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CONCRETE ORIGINALS.
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TOKYO AUTO SALON: REALITY. WHAT ARE YOU HERE TO SEE?

March 20, 2018

This is officially a “TBT-ish” post. Mostly due to the fact that it’s mid-march and I’m sharing my final TAS photo set. Hopefully, you don’t mind, but this time around, I wanted to use these shots to share a thought that has manifested after years of attending car shows. The thought is based on a simple question, “What are you here to see?” Perhaps, “why are you here?” works as well, but I’ll stick with the initial question.

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That question runs through my mind a lot at a show like TAS especially. While many of us in the car community look at this show as the world’s capital of the Japanese car show scene, there are those who attend for reasons far beyond the automotive world.

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Walking the halls of the Makuhari Messe, you eventually start to notice incredibly large crowds of people around certain booths. For TAS first timers, your initial reaction might be that there’s an amazing build on display. Which would then prompt you to take a closer look. You would then be surprised or perhaps even disappointed when you discover what is actually captivating all of the attention.

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With a specific focus on attention, there is no other booth that holds true to this more than Liberty Walk. Kato has made his brand into somewhat of a performance act. This year, as you’re likely already aware, Liberty Walk had a massive debut. Tons of hype was created, simply with the use of 3 car covers and the announcement of the hour in which the cars would be revealed.

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This hype amassed an insanely huge crowd around the LB booth. Everyone trying to find their space to capture the moment. Kato and a TV personality spoke on a live broadcast as the LC500, Miura and Aventador were revealed. It was almost impossible not to get caught up in the fun. Prior to the reveal, however, the models were introduced. One being the well known Sarah Choi, and the other, a Japanese model, whose name escapes me.

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The cars were exceptional. I must say, the Miura kit car is probably one of the coolest cars in Japan at the moment. The concept was so radical it made the Aventador seem like old news, though it’s still a new-ish $400K exotic that has been chopped up for a set of overfenders. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against that in any way, it was just interesting to see how the kit car Miura stole the show for LB. I wonder if Kato was going for the TAS best in show award. Definitely seems so.

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This thing is just gangster AF. More details on Speedhunters.

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The crowd eventually dwindled post reveal, however, a crowd of onlookers remained. These are the individuals that are usually causing all of the commotion at the TAS booths. Their reputation precedes them, as they are known not only to gather at TAS, but at various other car shows as well.

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They are simply called カメラマン. Translated into English, “cameraman.”

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Where in English we use the word to identify a profession, at Japanese car shows, the word is used to describe something a bit different. Imagine a large group of middle-aged men, with camera gear ranging from a “point and shoot” to thousands of dollars worth of photography equipment, that are at TAS, for the sole purpose, of photographing women. This is one of the realities of the Tokyo Auto Salon.

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At first glance, you chuckle, and think, wow, I wonder why she’s getting so much attention? Then you realize, this is happening at literally every other booth. It’s as if a massive group of men deprived of female attention had unanimously agreed to invade the show in order to fulfill their unachievable fantasies.

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I must admit, it is a very bizarre behavior to witness. The women are absolutely gorgeous, without question. You can’t help but stop and snap a shot or two yourself sometimes. There’s just something a bit unsettling about the カメラマン though…

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What’s worse, some booths actually capitalize on this attention. They hire models and have them stand by the parts half naked, or pole dancing. It’s a bit ironic since the purpose of attracting people to a booth is to show them your product, but those who they are attracting could care less about what’s being sold.

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I always wonder what the women are thinking when this is happening. This behavior reminded me of the Otaku who follow around Idols in Japan. There’s an interesting documentary about this on Netflix called “Tokyo Idols.” Worth the watch if you’re interested. Check out the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQpZKseUF18

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Needless to say, there are thankfully enough activities happening, you can easily lose yourself in what you actually want to see, Japanese Car Culture.

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You could just happen to be walking by and notice Keiichi Tsuchiya is in the middle of an autograph session, right in front of you. Faith restored.

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That’s what happened to me as I walked by the BN-Sports booth. Their new kits are a bit pricey and wild these days, but it’s good to see they are still around.

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Right next to BN-Sports was a small booth with the Do-Luck R33 time attack car showing off the goods.

