Thursday, January 18, 2018

DESERT MEIHAN PRE-MEET @ VOODOO13

I'd be surprised if by now, any of my readers haven't heard of Desert Meihan which occurred in early December 2017, so I'll skip the details of how and why this event came to be and just dive right on in.  While one of my 2017 goals was to somewhat give myself a birthday gift and allow myself to drive this event, the cards just didn't fall into place so I did my normal thing and covered the event from a Bushido perspective.  Due to the hype and excitement which really came out in the community around the replica track event, I wasn't one of the lucky few to obtain a media pass, even with a slight dab of persuasion from the friendly fellow Chris at Track Society.  However, he was super open to the idea of me still coming to the event, and generously invited me to attend the track day Pre-Meet which took place the Friday night immediately before the event at local aftermarket parts scientists, Voodoo13's warehouse.  Several of the big hitters that were going to be in attendance at Desert Meihan were invited to appear at the pre-meet so I was honored to come hang for awhile.


While heading over to the venue, I mistaken passed the entrance while I was breaking-neck to the lovely glass-in-brick windows, decorated with historic Hondas, that offered a peek inside the establishment.  After a quick 'U-ie,' I found myself inside the enormous garage that is Voodoo13.  Greeted by the smiles of a few local friends, glances from out-of-towners, and the view of Caleb Quanbeck's S14 enveloped by his friends and associated YouTubers, the realization that this event was going to be something legendary began to sink in.


A decent perspective of just a fraction of the inside of the space from when you first turn the corner coming inside.


The Track Society team really, for lack of a better term, raised the bar with this event.  I had caught Chris a couple times in the months leading up to December, and let him know I was happy to help out in anyway that I could - as loads of other local members of the community did as well.  All of the planning, promoting, advertising, thought and calculation really added up to a flawless execution.  Many of the track-workers and crew associated to making Desert Meihan happen had spent most of Friday at the track setting up and testing, then resetting and retesting, then repeating - so needless to say by the time most of them got to the shop, a well-deserved beer was in order.


There's no missing Josh's deep lime S13 Coupe fitted with Koguchi goods.





Everyone getting stoked for the festivities that the next day would bring. . . then there's Ravi.


Being on a strict timeline, Caleb had to roll out a bit early.  It wasn't moments later that we heard the sounds of V8 roars and tires holding on for dear life, so naturally the crowd went running to the bay door to get a preview.


I took advantage of the break in time to go explore a bit more, when I came across the trophies that Nick from Wild Child Innovations had prepared for the drivers.  These things left me speechless, and it's sick the amount of thought and care he put into crafting something that will mean so much to the recipients.  My favorite was the "HARD LUCK" trophy, which carried some Minion-esque quality about it.





I moseyed a little further down the lane and found Chasen's Z, looking as ready as ever to be tested against the K-Rail.


That damn PBM kit. . .


He already knows what's up.


Aaron's Ruckus sitting all by its lonesome was just begging for some intimate shots.



Super sick craftsmanship on the exhaust.



The lucky end plate on Chris' wing that didn't have a thing to worry about the next day. . .


Shouts to Night Runner, who I'm impressed has really expanded so much!


Things were just starting to slow down . . . when Dustin showed up in his freshly sprayed Cefiro.  Drawing crowds like crazy, on-lookers couldn't help but get caught in a daze.


About the most accurate shot I could get of the true detail in his paint job.



As folks began to wander off and either turn in for the night to get sleep or head out to squeeze in a few more drinks before the new day, Ravi still continued to look lost and it seemed that no one was claiming him. . .  

I was pretty pumped though that Jesse and his father invited their long time friend, Ross Petty, to come hang out for the weekend.  Getting to meet him in person was unreal, and I felt the good karma flowing after offering up my beanie to keep Kendall's head warm, when Jesse hit me with an allusive Garage Boso replacement.  I was in the mood for some sushi, so from here shot down the street in the roller skate to a local, late night spot.  The pre-meet evening was just what I needed to get in my groove and had left me really excited for the actual event. . . Stay tuned!
武士道 - B U S H I D O!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

THE PILGRIMAGE PART 2: MOONEYES, BUNSHIN MUSEUM & TOKYO


Day 5!
While it would have been way cooler to ride up on a pair of Harleys, our friendly takushi driver gladly dropped us off out front of Mooneyes Japan to begin our Thursday adventure.  The brand, created by Dean Moon in the 1950's, is one which weaves through all automotive and motorcycle sub-cultures.  Whether it's an old-head from the early days of drag racing who could chat about carbureted engines for days, or a new school dude who's into a mix of JDM and just general cars and bikes from any era, the distinct Mooneyes logo is recognizable to pretty much all within the scene.


