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 Post subject: stuff to see in japan.
PostPosted: Sun Mar 06, 2011 5:27 pm 

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so i will be going to japan on march 25th - april 5th. I will be going on trip with my college. I will be spending most of my time Tokyo but also some of the trip in sano city in the tochigi prefecture and osaka. alot of the trip is already planned out but theres going to be some free time. So I was wondering what would be worth while to see in any of these places. I already know everything in japan is going to be amazing but I want to have an idea of some of the things I need to see so that I make the most of the trip and just dont wander around aimlessly bahaha.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2011 8:22 am 
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in Tokyo, i would really try to see the Edo historical museum. it has exhibits ranging from ancient samurai culture to a whole room dedicated to early Japanese transportation and JNCs.

shibuya is also a pretty unique tokyo experience.


Osaka has a Universal studios. Osaka also has very many tuner shops you can go check out. from my experience, they usually dont mind at all if you just stop in and check things out.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 9:57 am 
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If you have free time in Tokyo and want to see car related stuff, go to:
Toyota MegaWeb (new cars and a test drive area, bring an international drivers license) Brochures are sold here from vending machines;
and the History Garage - both located at Odaiba.
Toyota Amlux in Ikebukuro - 4-5 floors of new cars, brochures here are FREE. Just ask the girls for some. There is a Toys R Us around the corner bottom floor at Sunshine City.
I think Nissan has a place near Ginza.

And, the Tomica Shop at Tokyo Station, or the Ghibli Museum

Use Japan Guide for more ideas... the Tokyo Page - http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2164.html

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 10:04 am 
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Also, try to visit a Tokyu Hands, Bic Camera or Yodobashi Camera.
There is a Tokyu Hands and Bic Camera near Toyota Amlux. Yodobashi usually has a good toy/hobby section (if looking for diecast or models). Tokyo is a big city, and it takes time to get around depending on time of day and just getting familiar with things. Where in Tokyo will you be staying, and how much free time will you have (a few hours, or a whole day)?

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 12:01 pm 
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+1 on Odaiba. You get an international driving permit from a AAA office for not much money. The test course at the Toyota MegaWeb is pretty fun. They have all of the current model cars on display and you can drive any of the auto trans models for 300yen. The last time I was there was a couple years ago, so the price may have changed.

Since you're in the neighborhood, I'd also check out the Super Autobacs nearby. That is pretty much tuner car heaven and you will probably end up buying something. Fuji TV's studios are also in Odaiba, so that's worth checking out. It's the really interesting looking building that you will see on the Shiodome monorail as you come in to Odaiba. The have a tour and you can even get a picture of yourself in one of the current tv series airing on the network.

I would also recommend checking out Akihabara. It's basically a geek and gadget town, so there are tons of electronics shops there, including Yodobashi's flagship "Yodobashi Akiba" location. Wander around the streets of Akiba for a little while and you'll see some maid cafe's. Those are fun to check out, just for the experience.

Ginza is one of the premier shopping districts in the world, so that is definitely worth checking out. There are a lot of good restaurants and bars there, so be sure and stick around until the evening.

If you plan to go to Shubuya, I would also check out Harajuku. If you can go to Harajuku on Sunday, you'll have the best experience. When you see pictures of all the kids wearing crazy colors and with wild clothing styles, that is all from Harajuku. It's also worth checking out the Meiji Jingumai shrine nearby. That's a huge park with a large temple in the middle and the entrance is right next to Harajuku station on the Hibiya sen subway line.

If you have a whole day to spare, go to Yokohama. There is a cool water front with an amusement park and shops and attractions and they have the largest Chinatown in all of Japan. IMO, the best thing to check out near Yokohama is the small island of Enoshima. You can walk across the bridge to get there and then wander around the narrow streets of the island. The island has a large number of shrines on it (more than 20 IIRC) and it's a neat cultural experience.

You'll need a car and someone that knows the area (and/or can follow a navi system) to do this, but I like to head out to Saitama to check out the tuner shops. It's about an hour's drive from center area of Tokyo, but there are tons of the tuner shops you read about in the magazines there.

