DSport Tokyo Auto Salon Tour 2017 Day 5 - Domo Arigato Nismo Roboto

After the drinking and partying of Saturday night, most of us on the DSport tour took advantage of Sunday's late morning start to recuperate. That didn't mean we were looking forward to the day any less because day 5 would be our optional trip to Nismo Omori Factory. As you can expect I was as excited as Tony Stark at a Victoria's Secret pool party.

Now, you might notice I said this trip was "optional". I was told that DSport tries to include Nismo HQ in the tour as much as possible but its location isn't well-suited to parking a charter bus so this year they decided to put it on a free day and give the people the choice of going or doing their own thing. About two-thirds of the tour attendees took up the offer. There was also the option of going to Yokohama's bay area afterwards for shopping and sightseeing and almost everyone opted to do that too. 

The night would also include another optional activity and that was going to the famous Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku. I'd never heard of it before and didn't know what to expect but it sounded fun so I went along...and I'm SO glad I did. But more on that later!
To get to Nismo Omori we first hopped a train to Tsurumi Station and then it was a short bus ride to a stop about a block away from our destination. DSport Head Cheese Mike told us that the problem with going to Nismo without a car is that the bus only goes by about every couple of hours so if you miss it you're in for a long walk or a long wait - take your pick. Being a Nissan fanatic I wouldn't have minded the latter myself if we were already at Nismo HQ - being stuck at Omori Factory is hardly my idea of suffering. Some of the tour attendees had experienced the former first hand however when they went by themselves the previous day and didn't catch the bus. They told us they ended up walking for miles. I wouldn't want to have to do that myself but props for their dedication.

Since Mike was leading the way we caught the right bus ourselves and we were soon checking out the sleek and modern facade of Nismo central. The building itself was purpose-built when Nismo transferred its headquarters in 2014 from their old location in Tokyo's Omori district to Yokohama where they'd be nearer to Nissan Global headquarters. 
The old location in Omori may be just a memory now but there were many great memories made there indeed so Nismo HQ is still referred to as Omori Factory despite the new location. The new digs are a far cry from the unassuming old office block that I never got to visit but had read about online - however it was responsible for four decades of success for Nissan Motorsports so the desire to keep the connection is pretty understandable. Besides, Nismo Omori Factory just sounds way cooler than plain old Nismo Headquarters, just like saying you're taking Acetylsalicylic Acid sounds way more serious than simply admitting you're popping an aspirin for your headache. If you're curious what the old Nismo shop was like check out this article by Evo magazine: Linkydoo.

Whereas the old Nismo Omori Factory building was a bit of a make-do affair, the new one was built specifically to showcase the heritage of Nismo as well as its present and future. It hits you right as you walk in with this impressive display. If you read my previous post about the Nissan DNA garage you may have read the part where I mentioned that Nissan kept all of the R390 GT1 race cars it competed with at Le Mans and two of them were turned into replicas of the podium-finishing #32 car. Well, here's one of them hung up on the wall fully intact. Some of my friends couldn't believe it wasn't just a shell but as you can plainly see through the canopy it's a complete car with engine and cockpit inside. Sure beats a picture of canines playing card games.

The R390 wall decor is a permanent fixture at Nismo Omori but in the main display area are a rotating set of former Nismo racers. There's always three on show but which three you find is always changing. On the day of our visit the first of the trio was this ex-WRC Nissan Pulsar GTi-R festooned with more lights than Yankee Stadium.

Next up was this sexy R89C that raced in the All Japan Sports Prototype Championship or JSPC for short. It packed 950 horsepower from its 3.5 liter V8 but had reliability issues that ruined its title chances. The R89C paved the way however for the R90 series that dominated JSPC for the next three years.

After the rally car and the sports prototype this 2002 Xanavi R34 GT racer from the All Japan GT Championship really showed off how varied Nismo's racing efforts have been. 

If the race cars weren't enough to impress you with Nismo's long history then the background displays probably will with a huge collection of trophies, rally medallions, posters, race suits, and helmets spread out on the walls. 

Nismo may stand for Nissan Motorsports but thankfully Nismo isn't just about race cars. To show off that point the three race cars on display are always accompanied by three of Nismo's special edition road cars. Just like the race cars, the road car display varies as well and this time was fronted by the Nismo Note that I've repeatedly said I badly want for an economical but fun daily driver.
Next to the Note was another frugal yet fun vehicle: the Nismo March that I had also seen at Nismo's large Tokyo Auto Salon stand.

