Liberty Walk: A Decade On

No physical Tokyo Auto Salon this year has been a real hit to the Japanese tuning scene. TAS not only showcases the latest JDM styles and trends to the rest of the world, it’s a big blast of energy for Japan’s tuners to start the New Year off right.

So it feels weird to now be in February, but have not been through the annual whirlwind weekend of automotive madness and come out the other side with a long list of new feature cars to shoot.


As the decision to cancel the event came right at the end of December, many shops and companies instantly paused their builds, meaning a lot of cars that were supposed to debut at Tokyo Auto Salon never got finished. When they are, you can be sure we’ll be all over them, but in the meantime, I thought I’d try to keep the fresh Japanese content coming with a post on my last visit to Liberty Walk.


Looking back at past features, it’s almost been a decade since I first visited Liberty Walk and shot a few of Kato’s cars, including the most epic one of all – his white Ferrari F40.


But the main purpose of my recent visit to LBW was to take a look behind the scenes and hopefully show you just how massive this company has become.


We’ll start off where you’d likely begin if you ever have the chance to visit Liberty Walk at their HQ just outside Nagoya. This facility is where the good stuff is stashed; it’s storage for LBW demo machines and where customer cars are locked away safely while they are in for work. It also offers additional customer parking out front, so you’ll nearly always find people just hanging out, as there was the day I dropped by.


Check this out, a widened Daihatsu Copen next to the evil-looking JPS-themed R35 I just featured. It’s like micro GT-R meets real GT-R!


Take one foot inside the garage and try your best not to lose it.

This is a place where Kato-san’s true automotive taste is beautifully exemplified.


You start up front with a number of aggressively-widened Lamborghinis slammed on air.


At the back, some Japanese classics – a genuine Hakosuka and Kenmeri GT-R pairing that have been stashed here for as long as I can remember. Talk about a retirement fund; these two cars combined are valued at well over the US$1 million mark now.


The rear row is also home to Kato-san’s C130 Butaketsu, which is one of the first cars I shot from his collection. It’s so cool to see that Kato still has this, along with the blue Kenmeri and a handful of S30s in every possible guise, including the white and red ‘number 52‘ I shot in LA before SEMA a few years ago.


I’m not sure what is planned for the tiny Honda N360, but I was honestly more intrigued in the yankee-style Kawasaki Bimota parked in front. I must ask Kato-san about this one next time…


Every time I stop by LBW, the place is always so busy. With an ever-changing selection of hot metal to look at, the local car guys treat the shop like a proper hangout. And with the diner on site, you could stay all day.


Then there’s the loudest car I have ever shot. Forget race cars; forget anything you may have thought was loud – this little old Mazda RX-3 packs a Team Miyoshi-built bridge-ported and carbureted 12A. When I shot it they were only running headers, and I can still remember the violent sound that resonated though my rib cage. Check out the video here if you’re interested.


The views are pretty cool no matter where you look.


This EV charger will make more sense once we take a look at the meeting and gallery area behind the glass door. Yes, it hints to a future project or two.


This all brings me to one question…


If you had to choose just one car to take home from this garage, which would it be?


You might not know it, but Liberty Walk has also created a wide-body conversion for the 86, which sort of reminds me of the limited edition KM4SH kit we collaborated with Miura-san on years back.


While I was looking at the customer cars outside, something very familiar arrived on the back of a transporter.


It’s crazy to think it’s been exactly a year since I featured Kato-san’s Silhouette R34. This mashup of vintage race styling on a more modern car base has just been applied to the S15 that Liberty Walk was planning to show at TAS 2021. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure to shoot it as soon as it’s done.


The meeting area next to the garage has been completely redone since my last visit and now sports a massive table for Kato and the LBW staff to hold meetings around.


However, it was the wall of model cars that really grabbed my attention.


These are all custom cars that were entered into a competition that Liberty Walk held, and there are some amazing creations, each one as unique as can be. Check out the Initial D-themed Kenmeri, which has a cut-out of Kato in Takumi Fujiwara guise stood next to it.