Keep in mind that the Tokyo area is quite large. Don't try to do too much in one day and be sure to plan where you will go in advance. It takes a while to get from place to place and often times, things are quite far apart. You'll mostly be traveling around by train, so I suggest picking up a SUICA or Tokyo Metro Rail Card. You can put 2000 yen on it and all you do is swipe it as you go through the station turnstile. If you don't get one of those cards, you'll need to buy individual train tickets. This can sometimes be problematic on the local lines because the maps and ticket machines are often not in english. If you end up somewhere that has no english signs, just buy the cheapest ticket and use the fare adjustment machine when you get to the destination station. Worst case, there is usually an exit that is manned by a human and you can hand the guy your ticket and he will tell you what the difference is in fare.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 12:29 pm 
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Affirmative on the Suica card. I don't leave home without it! :lol:

Yeah for Yokohama!
Take the ride up Landmark Tower and get the view.
Check out Motomachi. It's where a local foreigners hang out. http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3203.html
Chinatown is good - there are some good dim sum eateries!
Head over to Honmoku and go to Mooneyes Area 51, & eat at the Moon Cafe! http://www.mooneyes.co.jp/shop/area1/inde-e.html
:P

If you go to Enoshima, hop on the monorail and go to Kamakura (the old political center of Japan) lot's & lot's of shrines & temples and the Great Buddha (Daibutsu)! http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3100.html

Most import, I agree with what gotzoom? says .... don't do too much in one day & plan ahead. Sit down and map it out. Best thing a first timer can do.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 2:16 pm 

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I'll suggest a hand held GPS loaded with an English language Japan street map.
Up Up Down is a pretty good one, if a little dated:
http://www.uud.info/
This functions as a perpetual "You Are Here" sign.

You can compare to a paper map or to Google Maps on the internet. Google Maps has some address searching capability.
If you are really good, you can load landmarks onto the GPS with the same program used to load the Japan map.

Get used to walking 8+ miles per day before you leave.
Take comfortable athletic shoes with you, as well as good socks.

If you can navigate with a GPS and walk long distances, you will be the most dangerous thing in Japan, an unsupervised foreigner on the loose.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 2:36 pm 
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Good call on Kamakura. I forgot to mention that. I took an old local line from there to Enoshima and it was a nice train ride. There are a lot of tea houses inside of Kamakura, so you can sit (kneel, actually) down for a traditional tea ceremony there.

Another cool place to check out is Asakusa. There is a large shrine there and a neat area surrounding it with a lot of vendors selling all kinds of stuff. There's a very famous restaurant nearby called Hatsuogawa. They are one of the most famous unagi (broiled river eel) restaurants in Japan.

You didn't mention whether you will be meeting Japanese people or staying with Japanese people, but if you are, here are some things that will help you. It's customary in Japanese culture to bring gifts back (omiyage) when you travel. Your Japanese hosts may be expecting this. If they are not expecting something, they will certainly be appreciative of your understanding of this important aspect of their culture. Typically, omiyage are small items that don't cost much and have something to do with the place that you are coming from, so you might want to head to Costco and grab a 50 count pack of Ghirardelli chocolates or something similar from America and be ready to hand them out as the situation warrants. When you hand someone a gift, business card, your credit card, etc. use both hands. Also use both hands when receiving something from someone. This is considered good etiquette, but foreigners are usually given a free pass on minor etiquette violations. :) When Japanese people talk to you, it is polite to acknowledge that you are paying attention. You can nod your head regularly or even say "hai" to indicate that you are listening to what they have to say. If people suddenly stop talking, it's possible because you're not giving enough feedback. It's also customary to remove your shoes when entering someone's home and many businesses. Be conscious of this when you go places, since there are no signs asking you to remove your shoes. Just look around to see if there is a pile of shoes near the doorway and that is a pretty good indication that you should take your shoes off. you might want to wear low top shoes that you can slip on and off easily, since there may not be a place to sit while you lace up your Air Jordans.

Many places do not accept credit cards in Japan. I'd even go as far as to say that most places do not accept them. Some restaurants will, most hotels and most larger stores will accept cards, but don't assume that everyplace does. The good news is that ATM machines are pretty common and any Citibank location, post office and 7-11 convenience store will have an ATM that should work with your ATM card, as long as you have Star or Plus symbols on the back of the card. When I go to Japan, I only change $100 at the airport before I leave and I go to ATMs when I am there. You don't pay any commission, get the actual daily exchange rate and only pay a flat fee for the transaction.

Japanese typically expect that foreigners won't eat the "weird stuff" that is a normal part of the Japanese diet. If you are willing to try new foods that you haven't experienced before, your hosts will be really excited. This is also true of alcohol. As a culture, the Japanese love to drink, so be sure and pace yourself. :) If you get the chance to eat (and drink) at izakaya (something like Spanish tapas, small plate foods) restaurants, be sure and do so. Even better, if you can go with Japanese hosts. You'll be shocked at how much people can eat and drink, but if you eat slowly and drink slowly, you'll be able to keep up. If your idea of Japanese food is California Rolls and Teriyaki beef, I'm afraid you're in for a bit of a shock. Those don't exist in Japan. There are tons of Mc Donalds, Starbucks, KFC and other America things, in case you get homesick. Roppongi used to be a district that had a lot of foreigners living there, so there is a Tony Roma and Hard Rock Cafe there, as well.

I hope that helps.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 3:33 pm 
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Hmm...I'm thinking a 'Going to Japan' thread should be made a sticky....

