Grand Touring: Nostalgic Nissans in Yamanashi Prefecture

In exploring the non-traditional Japan, you quickly learn to identify markers to indicate you are on the right track to discover something old and special — narrow roads lined with closed shutters, anything made of red brick, disconnected power meters, less-than-eight-digit telephone numbers, blanked-out shop signs. 

So when we discovered a small town in Yamanashi Prefecture with red brick viaducts and two-digit telephone numbers on display, we were very enthusiastic about taking a slow walk through the back streets. The many period buildings held our usual fascination, with some obviously dating back to the late Meiji and Taisho eras. Needing a replacement snow-shovel, I stopped to buy a new one and the shop owner inviting us into his warm office to talk, told us his hardware store had been standing there for over 200 years. The hand hewed wooden beams and columns being particularly obvious.

Behind an obviously built-in-the-1970s hotel, with a tell-tale blanked out sign we were not too surprised to see a matching pair of Fairladies — a Z31 2+2 wearing black Wats and a Z32,with a Celica convertible wedged between.

Though they were all covered in a significant amount of dust and bird-cack, with their tires slowly deflating it was obvious they were someone’s once proud possessions being sheltered from the weather, and perhaps waiting for another day in the sun when their owner returns.

Less likely to find itself on the road again was this R30 Skyline. Parked next to an equally forgotten Honda scooter, it was only visible because the cold winter and snow had killed off the undergrowth. In summer, the verdant green weeds will overtake both, making them 100% invisible, and allow them to rust away in peace.

Spotting a three-wheeled Honda Just scooter snuggled under the awning of a long closed bar, we walked down a small side street to see the JNC prize of the day.

Wearing deep, lustrous, blue paint, gold Techno Phantoms, a half cage, an 80s bosozoku white steering wheel, a well-loved yonmeri Skyline.

Decals paid tribute to Ken & Mary, the machine’s forefathers at Prince Motor Company and Datsun, and Playboy Magazine.

Looking pretty cool with a speed-camera-flaunting bent license plate native to Fuji-san, it was obviously a well cared-for machine, and one we could imagine chasing us back to Tokyo for a night on the town cruising the Dogenzaka chasing kogyaru.

Photos by Skorj, our photographer/journalist living in Japan. You can see more of his work at Filmwasters.

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18 Responses to Grand Touring: Nostalgic Nissans in Yamanashi Prefecture

  1. Brian said:

    Gorgeous narrative sir!

  2. www.JDMjunkies.ch said:

    Damn – nice story!
    What kind of seats are inside the kenmeri? never seen these before, but i’d like to know more about them :-)

  3. dave said:

    Awesome photos and find, but I wanted to hear more about this town. Why does it look so run down? Is it a ghetto? Is it a somewhat typical small town outside of urban centers? …?

    • Dachshund said:

      …If that’s a ghetto, it’s the cleanest, most well kept ghetto I’ve ever seen.

      Actually it’s hard for me to fathom such a place in the US NOT turning into a ghetto, or getting torn down; it’s somewhat of a mystery to me how such a place can exist. But then again I’ve never been to Japan and don’t know what politics must lead to places eventually looking like this. It just looks so… Forgotten, and sad.

      Yet somehow I’m glad that such a place can exist, somewhere in the world… I just hope the owner of those Fairladies will return someday. Reminds me of the manga Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou.

    • Lincoln Stax said:

      I can only assume it’s the general population decline in Japan. It’s been in decline for years and isn’t slowing down. It’s expected that Japan’s population will decline by a third by 2060, from 128 million right now to 87 million.

    • Kev said:

      I don’t know why it’s so, but in Japan it seems that it’s quite uncommon to throw a new coat of paint onto a building to freshen things up a little. Many parts of suburban Tokyo look just like that.

      Like, say the Rauh-Welt workshop, it looks like a shack that’s about to fall down :)

  4. Nigel said:

    Great story again Skorj.
    I was intrigued to the end to find out what you would see.
    This type of “car life” is tricky to find in Canada.
    Thank you for posting the story.

  5. Scott said:

    The only time I comment on this site is when you post one of your photo essays, top notch as always!

  6. chad said:

    Great story and great photos. I would love to see more stuff like this.

  7. Brownie said:

    The town itself looks lost in time, gotta mark this place in my countless “places-to-visit-in-Japan”

    P.S that R30 needs some love. i shed a tear over here.

  8. Tyler said:

    Very nice. I almost enjoyed the buildings and environment more than the cars! (although that Yonmeri is fantastic)

  9. Mister Totem said:

    Shimoyoshida, huh?.. gotta be.

    very near mount fuji and Fuji-Q hilando..

    I was just there.. they have the bomb houtou noodle soups, and Yoshida udon noodles.

    I got MAD photos of abandoned wonderful Japanese classics.. kyushas.. etc..

  10. Ken said:

    What an awesome story and photos.

  11. Q8ijin said:

    Fantastic…

    Personally I like the UN-rennovated look.. it gives a great sense of history and uniqueness….

    wish there were share buttons

  12. seventhskyline said:

    The only thing better than all those cool photos of the old town buildings and the Kenmeri, would be photos of the Kenmeri cruising around the old town!

  13. Kevin Truong said:

    I’ll share a story with you guys. My wife and I went to Tokyo for a 2 week vacation back in December of 2006. Damn it was hella cold. It was our first time there and was a sight to see. Part of my visit was to find a shop named Jubiride to pick up some flares for my NA 94 Miata. Took the damn speed train, various buses, transfers and then a taxi to get there. Took us 3 to 4 hours to get there. Drove through back roads, small towns, and through farms. End up at a farm/shack surrounded by cornfields. A part of me was thinking, ok its damn dark and late, and we don’t know the area, and not even the language. All I did was show the driver the address and that was it. I seriously (we) thought we were going to get killed off in a field somewhere. But then when we got there, I walked inside and showed them what I was looking for. The guy at the shop talked to the driver and driver did his best to translate it back in english. Said that they need to be ordered in advance and takes 2 weeks to make. I was disappointed. After going through hell to get there, come back to America empty handed. Was bummed. But seriously after all these years reading about shops in Japan, they really make full use of space. Even if its a rundown shack/farm lolz, some of the best stuff comes out from there. I think in towns like the above, people probably have a higher quality of life. Less stress like from traffic and bullshit here. And less drama and problems. Live peacefully until the end of their days. One more thing, less chance of your life long project getting jacked like that beautiful old skool Kenmeri above.

  14. kingtoy10 said:

    WOW, amazing. I love articles like this. That town looks like it would be a awesome place to retire too.

  15. Astro Coffee said:

    very nice article, indeed a nostalgic place, those cars conditions and state really pains me to see them, feel sorry for the R31 :(