Thursday, August 21, 2014

Meeting Your Heroes: The Quest for Kyusha

In my last update I wrote a little bit about my recent trip to Japan, which included some cool adventures to some local tuners and tracks, late night meets and lots of other awesome stuff which I am still SO hyped on! Make sure to check out my Secrets of the Japanese Car Scene story I wrote for Speedhunters too, as this features some of my favourite photos. Anyway, Pedey and I had already been in Japan for around a month but we still knew that our trip was lacking in something... we'd had our RWB fix at Nakai-san's workshop and the Idlers Games day at Tsukuba, but we really wanted to see some cool old Japanese cars. Like, really wanted to see them. I'm talking old Fairlady Zs, Hakosuka and Kenmeri Skylines with crazy boxy fenders and Team Yayoi wheels... I wanted to see it all! But where to find these cars; now that was the question.

I'd kind of already accepted that these Kyusha dreams weren't going to come true, and that I was just going to have to wait until another Japan trip in future - but to be honest I had no idea when that might be. I was super bummed out - that was, until my friend Park Baker, who runs the blog HighTopFade, tipped us off about an upcoming meet taking place somewhere below Nagoya, and he said it was going to be BIG. Big? Was that like 20... 30 cars? 50 maybe? Even if it was just a few nostalgic Japanese beauties on rare wheels, I had to be there. 
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This wasn't going to be as easy as catching a train to the other end of town. If you're familiar with Japan you'll know that Nagoya is at least a five hour journey from Tokyo by car, so this was going to be a full blown quest - and I knew that we had to just take a leap of faith and make it happen! So we sucked up our Jewishness and coughed up some cash for a little rental Kei car and paid the ruthless expressway tolls, and set off into the Japanese countryside. All we had was an address (all written in Kanji, I might add) and an iPhone with Google Maps, so it seemed kind of weird that we were just going to arrive at this spot on the map, (which looked like it was absolutely in the middle of nowhere and turned out to be closer to Kyoto than Nagoya!) and some radical cars were just going to pop up in the middle of some random farming area. Yeah, right...

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Because we were so sceptical about it and didn't really know what to expect, when we pulled into the parking area and saw that there were literally hundreds of cars like this incredible Hakosuka, we were completely blown away. It was no longer a question of where we were going to find all these cars, it was where the heck do we even start with looking at them all! My heart was beating way too fast and I was beyond excited. I was in my ultimate Speedhunting element.

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I'm going to keep this post really casual, as these are all pictures from my iPhone after all. These were some of the cars that left the biggest impressions on me, starting with my absolute favourite car. This was a real surprise to me - it wasn't an S30Z or a Skyline, but rather a bright purple Nissan Bluebird 610 coupe on gorgeous Techno Racing TRV 25 wheels. This thing seriously stole my heart.

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But then this stunning Hakosuka pair were also sending me into fits of joy. Oh, come on... a lavender pink two-door Hakosuka on Speed Star Mark IIs? I must be dreaming!

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The eye candy went on, and on... until I realised that this was only the CAR PARK of the actual event! By this stage, the temperature was climbing well above 30 degrees celsius and the humidity was getting out of control. I was feeling dizzy and was starting to get a heat rash, and I had to walk up a giant hill to get to the actual car park where the proper event was taking place. But the thought of what magical treasures might be hiding up there kept me motivated - must... see... more... cars!

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I somehow managed to make it there without passing out, and it was so worth it! Here we have an extremely low four-door Hakosuka on Hayashi Streets, an immaculate 240ZG on Work Equips, and another purple 610 Bluebird - this time a four-door example on Star Sharks. Wow!

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How beautiful are Watanabe RS wheels in gold? The fender treatment on this S30 looked tame in comparison to most of the other cars...

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... see what I mean? The Z in the centre of this image is actually the Hello Special L28 S30 which Dino featured on Speedhunters not so long ago. Those stacked tailpipes - mmm!

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Another G-nose Z with the traditional wheel choice of Watanabes one again, but with a less traditional Pantera hatch conversion and giant rear boot spoiler. Cool.

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In every direction I looked, all I could see were all my favourite cars with all my favourite wheels, in every combination imaginable. It was like my own personal heaven! Although ideally heaven would be a slightly cooler temperature, and I'd have my own Z with me there too. Yeah... now we're talking.

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There were many rare vintage Japanese wheels there that I couldn't even identify. But here we have a set of Riverside Riverge wheels (which my friend has just informed me are actually replicas - heart broken!) and Devil Shadow Spokes...

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... and my favourite of all, Team Yayoi Sakura wheels. It pains me that people buy the Rota copies or other cheap 'inspired' versions of these wheels, and it hurts even more to think that some of those people might not even know how rare and special the original Yayoi design is. On the right, here's a close-up of the Techno Racing TRV 25s from the purple 610 earlier.

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Next up, here's a really clean Nissan 'pig butt' Laurel...

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... and a nicely-styled 280ZX. I seriously love this!

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The fenders on this purple C110 Skyline were insane! Rough, but cool nonetheless. Spot the rear tail lights.

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Okay, here's one more of my favourite 610. Damn!