The brand's Japan branch known as 'Area 1' is located in the Honmoku neighborhood of Yokohama, referred to locally as the romantic, friendly city.


Before popping inside, we had to check out the vehicles set out on display just to the right of the entrance.  The VW Bus - Hippie Van - Westfalia - Vanagon - Camper - whatever you'd prefer to refer to it as - is a staple to the company.  Nothing screams MOON like a splash of that distinct yellow coating and slapping on some moon discs!


In we go!


After stepping through the front door, the vastness of the emporium sucks you in quickly with a subtle paralyzed feeling of exhilaration.  I'm sure you could spend hours, if not days, in the shop and spot items that you hadn't seen the first 5 go-arounds.  Our eyes prompted us to the rear of the store pretty rapidly where we found. . .


. . . a truly beautiful array of artwork and history through machine.


Can't get enough of that faint floral underlay in this marvelous custom tank.


Literally, the way that items have been arranged throughout the shop are similar to elements of a great piece of artwork.  One single thing may catch your eye, but it's not long before that one item leads you to the next, and so on and and so forth until your brain has been carried across an entire wall of motorcycle and hotrod parts, where the smaller pieces become one greater whole.


A custom 'Shige' HD Sportster tank.


Not crazy on the pattern of this tank, but I had to appreciate the metalwork to create that spine running down the center.


You've gotta give love to even the smallest, mini-est of projects!


I got a kick out of spotting all these California Scents air fresheners, since they're such a common thing to see pretty much anywhere here in the states, but are clearly a novelty item over in Japan.  I suppose we could say the same about the squash-scented Giga Spencer air fresheners that people go nuts for here though.


Loads of custom-painted helmets line the shelves above and around.  'SAVE The Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show' and 'Respect Our Kulture' are slogans from the Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show in year's past, and it's pretty rad that the artist of these one-off helmets has preserved that spirit for years to come.


Starting to regret not picking up one of the badass melon-protectors.


And if flake isn't your thing, then matte black, gloss white or gloss black is always an option too.


Literally only took this pic for the smiley face at the end of the info card. :)


Mooneyes has a lovely collection of both Japanese and American books and magazines out on display and for purchase.  This one especially caught my eye: 'Bentenkozou Photography - Japanese Spirit with Western Learning.'  This mindset transcends cultures beyond just hobbies, as we each like to take our own interpretation of 'cool' from something foreign and apply it fittingly with an individual style unique to our own familiar culture.  And then the style reciprocates between cultures and eventually evolves into the next stage.


We were welcomed to continue exploring to the rear of the shop where Area 1 offers an off-limits display garage housing multiple bikes, a VW Beetle, a wicked Z28 and loads of gear and memorabilia.


Myself - I thought this Hiace (named by them as HIGH-ACE) was so awesome haha A pretty simple, straight-forward two tone black and and gray paint job, but with. . .


. . . Shige-San's personal touch throughout the project.


The complex is illusive, in that it's much larger than it appears from the front side, and seems to go further outwards and upwards than expected.


Hot rods, muscle cars, classics, motorbikes, and uh whatever this is.  Moon's got their hands on it all.



Can't argue with that logic.


Time to peek inside the garage.




Definitely diggin Moon's take on that Sportster in the back.



Cars, Bikes, Ro. . . . Rockets?  Wonder what the keys inside that box go to!




If I someday own a garage that's even 1% as cool as Moon Japan's, I'll be a delighted soul!


Back to those yearly themes for the Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show - Apparently 2014's theme was 'Be Calm Not Loud - Shizukani (Be Quiet).'  The chrome bumper of this classic Toyota Crown parked out back was rockin several previous years show stickers.



