Temples? Geisha? Nope, Kyoto Is For Kyusha
Where the past comes to life

Let’s say you’re planning a trip to Japan. And really, who wouldn’t want to be doing that? Chances are there are some important places you’ll want to see. Surely Tokyo will be on the list, being Japan’s largest and most well-known city. You’ll probably want to venture into the countryside see the incredible Mt. Fuji. Osaka is another place you gotta see, even if it’s just for the food. Then there’s Kyoto.


Kyoto is of course Japan’s most historic city – one that’s filled with hundreds of temples, shrines and other celebrated locations. Because of this, it’s one of the country’s biggest tourist destinations with visitors flooding in from both Japan and abroad.


If you want to experience traditional Japanese culture, there’s simply no better place than Kyoto. A few weeks ago, I had the chance to spend a couple days in this majestic city, but this time I wasn’t there to visit the ancient temples or do some geishahunting. Nope, I came for the cars.

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After hopping off the bullet train at Kyoto Station one evening, I was greeted by my friend Shun Ohgishi in his super cool Honda Vamos kei van. I’d run into him at a few events in the past and he promised that if I ever came to Kyoto, he’d show me some cool stuff, so this time around I took him up on his offer. Prior to my visit he’d reached out to some friends and fellow vintage car enthusiasts, who were planning an informal night meet so I could experience the local scene. Talk about Japanese hospitality.

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Prior to the meet, we took a ride over to Yamaguchi Paint & Body Works – a small local shop where some of Ohgishi-san’s fellow club members were gathering after work.

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It was here that I met Mr. Teppey Yamaguchi and other members of the Otona No Omocha (Adult Toy) car club. Not only was this a group of extremely friendly and funny dudes, but these guys are more than just vintage car owners. They are kyusha otaku to the fullest – living and breathing 1970s and 1980s custom car culture and fashion, despite their young age.

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While hanging out at the shop, I was able to check out this bitchin’ 330 Nissan Cedric kaido racer that was in the process of being refreshed. Check out those custom fenders and rare five-lug, five-spoke Longchamp wheels.

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At one point Yamaguchi-san even went to his shed and busted out this ridiculous custom scooter. See what I mean about these guys being kyusha otaku?

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A short time later, it was time to head out to the meeting spot, which would be a parking area on the local expressway. Before that though, we’d stop at a nearby convenience store to join up with more local gearheads.

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It was there that I got better chance to check out Yamaguchi-san’s ride of choice. It’s a Mazda Cosmo – which is a rare vehicle in itself, but this one’s the even less commonly seen notchback ‘L’ model. Naturally, he’s got it outfitted to full Kaido Racer spec, with works-style overfenders, mega deep SSR Mk1s and Dunlop slicks. Definitely one of the coolest cars I encountered during my recent time in Japan.

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Also joining our little convoy at the convenience store were a couple of KP chassis Toyota Starlets, and once again these weren’t the usual three-door hatchback body style, but the rare station wagon type.

Cold night, hot cars
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After a few minutes we hopped back in the cars and made the short drive up the expressway to the Kyotanabe Parking Area, where the party was already getting started.

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Despite the fact that it was both bitterly cold outside and a week night, the turnout was nothing short of impressive. There weren’t hundreds of cars, but it seemed that every vehicle that came out was a damn cool one.

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Here’s a stylish 910 Nissan Bluebird that happens to be owned by Ohgishi-san’s younger brother Takuma. As you can see, a passion for old low cars runs in the family.

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It wasn’t exclusively classic cars either – here’s an aggressive little EG6 Civic that came out to join in the fun. Then again this body style is nearly 25 years old now – as hard as that might be to imagine.

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Or how about a pavement-scraping Chevy Silverado that made me forget I was in Japan for a moment. You really never know what you’ll find at these gatherings.

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I’ve had the good fortune to be able to attend lots of meets in Japan, but it didn’t take long to realize this night was something special. Rarely have I seen such an impressive collection of both unusual and well-modified cars in one spot. Take this S130 Fairlady Z for example, a pretty rare car on its own – but this one was set up perfectly with a built L-series under the hood, some subtle bodywork and a set of Work Meisters. Looks like it’s ready to tear up some highway, doesn’t it?

