If you were to head to Tokyo as a normal tourist, there are several things you’d want to to see. You’d definitley want to go to Asakusa to see the historic Sensouji Temple. You’d want to see the world famous Tokyo Tower, and its newer counterpart the Tokyo Skytree. Don’t forget the giant Gundam in Odaiba and the nerd paradise known as Akihabara.
Car enthusiasts though, might have a slightly different itinerary for visiting Japan’s largest city. If you live and breath automobiles, your ideal Tokyo trip will probably include visits to places like Super Autobacs, Up Garage or some of the famous tuning shops that are spread across the city.
Of these shops, few are more well known than RE-Amemiya. If you are a fan of the rotary engine, the name Amemiya is legendary – and even if you’re not, it’s impossible not to respect what Amemiya-san and his company have done for the tuning and motorsport world.
During the Speedhunters Japan Expedition earlier this year, I had the chance to visit RE-Amemiya’s Tokyo shop with Dino and Sean in the days following Tokyo Auto Salon. One cold afternoon we hopped into our borrowed BMW press car and set off across a city that was still recovering from an unexpected large snow storm, bound for the Amemiya workshop.
RE-Amemiya actually has two facilities in the Tokyo region: a large shop in Chiba, near Narita Airport and a smaller garage located in Tokyo’s east side on the banks of the Arakawa River. The latter would be our destination on this particular day.
The primary reason for our visit was to shoot RE-Amemiya’s rotary-powered Lotus Europa that had just debuted at TAS, but being Speedhunters we knew there would always be other cool stuff to uncover.
So while Dino and Sean got to work at shooting the 20B-powered Lotus, I decided I’d have a little peek around the shop to see what I could find. Dino had visited the shop plenty of times in the past for various photoshoots, this was my first time. Needless to say, I was pretty excited.
Our original plan was actually to have a chat with Amemiya-san himself to get his take on the state of the industry and hear some more about his background, but unfortunately he was at home recovering from a post-Auto Salon flu bug. No worries though, there was still plenty of Speedhunting to be done.Backstreet legend
Before I get into the shop itself though, I wanted to talk about its location. RE-Amemiya isn’t located in a busy commercial area or an industrial district, it’s tucked away in a quiet neighborhood full of apartment buildings, houses, small businesses and side streets.
Just walking around, you’d have no idea this unassuming neighborhood was home to the builder of some of Japan’s wildest and fastest cars.
Then you come across the Amemiya Building, which houses the workshop on the ground floor, and apartments on the floors above it.
That’s right. If you wanted to, you could rent an apartment that sits directly above one of Japan’s most famous tuning shops. The sign says “tenants wanted”.
As for the garage itself, it’s smaller than you might expect – as is the case with a lot of Japanese workshops. There’s room for just a few cars in here, along with tools, spare parts and equipment.
On the particular afternoon we visited, there were a pair of FD3S RX-7s in the shop. One was a complete Greddy Super 7 with its distinct Porsche front end…
… while the other was little more than a stripped down chassis, lacking any sort of drivetrain or suspension components.
It’s actually a little strange just how unromantic the shop is. There couldn’t be a bigger contrast between it and the flashy, ultra-fast cars it works on.
If you just took a look around the workshop without seeing the cars, you could easily mistake it for any of the thousands of little industrial workshops spread across this part of Tokyo.Rotary Heaven
But as you look closer, you begin to see things like tuning magazines stacked on top of lightweight wheels and sticky tires.
You also begin to notice the incredible assortment of car parts that are crammed into every corner of the small building.
Complete FD3S hatch assemblies hang above the garage floor…
… while shelves are packed full of coilovers, turbochargers and other parts in piles, resulting in a monument that could be someone’s Burning Man art project.
Here you can see a Bride seat floating above a sea of other spare parts. No big deal.
Another work bench is home to turbo manifolds and other goodies.
Head upstairs and it gets even better. Shelves of rotary parts leave little doubt as to what RE-Amemiya’s speciality is.
Despite its modest size and unassuming atmosphere, this is anything but your typical Tokyo workshop.
Even the scrap pile outside the shop is full of cool stuff…
Here, you can spot an old racing helmet and couple of FD3s doors in this pile. As they say, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.
RE-Amemiya’s Tokyo workshop might be one of the smaller and less extravagant of the many garages I’ve visited, but that’s what makes it so special.
It’s the whole idea of having such a famous workshop hidden away among apartment buildings and quiet alleys that makes RE-Amemiya such a fascinating and uniquely Japanese place. The tourists can stick with the crowds and souvenirs, while we explore the real gems of Tokyo.