Welcome to my running diary of Day One at the 2007 Tokyo Auto Salon! Tuner fans, beer drinkers and aspiring writers should proceed with caution. Recovering alcoholics, muscle car bloggers and my Mom need not apply. I've recovered from the jet lag and sworn off sake for at least a month. Good thing I wrote things down. Let's proceed!
9:39 a.m. Because of the time difference, and the ridiculously huge breakfast I ate earlier that combined runny scrambled eggs with poached salmon and miso soup with croissants, I'm already a bit drained. But I'm finally at the convention center, notepad in hand, ready to start the day.
9:46 a.m. Why lie? The HKS Mitsubishi Evo VIII is truly the stuff dreams are made of. Every single body panel has been cast in dry carbon and painted. Every mounting point is fabricated from scratch. The attention to detail is mind blowing. And it's really good to see that the car is still being celebrated, in light of the boring subcompact rage that has clearly taken over the show. The Honda Fit just came to the U.S., but it is nearly ancient here and not surprisingly still extremely popular to modify.
9:50 a.m. We check out the new Volk Formula 1 wheels, which are so light they can be picked up with one hand nearly effortlessly.
10:01 a.m. I am magnetically drawn to the R Magic booth, complete with metallic fuschia booth cars and Van Halen blaring. I'm waiting for "Hot For Teacher" to come on. We are literally trapped in a time warp, and the sea of 4G63 engines and FD RX-7s are not doing anything to alter my perception. Speaking of which, I realllllllly want to get an FD now. This show is feeding the beast!
10:11 a.m. You know you're not in Kansas anymore when one of the coolest concepts at the show is a Daihatsu; yes, a Daihatsu, which most people born after 1981 don't even know existed. The Move Concept, which looks like a cross between a Honda Fit and a Scion xB and is garishly festooned with a Chrysler 300C front grille, would probably never cut it in the United States. It's like a souvenir you think you simply must own, but once you bring it home, you have no idea why you got so excited about it.
10:14 a.m. Honestly, can we really consider the girls working at the show to be "booth babes"? To me, the ideal woman for the job would probably be a Jenna Jameson or a Tera Patrick. She should be larger than life, with a fantastic body and sex oozing out of her pores. I picture the hair blowing in the wind, the itsy-bitsy bikinis, vinyl costumes and lots of glitter. As we walk by a pack of waifs with ghostly white skin and protruding collarbones, my friend remarks "If they're cute, pray they don't open their mouth. I swear, I saw this one girl who had four teeth growing out of the same spot!"
10:19 a.m. While passing by the Racing Queen Awards (oh yes, they do exist!), I overhear the following conversation:
Guy No. 1: Do you feel pedophilic when you look at these girls?
Guy No. 2: Yeah, kinda. But the legal age of consent here is like, sixteen right?
(Actually, it's twelve. Just FYI, kids!)
10:27 a.m. Starting to get a little bored and feeling apathetic about the show until I spot the Sunline Racing Suzuki Swift. Closely resembling a Mini Cooper, the Swift rocks a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine good for 120 ps, Sunline suspension kit and Yokohama 215/35-18. Is it U.S. bound? God I hope so.
10:34 a.m. Reason #237494 how I know I'm in Japan: Watching six videographers film a model standing on a platform and zoom in on her crotch as they try to capture the bit of skin between her underwear and her genitals. I was literally watching them for five minutes and the girl didn't change her pose once, nor did she step off the platform and kick one of them in the face. What a bizarre, sexually charged country.
10:42 a.m. The ubiquitous DUB booth displays their usual assortment of hideously customized SUVs and the requisite Hummer. In California, I would call the booth tacky. In Detroit, less so. In Japan, nothing looks out of place as you realize the J-Models are the original gangsters of car bling.
10:49 a.m. Hey, guess what? Not a single pair of fake boobs in sight! I will credit this astute observation to my friend Gary Castillo, Breast Connoisseur.
11:12 a.m. Wow, the concession stands at the convention center sell candy, bento boxes, ice cream...and BEER! Who cares if it's 35 degrees inside? We can drink at the show! And no one will stop us! Wheeeeee!
11:39 a.m. Okay, one more won't hurt...
12:00 p.m. As we make our way back down to the show, we pass by a kindly old woman selling box lunches...and beer. She looks like such a sweet old woman, we should support her by buying her goods. That beer will sure taste good when we drink it at the GReddy booth.
12:25 p.m. We're still at GReddy. I have no idea why.
12:45 p.m. We realize the old woman and her beer are conveniently positioned right next to the restrooms. Oh dear, they make it too easy sometimes.
1:04 p.m. Is this a bad thing? I've walked by so many Skylines, I'm not even that excited to see one anymore. Gary recounts the story of some kid from the states who was on the same bus as him who nearly had a coronary when he saw an R34 pass them on the freeway and screamed "Oh my GOD! SKYLINE GT-R!!!!!!!" I'm not denying the appeal, but get a grip kid. This would be the equivalent of a Japanese tourist descending on the Midwest in the eighties and shrieking in delight at all the Levis jeans everyone has on. Seeing all these tuner cars reminds me of seeing animals in their natural wildlife habitat. Granted, I'm from California and I see PLENTY of Silvias and Evos and more Skylines than you'd think. But it is completely different seeing them in Japan. Like panda bears at the San Diego Zoo. Just not the same.
1:08 p.m. I'm a former Honda-head gone bad, but even I'm stoked to see the Mugen booth. Some may recall the Mugen Civic Si sedan that was revealed at SEMA last November, which came across as a diluted, half-hearted effort to get something on the showfloor as fast as possible. The "Road to Racing" concept on display here in Tokyo is much more aggressive, with a front-end resembling an Evo. Remember, this is the first-ever Si sedan, and since the U.S. tuner market has already beaten the poor coupe to death, we need to see something really out there for this new car.
1:33 p.m. Beer...
1:53 p.m. Lunchtime. So the last time you went to an auto show, amusement park or sports event, what did $13 get you? Usually a bad sandwich and a soda, or maybe a hot dog and a small draft beer. Today, it gets me Japanese style hamburger steak with 2 fried shrimp (that I can readily identify as shrimp, unlike eating at Red Lobster), potatoes and broccoli. I even feel somewhat satisfied after eating.
2:17 p.m. Import Tuner king Jason Mulroney declares that he is "beered out", but decides to order another one anyway. He also leaves to smoke a cigarette in one of the designated smoking rooms, which are just large aquariums with glass walls for all the world to stare into.
2:34 p.m. I'm putting my request in right now for the Gran Turismo simulators in HI-DEF to come to SEMA next year! Instead of just standing around playing Playstation 3 on a big screen TV, these allowed the player to sit in a real race-inspired bucket seat and turn an aftermarket-style steering wheel on a hi-def plasma TV. It was mesmerizing. Or maybe it's because I'd been drinking.
Funny, this is where my notes end. It's better to end on a high note anyway. Arigato gozaimasu Tokyo!