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This was just a small taste of what we saw that day, but I can tell you that it was one of the best meets I've ever been to. Mainly because this style appeals to my personal tastes the most, and the sheer amount of rare, well sought-after Japanese cars there was totally mind-blowing! As we watched the cars roll out of the show and disappear off into the countryside with their loud straight-pipes screaming, I felt so sad that I had to leave, and even sadder that we had to drive for so long to get back to Tokyo. We ended up on a horrific detour as the Tomei Expressway was so badly blocked from an accident, and the tolls cost us over $200, but it was so completely and utterly worth it to see my car heroes in person, and to experience such an immense sense of admiration and inspiration for these cars and their owners. These guys are old-school bad-ass; they don't care what you think, and they were running wide wheels and overfenders before the term 'stance' even became popular in today's generation of enthusiasts.

Although I love Japan so much, thanks to this experience I think I've got most of my Japan wanderlust out of my system for now! But who knows how long that'll last for...

- Taryn x

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Living the Japanese Dream

Back in 2010 when I started this blog, I didn't know very much about cars. To be honest, it does make me cringe a little bit when I go back and look at some of my earliest posts on iheartstance, but I've never hidden them on here as that time of my life was a really important one, and they remind me of how far I've come. I've never been one of those people that gets embarrassed when they don't know something, I just get on with it and focus on learning it instead. We have Google now so there's no excuse, right? When I was 17 and chose to drop out of high school, my dad told me that he was cool with it, as long as I kept learning. "As long as you keep learning, I know you'll find your way in life", he said. That has always stuck with me, and I think it has really helped me get to where I am now, with cars now playing such a big role in my life.
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One of the biggest turning points for me was when I spontaneously booked flights to Japan on Grabaseat (an NZ website that occasionally has ridiculously cheap flights) back in 2011, and got my first small taste of Japanese car culture. I was hooked, and I know I always say this but it really did become an obsession. That obsession accelerated my journey of learning about cars considerably, and after my first Japan adventure in 2011, I returned again in 2013 for another not-long-enough trip, which was actually my honeymoon!

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What could be more romantic than cherry blossoms, Mount Fuji and Japanese car culture? :P

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Anyway, if you've been following my journey and this blog from the beginning, you probably already know all that stuff and I'm probably sounding repetitive. But I guess my point is, I feel like I really owe Japanese car culture for inspiring me and pushing me to learn more about cars in general over the past few years. If it wasn't for Japan, my interest in wheels and fitment might have never evolved into something bigger, and perhaps I never would've moved on past that phase. But I did, and now the full blown automotive hobby I have today is also my full-time job, which is my absolute dream come true!

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Earlier this year when my role at Speedhunters changed to Community Manager, this meant that I would be working full-time from home, but the only problem was that I was in a bit of a lull. Although so many of my friends are based in Auckland, the city just does nothing to inspire me - especially with the warm weather fading and winter just around the corner. I'd been living in Auckland for five years, and the photos and posters of cars on the walls in my dark, cold and newly-designated home office were doing nothing to help stimulate productivity; if anything they were doing the opposite.

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My husband Pedey and I don't have any possessions of real value apart from our cars and camera equipment, we don't own a house or any pets or have any children, and we saw an opportunity for adventure. We were both in desperate need of inspiration; we wanted to see new things and I guess you could say we wanted to tick things off our bucket lists before it was 'too late'. So we took some boxes of stuff up to my parents house, sold his beloved Impala and put our Datsun into storage, and headed off on a world tour, starting with a six week stint in Tokyo. We booked a cool little Airbnb apartment, and I set up my new office with amazing views of the city from up on the 10th floor! We both worked throughout the day, and during the weeknights and weekends we went on some cool adventures.

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I've already partially documented some of our trip in this recent story on Speedhunters, but as you can imagine over the course of six weeks I took thousands of photos that remain unused on my phone and my computer, so I'll write a few more posts on here with those over the next month or so.

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Ever since I bought my Canon 5D MkIII last year, I've started taking my camera out and about with me less and less. Even though it's insured, I'm a super paranoid person and I always have so much stuff on me, (I'm one of those girls that has a handbag that feels like it has at least five bricks in it), so I just find it really difficult to carry around. I retired early from my professional photography career five years ago - that sounds stupid but it's kind of true, I worked full-time as a wedding/portrait photographer starting when I was 17, and since I left that job I've never actually worked solely as a photographer. So I guess photography is more of a hobby now, and I enjoy taking photos on my iPhone just as much as I do with my SLR, so it's just so much easier to use my phone. These collage pics are all from my iPhone 4S.

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Throughout those six weeks some of my craziest dreams came true, and I got to experience many sides of Japan that I had previously not seen before. I've been living in Scandinavia for a month now, (that's another whole new story!) and some of the things I saw in Japan now feel like they actually just happened in my head or in my dreams. It was a truly surreal experience, and the whole trip seemed to pass so quickly. I don't think I could ever spend longer than six weeks there, because the lack of 'a personal bubble' and wide open spaces kinda freaks me out a bit, but it really is a magical place; it's like a weird alternate universe that doesn't even feel like planet Earth sometimes.

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I'll leave you guys with this photo I took from the Metropolitan Government building in Shinjuku. The viewing floor there is free, so you can go up there anytime and take in some incredible 360° views of the city, which is pretty cool.

Until next time!
- T x