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 3:45 pm 
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Yeah, and should include links to those old grandJDM posts you had... :wink:

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 4:00 pm 
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toyotageek wrote:
Yeah, and should include links to those old grandJDM posts you had... :wink:

That's a good idea! The pic links are all broken, so I'll rehost them and post it up tonight.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 8:38 pm 

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gotzoom? wrote:
Many places do not accept credit cards in Japan. I'd even go as far as to say that most places do not accept them.


A lot of places do not want to accept credit cards from foreigners or a credit card from a foreign country.
This becomes very annoying at the counter of a hotel where you planned to pay the $200+ bill with a credit card.
And you will be surprised how often your card is handed back to you and the clerk tells you it was declined.

One thing I have sorted out as a serious problem is that in the US, we write the date as month/day/year, or month/year, and in Japan, the order these are written is not the same. One of the three pieces of information on a credit card that are entered in for a transaction is the expiration date. I am convinced that they are entering the month for the year and the year for the month, and this is causing the transactions to be kicked.
I eventually wrote in fine tip permanent marker, the kanji symbol for month, next to the month on my credit card expiration date, and the kanji symbol for year, next to the year on my credit card expiration date. This cut the card declines in half.
This problem probably should get a little better in 2013, because the year number is easily confused with a month number for 2001 through 2012.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2011 3:56 am 
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Ok, here's a series of blog posts we did years ago, the pic links were busted, so here they are, all rehosted :)

A lot of people we talk to just love the idea of going to Japan for an automotive-themed vacation but the common vibe is always that Japan is a little intimidating. You can’t speak the language, you’re worried that it’s expensive. Well, it is expensive in the sense that you will blow lots of money on car-related stuff, but the other things like food, accommodation and travel are surprisingly inexpensive….which of course, leaves you more money to blow on car-related stuff! Can’t speak the language? Hey, neither can I, and I’ve been there 9 times! (edit: actually now 13 times :zoidberg:)

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So from us here at Grand JDM, this will be a series of articles to help demystify the wonderful country of Japan, and hopefully get more of you guys on a plane and onto JDM soil. We’ll also put together some suggestions as to how to plan your trip to take in some car shows, how to buy parts, visit tuners and other stuff. And along the way hopefully bust some of the myths about our favourite holiday country. Obviously, we can’t cover every destination in Japan so we’re going to focus on Tokyo.

Ok…..so you’re at the airport. You’ve already found the airport convenience store and you’ve got an armful of JDM car magazines (which are sooo much cheaper than back home!). You are buzzing pleasantly from your second can of Georgia Coffee (Emerald Blend) and nervously run outside, half-expecting to see drift cars sliding around the airport driveway, and Keiichi Tsuchiya himself waiting there with a GT-R to give you a ride.

Hey, maybe that is how it’s gonna work out for you but in that event that it doesn’t…then you’re going to have to pay attention.
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Obviously, you need to get to your hotel. But don’t make a beeline for the taxis. We’ll explain more about taxis later but for now you need to find your way to the Limousine Bus service counter.
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I’m not sure why it’s called “Limousine” because it’s just a bus service that takes you to most hotels. The cost is around US$25 and if your hotel is on their drop-off list then you’re in luck: the bus will drop you at the door. However, if the bus doesn’t go directly to your hotel, then the next best thing is to take the bus to the TCAT. The TCAT is a bus terminal in central Tokyo that is part of a subway station. So take the bus to the TCAT, and then jump on a train.

Sure, you can catch a train into Tokyo from the airport, but if you’re staying in central Tokyo, then that’s a slower way to go. Catch the right express train and it isn’t too bad but catch the wrong train and it’ll take 3 hours as it stops at every station.

Speaking of trains, the Tokyo subway system can be pretty daunting. It can be incredibly crowded and it can be confusing but you really have got to get the hang of it if you are going to get around. And when you do, you’ll find that it’s the fastest, cheapest and easiest way to go.
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The Tokyo system criss-crosses itself many times to form a dense grid. Basically you can go almost anywhere, if you are willing to change trains. Here’s a map of the Tokyo system.
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The complexity of the system means that some major stations will have dozens of different platforms and it’ll generally be quite confusing (even for locals). The biggest station is probably Shinjuku, which has so many platforms that it takes 15mins to walk from one end to the other. But here’s how you do it.

First, work out what line you have to take. All the various lines have names. For example, say you have been loading up with electronics at the Yodabashi Camera store in Shinjuku, and now you want to go to the famed Roadster tuner, Car Make Corn’s at Ichinoe. Walk thru the Shinjuku station, looking for the Shinjuku Line (this is the lime-green line that goes east to west on the map above) then take the train that heads to Motoyawata.