The road car display may change over time but one of the three spots stays the same always - because it's occupied by one VERY special Nismo road car: the amazing Nismo R34 Skyline GT-R Z-Tune! 

This car probably needs no introduction if you're reading this blog but in case you're new to the GT-R world the Z-Tune is a very special beast indeed. The R34 Skyline ended production in 2002 but to celebrate Nismo's 20th anniversary they found 19 very well-kept examples, stripped them down, added carbon fiber reinforcements and seam-welded the chassis, sprayed it a special silver color, then stuffed a specially-tuned RB motor bored out to 2.8 liters and putting out 493 righteous horsepower then offered them to the general public. Okay, the very-rich general public because they cost $120,000 back in 2003. Since only 19 were made though (plus the two prototypes that Nissan kept) these cars are worth much more than that now. In short, this car is the ultimate R34. If it was a tennis player it'd be Roger Federer. If it was a wrestler, it'd be the Undertaker in his '90's prime. If it was a shonen anime, it'd be Super Saiyan 3 Goku. If it were a comedian, it wouldn't be Adam Sandler. It's just that amazing.
Just as amazing as the car itself is the fact that Nismo displays it AND LEAVES IT UNLOCKED! Yes, you can hop in and live out your fantasies of winning the Mega Millions and creating your ultimate Nissan fanboy garage. It's shocking when you think that if this were in the US you know a car this rare would be roped off and guarded by three layers of laser tripwires, angry men with big guns, and rabid attack dogs ready to spring on any peasant who so much as breathes on it. At Nismo Omori, they apparently trust that people will treat the Z-Tune with the reverence they feel it deserves so I slid into the driver's seat with all the solemnity of a Catholic having an audience with the Pope himself. I may or may not have made the sign of the cross in thanks to the higher power for letting me live long enough to actually sit in that car. Allelujah! 
The GT-R is of course intrinsically linked with Nismo, being the ultimate road-going example of Nissan performance, and so it's no surprise that this big sign was just behind the Z-tune. Look closer and you'll notice that the lettering's actually made up of a whole mess of little die-cast GT-Rs.

More die-cast cars were in various display cases around the exhibit hall. Nismo Omori's a pretty sizable building but even then it'd take much more space to show off all their various creations - so the little versions have to fill in the gaps.
This is a model too but it's not some ordinary die-cast for collectors, it's a forty percent scale wind tunnel replica for the 2013 Super GT GT500 GT-R.

The exhibits may be the obvious draw at Nismo but the work area where they service customer cars can be just as fascinating to watch and they made that easy by putting floor-to-ceiling glass in. 
Several things are impressive about Nismo Omori's customer service bays. First, they are shockingly spotless. There's not a stain, drop of spilled oil, or errant tool to be found. Martha Stewart would be ashamed of her kitchen compared to how clean Nismo's garage is.

Second impressive thing is that as you can clearly see, that's a Nismo Note. In other words, Nismo service everything from their most humble creations all the way to their most mind-blowing like the Z-Tune or the Nismo R35. Routine servicing is also on the menu at Nismo Omori so you don't have to be a VIP or be spending mega-bucks on a huge build to get your car worked on at the temple of all Nissandom. 

If you do happen to have mega-bucks burning a hole in your pocket (if so, please throw some my way please :3) then Nismo will be perfectly happy to accommodate you as you can see from these three RB26 engine packages on display right in front of the gift shop. Yes, you read that right, the CHEAPEST package starts at 4.3 million yen or roughly 39,000 American greenbacks even with today's favorable exchange rate. Better get signed up for that kidney removal surgery...
Speaking of the gift shop, it's not really fair to call it one since it sells so much more than just small tchotchkes for tourists. You must really love the recipient if you're planning on gifting a 20 grand Nismo R35 exhaust or a full set of Ohlins suspension for eight large. If you ARE that giving then please adopt me - I'm easy to care for I promise. 