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Right after that, the newest offerings from Vertex appeared before me. Their EDGE kit is exceptionally designed. Ueno’s parts have so much style. We haven’t seen offerings for some of the newer cars, however. Perhaps another sign of the body kit industry having some difficulties due to rampant fake part manufacturers out there.

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I was on a roll in this hall, as I would then come across Orido’s Supra. His booth was full of people of all ages and backgrounds. A very minimal approach which I appreciated amongst all of the pandemonium this show can bring.

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These are the types of things I was definitely here to see. Full carbon fiber, widebody and built R32 GTRs from Garage Active. Just imagine these two speeding on the Wangan. Fantastic.

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Not too far off was JUN Auto, showing off their latest VR38DETT offerings. Notice, no booth models, all business.

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You will sometimes end up spotting something that you would least expect as well. On the topic of Nissans, a new offering for the 180SX from R-PROGRESS. An intricate design for the decades’ old car in an attempt to modernize its appearance.

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Top Secret was right in front of this booth, so I stopped by for another visit. Smokey’s momentum is showing no signs of slowing down. Nothing like seeing these tuned GT-Rs in person.

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A couple of models appeared. That meant it was time to get away from that area.

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Revenge of the カメラマン。

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For me, the best energy was around the group of drift cars. The energy reminded me of being around my friends back home. A relaxed vibe around cool cars. No need for loudspeakers, gimmicks or booth models. Just bright, low, cool looking cars. That’s the formula that worked best.

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The first group was around the Origin-lab and Hardtuned booths. Loved the design work on the S13 and JZX100. Definitely, check out D-Magic on Instagram for more of their artwork.

The infamous Chunky-Bai wasn’t too far off. I remember him being one the first people to bring drifting to America. This was way back when Singal Auto used to tour the country and hold parking lot drift demo sessions at local shows. Are you also getting the Nascar vibe from his 180SX?

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Up next was the unmistakable fluorescent yellow colored drift crew, Moccomans. These guys usually roll deep with cars ranging from an FDs to Crowns, all ready to drift. Check out @moccohiro on IG or google Moccomans for more shots of their cars.

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Not sure if he was part of their crew since the car was green, but right next to the Moccomans S15 and Aristo was this Rocketbunny RX8. Definitely the best RX8 I’ve seen to date. Powered by a 1JZ which made it all the more unique. Nothing but positive vibes from these guys. I was loving the energy.

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This was actually the final area of TAS that I saw before my 2018 experience was all said and done. I think it’s about time I wrap up talking about it too. Perhaps that’s been long overdue.

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Without question, TAS is a great show. As you’ve seen through my posts and others over the past couple of months, there’s an incredible amount of car life to absorb. Hell, a three-day show took me months to finish writing about. Though admittedly that’s due to my daily office life, I digress. A common subject in the industry is related to how car culture is declining in Japan, however, this show seems to get bigger and bigger every year. From what I noticed, the reality is, it seems to be more based on entertainment for the spectators, than anything else. 

There’s nothing really wrong with that, of course. The show’s been running for around 30 years and has a legendary reputation worldwide. It’s the sole place I’ve seen that brings the instagram car world together in one place, face to face. Language barriers aside.

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Spectators get to see everything from D1 cars, million dollar race cars, 2000HP SUVs, more models than you can imagine (if that’s your thing) and the vintage cars from yesterday, who refuse to die.

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For me, this year, was a place to check off a bucket list item and hang out with some great friends I’ve made over the years.

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I probably won’t be back to TAS for a while. Next time I go to Japan, I want to check out the Attack’d series and see these cars in action. I’m probably lying though, who am I kidding?

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TAS is just way too big for me to ever to cover again like this on my own. My posts documenting my experience will end here. Sorry, it took a while, adulting is such a time-consuming process…

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Time to wrap this up 😉 Thanks everyone for reading and taking a look at my photos.

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See ya.

Born, raised and living in NYC. Love cars, Japan, graphic design, bass music and chillin'. Digital production at The New York Times. PRIME, Bulletproof Automotive, Fatlace and east cost/global car life. Tokyo Extreme Racer and Bronx street racing was where it all began...