 1999. The car features lots of carbon fiber, a 575hp V12 stroked from 5.7L to 6.0L, and some visual cues like the front bulge and roof scoop that feeds air into the carbon airbox that sits atop the massive engine. This is one of only 80 ever made.
Which makes the F50, of which 349 were produced, not sound quite as impressive. Yeah right; this thing is amazing. The sheer presence of the car, the way the driveline is laid out with the F1-inspired engine sitting in the middle of the chassis as a stressed member, and the fact that it looks totally brand new – just wow.
Next to the F50 are a couple more Ferraris, a silver 458 Speciale and a 488 Pista.
By now you’ve probably realized that Chiba-san goes for the top-of-the-line variant of each model, so his garage really is brimmed full of true collectables.
From naturally aspirated to turbo – how do you prefer your track-focused, mid-engined Ferraris?
Remember the views from the house towards the garage? Well, looking back the other way is equally mesmerizing.
In the same style as the furniture in Chiba-san’s office, the main garage features a long, metal-framed storage cabinet that doubles as a place to display his helmet collection.
It’s details like these that make a tour so interesting. You begin to make mental notes on how to arrange and display things in your very own man cave, no matter what size, what cars are in it, or how it will look.
And then there’s Chiba-san’s Ducati collection. Again, it’s all about the rarest of the rare here, with a pair of Desmosedici RRs at the front…
… moving on to a pair of MH900es. I have a feeling that the pearl white one is a rare special edition model; I don’t recall having ever seen this already limited edition (only 2,000 ever made) bike in this color.
One cool feature of the garage is something that you don’t even notice at first, or at least until you go around the back and walk over it. Yep, that’s a grate that leads to a work pit under the F50. It’s the best solution when you don’t have the height for a car lift, and is good enough for simple DIY jobs.
It’s all in the details, right? Well, one you will notice is that the garage is climate controlled, and it’s kept on all year round. And yes, the music that plays throughout the house makes its way into the garage via a dedicated sound bar.
I added a picture of the foldable Nismo truck organizer box, because I want to emphasize the fact that Chiba-san isn’t only into imported exotics. His love for cars includes domestics, and the last few times I saw him at Tatsumi PA he was driving his R35 Nismo GT-R. The Nissan is gone now, but he also owns a few other Japanese cars which are kept in another garage. I might get to see that soon…
In between the two garage spaces is the walkway that leads to the large front door where our visit began, and it’s guarded by this little guy.
I even spotted a serious-looking e-bike parked up outside. You have to ride in style, even if it’s just for errands.
The smaller of the two garages is still big enough for a couple more cars…
… and as many motorbikes as you are able to squeeze in there. This is where I ended up moving the Morgan to, so it wasn’t in the way for the exterior pictures.
Chiba-san’s Plymouth Cuda lives in here. This is a recently restored car that quality-wise is on par with every other vehicle he owns.
There’s normally an empty spot in this space for any other car that Chiba-san brings over from his other garage.
Keen-eyed readers may have spotted the F50-branded flight case. That’s what you got when you bought an F50 back in the mid-’90s, probably housing spares and miscellaneous things like the big bar and wrench to get the center-lock wheel nuts off.
Chiba-san’s garage contents vary on what cars he has moved around, and this time it was very much Ferrari-centric, which is in no way a bad thing.
I’d like to give a massive thanks to Chiba-san for giving us a look inside his stunning residence. But it doesn’t end there. I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pull out the F50 for a proper feature, so look out for that soon. I also another red car, but this time from closer to home. Care to guess what that might be?
I really hope that this story resonated with you. Please bear in mind that these features won’t be coming around too often, as they’re something I’d prefer to naturally let happen rather than actively pursue. I won’t be in any collector’s face begging them to let me shoot their garages, houses or collections, but I will accept any invitations if they arise. Hopefully there are more people like Chiba-san who are willing share their amazing garage spaces with us.
Dino Dalle Carbonare