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Here’s a four-door C110 Skyline doing its best GT-R impression with a dropped stance, OE style flares, Watanabes and sticky rubber.

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Speaking of GT-Rs, you might be wondering why this Kenmeri is sitting up so high compared to the others at the meet. Well it turns out this is a genuine KPGC110 GT-R, one of just 197 built before the oil crisis put the program on a long hiatus. The fact that this rare piece of Japanese motoring history came out is another sign that this was more than your typical night meet.

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Elsewhere I came across this very tidy 510 Bluebird with an appeal that was made even stronger by the fact it was packing some muscle under the hood.

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A full SR20DET swap to be exact, and an extremely clean one at that. It’s really hard to think of a car and engine better suited for each other than the 510 and an SR.

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Along with the sexy Skylines and Zs, there was a good showing of more obscure models – like Yoshitomo Kamata’s immaculate 210 Nissan Sunny wagon. I dig everything about this car, from the unique color choice to the low ride height and aluminum Moon discs.

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Here’s another Sunny wagon: this one a 310 model dropped on a gleaming set of slot mags. Yes, I love wagons.

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It might be a Nissan, but seeing this 230 Cedric Ambulance got me thinking about all sorts of cool things I could do with my MS53 Crown. Maybe I’m just a sucker for weird cars?

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Ah yes, let’s not forget the Hakosuka, among which several examples were present this night, including a tough-looking de-bumpered sedan on Hayashi Street CRs.

Kyusha family
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Without a doubt one of my favorite cars of the night was Tooru Waka’s Honda N360. The little Honda Ns are relatively common in the Japanese vintage car scene, but you aren’t likely to see many done like this.

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From the chin spoiler and overfenders, to the tiny little SSR MkIs and dual exhaust out back, this pocket-sized street racer seriously warms my heart.

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And if the Honda wasn’t small enough, Tooru also brought out his customized Tamiya Wild Willy RC car. Cool!

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Another one of the evening’s more memorable machines was this Yonmeri Kaido Racer which made the trip over from nearby Osaka. You might think of Kanjo Civics and slammed VIP cars when you picture Osaka, but the area’s kyusha scene is second to none.

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And yes, those heavily widened steel wheels are stretched with a set of full-on racing slicks, because why not?

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Also over from Osaka was this shakotan C130 Butaketsu Laurel. Never before has a car dubbed ‘pig ass’ been so sexy.

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After a couple of hours of checking out cars and chatting, it was time to call it a night. One by one the vintage machines fired up and made their way onto the highway, exhaust notes bouncing off the concrete for the perfect farewell.

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I’d like to sincerely thank Ohgishi-San for putting this meet together and also extend my appreciation to everyone that came out to spend a cold weeknight on the side of the highway with us.

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Who needs temples and geisha when you have stuff like this?

I’m already looking forward to my next visit to Kyoto.

Mike Garrett
Instagram: speedhunters_mike



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I just want to see cars like that once. Sooner the better too.


That last shot though


That C110...mmmmm yeah, I'd have that one.


Do you see that Japanese letters on the side body of some of the station wagons? Yeah that's Japanese bureaucratic idiocracy. I means this a cargo vehicle. If its registered as a cargo in which you pay less taxes on it you MUST have that on it somewhere. So the guy with the lime green paint job had to paint that stupid thing on the side. Oh there is more he has to put the weight limit somewhere else too. Retarded!!!


ryukyustriker dont think anyone forced him into turning it into a cargo vehicle


I don't agree that the 510 and an SR engine are better suited for each. The 510 is a clean car, classic, even elegant. The SR20 DET is a brute, reliable but very harsh and very powerful engine. It little mods, the engine will have 300 hp and a sound to make the Police arrest you immediately. Also, an SR will keep that clean body 510 in a drift all the time. Actually, that it wouldn't be bad at all :))))


Oh god, that Ferrari is the sexiest shape that ever left the factory..


