Toyota 86 – Final Touge

Tonight, September 27, marks the final broadcast of Toyota Japan’s touge series where they celebrate the fun to drive nature of the Toyota 86 by exploring many of Japan’s most well-known driving roads. For the past 3 years, 156 short 5 minute clips have showcased the beauty of rural Japan, taking the viewer from arid, desert-like expanses to rainy, lush mountain switchbacks. In the final episode, Toyota has compiled some scenes from previous episodes mixed with some never-seen-before clips to create a special sendoff.


Pandora One – RWB backdate

A couple days ago, my friend Stanley (The Ku Cars/Life) invited me to join him and his girlfriend to check out Mark’s Pandora One being backdated by Nakai-san at the Fatlace HQ. Having never seen Nakai-san work in person, and since I enjoy Porsches and RWB, I was eager to go.

Unlike the LA builds which usually draw a lot of people, the Fatlace HQ was mostly empty, with only a few people hanging out. According to Mark, the R Gruppe guys stopped by earlier in the morning, which would’ve been cool to see their cars, but the quiet atmosphere really allowed me to observe Nakai-san and his intense focus on his work.

Nakai-san is a very quiet, focused guy and it was interesting watching him work. I watched him hammer flat the ends of a metal rod and drill through each side, attaching one end to the car and the other side to the (ridiculously wide) flare, creating a fender support rod. It was definitely an approach that embodied the “Rough World” name, and I really liked that.

Stanley also brought along a picture of Stella Artois he had painted, which he hoped Nakai-san would sign. Nakai-san seemed to be quite impressed by the painting and he graciously signed his artwork. Very cool!

The occasion was also a great opportunity to sit down, meet, and talk to some great people involved with RWB, such as Mark, Christian, John, Nick, and others. Thank you all for the hospitality! I had a great time!

Congrats again Mark; you finally have the car you wanted the first time around, haha.

Fanboy mode engage

The other day I had my biggest fanboy moment I’ve ever had at work. So part of my job is to pack orders for customers and every so often we get some notable people and shops ordering from us. I pull the parts for the work order and my boss double checks everything before it’s packed up. He comes in and says, “Oh, this order is for a ex-race car driver.” Intrigued, I check the name. Tetsu Ikuzawa. Familiar with a little bit of Japanese race history, the name sounds slightly familiar, but I still couldn’t place it. After a quick Google search, I realize the significance. In 1964, at the Japanese Grand Prix, Tetsu Ikuzawa drove the Prince Skyline S54 and managed to overtake and lead (for a lap) the dominant Porsche 904. He was responsible for starting the legacy of the Skyline and essentially spurring auto manufacturers to pursue development in motorsports in Japan.

In my Google search, I read that, later in life, he became a Porsche factory driver. Funny how that works out. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. haha

At 72, Ikuzawa-san shows no signs of slowing down and is still racing (and winning!). Here’s a few photos of his 1968 911T.

One Garage, One Car, One Focus

Ask any Porsche enthusiast about Jack Olsen and they’ll likely tell you about his ’72 Porsche 911 essentially built in his amazing garage workshop (12 Gauge Garage) that he’s managed to make fast. Very fast.

Check out this neat Auto Bild TV clip which spotlights Jack Olsen’s 911 and his quest to conquer Willow Springs.

ASM buys an 86

Back in 2012 when the GT86 first came out, ASM, one of Japan’s premier tuners gave it a test drive. While Kanayama-san came away with a very positive impression of the car, was very disappointed with the low quality interior and exterior design. He compared it unfavorably to similarly priced competitors such as the Mini, Fiat 500, and Audi A1. He went on to say that ASM would not buy a GT86 because it was so surprisingly well balanced that there was nothing he wanted to tune on the car. However, it was speculated that it was actually a bit of anti-Toyota bias and his preference for the superior S2000 were the real underlying reasons.

I haven’t been keeping up with ASM, but I recently did some catching up on their blog and I was very pleased to see this image:

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Apparently, ASM underestimated the revival the 86 has brought to Japan’s aftermarket and decided to cash in while they still can, haha.

As I mentioned before in my build log, ASM’s tuning philosophy is actually the inspiration for my build. I have the signature AP Racing/Prodrive setup, so now I just need to work on the details, haha.

I’m not sure what direction ASM is going to take with their new car (street, time attack, etc.), but I am excited to see the development that this car undergoes. It should lead to some great parts including some aero parts, which ASM confirmed in one of their blog posts. The aero pieces are probably the items I’m looking forward to most because ASM always has really clean, functional designs.