I thought this was a great initiative to help grow passion around cars, something that’s started to become lost on the younger generations in Japan over the last couple of decades.


I’m doing my part with my own kids – not that they have much choice in the matter. Seeing my son lust over a white F40 model brought a tear to my eye.


He was also pretty interested in the LBW drift car shells. RC drifting is one of the newest hobbies he’s gotten into now. I may or may not have played a part in that…

Is this what that EV charger is all about? Yes it is; LBW will be jumping into EV customization soon, or at least when Sony’s electric sedan and Tesla’s Roadster hit dealerships.


LBW gets so many visitors that each time I stop by I discover that every Speedhunters sticker I’ve ever stuck on the garage door has been buried. Luckily I had one of our old Hunted decals handy.

The Warehouse

Next up was a quick drive down the road to check out a new building that serves as both a warehouse and packaging center. Of course, there is always plenty of space to park cars.


I was instantly drawn to the shiny BCNR33 GT-R…


… And the BNR34 behind it. Both are in pristine condition and not registered; I’m told they’ll eventually become demo cars.

The Lexus LC is one of my favorite Japanese GT cars of the moment. While spending some time with one in Melbourne a few years back, I quickly grew to appreciate the lovely NA V8 up front. It would be great if Lexus made an ‘F’ version and went all-out, don’t you think?

As for the American bus, that was used as a mobile shop for events. Remember those?


Stepping inside, you’ll see that Kato’s collection has spilled into this building too. Talk about a good problem to have.


The blue Kenmeri is a TAS 2014 car with a full Mizuno Works-built L28 under the hood.


I have a feeling that this MA61 Toyota Supra Celica won’t be staying stock for very long. Now that I think of it, this could be one of the best platforms for Liberty Walk to go really wild on.


Next to the cars is where body kits are boxed up and stored away. Once an order comes in, they’re able to be shipped out in no time thanks to this friendly guy.


What I like about Liberty Walk is that no matter which building you’re in there always seems to be a place to sit down, chat, and relax for a bit. In this case it’s a little balcony area overlooking the warehouse.

Here’s my son chilling out with Kawamura-san of LBW while the old man slaved away taking pictures.


The view isn’t too shabby, and from here you can see another of Kato’s passions – military vehicles. I think I’ll keep that for another post…

The Workshop

Another few minutes’ drive away is a little place we’ve seen before. This workshop is the closest one to the HQ; the main workshop is actually close to an hour away, and is a far bigger facility complete with a couple of paint booths and where most of the development work is done.


That said, this place alone is bigger than most JDM tuners’ workshops, which again emphasizes just how massive Liberty Walk has become. By the way, do you remember the Miura kit car that broke the internet in 2018? Here it is again.


While you are about to see some more very nice four-wheeled metal, I just wanted to say that this Piaggio Ape is the best vehicle I’ve ever seen on LBW’s premises. All it needs is a proper injection of bosozoku style and then we can classify it as another Japan-Italian masterpieces, like the Italdesign GT-R50.


Lamborghinis are never too far away; this Aventador was being readied for some extra LBW girth.


However, it’s always the kyusha that wins my attention over.


What would the Lambo purists say, I wonder?

Liberty Walk really is a master of modern day Japanese tuning. They’ve been at the forefront of a shift to the more aesthetic side of modifying, and in doing so have really left the masters of the ’90s behind.

This place reminds me of Top Secret 20+years ago.


Again, there’s a little corner that Kato-san is using for additional collection storage space. This time it’s bikes, and a nice variety of them too, including a pair of old Honda CB police cruisers.

The Retail Shop

Our last stop is a return to the main HQ for a look at the final two sections that make up the greater part of Liberty Walk.


In front of the shop there is always a rotating display of cars for sale, typically secondhand vehicles that have been exchanged for newer, modified cars that LBW builds. This FC3S RX-7 is sporting an old school wide-body conversion.


