It’s no secret that Final Form USA is all about the Japanese style/way of tuning, and besides flipping through Option magazines and Hyper Rev books, the only real way to get a better look at some of these cars from Japan is to travel to the land of the rising sun. I’ve had the fortunate chance to get a closer look at some of my most favorite shops, and the cars they work on from past visits to Japan. I’ve taken a LOT of photos during these trips, but it wasn’t until halfway through my most recent visit that I had the urge to publicly post about what I saw and talked about with these legendary tuners. Maybe in a future post, I may go back and revisit past visits to Japan, but for now, I’m freshly back from my visit to the west side of Japan, aka Kansai.
The Kinki Region (近畿地方, Kinki Chihō, go ahead and giggle, it’s funny, I know), also commonly known as Kansai (関西, literally “west of the border”) covers the Kinki Plain and is made up of seven prefectures (think territories). The prefectures consist of Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Hyogo, Shiga, Wakayama and Mie. Of all the times I’ve been to Japan, (going on 8 years now) I’ve never been to the west side of Tokyo, mainly because my Japanese is non-existent, but I have a secret weapon in the form of Ken Suzuki of Car Shop GLOW. Ken was able to take some time off of CSG which is located in Tokyo (Nerima-Ku) to not only drive me to the shops that we both planned out ahead of time, but to also help me talk to the owners of some of the coolest shops in Kansai. There is absolutely no way I could have done this trip without my best friend in Japan, and I cannot thank him enough for everything he’s given up and done for me to make this trip happen.
The first stop was ironically not even in Kansai, it was actually in Chiba prefecture, still considered part of the greater Tokyo area, but just east of the huge city about 15 minutes away from Narita International Airport, Japan’s largest and most popular airport, which is where I flew in. Being so close to Narita, it really makes sense why so many tourists (the kinds that would visit a shop like this, anyway) stop at the biggest name in rotary engine tuning in the world, RE-Amemiya. Located in Chiba prefecture, the famous RE-Amemiya showroom is the shop seen in most google searches, and some really cool rotaries can be seen here at all times. There is also another smaller shop, also located in Tokyo, which I visited earlier this year in March, located in a very unsuspecting neighborhood. The smaller shop is where Ama-San (THE face of RE-Amemiya, aka Japanese Mario) usually works, and where I met him the second time. That particular shop is where the serious builds are done, and also where Ama-San personally builds motors in a separate room on the second floor, overlooking the street the shop is located.
But this post is about the larger, more famous shop, and after not having slept for the last 50+ hours, and completely drained from the airplane ride, I was in a semi-delirious state of mind, but was happy to see the huge RE-Amemiya shop sign that resides above the two garage doors basking in the evening sun. I perked up, got out of the tiny Nissan March car that Ken picked me up in, and scrambled through my two bags that still had the paper luggage tags from Delta to find and assemble my Sony A7 with an appropriate lens. I also brought some gifts as a way to break the ice for all of the shop owners, and I fumbled around to assemble my goody bag that consisted of cinnamon covered pecans, a Final Form USA t-shirt and some stickers, just in case I were to see Ama-San again.
“He won’t be at this shop, he’s rarely ever here”, Ken told me on the way from Narita. This was consistent with my last visit, where I saw Ama-san at the other RE shop working on another rotary engine. The sun was quickly fading away, and if you guys have been following me for the last few years, you know that I MUCH prefer taking photos at sunset versus in the dark with a flash, so in the back of my mind the entire time walking into the main office, I’m thinking to myself “I need to hurry and take photos before the sun goes down!” But that would be considerably rude, and as Ken introduced me to the shop manager, and giving him my business card, he quickly excused himself, and ran to the back. Maybe he forgot his business cards, maybe he was getting me some gum cause my breath was stanking, or maybe he had IBS? He comes out, and points to the door he just came out of, and out comes Ama-San! What a crazy nice surprise!
Ama-san somehow remembers me (that’s what Ken says, but I honestly don’t believe him), and I crack a grin from ear-to-ear, excited to see the man again. I quickly give him my specially made gift bag with the words “omiyage desu!” (Oh-mee-yah-gee-dess) flying out of my mouth. There is an excellent article online about omiyage, and the reason why it is such a big deal in Japan, HERE. Ama-san just so happened to be visiting this location out of pure coincidence, and we were lucky enough to say hello before he left. After a small conversation, we walked back outside to grab some photos before all natural sunlight was lost, which so happens to be around 4pm, as I found out rather quickly.
There were a fleet of cars parked outside and a few caught my eye right away. Right as I walked both in and out of the office at RE, the car I kept looking at wasn’t even an RX-7 or even an RX-8, but a second generation NB Miata! This Miata wasn’t the first time I came face-to-face with it’s baby blue curves, as I’ve seen the car at Tokyo Auto Salon just a couple of years ago at Makuhari Messe powered by the same Renesis 13B. The RX-8 engine just makes more sense in a Miata, but that’s open for debate at a later time. The Miata blended perfectly in with the other highly tuned 7’s and 8’s in the lot, except for the for sale sign in the windshield. Yes, now you too can buy the car that debuted at TAS and brap away to your heart’s content.
After I took a few photos, the sun had completely set, so we went back into the showroom to check out some of the various items for sale, not to mention the HUGE compilation of plaques, awards and model cars littered about the showroom. To say RE-Amemiya is highly decorated and well received is an understatement, there were so many awards from Option Magazine, Super GT Racing, and even huge awards from the car mecca that is known as Tokyo Auto Salon. But besides all of the various keychains, shirts, stickers, and car parts, there was also a fully built, scissor door swinging FD3S complete with a Super Greddy conversion sitting in the extremely tight showroom. The showroom was so tight, I wasn’t able to fully take a photo of this car, but I tried to take pics where I could, so my apologies in advance.
After saying our goodbyes, we then depressingly got back into our Nissan March with a busted front lip and putted away into the night and made our way to Kanagawa, a couple of hours away where Ken lived and I specifically remembered having passed out as soon as my body touched the bed, no doubt dreaming of the rotors dancing about the imaginary pages of Option magazine.
Next up…. Max Orido Racing!