Say I'm ACTUALLY going to Japan... in the first week of April and there is NOTHING ON, what should I do Mike!? ... WHAT SHOULD I DO!??? Swinging by Kyoto for the weekend is on the cards too.


Very cool! I've always wanted to go to Kyoto anyway, but that was more for the culture. Now I have to expand that definition to include the car culture too. :)


more of this!!!!! love the cars.


HoTWire  I'm gong to be there the week before you (22nd-4th), and I also have no car related plans.


This is why i love Japan...Its such an awesome place!!


Awesomeness, I like the weird/uncommon cars you've posted here. I think I like the JDM culture car-wise because of such diversity, and the perchance to slap fender flares on everything ;)


There are few things I want to do more than take a trip to Japan. Going there is truly at the top of my bucket list. I dream of Experiencing what the land of the rising sun has to offer. But I have one major question/ concern. Hopefully you as Speedhunters can help me out. How is the recent nuclear disaster at Fukushima affecting your travels there? Because let's be honest, Fukushima has poisoned the world and as I understand it many japanese people are scared to eat, grow, live etc off of their land. So what does this mean for us gaijin who desire to go there, but not at the risk of coming back a science experiment. My heart aches for the Japanese people and for the rest of the world. The radiation being dumped everyday into the Pacific Ocean is destroying the ecosystem. And if you challenge me and say it isn't prepare for a current events lesson. How could speedhunters endorse such a place that could potentially Kill everyone. Not that I am saying boycott japan. I love all things japanese. I own 3 s13 ' s, and a skyline which I imported a few years back. But as a citizen of the world how should we take precautions. From your perspective. Thank you for your time. I read speedhunters everyday. It is the first and last place I check when I am on the Internet.


From the rear the Honda N60 looks like a classic Austin Mini.


kurko ryukyustriker No one forced him the car was already registered as a cargo vehicle. If he wanted to change it he would have to pay alot of money to change it and then have to go through JCI all over again, but you knew that right? I don't know I was only born and raised in Japan for 31 years what do I know.


Yeah, when I posted it earlier a couple people thought it was a Mini.


I've been there a few times since the incident and haven't noticed anything. Nor have my friends and family that live there. I wouldn't let that stop you from visiting.


Yeah, these guys certainly have unique taste. That's what I love.




Of all the strange cars I've had, I've yet to own a Civic. Someday!


I could post this sort of stuff for days! Luckily I shot plenty of kyusha material while in Japan this time.


Go for it!


I think the Hyper Meeting at Tsukuba is usually around that time. Otherwise it's also helpful to flip through current magazines to see if there's anything cool going on.


NA SR is also a good choice for a 510!


Make that two!




Do it!




2nd to the last pic. Love it!


Nice post Mike. Looks like there where some amazing cars there.
(Cool to see the 910 and the C140 Laurel).


Thanks much!


Great photographs in this one, I especially love the last one. When will you launch your after-hours project Geishahunters? ;)


Mfabs  it seems more like you want to stand on a soapbox than go to Japan.


Mfabs  FWIW, I've been to Chernobyl (literally within 200 metres of the reactor) and come back no worse for wear. There's undoubtedly some radiation, but every time you fly you're exposed to radiation too - or with every x-ray you have. Do I suggest you go fishing next door to Fukushima? No. But as Mike said, don't let it stop you visiting the country.


Oh man, I love all of this. This is by far my favorite car scene! Can't wait to help pioneer this in the US :D


I'm going to Japan in a few weeks, I will also visit Kyoto. It's nice to know that also Kyoto has such a nice car scene. I hope to see some cool car while I'm over there :D


OH man, that last picture... and that Datsun Roadster!!! Warrrrgghhh!!!


what wheel is that on the white bluebird?

Brandon Schaffner

I’m in town for my honeymoon. Me and the wife would love to find a meet to go to. We are both car enthusiasts! How would I find one? Here 6 days. Any help would be rad. I’ve seen a few pretty cool Evos we really want to check out the culture m!


I'm heading to Osaka and Kyoto in September! After reading this I gotta rethink my itinerary for my visit. Any tips on places to check out for the car culture in Kyoto?