But first you got to buy your ticket. Outside all stations is something that looks like this.
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What you’re supposed to do, is to look at the map, figure out how much it will cost to go to Ichinoe, then you front up to one of the machines:
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Press “one person”, then select the amount of the ticket on the touchscreen, pop in your coins and it will produce your ticket. The problem is, most of the time the big map with the ticket prices is only in Japanese. So what you do, is just buy the smallest ticket, and you can sort things out at your destination. When you get into the bowels of the station, find the Shinjuku Line, and locate the platform that heads to Motoyawata.
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Each platform will have a digital signboard like the one above, and if it says that the next train is going to Motoyawata, then that’s the one for you. And when you get to Ichinoe, like all stations it will have this: The Fare Adjustment Machine. This will save your ass time and time again.
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Pop in your ticket, and it will helpfully tell you that you need to top up your ticket by say, Y150. Pop in your coins and you are on your way. Easy! If you have a destination which requires the need to swap lines, that’s ok, but it usually means you have to buy another ticket.

No one actually drives a car to work in Tokyo, and everyone uses the trains. Shinjuku for example, is the world’s busiest station, with over 2 million people going thru everyday. So prepare to be surprised when the trains seem to come every 3 or 4 minutes or so. It’s so fast that you can easily pack in 8, maybe 10 tourist destinations into one single day. I can’t think of any other mode of transport in any city that allows you to get to so much, so fast. So get your ass on a train!
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And remember what I said about avoiding taxis? Well, in Japan, taxis are not meant to be an alternative to the train system, it’s meant to compliment it. I’ll explain. Outside of any train station in Japan you will see a row of taxis.
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The idea is that you take a train to where you want to go, and then if it’s too far to walk, then you jump in a cab for a short hop to your destination. Taxis will charge a flat fee of Y660 (about US$6) for most short journeys but if you need to go very far, the cost escalates almost exponentially. Remember how the bus ticket from the airport to central Tokyo was about US$25? Catch a cab and it’s more like US$200. So you’ll find that most taxis only make short hauls within a small area, and if you want to go across town, most cabbies won’t be familiar with the area and so won’t really know where your destination is. To cap it off, almost all cabbies don’t speak English….so if you have to catch a cab, print out a map from the website of the shop or tuner you wish to visit, and hand it to the driver with a lot of pointing at the X that marks the spot.

And oh yes, JDM cabs have electrically opening doors. If you try to open it yourself and grab the handle, you’ll end up in a tug of war with the electric mechanism and that seems to piss off the cabbie something awful and when you get into the taxi you will have to sit thru this really long speech.

Rental cars aren’t too expensive, but there is very, very little parking in metropolitan areas and driving can get pretty expensive with some roads requiring a toll of up to US$25 each way. The main problem you will face is parking (and most hotels don’t have a parking lot).
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Hey, if local residents have this little room to park their own cars (and sometimes they have to resort to contraptions like the one below to park their cars near their own homes)…..then trust me, there is no parking for your rental car. Commercial parking stations are pretty cool, you drive you car into this hole, and then your car is scooped up and taken mechanically somewhere into the bowels of the parking station.
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But these are really expensive in popular areas and can cost up to US$20 an hour. If you need to drive a few hours outside of town to say a racetrack or Daikoku Futo or something, then a rental car may be the only way to go. But for the urban areas, there is no reason not to use the trains, and there are plenty of parts shops and tuners which can be accessed this way. So if we have a choice, we stick to the trains.

The next instalment, we will cover where to stay, and….how to find the good stuff!

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Last edited by kev on Thu Mar 10, 2011 4:17 am, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2011 3:57 am 
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Edit: Nowadays I wouldn't bother getting tickets (or the fare adjustment machine) I'd just load up a PASMO cars with $50 and just swipe it everywhere I go.

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There is also a SUICA card, which is basically the same thing. You get them at machines usually next to the normal ticket machines. At the major stations, you can press a button for English, so it's no real problem to get a card issued (I think there is a $10 deposit). And topping them up is easy to figure out too.

Also can be used in most convenience stores, etc to buy stuff.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2011 3:58 am 
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Welcome to the second instalment of our guide on how to survive in Japan. You can find the first instalment here.

So by now you’re a pro at whizzing around Tokyo on a train… but where should you stay, where should you eat, and how do you actually find stuff when you’re on foot? We’ll cover these questions in this instalment.

By all means, book a room at the Hyatt in Shinjuku. You can even ask for the room they used for Bill Murray in Lost in Translation (for a not-insignificant extra cost of course!). But there are lots of much cheaper options, and let’s face it, you’re not going to Japan just to hide out in the hotel all day.
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There are lots of hostels which cater for western tourists, and they can be as cheap as $25 a day. Being Japan, they’re usually spotlessly clean, have honest and English speaking staff. Try to pick one that is relatively in the middle of Tokyo, it’ll save time when you’re travelling, and that can make a big difference. The hotel above is in Jimbocho, which is perfect for getting around.

