The big trend showed modified RVs, such as Japan-only micro-vans like the Honda SMX and Wagon R, as well as offerings from Suzuki and other manufacturers. Even bigger vans like the Toyota Previa and Honda Odyssey were seen with crazy body kits, slammed suspensions and fat chrome wheels. We really dig the SMX and Suzuki vans and wish they were imported here. As popular as RVs were as a whole, their lack of availablity in America made it hard for us to get jazzed about the trend. We found the driving forces behind their surge in popularity are price and versatility.
On the styling front, two of the biggest body tuners in Japan made impressions on us. In the expansive Veilside booth, the kits for the new Celica and MR2 Spyder looked like primetime players.
In the Bomex booth, video screens were full of the trailer for the American import car oriented movie "The Fast And The Furious," which stars a Bomex-bodied Supra. The screens were crowded 24-7 as the Japanese youth seemed to like what they saw. Perhaps the film should be distributed in the Land of the Rising Sun? For those wanting a starring role on the street, Bomex was showing its aggressive Integra body kit. The kit features intercooler-ready ducting at the nose, stylish side skirts and a nice rear treatment. It should be available in the States as you read this.
On the electronics front, we are seeing more companies pushing the envelope with smaller units that perform more functions than ever. The Blitz SBC i-D for instance (featured in our April issue), now has a sidekick, the Blitz Power Meter, which greatly expands the tuning envelope. The units work together, but are connected via infrared not hard wires. For more on this high-tech goodie, see the tech article in a future issue. There are other electronics from varying manufacturers which we also plan to test in 2001, so stay tuned.
For 2002, we plan to take a more active role in promoting the tour and hope to offer an expanded program for those who want it. If you are interested in joining us (and we did have a blast), contact JTEC at the accompanying phone numbers.
There is a great deal of free time woven into our tour. In fact, the last day (Sunday) was entirely open and since the tour was based in central Tokyo, the whole city was at our fingertips. We spent our free day at Asakusa Kannon Temple, a quick 15- to 20-minute subway ride from our hotel in Shinagawa.
There was a long, crowded corridor of souvenir stands leading to the temple. We ran the gauntlet, darting across the aisle while price-shopping the stands for the return trip, and arrived at the gateway in front of the temple more or less intact. To the left was a five-story pagoda, topped with a spire. The entire structure looked to be springing toward the heavens. Just inside the gateway was a fire pit where the faithful fanned the smoke of the holy fire over their bodies for good luck.
Once inside the temple, it got crowded pretty quickly. The working portion of the temple with the altar is fenced off to the public, but there is what could be called a wishing well with steel bars running across it at the front of the main hall. People throw money in the well. They were lined up six deep to get in range to chuck their yengamins into the black hole. (We'd sure like to be at ground zero with our backpacks open and positioned in the stream of coinage!)