GRAND TOURING: Boso Hanto, Day 01

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To a lot of Tokyoites, Chiba-ken is nothing more than the place go to if you are flying into or out of Narita airport. On the train or bus, you pass unsavory industrial areas, docks, recycle depots, and a few sprawling shopping malls. The northern shores of Tokyo Wan — home of the Wangan Route — house the smelly Nippon Steel works, flammable fuel refineries, gas storage depot, and other unattractive facilities such as Tokyo Disneyland.

The southern two-thirds of Chiba Prefecture, though, are known as the Boso Hanto (Boso Peninsula) and include mountainous areas, castles, rice farming, nihon-shu (sake) breweries, a number of national parks, and a history dating back to the Jomon Period (12,000 BC). The name “Chiba-ken” means literally “Land of a Thousand Leaves”, and the area lives up to its name throughout the year.  

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Easily accessible in an hour or so from Tokyo via the Tokyo Bay Aqualine, it was an easy choice when we were looking to buy an old thatched-roof minka (farmhouse) for slow restoration. When we are not working on the minka, we like to take the time to tour Boso Hanto, enjoying the history, sights, and delicious meals to found on the less-traveled smaller roads.

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Like many areas of Japan too, the touring brings with it some spectacular driving roads —  skyline and touge — the smallest of which suit a slow fast car like the Honda S800. We had the Coupe too, perfect for carrying just enough for a few days away.

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Upon filling up at our local Shell sutando (gasoline stand), we enjoyed some late summer and early fall drives on sparsely populated roads perfect for the S800’s live rear axle and peaky little engine. Smoothly paved and twisty, they wound through forest groves, bamboo thickets, and mountain tunnels, each corner bringing a new view and interesting stops.

The Mt Kanozan Jinyaji Jinja, dating back to the 1600s, is a great stop for a ramen lunch and some omiyage (souvenirs). A passing Silvia fresh off the touge was also enjoying the area.

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We stopped one day to inspect a red-roofed minka the same as ours. This one was the guardian of an old shrine, its komainu (lion-dog) statues looking out over the nearby rice fields.

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Passing harvested fields as the farmers burned off their rice stalks, we stopped at the Mishima Jinja, home to a famous samurai clan and their annual katana-wielding matsuri. During the festival, children of the area practice the swordsmanship with wooden swords and the adults parry with real katana and slice bamboo trunks with a single strike, a spectacular event. We parked the S800 next to the twinned trees in the Jinja parking area with evidence of a recent typhoon littering the grounds.

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In the northern reaches of Chiba-ken, we took the time to visit a well-known Prince and Nissan shop. Our task: to inspect a few GT-A and GT-B with intent to purchase. The shacho lives next door, has a garage full of interesting cars, and though we spent an hour or more looking at possible purchases, we spent even longer looking at his wife’s hakosuka GT-R, a kenmeri 2000GT, and the owner’s Prince S54 Skyline GT-B.

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Over tea, the shacho explained his number 41 replica was a GT-B, but because the homologated cars were all GT-As specced-up with the triple twin-throated Webers and other race bits, his GT-B also wears a GT-A compliance plate.

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Some may notice S54A body number 11 — the compliance plate from one of the original GT-A which ran against the Porsche 904 at the 1964 Japan Grand Prix. Even for a non-Prince otaku like me, this was impressive.

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Parked next to his number 41 replica was an original Michelotti-designed Skyline Sports. A great looking car, and one hopefully to feature in further detail soon too.

Outside on his lot were stored a wide range of Prince & Nissan machinery: a Prince Miler truck, GT-A and GT-B bodies that have seen better days, a mint 1967 Gloria Super, a H II-spec GT-A, Datsun Cherry X-1, and a BRE replica Bluebird Coupe

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Parked inside was an original Kyoto 5-plated GT-B, the single digit meaning it is very, very old.

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Along the way as well were the usual Japanese food stops, notably a regular visit to a consistently succulent hire-tonkatsu (deep-fried roast pork cutlet) in Kamogawa. We also frequent a Nepalise-run Indian restaurant for an occasional curry, too.

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Recent work on the Honda included a full re-wire of the headlight loom and the installation of some Koito H4 high-power headlamps. Driving country roads at night we were pleased to see that the new system performs much better than the feeble yellow-tinged OEM sealed beams. It’s a thoroughly recommended modification for anyone contemplating driving an old car regularly, especially past sunset. With the sun going down, the local Honda dealer made a nice backdrop for the S800.

To be continued…

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

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23 Responses to GRAND TOURING: Boso Hanto, Day 01

  1. Serg said:

    I like this.

    Great trip with great photos – thanks for the story 🙂

  2. Toyotageek said:

    Awesome write-up and photos, as always Skorj. 🙂

  3. Coltspeed said:

    A fine read… Much appreciated!
    Having said that, next time can you shrink the JNC inkan a bit? Nudge the transparency too that would help given the smaller image dimensions..

