EVENTS: 2014 Meiji Jingu Classic Car Festival, Part 01

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Unlike last year‘s clear blue skies and balmy weather, this year’s Meiji Jingu Classic Car Festival was held on a cool, wet Saturday. The annual event, put on by the Toyota Automobile museum, welcomes all marques and takes place in a 175-acre park in the center of Tokyo. The weather, though, did not deter a high number of participants or spectators. Both sides of the main avenue leading into the park were crowded with eager kyuusha spotters.

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With most visitors there to enjoy the yellowing gingko leaves as they fell like snow in the slight breeze, I sat down next to a well-attired oba-san (older woman) to wait for the 10:00 start. “Nice day,” she commented, “Are you here for the classic cars?” she surprised me in perfect English. “Yes,” I replied. “So am I!” she said eagerly, surprising me for the second time.

It seems that while she did not have a favorite, she liked the nostalgia the cars provided, and notably said she came because she felt like she was “in a movie” when they were driving past. Like last year, the parade was scheduled to take an hour or more from the the Meiji Jingu Outer Garden via Ginza and the Imperial Palace, in a circuitous route around Minato-ku and back.

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With a busy week at work leading up to the parade on Saturday, I was unfortunately unable to find the time to purchase some additional color film. So with the onset of dark clouds and the start of moderately heavy rain, I decided to not stand and wait for their return to the concours area. Instead, I sheltered under the Shuto at Motoakasaka with a few rolls of old black-and-white film in the Bessa in hopes of catching some as they drove past on the open road.

The photographs tell a bigger story, and highlights of the day are below.

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An elegant Isuzu 117 Coupe on what must be extremely rare Volk wire mesh wheels.

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It was followed closely by an Isuzu Gemini re-badged with the Opel Kadett emblems.

One of 554 hand-built first-generation Nissan Silvias, likely one of the next cars to be snapped up by Western collectors.

Though Honda Zs were sold stateside and are relatively common there, this model features split bumpers introduced in late 1972 and not exported to the US. The GSS model also featured a 5-speed transmission to calm the high-revving 360cc mill.

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Wearing a mouthful of period correct grille badges was an RT20 Toyopet Corona. The left-most brooch is a souvenir from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, which took place just when the generational transition between this and the more familiar RT40 barikan took place.

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A Subaru Sambar van from the rear-engined era.

Mazda Cosmo Sport, before and after takeoff.

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Like two flagships passing: A stately Toyopet Crown with very old, single-digit registration plates meets a modern Nissan Skyline (aka Infiniti Q50), a 13th-generation descendant of its original Prince-ly rival.

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Corolla Levin enthusiasts gravitate towards TE27s and AE86s, but let’s not forget the mid-generational TE55 fastbacks.

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A beautiful white-walled KE10 Sprinter fastback makes a dash in the rain.

Of note were both the MF10 and MF12 versions of Toyota’s now extremely famous 2000GT. In addition to different interior fittings, they were externally discernible with their different sized in-board driving lamps and side markers. On approach to the crowd at one set of traffic lights, the pair of white supercars gathered the same attention as when Tom Cruise stepped out of the Tokyo Film Festival a few years ago. To be continued…

In the meantime, here are photos from last year’s Meiji Jingu Classic Car Festival, in two parts.

Skorj resides in Japan and is co-founder of Filmwasters.com

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15 Responses to EVENTS: 2014 Meiji Jingu Classic Car Festival, Part 01

  1. 02Anders said:

    Looks like another great event packed full of rare and wonderful JNC.
    Perhaps I should try to make it up there next year…

    That Silvia CSP311 is simply gorgeous! What I wouldn’t give to be one of those lucky “Western collectors” that will be snapping one up.

    Nice to see a TE55 among all those Japanese icons!
    I’m biased of course, but I do believe these are now (finally) beginning to be recognised in the JNC community.

    • Kuroneko said:

      This Silvia – apart from the wires – was particularly nice too. For some reason, they are still relatively inexpensive in Japan, and still available…

  2. Walter said:

    Very beautiful photos! I love the black and white ones the most!

    I think this remark is funny (and confusing) to read:
    It was followed closely by an Opel Kadett, a rebadged Isuzu Gemini sold via General Motors’ European subsidiary.
    In reality it was actually the other way around: the Opel Kadett was the original and General Motors rebadged it in Japan as an Isuzu Gemini. When in 1975 the price of the Opel Kadett became too high in the US (due to the Deutsche Mark becoming too strong) General Motors decided to sell the Isuzu Gemini in the US as the “Opel by Isuzu”.

    In the case of the car in the photo it actually is an Isuzu Gemini that has been rebadged as an Opel. The indicator lights are embedded into the bumper while the Opel Kadett featured indicator lights underneath the bumper (pre-facelift) or in the front fenders (post-facelift).

  3. Eric said:

    Gorgeous photos! And that 117… wow. I have never seen a Volk wire mesh wheel until now.

  4. Kelly Greenidge said:

    I just love this article. Do you mind sharing what camera/lens/film you used for these shots please?

    • Skorj said:

      Thanks and certainly; I used a Bessa R3a with a single-coated Nokton 1.4, and Kodak Ektar & Ilford’s excellent XP2 Super. The reason I mention the S.C on the Nokton is sometimes if you are lucky, and the light is right, and the film feels like giving it up, you can get a really nice period look straight off the neg with no need for fake post-camera work. . .

      • Kelly Greenidge said:

        Skorj I must say that you sold me with this brand/make of camera. I’m a pentax spotmatic F user and just love my screw mount len’s. I have read and looked into rangefinder cameras but they are way out of my price range. Now with my year long move to South Korea “military move” I will track down either this version or the R3M.

        • Skorj said:

          On the Filmwasters link above – go to , then , and there’s lots of other combinations reviewed in detail as well. The Canonet being a viable alternative too. Also, the link to last year’s Meiji Jingu event has stuff from an Auto Half with expired film. Good luck!

  5. Ben Hsu said:

    Thanks again for another beautifully illustrated story. I wish I could have joined you, Ken, Hiro and bkdono again this year, despite the rain. I think the lack of color film worked in your favor!

    • Skorj said:

      Thanks, and pity we missed you this year too! Its such a great even being so easily accessible. Notably with not only the spacious concours area but also the open road tour.

  6. Tom Westmacott said:

    Amazing photos, you really create a wonderful atmosphere with them, especially the black and white ones.

  7. Louis Fong said:

    Love the TE55 Levin! Is it rare out there? Because I own a TE47 Trueno and it’s kinda rare in my country.

    • Skorj said:

      Yes. Quite rare. This one came all the way from Nagoya to Tokyo for the event, and is the only one I can recall seeing recently . . . I’ve seen more TE47.

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