You know, perks in this line of work are never taken for granted, no matter what anybody tells you. Take, for instance, the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of traveling to Japan to witness their way of rodding "firsthand." Last year, I had that opportunity arise, and it was incredible, to say the least. I figured it would be a long time before something like that would come around again.
But, lo and behold, Shige and the folks at Mooneyes felt our visit was such a success with the Japanese rodders that they invited us over again--and the powers that be signed off on it! I was literally in shock, knowing that I was going to be able to experience a wonderful foreign adventure like that one more time. (To see what I'm talking about, check out the May '01 issue of Street Rodder.)
This year, instead of traveling around and visiting the various shops again, we primarily focused on the big Mooneyes hot rod and custom show in Yokohama--especially considering this was the 10th anniversary of the event. That meant scaling down our trip to five days (I know, take time to wipe the tears), but that's five more than I could honestly ask for! We arrived on Friday evening, having all of Saturday to prepare the cars for the show on Sunday (that left us with a full Monday for tourist-type stuff in Tokyo before returning).
Gene Olsen's SO-CAL-built '51 Merc convertible, the Larsen & Cummins streamliner, and the Shifters Marky Idzardi's Purple People Eater were the "wheeled" guests of honor this year from the United States, which seemed to be a fitting array of American rodding heritage.
As far as all the individuals that made the overseas trek, we had Pete Chapouris (traveling with Olsen); Fred Larsen and his wife; Marky and Anthony from the Shifters; Greg Coddington; and artists Jimmy C. (who, by the way, is responsible for the life-size Ed Roth tribute statue), Herb Martinez, and Larry Henley. Overall, it was a great representation of U.S. talent and personalities. Being that the show was a tribute to the late Roth, his widow, Ilene, and longtime Rat Fink T-shirt peddler Bert Grimm were also in attendance.
Although Mooneyes' main man, Shige Suganuma, reported a drop in participant entries this year, once the doors of the Yokohama Pacifico opened Sunday, December 2, just as many, if not more, people flooded in and filled the venue in the blink of an eye. As they did last year, Moon had its "portable" speed shop set up at the show, around which all the "import" hot rods were appropriately displayed.
The Shifters huffed along a ton of T-shirts to sell, which, as expected, sold like hotcakes. Right behind the centerpiece shop that also acted as an outlet for the "Moon Equipped" line of goods, a stage was set up for the variety of rock 'n' roll bands that played throughout the day.
The mass amount of Japanese pintripers and artists were situated kitty-corner to the stage, and the majority of their works more than rivaled American offerings of late, to say the least.
By day's end, the Moon brigade prepared for the awards ceremony. They even designed a special award to be given away courtesy of Street Rodder, which was given to Nobuyoshi Masaki for his Japan Deuce Factory-built '32 five-window coupe.
SO-CAL/Chapouris and the Shifters also gave out awards, and we were all asked to explain to the audience "why" we chose what we did--I'm not quite sure many people understood what we had to say, but they applauded when we were finished!
The show definitely ended on a positive note, after which we loaded everything up and headed back for our last night in Yokohama, as we planned on spending a full day in downtown Tokyo before heading back home.
Of course, we all would like to thank Shige and his entire Mooneyes Japan staff for taking great care of us once again, even with their hectic schedules. And a special thanks goes out to Takemaru Endo, for his expert "tour guide" skills and for keeping us all out of trouble (or maybe that's the other way around?).
Seeing rodding culture in Japan is a great experience for anyone with even the slightest interest in the hobby, and I can't stress enough how great it is to be a part of a similar way of life--halfway 'round the world!