QotW: What’s your craziest story about buying goods from Japan?

Years ago, I had a dream of turning my factory 1997 Lexus SC into a JDM-spec Soarer. The SC and naturally aspirated Supra 5-speeds used Toyota’s W58 transmission, but to get big power to the rear wheels you needed the more robust R154 5-speed transmission found in A70 Supra Turbos. Those were available in the US, as were turbo JZ engines, but what proved impossible to get was the bellhousing to mate the two. The Soarer came from the factory with a 1JZ and R154, so during a trip to Japan I visited a Toyota dealer to buy one, and all the associated bits like the shift linkage and rear extension. Oh, and a Soarer griffin badge for the hood.

I knew about five words in Japanese and the parts guy at the dealer spoke no English. This was long before online translators, but showing epic patience and true Japanese hospitality, he spent 90 minutes with me playing the world’s worst game of Pictionary as I drew each part. By the time I left, it was an hour past closing. A few days later I went back to pick everything up. As I tallied up the parts, I realized the badge was missing. Perhaps an oversight, or something lost in translation. I paid for what I had, the man apologized, and ordered the griffin. I returned a few days later to pick up the badge. As I reached for my wallet the man gestured no, and gave me the approximately $80 part as a gift. I’m sure this is far from the best example, just as there are horror stories.

What’s your craziest story about buying goods from Japan?

The best comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “How are high fuel prices affecting your driving?“.

Nobody likes paying a lot for fuel, but we were pleasantly surprised to learn that our readers were taking it in stride. We dug Jonathan P.’s term of “teetotaling” below the speed limit rather than above it. Similarly, nlpnt just kept his Honda below VTEC. Others simply switched to a different vehicle, like Broetto Navarro‘s wife’s more fuel efficient daily, or Chris from LMM‘s opting for a motorcycle instead. Fred Langille taught us that a Nissan S-Cargo apparently only a 7-gallon tank, so it doesn’t really hurt as bad at each fill-up.

The winner this week, speedie, taught it that it was all perspective:

No change at all. My 2010 RX-8 averages 18 mpg in mixed driving, about the same as my old 89 Mustang GT 5.0. I am old enough to know a couple of things: 1) If you cant afford to pay high gas prices then don’t buy cars that get bad gas mileage, and 2) All things adjust over time. I lived through two gas crisis (1973 and 1979) and what is happening now is nothing compared to the long gas lines and people stealing gas from tanks back then.

Omedetou, your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop!

JNC Decal smash

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7 Responses to QotW: What’s your craziest story about buying goods from Japan?

  1. nlpnt says:

    As an aside, the picture above is from the 1979 gas crunch, not the ’73-4 as the url indicates. There’s a “basket handle” Ford Fairmont Futura either at the pump or just behind it, new at the start of calendar 1978.

  2. I was working as a mechanic for my buddy Dom’s garage in LA and this one kid Brian owed him a 10 second car. Some sort of race bet. Anyhow, Brian brought us a MKIV Supra to work on and fix which is great but it had been in a wreck with major damage to the body and frame. When we opened up the hood tho, to my surprise whoa, it had a 2JZ engine. Not sure why I was surprised as it was a USDM motor AND car. Anyhow, I showed Brian some go-fast options like Koni’s shocks to save weight on each corner for the holeshot and at the end of the day we had to order parts from Harry’s and put it all in the company F150’s bed even tho we all drove our own cars to and from the shop. It wasn’t $7 per gallon gas at the time. But also we used this company that was up and coming at the time, Overnight Parts From Japan. And they delivered! Unlike me when I lost my Jetta to Johnny Tran but that story is for another time.

    • Fred Langille says:

      But he STILL owed him a 10 second car that could blow off Ferraris on the 405 … before stopping for shrimp.

  3. CharlieB says:

    best story and then disappointment.. I have a 1974 Celica TA22 and being a JDM model it has the individual right/left park lites.. the bulbs for which are not available here.
    a good friend was going to japan on a vacation he’s a car guy as well. he agreed to go to
    Classic car Nagoya and ck it out and ask about bulbs.. so he steps out of a cab at classic car Nagoya and is greeted by Chiho, he shows her the bulb in question… everyone gets a good laugh believing that they “traveled all the way from USA for one light bulb !! ” . no they said we want a whole box, more laughter ! but quickly a box of shiny new Koito bulbs is produced…
    then the folks at the shop proceeded to treat them as royalty, touring the shop and used parts storage areas getting to pick selected rare bits to purchase and bring back… a lovely
    exhaust extractor for the 2TG in my TA22 was unearthed ! many hours were spent, pictures of our Celicas from the USA were put in the display cases.. all around a fantastic experience.

    fast forward a couple months, we contact them about perhaps ordering more parts… lists are made, basic quotes are given, parts are sourced, money is sent… quite a bit of money..
    a few more emails exchanged and then they fell silent.. no parts no refund… no response.

  4. Alan says:

    I couldn’t find the Tomica LVN Hino transporter I wanted at a reasonable price, so I went to Tokyo and bought it in Akihabara.

    While there, I met an American dude who was living in Ningyocho, and we really hit it off. Next thing I know we’re renting a 5k km 1980 Subaru Leone hatch, driving it to Daikoku Futo PA (rained out, sadly), visiting the Toyota Museum in Aichi, and taking the shinkansen all over – Nagoya, Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, Nagasaki, and Hiroshima, to name a few. What an amazing time. Can’t wait to go back as soon as things open again – would love to make it to TAS 2023!

    Caylon, if you’re reading this, you the man baby!

  5. jbbush says:

    This isn’t about buying goods from Japan, but rather in Holland.

    In the early-1990s, I had a 1985 Honda Prelude DX. Good car. Red, 5-speed, mostly stock except for an Ansa exhaust and some lighter springs in the carburetors that were supposed to quicken throttle response. Minus the classic chrome Ansa dual exhaust tips, it looked like every other red second-generation Prelude.

    Around this time, my parents took a business trip to Holland and I tagged along. My Dad’s business partner, Gerard, was Dutch. After seeing a gray second-generation Prelude on the street in Amsterdam, I knew I needed: smoked front corner lamps; the shiny steering wheel badge; and a gearshift knob that looked suspiciously like one from a first-generation USDM Acura Legend.

    Somehow I convinced Gerard to drive me to a local Honda dealer. Similar to your story, Ben, I spoke no Dutch and the nice gentleman behind the counter spoke very little English. But somehow the parts were ordered (and correctly) and showed up three days later, when Gerard took me back to the dealer.

    How proud was I of these ROW parts on my USDM Prelude? You have no idea.

  6. EJ says:

    I don’t know whether this’ll pass or not, but here goes, because I like the story

    I own a 1995 Civic sedan, and the sedan models of the Civic back then were labeled as the “Ferio” Civic. That is the case only in Japan however, and therefore any emblems/badges that signified the Ferio label is very sought after (note: expensive).

    I have a friend of mine living in Kuala Lumpur (I live in Jakarta, and lets call this Malaysian Ricky) who knows a guy that makes these 3D stickers of said Ferio emblem, which looks 95% like the real deal (real one looks like metal), and the cost of each sticker was like, 1.5$. But int’l shipping would end up it costing about 50$ when it reaches my door. No dice.

    Another friend, lets call him Steve, was at KL on vacation. I forgot that Steve and Rick were friends, and after some persuasion, I managed to get Rick to hand over the stickers to Steve, and have him send the stickers to me via regular mail.

    Saved me a total of 30$. I bought Steve a nice burger as a thank you 🙂

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