Across the street and over yonder, another VW bus and some other vehicles catch the eye.  Part of me wanted to wander over and see what was going on, but so little time and so much inside the shop to still see!


Let's go back inside, and have a look upstairs - yeah?


You can't even make it upstairs to the second floor of the Mooneyes shop without getting side-tracked by the cool doo-dads lining the steps.  Why are things as simple as mail bins, 5-gallon buckets and trash cans so cool here?


A spatial reference.


Another pair of playful Honda Monkey's.  Surprisingly, we actually saw a dude riding one of these on the streets during our foot adventures.


This pair of Honda CB750's had a dreamy, California feel about them.


Cycles hide in even the most unsuspecting corners and crevices of the shop.  From what I've seen in other articles covering the grandeur that is Area 1, this nifty Chinese staircase leads up to Shige's office full of hot rod collectibles and relics.


Advancing through the other areas of the second floor, you'll come across gobs of classic car parts and treasures, like this classic Toyota Crown Deluxe dashboard. . .


. . . or entire, locked cases full of retro emblems and badges.



Rounding my way back to the top of the staircase, this GT86 portrait caught my eye.  Back to the point I was making earlier about Mooneyes having their hands in everything, it doesn't matter what kind of cars you may be into, the name sheers through any generation and genre of motor vehicles.



Not sure what kind of crummy soul would even have the boldness to attempt enriching their life through thieved Moon finery.


I'm still amazed at the shocking amount of USA-made product and stock they're able to keep on hand here.  While wandering through the shop, several local and foreign visitors caught my eye and consistently, while maybe some were stopping-in for a specific accessory, everyone shared the desire to have to explore the entire offerings of Area 1.  Speaking of exploring the entire offerings, it wasn't just car and bike parts they have here. . . we were about ready to do some exploring of their food menu!


Moon Cafe is the 50's style diner located on the first floor, all under the one roof of Yokohama's headquarters.  I'd say 95% of the menu was authentic American food which was a friendly treat reminding us of home.  From burgers to chili-dogs to Budweiser to apple pie (I'm getting hungry now), they presented an indisputably delicious spread.  Fun Fact - Dean opened his Sante Fe Springs shop right down the street from the family's original restaurant, Moon's Cafe, which opened its doors in 1936.


I decided on the Patty Melt, and was not let down one bit with Sean's suggestion as one of the most authentic and tastiest American dishes on the menu.  This was certainly one of my most memorable meals during the trip!


As we were getting ready to head out, Dad used the restroom before we closed out the tab - he came back with a funky grin on his face and just suggested that I go check out the men's room.  I'm glad I did because it was so awesome to see the amount of like-minded souls who come through Area 1 and leave their stamp.  I joined the club and threw some Bushido love on the walls - Can you spot em?


We opted to be a little more adventurous with our trek back to the hotel to get re-situated for the day, and decided to walk to the nearest train station in order to shoot back on the Negishi Line.  Of course, my phone died while we were walking to Yamate Station, but we successfully wandered the neighborhood streets of Honmoku and arrived safely back at Yokohama Station before long.


While dad ran upstairs to relax for a few, I decided to putz around since it was pretty nice out, and just took tons of panning shots at street level.
New Crowns.


Old Crowns.


The traffic lights and flow around the train station are beyond confusing and intimidating to me haha



Just having fun.


More kei trucks.


Not a car.


WHAT?!


Shortly later, dad met me back downstairs and we headed off to the Bunshin Tattoo Museum, which was within a nice walking distance from our home base for the trip.  For those who don't know, the Bunshin Tattoo Museum is a studio and museum all on one, curated by Horiyoshi III who is essentially the ambassador of Japanese style tattoo (irezumi) using the tebori method.  As dad has been into tattoos for years, and I myself having had my first and only tattoo so far done in the traditional tebori method, this was a must-visit for us both.


The studio is super low-key and easy to miss as you walk up to the intersection, but if you catch the TV monitor outside displaying healed tattoos or the multiple panes of windows plastered with visitors' stickers from all over the world, then you've found the right spot.  There's certainly an exclusive yet homey vibe as you walk up to the first level door which is tucked in small foyer.  The studio is located on the second floor, where we had to go up and knock to ask for permission to be let into the museum back downstairs.