They also had a couple of Honda S660s – the coolest modern kei car out right now – up for grabs.

Or is it? The Suzuki Jimny has continued to be a runaway success with waiting lists for new cars still stretching out to a year. But discerning buyers could skip that, pay a bit more, and get themselves an LBW version that looks more like a mini G Wagon. The wide fenders mean you lose kei car status (read: cheaper tax), but I think it’s well worth it for proper street cred.


Inside the shop, Kato shows the world how merchandising is properly done.


A lot of effort goes into this side of the business, with 15 to 20 staff working on it.


The shop opens up into what used to be an office, but has now been turned into a model car gallery. These aren’t for sale; it’s just a collection of one-off built examples.

Also in this area is a massive Zero Fighter plane replica that’s purpose is to push air through the building via its massive propeller, and look really cool.


Accessible from the outside is the final piece of the puzzle – the LB Cafe diner. At the time of my visit they had this 1:1 Hot Wheels packaging backdrop, so people could park their cars in front and take a picture. What a cool idea!


Inside you’ll find seating for about 60 people, and there is just as much space outside too. Upstairs is Kato-san’s office, from which he can look down onto the fruits of his labor.


The cafe serves up a nice selection of comfort food both at lunch and dinner time, and speaking from personal experience, the burgers are especially good.

Liberty Walk started out in 1996 as a secondhand car reseller; 25 years later it’s one of the biggest and most recognizable aftermarket automotive outfits to have ever come out of Japan. And it’s all testament to the hard work, dedication, and passion of the man behind it.

Stay tuned for more from LBW…

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: dino_dalle_carbonare



Comments are closed.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

IT is weird but most interesting thing for me is that Accord? -front-ended Civic :-D




that is an acura 1.6EL/isuzu gemini front end swapped on a civic

LB growing like a small skateboard shop that has caught on with mainstream media and pop culture. hope they don't lose their roots and forgot where they came from just to chase IG likes and clout

Dino Dalle Carbonare

They seem to have a pretty good plan of attack!


Thanks Dino, that place looks like Mecca for me. I'm just trying to work out how I can get a P-51 replica hanging from my lounge ceiling... And I'll take the fighter plane themed Huracan.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Glad you liked it. Ah so that's what the plane is, I guess if you have the ceiling space go for it. One hell of a way to install a fan lol


Such a cool place! Thanks for the great feature.


I can't believe how much real estate this guy has... in Japan!!!
And I can't believe how much his business has grown, making such awful bodykits (in my opinion, of course!). So cool to see someone make it like this! And there's no denying that the warehouse, shop, and cafe are extra cool!

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Yeah it's pretty wild how massive they are right now. The thing is they have also opened LB shops across the country, I think there are 3-4 now.



That place looks amazing! I know some people were "hating" on Liberty Walk from the GTR story but I think they have some cool cars/kits. There is a Porsche tuner near me and they had 3 LB 930 Porsches there one day. They looked incredible! Especially if you never see them or rarely. And we had a pop-up car show at the Starbucks last summer and a LB Aventadore was there. It was done out! They're nasty stock so this one was really over the top.

To each his own. I don't hate on any style but huge wings and those DONK cars in Florida make me laugh. And drifting? It's like burning rubber sideways while going around in circles...o.k.with me. Do your thing people!

Dino Dalle Carbonare

I'm not one to give judgment on style, it's something too subjective and we all have our opinions. I just appreciate what Kato and his crew are doing for the Japanese car culture, i.e. making it more colorful. If you are not into it Japan has everything else to offer so why get butt hurt I say


Dino! Damn tablet keyboard.


I'd love to see coverage of the production facility. I imagine they must have an enormous room to house all of the molds.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

I don't think they would allow cameras in there


OMG one of the BEST articles ever.Ok so i LOVED the sized car collection, i also remember that wide miura from like a year ago, that green mercy looked insane and i actually have a Greddy replica of the RX-3 at home. I wonder if u hv any more pics of that collection doe.Maybe even make a special feature on that collection.Either way i loved this article. THANKS DINO. ;)

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Thanks man, happy you like it!


