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…


This photo sums up why I enjoy Rolex Reunion so much. There’s something for everyone and it’s all so damn cool.

Canepa Cars and Coffee 5/10/14

Cars and Coffee. Upon hearing that phrase, most people immediately think of the famous weekly meet held in Irvine, or even perhaps the Woodland Hills location which Jay Leno is known to frequent. However, both these events take place in Southern California, the home of undoubtably the largest community of car enthusiasts in the nation. But what about Northern California? Well, unfortunately, we don’t have anything on the scale of the events in Southern California, but one shop is quickly making their cars and coffee event well-known in the NorCal gearhead community.

Established in 2012 (if I recall correctly), every second Saturday of the month from April to October, Canepa opens its doors to the automotive enthusiasts of Northern California. Two years later, the Canepa cars and coffee gatherings have grown to over 200 attendees. It’s actually been over a year since I’ve been to Canepa’s cars and coffee, but now that I have some time, I’m going to try to make it regularly. I unfortunately missed the first event of 2014, so I made sure not to miss this month’s.

With the FR-S freshly washed, I headed off to Canepa around 8:15am and about 45 minutes later, I rolled into the parking lot. There’s nothing quite like Canepa. Home to some of the greatest and rarest cars in racing history, Canepa allows you to get up close and personal with the cars and really take in all the details of a finished vehicle or one undergoing the process of restoration. But before we get to those cars, here’s a few photos of the cars that caught my eye in the parking lot.

This 914 had an EJ swap from a WRX. Very cool.

And some artsy-fartsy photos…

Walking inside, you find yourself at the entrance to Canepa’s showroom of cars for sale.

I’ve seen the Interscope Racing 934 before, but I have to get pictures every time I see it. It’s just that great.

BMW CSL. Another gorgeous car.

How often do you see a CLK DTM AMG?

Canepa is known for its variety. Where else would you find a ’69 Dodge Charger Daytona and an ’04 Porsche Carrera GT together?

From the showroom, I made my way to the shop floor where there were many cars in various stages of restoration or repair.

Currently, Canepa had not one, but three, Countachs.

This Bugatti EB110 has been here since I first visited. I wonder what’s taking so long.

Canepa is an OCD paradise. All those bags taped to the wall contain various pieces associated with parts of the car and are labeled accordingly. Proper organization makes me happy. :D

The other half of the shop is probably even more impressive.

I hadn’t seen the giant murals yet, so to finally see them was really neat.

The other two Countachs.

And yes, Canepa also works with two wheeled modes of transportation.

Where else in the world are you going to find a Porsche 959, Jaguar XJ220, Lamborghini Countach, and IMSA 240Z together like this?

This 962C was ordered by Trust (known as Greddy to us) for testing in Japan. It was never raced competitively, so it might be one of the most pristine examples left in the world. Despite this, Canepa still restored the car and has it set up and ready for future track time.

Upstairs is the Canepa museum, full of racing legends.

And to finish it off, one of the most famous Porsches, the 917, in an equally famous livery, Gulf Racing.

Well, that’s all I got. I hope you enjoyed the photos. If you’re local, I encourage you to visit future events! The atmosphere is really relaxed and there’s a lot to see and be inspired by. Till next time…

Words of Wisdom

Just a few things to think about. Personally, I wish more people built proper street cars. I find them more fun and interesting than full-blown wannabe race cars or cars “built” for parking lot show-off meets. It’s all about balance.