Here's a look at the loaded-up windows just outside as you walk up.


I think we were both a bit star-struck as Souryou (Horiyoshi's son and apprentice) led us into the museum and granted us access to the treasures within.  As we first walked into the densely filled room, multiple shrines surrounded and greeted us.  I think I'll just let all the pictures do the talking for this section of the visit.




A creepy Kewpie doll tattoo machine sits inside one of the many glass cases.







Tools of a true badass.  Imagine being on the receiving end of some of these. . .


This Navajo Nation donation was really sick.












Look closely. . .











Obviously, I can't read what this says but I can only imagine that these prints and art are from between the 1930's and 60's.






Badder than bad.




Yep.







This Elvis hair-styled Kewpie was more my speed.  He didn't creep me out so much as the other ones.




Feeling that we had sufficiently seen the museum, and not wanting to wear out our welcome or time visiting, we called our stay complete and popped back outside to rest for a moment and let everything that we just got to experience marinate and soak-in for a moment.  We stood out front of the studio, and respected the quantity of visitors who journey to this tattoo Mecca to pay their homage to Horiyoshi.  It's insane the amount of people who have come through here or who have sent art and gifts to this legend.  I so badly wanted to slap a Bushido sticker on the window, but just didn't feel right about it, not being a tattoo artist myself - this equity is saved for those who earn it.


I need to find out where this rad little daruma sticker came from though!


I wonder how old this sticker is. . . so awesome! - looks to be an original Horiyoshi III stamp.



I was diggin this sacred geometry sticker.

With Thursday pretty much in the books, we walked ourselves back over to the hotel and enjoyed the sights along the way.  Dad was convinced we were somewhere in the very close vicinity of a great seafood restaurant that his co-workers took him to on a previous trip, and sure enough we passed by it on our walk.  We popped inside the submarine-themed restaurant real quick to check out the live fish swimming inside that would soon rest deliciously in some lucky soul's belly, while the workers seemed to be laughing at us a bit for "just looking."  We had planned to either try and get sushi that night or head back to the incredibly tasty izakaya restaurant that we had gone to the night before for some more chicken skin skewers, but the jet lag must have crept up on us because we ended up sleeping right through dinner that night.  At least we were nice and rested for Friday's travel up to Tokyo.

Day 6!
Friday morning came before we knew it, and we were left with just one last full day to squeeze in as much as we could.  We decided to hop on the JR and eventually figured out what platform we needed to be standing on and which line to take.  We took the Tokaido line straight from Yokohama into Tokyo Station, which dropped us off right in the heart of the city.



We walked past the Wadakura Fountain Park on our way from the train station towards the Imperial Palace.



Waiting to cross the street, what do you know, another Crown.  Toyota must have made some serious bread off of whatever deal they made haha


Once getting across the street, we're faced with the Kikyo gate area of the palace grounds.




Absolutely breath-taking.


The stone walls constructed around the property are so impressive, and introduce the perfect setting for the protective moat that surrounds.


These interesting little stone markers line the property.


We then found ourselves walking past the Sakashita gate, which appeared to be a much more modern and accessible entrance.




While we continued around the perimeter, I started to feel like I was walking around a Japanese version of the D.C. mall.


We then found ourselves at the Nijubashi (Seimon) Stonebridge, which leads to the Imperial Main Gate where some sort of changing-of-guards appeared to be taking place.




I personally found the Seimon Ironbridge extraordinarily stunning.



More of the Stonebridge and Main Gate from a different view.






The juxtaposition of the high-rising business structures nearly just across the street from this historic and significant landmark lends a pretty contrasting feeling.



The Fushimi-yagura, one of three remaining from an original eleven keeps of the original Edo castle, can be seen from across the busy street.



We then briefly stumbled upon this divine Statue of Kusunoki Masashige guiding his regal mare.  Samurai Kusunoki is noted in Japanese shogunate history as exuding ideal samurai loyalty.



Having just recently visited the Samurai exhibit at Phoenix Art Museum back home, where tons of original samurai attire, armor, weaponry and accessories were on display, this statue radiated a presence that I similarly felt at the exhibit.