Oh and I can also see that ur making an article on them Lambos.Hmmm, its going to be always. Cant wait. :D

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Haha yeah coming up next. Also hope they finish the 4-rotor S15 ... I'm going to be all over that


You know, Pixar could make another "Cars" film. This time round, based on Japanese great cars like in the LB garage.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Now that's a dope idea!


Looks like heaven! I understand the feeling with having your son admire the F40 too. When I chase my 8 year old son around the house and he wants me to go faster he says "Chase me like a Nissan Skyline. Chase my like an F40". Always brings a huge smile to my face.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

haha nice, I hope you make all the right turbo sounds


I had no idea that their facilities would be so amazing. It is a strong contrast to the rough and tough looking Japanese shops from the other posts. I'd love to see some sort of mini documentary on their story and how they came to be where they are now.

What an inspiration and awesome tour! I

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Yeah it makes the majority of Japanese shops look tiny. But obviously you can't compare massive places in the middle of nowhere to smaller shops in bigger cities. Land prices get astronomical the closer you get to built up areas.


The RX3 is my pick. A bridgey 12A, so puurfect!

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Yeah that or the Kenmeri!


Yeah kinda want a feature on that Piaggio...

Dino Dalle Carbonare

I hope they give it the LB Works treatment!


Now you're talking, next time you visit Kato-san suggest him to do so, here in southern Europe we still have lots of them, imagine delivering olives and fresh fish with a LBW tuned turbo Ape doing wheelies in front of the elderly of your town, that's classy.


More businesses need fighter planes on the premises.

Dino Dalle Carbonare



I'd definitely pick the oddball:

The Suzuki LJ80 military pickup. Damn that thing is cool. I have seen the full cab versions but never a pickup!

Dino Dalle Carbonare

I heard is collection of these vehicles is growing. Might ask to see more next time


Would love to a feature of the Suzuki LJ80. What you would probably call a first gen Jimny?

It also brings up another question: What came first? The fasination for military stuff of the LB stuff? I can imagine the Lb stuff draws inspiration from the planes in using rivets? And the military transport because of the over fenders, which is normal on Jeeps and such?


Love it or hate it, Liberty Walk kits are pretty unique

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

I'll never get over how sick the Miura looks. Imagine the amount of death threats Kato-san would get if he used an actual Miura. Lol!

Dino Dalle Carbonare



Really like the tiny GTR, actually looks like the successor to the R34 and before based of the more horizontal headlights than the Ferrari or Prius vertical style ones

Dino Dalle Carbonare

If I had (and could fit!) in a Copen I'd do that to it lol


I hate all of it, would cancel none of it - viva la personalitay!


We're so used to seeing this stuff online, but it must be surreal to be there in person.

And it has to be the RX3 out of everything there. Has to be.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Brap brap!


That's an Honda Life, not a 360 :)


The definition of a winner is someone who does what they love and loves what they do.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Totally agree there!


What would the Lambo purists say, I wonder?

Lol... There is no such thing, you know this! What, the original GT cars? The Miura tossed that playbook out. Oh but the Miura! Lol the Countach came to ask what a curve was. Okay, okay, let's get serious: Rambo Lambo! Yeahhhhh.... Now the Sikan's conceptual foundation (terzo milla) wonders if a straight piped v12 is even necessary if cooling a heated supercapacitor ignites the air like thunder, also cool tron like heat trails for longer exposures, and a 0-60-0-200-0-250 that makes ICE feel like a toy.

"Purists" lol

Dino Dalle Carbonare

I have no idea what you are on about but that was amusing lol :p


Nailed it, then! Keeping the peanut gallery fun.
Great stuff, keep it coming.


Qty: 1 full kit for the Tesla Roadster please.


It's a pleasant surprise to discover that the merchandise shop has PERTAMINA oil drums as furnitures. A little bit of Indonesia represented right there


did he sold his f40