But before you leave your hotel to check out that GT-R parked down the road (and take it from us, Japanese car owners don’t like it when you start licking their cars), you’re going to need a primer on the Japanese address system. Firstly, it’s awful. Even Japanese people will tell you that.
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A typical Japanese address looks like this: 〒124-0022 東京都葛飾区奥戸7-15-8

The first batch of numbers after that T-shaped thing is basically the post code. The last set of numbers are the most important, because Japanese addresses are not based on street and numbers, they use a grid system. The 7 is the house number on a particular block. The 15 is the number of the block in that suburb. The 8 is the suburb. The problem is this…the numbering is not sequential, ie no.7 is between no.8 and no.9, etc. The numbering is based on when that particular building was built. So no.7 is actually between no.26 and no.45. The same thing applies to the block number, they are not laid out in any particular order and unless you have an overhead map that shows where block no.15 is, you’re screwed. So the western practice of walking down a particular street, looking for a particular building isn’t going to work, because Japanese addresses don’t use the street as a reference, and most streets don’t even have a name as a result.
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So, rather oddly, in Japan the actual address of a place is not of much use. Which is why all Japanese businesses have a pictorial map of their location, like so. What it actually says, is that the shop is right next to a Volvo dealership, across the road from a petrol station and a hardware store, and is a few hundred metres near a bridge that crosses a river. The idea is that you get yourself into the general vicinity, and then use the map to narrow it down. This is not just for tourists, the Japanese often print a map like this on the back of business cards and as you walk around Japan you will often see businessmen walking around, staring at the back of a business card wondering where the hell it is that they’re supposed to go. So if you don’t have any English instructions on how to get somewhere, then you really do need to figure out where you want to visit, and print these maps out beforehand. This is what you hand to a taxi driver, and it’s a great idea to ask your hotel staff to translate some of the landmarks for you too, and while you’re at it, ask them to figure out what the nearest train station is. There are lots of Japanese websites they can look up for you and they can even print out a list of which trains to take and where to swap lines for the fastest route.
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So getting around isn’t difficult, but you do have to be organised. And (unfortunately!) it really isn’t as simple as jumping in a taxi and saying “take me to Re Amemiya!”
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Ok. Let’s eat. At train stations and on the street, you see a lot of lunch-type joints where you eat at a counter. These are really popular and great for travellers since they often open late, and you will find katsu curry and rice joints, ramen joints and beef-bowl joints. They’re pretty cheap at about $6 for a meal but a lot of people find the ordering system confusing. But you gotta eat, right?

Most of these joints in the cities will have a machine like this. Sometimes they will have pictures of each dish, but sometimes they will just have text (in that case the popular dishes are usually at the top left!). Pick your dish, pop in some money and it’ll spit out a ticket. Wait until a seat frees up at the counter and hand over your ticket, and your food will usually be served pretty quickly (Japanese lunch breaks are pretty short).
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Lots of people work late and then eat at these places so often they have the nicest food, and especially if you like your ramen, you will have to use these machines a lot. Especially in the eating places close to a station. Also one of the things that will strike you when you walk around is the preponderance of drink vending machines. They are everywhere, on every train station platform around every street corner and generally if you are more than 200metres away from a drink vending machine, then you really are in the middle of nowhere!

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They sell hot and cold drinks, and the range on offer extends from the usual fizzy soft drinks to hot and cold coffee in a can (remarkably good) and even hot soup. Spending way too much money on vending machines and overdosing on shots of canned coffee is part of the whole experience, and it beats Starbucks anyday!

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The one on the left is corn soup by the way. And yes there’s tons of corn kernels inside. And it comes out of a vending machine.

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Generally speaking, food in Japan isn’t too expensive (the tonkatsu meal on the left for example was $13 per person). As a rule of thumb, any place that looks like you’d conceivably go there for lunch won’t be more than say $25 (usually a lot less). The only food that generally tends to cost more than expected, is Yakitori (below). It’s barbequed food on a stick, and usually marinated in a tasty bbq sauce. It’s the perfect food to go with beer, and yakitori joints come in all shapes and sizes, from back alleyway holes in a wall, to quite fancy restaurants. The one thing they have in common is that a Yakitori meal tends to drag on and on as you order more sticks of food and more drinks, and so while the food doesn’t look expensive, space is at a premium in Japan and so you do pay for the privilege of clogging up their restaurant for so long!
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But if all this talk of food doesn’t turn you on because you plan to maximise your car parts budget by living on water and air as much as possible, then we can understand. If this is the case, then the friendly neighbourhood 7-11 is your friend. You can find snacks like sushi for as little as a buck (the triangular kind has varieties with fish and meat inside and it does a great job of filling you up) and JDM convenience stores sell beer too, for only US$1.50 a can. So even if you end up malnourished, at least you’ll be hammered.

