There’s one aspect of Speedhunting that I enjoy above all others, and that’s going off the beaten path and exploring. Doing so, you eventually stumble upon something interesting.
Nothing gets the excitement going as much as finding a cool car, a never-before-heard-about shop or an abandoned classic. And while on a quiet weekend drive across Shizuoka during summer, I came across something that pretty much hit all of these points.
It was totally by chance too. The navigation showed pretty horrible traffic on the highway back to Tokyo, so I decided to attempt a section of the drive on backroads to see where they’d take me.
Despite what most people think, Japan is extremely rural once you venture outside the built-up areas. There’s been a real population shift over the last few generations that has seen huge migration to the big cities, slowly but surely emptying out the countryside and costal towns, leaving only the elderly behind. It’s a pity that economically, as well as politically, this is being overlooked, because it’s caused a concerning depression of these more rural areas.
Visually it can be quite evident; it’s not hard to find abandoned shops, closed up businesses, empty houses with overgrown yards, and very little movement on the roads in small towns. It’s sad and concerning to see, and makes you wonder how it’s all going to pan out in the long run. The greater Tokyo area is now home to 37 million people, which is a quarter of Japan’s total population, so I think something will eventually have to give. There’s growing hope that the pandemic and new ways of working will help alleviate things as people realize that quality of life is actually quite important. But I digress…
While travelling down one of Shizuoka’s rural backroads, in the distance I spotted a series of abandoned American cars, which immediately piqued my interest. Once I was upon them, I pulled over for a closer look.
There was a bright yellow transporter next to them which looked far from abandoned, and the sign-writing told me it belonged to a workshop called Yellow Shark.
I walked down the road a little and arrived at a business property bearing the same name.
It was eerily quiet, with only the sound of cicadas in the surrounding woods disturbing the peace.
I slowly walked into the yard in front of the main building where more weathered American cars and trucks were parked up.
It was hard to tell if this place was still in business or not, but regardless of that it kind of felt like I was intruding.
While the main share of cars were American – including some possibly salvageable Corvettes – it was obvious that Yellow Shark catered to a wide variety of makes and models.
There was a Honda Beat under a cover, a recently resprayed Sunny, and what looked like a Toyota Crown from the mid ’70s.
With so many weathered panels and random parts lying around the place, it was a bit of a dream to shoot.
There was even a little Subaru 360 sporting a custom sky blue paint job.
I made my way closer to the main entrance of the shop, wondering if someone was there. And that’s when I spotted an old Chevy Suburban parked between the posts of a rusty lift.
The fresh LS swap and clean exterior paint was enough to convince me that Yellow Shark is still very much in business.
However, on this day it didn’t seem to be open, which was a true pity because I’m sure there’d be some interesting stuff inside the large main building.
I did try knocking on the slide door of the main office followed by a few polite ‘sumimasens’ (translation: excuse me) but no luck, so I moved to the side of the shop to take a closer look at what was parked along the road.
It’s such a great feeling coming across sights like these, and as I said earlier, it’s an element of Speedhunting that has always brought so much satisfaction.
So aside from definitely having to stop by Yellow Shark again when they are open, I really hope I can find more time to roam the backroads of rural Japan to see what I can uncover. You can only imagine what’s out there…
Dino Dalle Carbonare