  4. Bart said:

    Always love your stuff! Thanks!

  5. Lupus said:

    I’m getting goose bums while reading these stories. It’s like “reading a movie”. Awsome work. Can’t wait for more.

  6. Dave Yuan said:

    Skorj, your post is magical as usual!

    I LOVE the surf line on non-GT-R Skylines. That kenmeri is gorgeous!

    The S54 Skyline is simply exquisite, and that one has such provenance! So all GT-Bs are officially GT-As from the factory, and then w/ other parts added on?

    • Jim said:

      Hi Dave
      The nomenclature of the Prince Skyline 2000 GT is complex and downright foggy.
      As I understand it only the first 100 or so of the May 1964 S54A-1 series were set up with the webers, tacho on dashpad, 5speed , oil cooler, lsd and Nardi type steering wheel , a few other tweaks,HP in the region of 127hp but seem to never be referred to as “B” series? In my searching anyway.
      I think it wasn’t until February 1965 the 127hp S54B-2 (note no S54B-1!?) was officially marketed alongside the 105 hp S54-A model.
      A story worthy of its own thread but yes! it appears the first 100 high performance S54 series Prince Skyline 2000 GT’s were gussied up GT-A’s
      The B series followed later.

    • Ben Hsu said:

      Magical is the perfect word for Skorj’s trips. Feels like I’m there myself.

      Jim, thanks for adding the interesting details. We’ll have stories about buying, registering and driving a Prince Skyline in Japan coming soon. In the meantime, you can find more Grand Tours here.
      http://japanesenostalgiccar.com/category/grand-touring/

  7. Jim said:

    A thoroughly enjoyable read, particularly regarding the Prince Motors shop. Yes, I am a proud (tragic?) Prince and Skyline otaku, sadly without the ability to read Japanese so your wonderfully expressed journey through the native land of these vehicles is a joy indeed!
    …And the details! Wow! The GT-A build plate for the “41” tribute car…. Now that is true Prince Motor sport History OTAKU stuff!!
    Thankyou Skorj. I’m going to have to go and find more of your posts now! 🙂
    Jim.

  8. XRaider927 said:

    What car is that in black?

  9. JimmieB said:

    My bags are packed, now if only I could find my passport…

  10. Randy said:

    Man, if that’s where you live, you’re the envy of millions! An hour from a major international city, with the relaxed life of the small town, plus perfect roads, beautiful scenery, and a culture that respects.its history.

    So tell us about the farmhouse…

  11. pstar said:

    That C110 is the best looking one I’ve seen. All those bozo-style ones just look really ugly and stupid.

    Nice Honda too.

    And I’m with Randy, lets see the house

  12. Skorj said:

    Thanks everyone! I enjoy putting these together, and Ben-san does a great job editing my text. I enjoy reading after he works his magic as well.

    Like Ben says too, we hope to pull together a few more bits and pieces on GT-A & GT-B for a future piece. Particularly as a good friend has just repatriated a B, passed shaken, and is sitting in his garage waiting for some temp gauge and perhaps simple alternator work. The sound of that six as it winds out is just spectacular. Faulty alternator or not, we’ve been sure to get it out for short runs regardless!

    Boso Hanto Part Two has some more on the minka and surrounding area too…

  13. Arnold said:

    Thanks Skorj, great article and beautiful photo’s!

  14. Shea Laking said:

    Lovely article. Thank you for taking the time to write down (and photograph) your experiences to share with us.

  15. John M said:

    This may be a random point to take from an interesting article with such scenic photos, but the taillights caught my eye. When I was in Japan, I always liked spotting Skyline taillights. However, looking at the few examples above, they all seem to have a style and aesthetic that seems to be lacking in modern vehicles. Not unique to Japan, but just another reason I prefer classic cars.

  16. Jun said:

    Beautiful read. That green C110 is perfect. Knowing me, the temptation to cut and slam it would be strong, but I’d know well enough to just leave it as is and enjoy it.

    I have always wanted to visit Katori. We have called the owner a few times about purchasing one of his cars and he has always been very friendly and shared a lot of information. Definitely one of my must visit shops next time I’m there…might be sooner than later if he has a car I’m interested in 🙂

  17. Nigel said:

    Skorj, you always find great places. And you always share.
    Your trips take us away from the normal, to places we may never see.
    Another great story.

  18. DesignerD said:

    Skorj… you’re taking me to that shop next time I’m over! Neeeed to buy an old Nissan!!!

    • Skorj said:

      Indeed! Quite possibly also sell tickets for tours along the way as well… The BRG C110 was indeed a perfect example too. Not only of a non-butchered Skyline, but also an excellent example of how to put modern tires and a reasonable ride-height on a classic car.

      Its been said before I know, but clean un-molested examples of Japanese cars of that type can only increase in value and general understanding. I wonder now, if it is still for sale…

    • Ben Hsu said:

      How much garage space do you have at the minka? 🙂

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