No one wants to deal with 15 billion dollars’ worth of damages from a natural disaster. But this is the reality of living in Japan, a country where earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons are as much a part of life as Pokémon Go.
This month I headed to Nagano to take part in a charity event held to raise money for the victims of 2019’s Reiwa 1 East Japan Typhoon, otherwise known as Typhoon Hagibis.
The Japanese are no strangers to typhoons, and people here simply accept it as an unpleasant and often tragic part of living on this beautiful volcanic island. Most years the typhoon season means torrential rain for days or weeks on end. My apartment has roller shutters on all its windows to protect the glass from violent wind and rain.
Unfortunately, every few years there seems to be a big one, and no amount of preparation can protect us from the intense wrath of nature.
If there is any silver lining to these devastating blows from nature, it must be that in the aftermath, people band together to rebuild their lives. Communities becomes stronger, tied together by the bonds of despair and driven by the will to recover.
Nagano Prefecture is a stunning mountainous area in Japan; its 3,000-meter-tall ranges are chiseled by crystal-clear streams and rivers. These rivers open up into huge flood plains, and that’s where I’d guess 99.9% of people live. In fact, only 27% (real data) of Japan is flat, farmable and habitable land. You can see where this is going… When the typhoons hit, all that water has to go somewhere, and it’s not Tokyo Disneyland. The rivers flood and cause mass destruction to densely-populated areas.
This is what happened to the Chikuma River, the main estuary running through Nagano City, in October 2019.
Organized by the weirdly wonderful Yasuhiro Tsuchida, or simply ‘Kohentai’ to his mates, this event was not only held to collect some much-needed financial aid, but also to collect some smiles and boost the morale of the local community. It was clear that coupled with Covid, the people in this area have really been struggling to make ends meet of late.
Nagano is one of Japan’s top onsen towns, and every year thousands of people from across the country come to bath in the therapeutic thermal mineral waters. At this time of year it should be swarmed with tourists and locals alike, but it really felt like a ghost town. I was happy to visit one of the local hot springs and spend some cash at a few shops.
I’d been invited by Kohentai to check out his Lotus Esprit – and I’ll post a feature on that later in the month – but the event was full of unexpected surprises too. This is Japan after all.
Amongst American muscle, KTM lightweights and Japanese classics, I found this fabulous Peugeot 405 T16 complete with period-correct kids bikes. The owners of the slammed Lexus and Infiniti must have thought I was mad to be paying it so much attention.
These kind of meets are great; you get people and cars from all walks of life, not just all slammed JDM machines or all track monsters. There was a relaxed vibe for one of the first proper weekends of summer 2021.
Apart from a couple of highly modified specimens, I got the impression that most of these cars were people’s daily drivers, and it was fantastic to see such a huge turnout. Entry for the public was free, but display cars paid a fee which went directly to disaster relief.
I really love the Toyota Crown Royal Saloon, which is actually a wagon. But don’t let the lost-in-translation badging confuse you – this thing knows exactly what it is. I especially love the rear-facing kids seats, and this one was sporting some pretty tasteful paint details too.
I’ll be completely honest – I circled this thing a couple of times, scratching my head at what it was. Every single body panel has been replaced making it very well disguised indeed. The round tail lights are not much help in identifying it either.
The shape of the engine bay might give you some idea, as well as what’s sitting inside, although theres no turbo to be seen.
It wasn’t until I looked into the cabin that my suspicions were 100% confirmed; I’m sure you’ve guessed it too.
As it turns out, Dino spotlighted this exact Abflug Supra Zefi:r back in 2017 when it wasn’t quite as crazy as it is now, so check that out if you want to learn more about the original conversion.
This lovely four-door Japan shone like a pearl in the sun, and I’ll be shooting a full feature on it as soon as I can get back to Nagano.
I’m always smitten with a Sunny truck and this one was a lovely example.
I was really honoured to have been invited to this event, and I really hope that the local community can get back on its feet. It’s been three years since Typhoon Hagibis hit the Nagano area and there are still excavators working along the banks of the Chikuma River, trying to repair the damage. The Japanese are such resilient people and events like this show just how strong their community spirit is.