RIP Ken Takakura, 1931-2014

Yellow Handkerchief Ken Takakura
Ken Takakura, one of Japan’s most famous actors, has passed away at the age of 83. Known as the Japanese Clint Eastwood, he portrayed many tough guy roles, from noble ex-cons to hard boiled detectives to chivalrous gangsters, but you might know him best from his role as Michael Douglas’s reluctant partner in the 1989 film Black Rain. 

He won Best Actor in Japan’s version of the Academy Awards for one of the nations’ most famous films, The Yellow Handkerchief, which happens to be an epic road movie. The story follows Takakura’s character, a man just released from prison after serving a murder sentence. On his way to Hokkaido for an unknown reason, his life intersects with a couple of travelers and a 1977 Mazda Familia. Eventually they learn that he’s going to see his wife, and will find out if he’s welcome home only if she’s hung out a yellow handkerchief for him.  Continue reading

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VIDEO: Toyota Sports 800. Fun!

Toyota Sports 800 by Petrolicious

Our friends at Petrolicious have produced a beautiful film about the Yotahachi, Toyota’s first sports car. Weighing in at only 1,280 pounds thanks to prodigious use of aluminum, it needed only a 45hp two-cylinder boxer to make it a barrel of monkeys. Owner Scott Sylvester talks about what it’s like to own one. Watch the video below. Continue reading

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GALLERIES: The American Honda Collection, Part 01 – Small Beginnings

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Soichiro Honda was born on November 17, 1906 in a small Shizuoka Prefecture village. If you had told his parents, a blacksmith and a weaver, that one day their son would put the family name on a worldwide automotive empire responsible for some of the best sports and racing cars of all time, they would’ve thought you were insane.

But by 1959, thirteen years after Honda opened for business in a 170-square-foot shed, Honda Motor Company was ready to establish a US subsidiary. Today, that subsidiary has sold over 33 million cars in North America, 20 million of which were built here, and has amassed a collection of its best creations in a nondescript private warehouse. Here’s what’s inside.  Continue reading

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QotW: What’s the greatest nostalgic Honda?

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Today is Soichiro Honda’s birthday. Though Honda-san passed away in 1991, many of the last cars he saw go into production are quickly passing the 25-year threshold into classic-dom. We can’t think of a more appropriate time to ask:

What’s the greatest nostalgic Honda?

The easy answer is probably the Honda S800. It was the top-spec version of Old Man Honda’s first born, the S-Series. Sure, the T360 beat it to market, but that was a concession to his business partner Takeo Fujisawa, the more rational of the two. Many of Japan’s great race car drivers got their start on Honda S-cars, and it would serve as the inspiration for one of the greatest sports car in modern times, the S2000.

What say you, dear reader? As always, the most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What’s the greatest Japanese nostalgic wagon?”  Continue reading

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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.   Continue reading

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The Infiniti Q45 is officially a Japanese Nostalgic Car

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Flipping through the channels on your massive cathode-ray television in the fall of 1989, you probably came across a mysterious commercial for a yet unknown brand of new automobile. Only instead of the actual car, the spots cast your living room aglow with images of serene ocean waves or geese flying against a yellow sky. It was all leading up to the big reveal when the car went on sale November 8, 1989. The Infiniti Q45 is officially a Japanese nostalgic car.
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VIDEO: A Tale of Two Datsuns

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It was the best of Zs, it was the worst of Zs. Well, not the worst Z in actuality, but perhaps the worst paint job. But the owner wouldn’t have it any other way. According to this video, there are only 140-150 Datsun 240Zs in the UK, making this father and son pair rather unique. Our friends at Petrolicious have produced another great video. Watch it below. Continue reading

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KIDNEY, ANYONE? 1986 Isuzu Impulse Turbo

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We all know the level of difficulty involved in tracking down relatively unmolested AE86s and S13s, but for chasers of really rare plastic-bumper nostalgics, there’s even bigger game to hunt: the first-gen Isuzu Impulse. As ubiquitous as this car seemed in the 1980s — when the buff books were heavy with praise for its tasty Giugaro styling (and later turbocharged power and Lotus-tuned handling) — nowadays it’s nearly impossible to find even ratty examples for sale. Search the web for information regarding parts availability, and you’ll find one word repeated ad nauseum to describe the Impulse: “extinct.” Continue reading

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PRODUCT GUIDE: SSR Mk III Neo

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If there’s one thing SEMA has no shortage of is new wheels. Most of them are so hideous you instinctively cover the eyes of any nearby children but once in a while there’s a new school barrel we can get behind. Behold, the SSR Mk III NeoContinue reading

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QotW: What’s the greatest Japanese nostalgic wagon?

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The Venn diagram of JNC readers and wagon lovers has a pretty big overlap, and it’s easy to see why. Both types of cars are practical, a lost art among automakers today, and Japan is one of the few places on Earth you can routinely see wagons as something other than family haulers. That is way we can scarcely believe we’ve never asked this before:

What’s the greatest Japanese nostalgic wagon?

I’m biased towards Cressidas because I own one but many may not know the reason why. In about 2005 I was walking along Route 246 through Tokyo’s upscale Aoyama Itchome district (The street was made famous in Gran Turismo as the long straightaway passing Honda headquarters in the R246 circuit). It was late and there wasn’t much traffic. That is, until a raucous straight-six roar blasted through, echoing off the skyscrapers. I turned, expecting to see a Supra or Skyline but was instead treated to the vision of a dark blue Toyota Crown wagon much like the one above, dropped millimeters above the pavement, scream through the high-rise canyon. I came back to the US and bought the closest thing I could find, an MX72.

What say you, dear reader? As always, the most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What JNC tuning trend needs to stop now?Continue reading

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