I’m also happy to see they got a red 86 too. Now I don’t have to imagine what things will look like on a red car. :P

Planning the return

This photo came up on my Tumblr dash the other day and I instantly recognized the location.

Back on my trip to Japan last summer, we stayed at the Shinbashi Atagoyama Tokyu Inn while in Tokyo. It sits right next to the Atago Shrine (pictured above), which is actually the highest natural hill in Tokyo, although it doesn’t seem like it with all the buildings that tower over it. The story of Atago Shrine, which takes place in the 17th century, tells of a young Samurai who rode up the very steep steps on horseback to deliver plum blossoms to the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. The shogun was so impressed, he secured the young Samurai’s future. As a result, the steps became known as Shussei no Ishiden (stone staircase of success), a symbol for success in life and visiting Atago regularly is important to an individual’s continued success. Now located in Tokyo’s business district, many Japanese business people climb the steps, seeking good fortune in their career. It is also considered a rite of passage, with many fresh graduates coming before starting their first job.

Going back to Japan has been constantly on my mind. In fact, it’s something I think about every single day. It was such an amazing experience. When I was there, I felt more comfortable, more “at home” than in the US, even despite the language and other barriers.

Over the past year, I’ve been developing a working list of places I didn’t get a chance to visit the first time around. Unlike my last trip which jumped around to cities in various parts of Japan, I’m planning to just stay in Tokyo. There’s so much we didn’t get to see and visit the first time, and plus, because it’s centrally located, it facilitates the ability to do day trips to places outside the city. Places on my list include the Gundam statue and cafe on Odaiba, the Prince & Skyline museum in Okaya, and performance shops like ASM and Kameari.

Hopefully, my plans come to fruition soon…

Misoya Ramen, Santa Clara

My morning started out with some nice reading material courtesy of Amazon Japan.

No sooner than I start going through the magazine, I get a message from my friend Ryan. Since acquiring a new car, Ryan has been looking for any excuse to go driving, so he invited me to join him for a ramen lunch at Misoya in Santa Clara. I had never heard of Misoya, so I looked it up and was surprised to see it’s actually a chain in Japan with a couple of international locations. It’s no secret that I love ramen, and seeing (mostly hoping) that it was authentic, I quickly agreed.

I got there fashionably late as usual–about 1:15pm. The restaurant was full and there were three small parties in front of us. The wait was about 10 minutes, which wasn’t bad. Finally some seats at the bar/counter opened up and we were seated. However, the server neglected to give us any menus, so we sat for about 5 minutes before someone was available to give us a menu. The servers were more attentive after that.

Misoya’s specialty is their miso base broth of which they have three varieties from different parts of Japan: Hokkaido, Nagoya, and Kyoto. I decided to get the Shiro Miso (Kyoto style) Cha-shu ramen with an extra topping of kimchi and an appetizer plate of gyoza. Ryan got the Mame Miso (Nagoya style) Cha-shu ramen with extra pork and egg.

After about 5 minutes, we got our order of gyoza. (There are six in an order, I had to eat one before I took the picture, haha.)

I liked the gyoza. I thought it was flavorful. I’d order it again if/when I go back.

Shortly after finishing it, our ramen was delivered.

This was mine:


Admittedly, I haven’t been to many ramen restaurants, so I don’t have a lot experience to compare to other places, but I enjoyed my ramen a lot. It was kind of a surprise to see so many things loaded in the bowl. I’m used to really basic ramen toppings like slices of pork, some scallions, bamboo, and a little seaweed. At Misoya, the broth was tasty and the kimchi added the perfect amount of spiciness. The vegetables were fresh and delicious. However, the highlight for me was the pork. At other places, the pork looks kinda questionable. It’s never bad per se, but it just doesn’t look natural, I guess. Kinda hard to explain, haha. But Misoya’s pork looked like real meat, it was tender, and barbecued to perfection. Just really good overall. All the ingredients were delicious and it was a hearty, filling lunch.

When our bill arrived, it was about $38 for 2 ramen and gyoza. Yikes. Was it worth it though? Considering what you get on your ramen and the quality of the ingredients, yeah, I think it’s justified. I probably wouldn’t go often, but I’d go back.

After eating, we went next door to the Super Kyo-Po Korean grocery store to check out their snacks. When we walked in, we noticed they had a tiny food court that served some bento-style meals and some other Korean street food snacks. Walking around, I definitely saw some good things to eat, so I’d like to go back and try some stuff. But this time we were there for snacks, so I got a box of chocolate rice cakes.

If you’ve ever had Mallomars, these taste exactly like it, just more chewy.

Till next time…