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Finally, money. For some reason the currency exchange counter at Narita airport never gives you a good rate. So now, we don’t bother buying Japanese yen at the airport, and instead we make a beeline for the ATM at a western bank (same PIN and everything). You should check with your own bank before coming to Japan, but we found that most ATM’s currency rate was usually about 10% better than the airport. Of course, we could only withdraw as much money as our regular bank daily account limit will allow. You also get to feel really rich for a short time, as the ATM gives you your bank balance in yen!
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So now you’ve got yourself somewhere to crash, you’re cashed up, you’ve mastered the art of the train, you can find even the most fiendishly hidden-away tuner in a back alley, and you won’t starve.

In the next instalment we’ll cover the car stuff: how to buy parts, visit tuners and car shows.

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Welcome to part 3 of our Going To Japan series! By now you’ll be well sorted for the basics of survival in JDM-land and now we get down to business. Cars.

Let’s face it, when it comes to cars, everyone’s expectations of Japan are pretty damn high. You expect to walk down the street, see schoolbusses drifting and grandmothers pulling burnouts in Supras, you expect to see mint C10 Skyline GT-Rs parked on every street corner, bosozouku car parades on every block, you expect that every corner grocery store will have a special aisle for turbochargers, and they’re on sale, too! Free delivery!

Well….it’s not quite like that. But we can make sure that you get to see some car shows, visit some tuners and buy the cool JDM parts you want. Read on…
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Car shows. If you’ve been paying attention to the previous two instalments in this series (here and here) then by now you will have figured out that say, a cool “Hot Olds” classic car meet by the sea in the countryside will not be very easy to get to. But that still leaves plenty of options. There are many car shows which take place in the Tokyo area each year.
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The big daddy of Japanese car shows is by far the Tokyo Autosalon. Usually held in mid January, it is Japan’s SEMA (except that it’s open to the public). Expect to see hundreds and hundreds of drool worthy modified cars, which are mostly modern late models, but there are usually some classics thrown into the mix too. There is actually very little hardware that you can buy, but if you like your JDM tuner souvenirs, there is simply no better place to buy T shirts, jackets, hats, keychains, you name it. Bring your camera, but we have to warn you that the crowds are absolutely HUGE (as you can see!)
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Pretty much every tuner, from smaller, lesser known niche brands to big brands like HKS and Mazdaspeed have big stalls at the Autosalon, with plenty of cars on show and souvenirs for you to buy. It is impossible not to put down at least a little coin on something. Autosalon is a good reason to visit Tokyo in January all by itself, but in January you will usually also be lucky enough to find a Tokyo classic car event.
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Keep an eye on the Japan Classic Car Association site and the events calendar from Old Timer Magazine for dates of 2008 events. But in 2007 the JCCA Tokyo event was the second weekend after the Autosalon. Also keep an eye out on the BP Nostalgic Car Show site, in 2007 the Tokyo show was held in May in Odaiba, which is in the Tokyo Bay area and is only 15mins on the train from central Tokyo.
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One of the cool things about JDM car shows is that once you’re finished with the official car show…there is then the unofficial car show in the car park outside. This is often where you see the classic JDM cars all parked together, and of course the boso guys too. The Autosalon is at Makuhari (near Tokyo Disneyland) and is easily accessible by train.


Tuners. This is one thing which might actually disappoint. The big tuner names like RE Amemiya, Top Secret, et al are so legendary in our enthusiast circles that there is an expectation that their workshops will be like theme parks. Nothing could be further from the truth. Japan is a crowded, dense place and space is at a premium. Hence even big-name tuners might only operate out of a small workshop with only a few bays.

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In most cases, even the well known tuners will turn out to be basic, busy workshops working on customer cars, with very little (if any) in the way of a showroom of things for you to browse. Much like any tuner workshop in the west, if you want say a coilover kit for your car, they will have to order one in, and it’s unlikely that they will have one in stock. You will usually find some hot customer cars parked outside that you can drool over, but paying a visit to your favourite tuner is something that can end up as a bit of an anticlimax.

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Bigger tuners will have a small office, with some parts on display that you can buy, but generally speaking most of the parts carried are for the more popular tuner cars in Japan like the Silvia and the Lancer Evolution. So if you were looking for parts for your older JDM car, then you will usually be out of luck. But don’t let us put you off, however. We’ve had some awesome experiences in Japan with tuners, and in one especially memorable instance, the man himself (ie the guy you see introducing the car on Best Motoring videos!) dropped what he was doing and spent a few hours talking cars with us in his office over coffee. Take it from us, bring a picture of your car, and if you’re a racer, then a picture of yourself in action on the track is a good idea too. It can establish your credentials as an enthusiast and is a great conversation starter. Be respectful, but just be warned that that JDM tuner workshops are busy working places and that you might actually be in the way.