One last view of the stone wall and moat on the south side of the Imperial Palace grounds, facing many modern structures just on the other side of Hibiya-dori.


After exploring Tokyo Station, the Imperial Palace and its surrounding attractions, our next destination was Shibuya.  That morning while looking for places to explore, I was hit like a sack of bricks as I remembered that there was a Deus Ex Machina in Tokyo!  We quickly added that as a stop on our day's itinerary, especially since I noted there was a cafe within the shop and we could stop for lunch.

Several JR line hops and some brief confusion later, we found ourselves walking through the heart of Harajuku which felt almost like a Japanese Las Vegas to me.  I repetitively checked the previously loaded Google Maps on my phone and I'm sure my dad got tired of echoes of "Just a little bit further this way."  At last, we came to the intersection where an inconspicuous, obsidian structure proved to be our destination.






Slightly overstimulated, the top floor is where we began delving into Deus Ex Machina Harajuku aka The Residence of Impermanence.  What a cool place - the soundtrack playing over their stereo set the mood perfectly.  In fact I wonder if they have a Spotify radio station or something to tune into?




Say hello to Dark Horse - Deus' take on a Honda C70 with a bit of flat-tracker style.  C70's seem to be a bit of a go-to chassis for some of their custom scooters, and while this one actually isn't even listed on their website, I'd have to say it's one of the more seductive versions.



I absolutely love the craft-work put into the diamond-stitched saddle.





Deus original artwork beautifully adorns the opposing wall.


Along with bundles of retro helmets available for purchase!


That's my kind of vase.


Fancy gloves for you fancy, fine folk.


Wheel to Wheel Luft IV, a print of Carby Tuckwell's original artwork as part of Luftgekülht's 'Luft Book,' which celebrates the love of air-cooled.


Then there's the South Paw.  Originally a Honda VT250, this guy has had just some slight attention paid to him.







So clean.  Originality, simplicity and immaculate attention seem to be the priorities for Deus's bike designers.




We made our way back down to the first floor, which we sorta glazed straight through on our way into the establishment, to order some grub and a brew.  Dad and I both chose to go for the fish & chips.  Curly fries? - Yes please!  Since the cozy area of the first level was already well-satiated, we chose to descend to the basement level where even more surprises awaited.


Sink into Harajuku's underground plane, and you'll be embraced by the culture that makes up everything that is Deus Ex Machina.  Surfboards of all builds, shapes and sizes line the far wall, while a de-finned board sits atop a work space at center stage.  Meanwhile, enjoy a Deus Customs film being projected against the back wall until the friendly server from the cafe above presents you with a hand-crafted, freshly-made meal.




Yum!  A Japanese take on a classic British dish, paired with a Hitachino Dai Dai - in hindsight, the Japan-brewed India Pale Ale really adds to the extra authenticity of the overall meal.  These crispy, little fish nuggets were artisanal enough to show just the right amount of thought and care went into this fare, while maintaining a 'cool' factor through simplicity.  I still love that they chose curly fries - where else can you even get curly fries in Japan!?  Well done, Deus!



After scarfing down our delicious lunch, I chose to indulge in the other accents enveloping our newly found space.  I found the modesty of the decoration within this structure so simply attractive.  Every single item seemed to be so much cooler, because of its own quality that it brings to the greater aggregate.



Having just visited the Bunshin Museum a day prior, these irezumi portraits circumferencing the lounge area were particularly charming.





"Haven't you taken enough?"


This dusky palm tree lends its 'Sayonara' just as you hit the stairs to stride back up to the main atrium.



So I'm not TOTALLY positive if it's the same bike or not, but this white stallion on display in the bike garage closely resembles Malachi Crunch - a Honda XL500 prepped by Deus in 2016.  Maybe this is the 2017 face-lift version (which I absolutely adore by the way), or maybe it's just a twin of the original.  Either way, she's a beaut!  Find the original version here:
http://deuscustoms.com/bikes/model/malachi-crunch/

I guess the dude off to the left there was either tired of doing homework or was simply not as impressed with the bike as I was.



