To most of Tokyo’s denizens, Daikanyama T-Site is a multipurpose café/bookstore/art gallery that happens to have a very convenient parking lot. However, on one Sunday morning each month, that parking lot turns into a very quiet showcase of some of the best cars in the Tokyo area.
This week’s theme was carbureted cars, yielding some absolute classics which ranged from a race ready Alpine A110 to a homologation special, Lancia 037. Considering that carburetors tend to be cranky in the cold, the number of venturi-effect powered cars that braved the 35 degree (1°C) temperatures was quite a statement.
Besides the standout Lancia 037 and the A110s, there were many Lotus Europas, a trio of Caterham Sevens, a couple Ferrari Dinos, several show room ready Minis, and all natures of Skylines. The quality and rarity of the cars gave the entire event a concours level feel, only made more astounding by the fact that this happens every month with a different set of cars.
A Highly Selective Event
The people who run Daikanyama T-Site want the event to be relatively quiet, as evidenced by the early 7:00 AM start and sparse advertising. I think that mentality really taps into the hidden nature of Japanese Culture.
Unlike other countries where you can roll up to a meet and join the crowd, the Japanese make you earn your spot. The advertising is minimal and timing is poor (7:00 AM on a Sunday Morning!), so you really need to keep an eye out and plan ahead to make it.
Considering the number of modified cars in the Tokyo area, limiting the size may be a good thing. The over the top attendance of the Fresh Tokyo Car Meet is evidence enough what happens when you advertise an event well and schedule it at a convenient time.
But even beyond the practicalities, the Japanese do tend to be very restrictive about who’s in and not. This selectivity is what leads people to call the Japanese Car Culture secretive and mysterious. However, I think more than being unfriendly, their attitude it’s just a side effect of the sheer number of car enthusiasts in the Tokyo area.
By making event attendance inconvenient, only people who really care about cars will attend. Since those people generally have some of the best cars, that difficulty will ensure only the best cars attend. Ignacio Marques used a similar tactic with Bubble Gun Treffin via his limited ticket purchasing window.
The Japanese Aren’t (all) Robots
And I think this mentality extends to the rest of Japan. Tokyo is one of the most dense and populous cities in the world – each square mile of Tokyo has more people than an average sized American town. In a city that large, you can afford to be unfriendly to a few hundred or even thousand people while still maintaining a social circle.
To put it another way – think of New Yorkers. The reason they have a reputation for being rude is (in part) because they can be an asshole and still meet enough other assholes to have a solid cadre of asshole friends.
The problem for many foreigners is that most Japanese people are also very polite. As a result, they’ll seem like they are being very friendly up to a certain point. Once the conversation crosses that polite line, they revert to their closed selves – leading to the reputation of being unfeeling.
However, like with car culture, the way to get in with the Japanese is to care. Show up enough times, pay enough attention and actually be interested. Then people will open up. I don’t think that the Japanese are cold, unfeeling robots, and I don’t think the Japanese car culture is intentionally secretive. I just think they’ve been spoiled by the number of people and amazing cars around them.
You can see more pictures at the Native Customs Facebook Page