ImageSo if buying parts is your plan and visiting a tuner might not net what you want, then where do you go? You need to find yourself a parts store. A hell of a lot of aftermarket parts in Japan are sold on the internet, and very often these distributors will have the biggest range of parts on offer. In Tokyo, we would recommend Carshop Nagano and Crystal Auto, both of which have a very large selection of parts on hand. As we said above though, the great majority of parts in stock will be for popular JDM cars, especially Nissan turbos. So even if you have a popular car like a Roadster, you might not find very many parts at all in stock. And certainly if you want anything “big” like an LSD or coilovers then it will have to be ordered in.

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So here’s what you need to do. In most cases the shop will be able to get your parts in 2 working days. So visit the shop early in your trip and order and pay for your parts. In some cases the store will offer free delivery, so bring details of your hotel, and ask (it doesn’t hurt to ask) if delivery to your hotel can be arranged. That means you don’t have to come back to pick them up. Other things you should remember is that while the staff may be helpful, they may not actually speak any English. So before your trip, figure out what you want and print out the website pages or catalogs with the parts you want. Also be aware that some shops will not accept foreign credit cards. So hit that ATM and cash yourself up before heading for the store.

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In terms of prices, a big-volume parts store will be able to offer you prices that are much lower than JDM retail. It’s not unusual to find that in many cases, parts are 10~20% off catalog prices. You’re probably paying a hefty JDM Tax on top of the regular retail price in Japan, so that is a big saving over what you are paying to have the stuff imported now. If you pay in cash you may get a modest discount but not always. If you use your credit card (assuming the shop accepts foreign cards) then there is usually a 3~5% processing fee. So cash is cheaper, even if they don’t give you any more of a break on the price.

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While you’re in Tokyo, it’s always a good idea to visit the Super Autobacs at Tokyo Bay. It’s an enormous parts supermarket which has a little of everything. It’s a little pricey however but if all you wanted to do is to look and touch, rather then buy, then this is a (damn) good place to visit.

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Autobacs also has a superb rare book and video section upstairs, run by Lindbergh, so that makes it a very worthwhile destination all by itself. It’s at Shinonome station on the Rinkai Line, and is open until 10pm every night, so is a great after-dinner stop.

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While you are at the Super Autobacs, take the train a few mins west to Tokyo Teleport and pay the Toyota Historic Garage a visit. It’s a modest little car museum, but it has a huge book and model car shop and also a cool glass-fronted workshop where during the day, you can see mechanics working on restoration projects for the museum. It’s at the Venus Fort shopping centre.

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Just across from the Historic Garage is the Toyota Mega Web, which is basically a very elaborate showroom of Toyota models, with some (modest) rides and a design studio pavillion where you might see some concept cars. The other cool thing about the Mega Web is that they have a small test track outside where you can drive any car from the current Toyota lineup (at speeds of up to only 40km/h). There’s a small fee, you will need an international driver’s license, and you also have to book a few hours in advance.

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Luckily for us, one of the very cool Japanese traits is for tuners or shops to specialise in one model only. Needless to say, if your ride is say something rare in Japan like say a Starion then you may not be any model-specific tuners. But in many cases there are. You may need to buy a few JDM magazines and scour http://www.google.co.jp a lot to find them, but if you need to buy hardware, then these shops will have the best selection for your car.

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If there is a Roadster enthusiast looking over your shoulder right now, you may need to administer CPR in a few moments…many of the Roadster-specific parts on these shelves are rare and out of production

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Incidentally, it isn’t unusual to find a shop that is actually a dealer in your model of car and nothing else. If you need to find all those cool little rare-groove parts for your car (ie if you get off on having JDM parts which have brands that none of your friends recognise) then these niche model shops are the only way to go. You do pay a price for the convenience however, in that the prices are somewhat higher than the bigger parts stores. But if say a wheel manufacturer makes a wheel with a special offset just for your model of car, then very often these special pieces won’t be available to general-purpose shops and you will have to visit a specialised place.

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So there you have it…

We didn’t have enough space to cover everything we wanted, so we’ll keep this series going….in the next instalment we’ll cover some of the cool and random stuff we’ve come across in Japan, and we talk a bit about what has become of the street drifting and racing scene.

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Edit: I found these pics in the same directory as the pics in the post above....it's this car here at the Super Autobacs that led to buying Project Hakosuka a couple of mths later :)
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Welcome to Part 4 of our Going to Japan series! So far, we’ve covered the basics of how to get around, feed yourself, find a place to stay, see car shows, meet tuners and buy parts without JDM Tax (phew!). So the next few instalments will be a bit of a wrap-up of all the little things we wanted to include in the earlier articles (which can be found here, here and here) but couldn’t because of a lack of space or other reasons.