I took a peek at a few of the other knick-knacks around the garage before popping out back for a look at some of the cycles we spotted on our way into the complex.  Random motorbike bits and pieces sit amidst a sea of framed artwork, books and tools.


To the rear of the shop, we came across a few of what appeared to be employee-piloted weapons of choice.



Wheels and Waves is something newly discovered to me, but I love the idea and it certainly seems like one thing that people can actually get right in a world so awry.  From what I gather, venues and countries change from event to event so I'll need to stay posted on when the next gathering in California will be, since it looks like next June's event will be held in the town of Biarritz in Southern France.


Peep the S&S air cleaner cover.



I was discussing with my dad over dinner the other night about motorcycle culture and for the people who really get into it, how it's a lifestyle that will consume you with happiness - which is a thing that a lot of the general population simply just doesn't get.  We recalled this exact moment of our trip when the gentleman above enjoying his coffee caught us admiring his bike, and we all tried to start a conversation simultaneously realizing that he didn't speak English while he recognized we didn't speak Japanese.  Even still, the vocalization of passion eclipses the boundaries of spoken language through hand gestures, pointing, and broken phrases.  The value of this interaction is something I'll hold with me for a very long time, if not forever.



Even the manhole covers in Japan are cooler.

We called our visit a success and moved-on to Gaiemmae Station so we could catch a ride over to Shimbashi then switch lines and head to Odaiba.


Came across this insanely sick concrete house while walking through the neighborhoods.  I love how wood was used to set the concrete wall, giving it that grainy texture.


Just near the train station, was this local bike shop called HIP HIP SHAKE.  I honestly just thought the appearance of the shop was pretty magnetic so I stopped for a photo, when my dad noted that the worker inside smiled real big and spotted me outside.  He quickly rushed to the door and welcomed us, where we again had a terribly broken discussion that ended with us all feeling tickled by the positive exchange.  He kept going on, something about Santa Claus I think?  I had no idea, but it was hilarious and he was laughing and smiling so, so were we haha


I love Japan.


We came across this amazing view which turned out to be the Aoyamakumano Shrine.  A grounds worker seemed to be doing some maintenance around and he didn't imply to be bothered by us poking around for a few, so we proceeded in for a closer look.





Ok, enough farting around - we need to get on the train so we make it over to Odaiba!


We hopped off the Yurikamome line at Daiba station and were blessed with this amazing view of Rainbow Bridge, which we had just crossed to be on Tokyo's man-made island.





Aqua City was this super crazy, multi-story shopping mall and entertainment heaven.  We poked around for a good bit, and even dropped-in to the Toys 'R' Us there so I could peep their Tomica arsenal.  I ended up picking up a few from there, one being an exclusive Nissan Juke Safety Car!


Making our way down to the pier, I spotted this lady from a far shooting some portraits of her pup.  This little one was so well-trained, it didn't move one bit and was literally posing for the camera haha


I honestly thought the dog was just a stuffed animal until I finally saw it move to accept her well-earned treats.

I'll shut up now so you can just enjoy the final few snaps from the last night spent in Japan.





Just after enjoying the bay's sunset, we explored some more of the local stores, including Ducati Tokyo.  Then zipped over to Joypolis so I could take a stab at piloting Keisuke's FD3S, a life-like replica of the Competition Yellow Mica RX-7 made famous in Initial-D (thanks for the suggestion, https://hntrshoots.com/!).

I am so grateful and appreciative to have had the chance to experience everything that Japan offered me.  There's loads of stuff that I still would have loved to do, but it was seriously tough getting situated to an immensely different culture and flow of life and I don't think there's any way that I even would have been able to squeeze it all in within one single trip if I had really tried.  I gotta leave some things unseen for the next trip though, right?!  After sharing some of the experience directly with my friends and keeping them posted on some of the craziness whenever I could connect to WiFi over there, I'm pretty certain there's a group trip in order soon.  I sure hope so, because I'm already craving to go back.

Lastly, I just gotta say a huge thank you to my parents who not only helped make this trip happen for me, but always support the effort that I put into this page.  I appreciate everything you guys do for me, and hope you know that.  I love you both!

Hope you enjoyed the read.
武士道 - B U S H I D O!