GRAND TOURING: Kanto

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Since the opening of the Yamate Tunnel, provided traffic is light of course, traversing Tokyo to join the out-going expressways has become a lot easier. In ten or fifteen minutes, you can join the Joban for a quick run out to Ibaraki and further.

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Needing a short break, we decided to make an early morning start, with a view to exploring some of south Ibaraki-ken. Home to the Tsukuba Raceway and a few lesser explored rural areas, we were sure to find some interesting stuff.

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After our initial journey on the Joban Expressway, we dropped off to some of the slower local roads to explore Ajigaura-cho. The road south, down the coast through Oarai, Hokota, and to Kasumigaura-ko.

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The slow diesel train from the rail terminus at Ajigaura was filled with local day trippers as it thrummed its way out of the old station on its slow journey south.

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Sleepy towns gave way to seaside fishing villages, and an old, near-abandoned fish processing plant on the sea.

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Of more interest to the Japanese car spotter, though, was a partially abandoned field of old machines in a varying states of decay. Here a Skyline Japan, an A60 Celica, and an early Honda 1300 Coupe languish.

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Nearby, a large Type-31 Nissan Cedric lies in a bed of overgrown grass.

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Stacked cars are a common feature in urban Japanese junkyards where space is at a premium, but out here with so much land it’s unclear why that’d be necessary. Nevertheless, we found a Daihatsu Midget sitting atop a sadly wasted Nissan Sunny Cab.

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Not too far away another Cedric, also in black, guards a pallet of gearboxes.

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The tall grass nearly obscured this colorful corner of small Hondas and a collection of random doors altogether.

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The third Cedric on site was off in the weeds.

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Another neck of the woods held a Prince Skyline with a caved roof, Datsun truck, Daihatsu Midget sans nosecone and other assorted kei vans.

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Behind the snout-less Daihatsu sat a rare Honda TN360 cab-over kei pickup, its large headlights keeping watch over the grounds.

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Usually collections like this will have a theme, like Nissan Fairlady Zs or kei cars. This was an eclectic collection of machines and though it’s sad to see their carcasses, it appears that the proprietor of this yard is selling their parts so that others may live.

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The paper in the windshield of this Honda Life Pickup has the contact details of owner if you need any parts.

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Outside the concrete mega-structures of major cities one can still find old school fish handling ponds on the shores of Lake Kasumigaura.

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Pressing onward, we came upon wide expanses of Ibaraki rice pending harvest.

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An Isuzu-built Hillman Minx with its matching long-expired studded snow-tire set.

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This local house in glorious 1970s “modern” style attracted us to stop and photograph. On closer inspection the garage next-door held an intriguing shape.

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After speaking with the owner Nasu-san, he was proud to show us his 1969 Daihatsu Campagno Berlina Spider.

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We had never seen one in burnt orange before. If it’s indeed a stock color, it was ahead of its time.

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Tucked behind some curtains in the display / office area of the owner’s garage, was the surprise of all surprises — a two-owner Honda S500. Nasu-san explained he had owned it for over forty years, but had stopped driving it, not because it had stopped, but merely because he thought he was too old to be seen driving about in it.

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Though non-standard in some areas, the overall car was in remarkable condition, including all trim pieces, running gear, and engine. Nasu-san was very amenable and, especially after seeing we also owned a Honda S-car, encouraged us to crawl all over it, to sit in it and pose for photographs, and I am sure if the battery was OK we could have started it for a quick drive around the area on his trade plates.

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The S500 is notable as Honda’s first production passenger car, introduced the popular dip-bumpered S600. With just over 1,300 units produced in its very short production run from 1963-64, the number remaining in drivable condition must be very small indeed. Even to those living in Japan, seeing an S500 outside a museum is a remarkable experience.

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With the sun setting over Tokyo Bay, we came home via the Tokyo Aqualine dreaming of barn-find S500s, again on sparsely populated roads, an encouragement to make more short excursions into the areas around Tokyo.

Skorj is a photographer living in Japan. See more of his work at Filmwasters.

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20 Responses to GRAND TOURING: Kanto

  1. cesariojpn said:

    Where are the Pokemon?

  2. Beans said:

    Eye spy an orange mazda behind the white celica, any pics to confirm? :)

  3. chestercopperpot said:

    Great write up and photos! I really want a Type 31 Cedric now.

  4. Nigel said:

    I saw an MX41 in pic six, behind the old Honda.
    Once again Skorj you found some great old cars.

  5. Toyotageek said:

    I love these photo tours….. ;-)

  6. The black CRX said:

    That Honda 1300 Coupe breaks my heart, but as always, an amazing journey. Thanks yet again, Skorj!

  7. Brandon said:

    I love these posts so much. Not only because of the awesome cars, but also for the neat photos of the countryside as well.

    • Skorj said:

      Thanks everyone. I try to show more than the usual cliche, and the stuff of real Japan, at least outside the cities, where there is always interesting stuff to find and explore.

  8. Thomas said:

    Oh, man, salvating over the Daihatsu and Honda s500. I’ve got just enough space in my garage for both, so PM me if you discover they are ever available for sale.

    • Skorj said:

      Well, the owner said he did not want to sell, but when I suggested a possible price for his S500, he asked for my keitai number and gave me his meishi. So I guess that would depend…

  9. Kevin said:

    Thanks for posting another adventure. Always a great read and photos. I really gotta plan a trip to Japan…

  10. Tyler said:

    Top notch adventuring. As much as I adore decay and rotting things, it’s kind of sad to see the rarer cars in such a state. Especially the S50 Skyline. Good to see the S500 in great condition.

  11. Iwakuni91 said:

    Back when gas was a buck fifty a gallon, my mom would take us on drives through the country just to “see what was there.” We would take turns calling out and spotting different makes and models. Even now I’ll take the long way home from work just to ride by a favorite car. Keep up the good work JNC.

  12. Parrot said:

    I’m with Toyotageek. Your travelogues are always highly anticipated and greatly enjoyed.

  13. I also love these photo tours, keep them coming! ;)

  14. César said:

    ¡¡¡Saludos desde Santiago de Chile!!!

    Nice images, and the cars are so beautiful…always i like the old cars form the 60′s and 70′s (y have a Chevy 78). In my city i see a nice Mitsubishi Sapporo the other day, and a pretty Celica ’75 GT.

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