Tours begin as tours always do. Everyone meting up, some people know each other and some only a few. But all in all the first meeting sets the tone for the days ahead. So when we all met at the airport – next to the Sushi bar of course – the chat was about cars, experiences and the fun to be had over the next week or so. GTROC members from six countries (seven if you’re Alec Salmond) met up, exchanged pleasantries and then started the ritual process of boasting about their cars and experiences and allowing others the freedom to boast about theirs. Even the lady in the Harrods shop got excited when she realised a dozen GTR owners were assembled in her midst. As a native Japanese speaker she was keen to hear our tales and was already looking forward to reading about our trip to Japan.
After waiting patiently for the last tour member to arrive we set off for the plane and enjoyed a flight onboard BA005 with remarkably few passengers. Thanks to Boeing’s 777 we managed to make the most of a whole row of seats each. The flight, it has to be said, is never the highlight of the trip – all 13 hours of it onboard a metal tube circling the planet. But at least it gives people time to catch up on the tour itinerary or, like Ville, to brush up on his teach-yourself-Japanese DVD.
Thanks to British Airways we had a great flight and, as always, the crew was very welcoming, especially when Eddie kept asking for more food (and wine). But, thought it was great to catch up on a back catalogue of movies half a day on a plane is long enough for anyone and the relief in landing was palpable.
Checking through customs and immigration we soon found ourselves waiting in line for the limo coach which was to take us on a two hour introductory tour of Japanese roads to our hotel. After such a long journey it’s the little things that matter, like the “Welcome to Japan GTROC” sign in the lobby or the fact all our keys were waiting for us and there was none of the usual check-in rigmarole.
Suitable refreshed we headed for Akihabara or ‘electrical city’ on the JRE Railway Line. GTROCers set about replenishing their stocks of memory cards and for one a complete new SLR with extra lenses, case and a whole lot more – someone is expecting to take some pictures! On the way we were joined by three local GTROC members and so now we were 15 (plus two small children).
Meandering down the lanes of Akihabara we soon ended up in the Japanese equivalent of a British pub – The Rose and Crown. Waiting to be seated and being presented with a bill upon departure maker the pub almost work but really it’s not quite the same.
So off to Shinjuku for, yes you guessed it more beers! Then it was on to a local restaurant where we practically filled the entire room with our seating plan of 15. The food was out of this world as pictures will show. Made on the spot while we waited the sashimi was something that no European restaurant could ever come close to. Followed up with more food than we could possibly eat and all washed down with beer and sake. Towards the end of the meal we were joined by two other tour members, most notable of which was Aki. A lot of this tour was put together by Aki and it was great for him to meet everyone and for some ‘old stagers’ to catch up with him again.
The entire day had all been about what to expect and what the trip holds in store. Tales of cars and triumphs both on and off track prevailed as the dozen+ of us spend the afternoon and evening really getting to know each other better.
At the end of the meal some went back to hotels, defeated by the 30 hours that the day had produced. And even them we had still got given Mohammed ‘the bumps’ for his birthday, although perhaps by the end of dinner none of us were in a fit state to do so!
For some intrepid tourists the night was still young so a Metro to Ginza meant a late night of drinking in a underground bar full of locals. Hardly anyone spoke English – or any other European language – but the language of GT-R emblazoned upon our coats was all we needed to start a conversation. Suddenly a group of half a dozen gaijin were everyone’s best friend! But all too soon as the clock stuck midnight it was time to return for a night cap and then to bed.
The first day over with and the general response something between “if this is the first day I can’t wait” and “If this is what it’s like I don’t think I will last”. All we can say is: The GTROC on tour to Japan is like no other tour. The GTROC is like no other club.