One of the glaring questions that we haven’t answered yet is….where do you go to see the street drifting?

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It’s an obvious question to ask, but one that is easy to answer…you can’t.

You can still find street and mountain drift in Japan, but it’s now clear that it’s really the reserve of the hardcore fringe. To be involved, you have to be at one of many staging areas (usually in the middle of nowhere). Then the whole drifting show moves from place to place a few times a night to avoid outstaying their welcome. Just in case, spotters will warn of incoming police and everyone scatters to the next staging area to await instructions. And even then the cops might crash the party, forcing everyone to scatter again, to regroup at yet another pre-arranged staging point (usually one of the ubiquitous JDM convenience stores).

When we went to Japan in early 2007, we were lucky enough to be invited to tag along to check out the drifting. But it became abundantly clear that unless you were invited, or unless you had the vital mobile phone numbers of the right people who could tell you where the whole show was heading next, then you’d miss it all (now, I don’t pretend to be an “insider” in Japan, I was just lucky enough to bump into people who were).

So efficient are the Tokyo cops at stamping out street drifting, that the bunch of Tokyo drifters we were with had to travel 2hrs outside of Tokyo to find deserted mountain roads in the countryside. Quite literally in the middle of nowhere and even then the party was busted twice in the one night by the cops.

However, it wasn’t always this way. Let’s take a step back in time….

All the pics we’ve posted here are from around 10yrs ago, in the heyday of wangan battle and street drift in Japan. The scene is very much a typical truckstop/convenience store on the side of a freeway somewhere, and there is a healthy gathering of nice cars, the usual Daikoku Futo-esque JDM cliche. But if you look closely, you’ll notice that most of the cars have a distinct absence of bling.
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A lot of these cars look pretty tough, and in terms of looks they are quite plain, the owner’s money having been mostly spent under the bonnet. What you see here, is a staging area for highway battle racing. Cars will pair up and head out into the surrounding freeway to race along a predetermined “circuit” that brings you right back to the truckstop.

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This is a regular meet, and this was back in the day when the local cops would turn a blind eye to your gearhead fun. Back in those days, a wandering foreigner with a big goofy grin could ask for a “navi ride”. One of the friendly local gearheads would offer you the shotgun seat in his Skyline, and then you sit in the passenger seat during a highway race, bewildered that you are weaving between the regular traffic at 248km/h, and we know this for sure, because that’s what it said on the digital Apex Rev/Speed Meter! We’re not making this up!
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Of course whether this is actually a smart thing to do with respect to your own mortality is another question!

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It was just so open back then….just ask anyone at a parts store or a tuner, and you’d be told where everything is going down. The freedom with which this information is given is a sure sign that the authorities know full well what is going on. In Tokyo, the street drifting went down in the Odaiba area and then later moved to the docks/warehouse area near the Tokyo Disneyland. But no longer.
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But at some point, the street racers did cross the line, people got hurt, and normally picturesque Japanese mountain roads would start to resemble junkyards as piles of old drifted out tyres and the odd hulk of a crashed and stripped drift car began to blight the view. So the police reacted in the only way they could, and cracked down on the street racers in a big way in the past 2~3 yrs, to the point where it’s almost extinct. The only surprise (to our western minds) is that the party lasted for so long.

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Here at Grand JDM we don’t condone street racing…and yet we’d be the first to admit that it is part of the mystique that makes normally-straitlaced Japan such a fascinating place. And to stand by the side of a deserted mountain road, with 400+hp cars screaming past broadside, only inches away, so close you could reach out and touch them….well, however politically incorrect it may be, they are very special experiences that will stay with you for a long time.
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The fact of the matter is, the tide is turning against the street racers in Japan and slowly but surely, street racing meets like the one we’ve posted here will only be found in the past.

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Hmmm….well it seems that we’ve run out of space yet again, and so we will be continuing this series.

In the next instalment, we’ll mop up some of the other things that we wanted to cover, but if you have any questions, post them up in the comments section and we’ll do our best to answer them in the upcoming articles.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2011 3:46 pm 

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Fantastic stuff going into this thread! Great writeup, really has helped my plans to visit Tokyo.

I'd want to see the Amlux, Toyota Historic Garage and the Megaweb while there. Need to properly source diecast vehicle stores also, really search through for cheap rare gems!


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2011 7:47 pm 

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my trip has possibly been cancelled due to the recent earthquake/tsunami/nuclear reactor probelms. we are having a meeting about it in the morning. will keep you guys posted. btw amazing thread and the info on here is awesome :tu:

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