The tour party assembled for breakfast. Bleary eyed, hung over but excited. Joined by breakfast by three local members we then headed off the The Tokyo Auto Salon at the Makuhari Messe. We set of in time honoured fashion, a large group of us all excited like small children, in a convoy of black GT-R jackets heading for the railway station and the two trains that would take us from Shinjuku to Kalhin Makuhari. With Eddie and Kennet resembling something like the ‘Men in Black’ with their shades and black jackets we stood out amongst the locals for sure.
Arriving at the station on our way to ‘TAS’ we walked with the crowds towards the venue and soon met up with Thomas and Aki who were already there and, Aki like the perfect host he is, had already spec’d out the joint and had guides for everyone.
The plan for the day was to just enjoy the show and meet up again at 4pm on the Nissan/Nismo/Autech stand. The stand wasn’t difficult to find as it was the biggest stand of the entire show!
For anyone that has ever been to a tuning show there is often an eclectic mix of good and bad, big and small, scary and sexy, and everything in-between. TAS has all of this, the only difference being it has a LOT more of it! The show is simple enormous and the global recession and struggling Japanese economy seems not to have dented the Japanese passion for automotive development and excellence. Far from it, this year seemed bigger, more dynamic and more exciting than ever.
As we headed off to the first hall the group soon dispersed and made the most of their time. For some the search was for specific parts and suppliers, for others just a gentle meander but for all of us it was a chance to meet some of the great names of motor tuning and to see at first hand the very latest developments and to hear hints from our hosts of what was to come.
Aki, Geetak and Fuggles soon found something really cool for the GTROC shop, but we will keep that surprise for another time – and the next 100 weeks! After some discussion and haggling we walked away with our prize, happy and contended that we had something that members will like.
Roger and Eddie headed off to satisfy their R35 carbon fetish and soon found carbon fibre bonnets, boots doors and much more to calm their ardour. Meanwhile the rest of use just started at one end of the three halls and worked our way through the rooms one by one picking our way as we went. Taking pictures and trying to work out what to look at was fun. Some of us got picked out for our GTROC Tour Shirts. Wherever we went people recognised the logo and the club and knew about the GTROC. It seems six tours of Japan and three visits to the Auto Salon and now the GTROC was as much a feature of the show as Top Secret or GReddy perhaps?
On our travels we got to meet not only top tuners but also people like Hiroki Yoshimoto who was there, like us, just to enjoy the day. These trips are a chance to meet up with GTROC members past and present such as Dino (DCD) and Shin. The GTROC is about forging friendships and despite years and thousands of miles meeting up again is always a pleasure and something that makes travelling half way around the world worthwhile.
We managed to spend time with many great tuners and the real power behind these great names. A chance to meet the President and CEO of HKS was an honour indeed and he took us into his confidence by explaining about the new components for their monster engine build – the 1000 bhp VR41 !
As we walked around part of the day was to meet future people to visit. It seems such is the reputation of the GTROC that we now have people asking for us to visit them. So, for those of you still considering whether you want to come to Japan on a GTROC trip, just to let you know HKS, RAYS and Kansai have all asked if the GTROC can visit them the next time we are here!
Somewhere in amongst all this Fuggles managed to get hijacked by a couple of Race Queens. Their company logo happened to be ‘JF’. Posing for pictures taken by Geetak and Aki the locals also seemed to want to get a piece of this memorable moment!
The GTROC members spent the day at the shop and by 4pm some had still not seen enough. Thought for many the aching feet, perhaps aided by the lack of sleep, was enough and time to meet up.
Meeting on the Nissan stand at 4pm we certainly drew a crowd. People wanted to be photographed with us and when we all assembled for the Tour Photo we soon had our own paparazzi to deal with. But, as well as sitting their, it was time to chat, compare stories and flick through people’s photos from the day. Stories abounded about the times people pointed at the GTROC logo and commented on and knew who we were. It seems just having the logo and ‘GTROC’ on your shirt is tantamount to having VIP stamped right across you.
Famous (and infamous) tuners, drivers and tuning world demigods were drawn to the GTROC branding and wanted to talk to us remembering the last time we met or the fact they know who we are and want to hear more. These strange gaijin in their tour shirts create quite a following in some quarters. But just before we left one last photo opportunity – a sort of flash mob meets Race Queen; all of which caused equal amounts of amusement and confusion to the locals.
A little after 4pm and it was time to leave. With Geetak leading the way, as he has done from the start and Matt keeping station at the back, like a good headmaster we managed to hustle everyone out of the show and back towards the train. Once onboard it was time to compare purchases and to talk about the mental shopping lists that would soon become reality (or perhaps not) once we got home. Drunk on enthusiasm and excitement we headed back to the hotel to drop bags and head out for a night in Roppongi.
Refreshed and somewhat lighter of load we headed off to Roppongi, again two trains. There we found our restaurant booked for the evening and met up with Adam of Fest. The evening was Shabu Shabu which for almost everyone was new experience. Even some of the local GTROC members have never been to Shabu Shabu before. The fact the restaurant booking was for all we could eat – and drink! – might have helped the evening go very quickly. As the resplendent waitresses showed us how to cook our food we settled in to conversations of the day. Course after course after course of food, sake, beer and wine followed. Our hosts seemed to be having as much fun as us and perhaps that’s why our planned dinner lasted almost three hours and still no-one wanted to go; but go we must.
As the night turned into morning some headed for home and some headed for the bright lights of Roppongi. For the hardened few who remained in Roppongi the night was going to be a long one. Never one to miss an opportunity it seems the lure of an ‘all night bar’ was just too much for some and was seen perhaps not so much as a description more a challenge! So, whilst some set of in search of more photo opportunities other entertained themselves in more liquid pursuits.
With a 6am start tomorrow for some discretion is the better part of valour, for others it was a case of just making the most of every minute of every day. The last shift finally ended in a taxi ride back to the hotel, before the sun cam up – but not much before. Time enough it would seem to refresh and prepare for the third day but little time for much else. And so, just as the curtain came down on day two, so the curtain for day three seemed to be going up. Day three was going to be a very long day for some!