Anyway, I forgot to take a proper pic of the gift shop but you can see a glimpse of it in this weird self-portrait. They've got everything from little Nismo teddy bears for the woman or womans in your life to Nismo mechanic's overalls to the aforementioned let-me-trade-you-my-left-arm GT-R upgrade parts. That nice lady by the way in the background kindly gave us some Nismo swag to remember our trip including the same little flags you see their drivers always happily waving when they're on a race podium.
If you do get to go to Nismo Omori then you owe it to yourself to use the restroom. Yes, do it even if you don't really feel the need to pee-pee. I swear you'll regret it if you don't because you'll miss out on Nismo's quirky decor. Check out the mirror inside a brake rotor. Oh, and it's just as spotless as the service bays of course. The best part though is Nismo's sense of humor in the wall art - the guys get camshafts...
...while the girls get velocity stacks! Oh, Nismo, you funny. Thanks by the way to one of the lovely ladies of the DSport staff for sneaking me into the ladies room to take this pic. No ladies were harmed in the process I swear!
I mentioned how this new building was built bespoke for Nismo - apparently even the vending machines are Nismo-specific.
There's even a Nismo smoking area outside! I don't smoke but had to walk back there in order to take this pic below.
The exhibit area, service bays, and gift shop are just a small part of Nismo's large building. I'm sure there's plenty of space in this other end for all the secret whiz-bang racing stuff they do that can't be shown to the public until battle commences.

We had to head outside already because Mike had told us the time for our bus was coming up - and the buses are notoriously on time in Japan as you probably know. Sadly there wasn't any super-cool exotic unobtainium outside like a 400R or Clubman Spec R34 but there was this Nismo Elgrand. Isn't that way more awesome-looking than the weaksauce Quest we got over here that looks like it was left out in the Arizona sun too long? I'd love to have one of these over here in the States so that all my friends and family could join me in Nismo-ness.
Nice lady saw us off and that was the end of my trip to Nismo Omori. I definitely want to go back, if only because they didn't have any of their cool race suits in stock. I so badly need a race suit before I accidentally go "Flame on!" at a trackday one of these days and I'd love to have the Nismo one.
After getting back to Tsurumi Station by bus, one quick train ride saw us in Yokohama's lovely bay area. Here's the famous Landmark Tower that was Japan's tallest building for 21 years until it became second-best in 2014. Still a very cool design though.
We didn't get to go into the Landmark Tower though because our destination was the Yokohama World Porters mall that you can see below that big honking ferris wheel. It was lunchtime and we had to hunt down some grub.

To get to the mall we had to cross the Kishamichi Promenade bridge so we got to see some of Yokohama's lovely bay area. The whole area is very picturesque and reminds me of San Diego's excellent harbor area but it was freezing cold that day so we hurried to the warmth of the mall. The cold was probably the reason those DUKWs were running with only a pair of passengers each. Fascinating that they even bothered to run those "ducks" for such a small group.
We found a nice Hawaiian restaurant in the basement food court and so lunch was this nice plate of chicken katsu together with some awesome lemonade.
The mall itself didn't offer anything too unique (except for a small anime area) so it really would be a highlight for only diehard shopaholics I guess. In retrospect I would have skipped it in favor of going to Akiba or some other place like some of the others did - they tried to go to Ueno though and got on the wrong train. They made it back to the hotel safe and unmugged but they missed the night's highlight that I'll talk about below. 

After wandering around the mall for a bit we headed back to the station to catch a train back to Shinagawa. We had to get back in time because tonight we had reservations at Shinjuku's famous Robot Restaurant. 

After regrouping at the hotel we soon headed out to Shinjuku, home of Tokyo's metro government and Kabuki-cho, the city's most famous red-light district. Sadly we weren't headed to those more adult establishments but little did I know the place we were going to was a worthy alternative, if a bit more wholesome.
After navigating Shinjuku's various sidestreets we ended up in front of this unique signage that could only be typical in Japan. The psychedelic display was an inkling of what lay in store for us.

As we headed in there were plenty more hints that this was no ordinary restaurant. Turns out, even the "Robot Restaurant" name is nowhere near sufficient to indicate the insanity we were about to experience.
This is the fifth floor bar, slash waiting area. At the Robot Restaurant you go into the actual restaurant area at a particular time because as I found out that night there's a show that runs for about an hour or so. The eating is actually a secondary thing despite the "restaurant" in the name. Once your time comes up you then walk DOWN to the ground floor where you get seated in the restaurant. The entrance fee is 8000 yen and that doesn't include any food. When you get to the restaurant area you can then order a set meal or just grab some drinks if you want. Most people opted to do just the latter - for good reason as I was about to find out.

When we got inside the show started and Holy Christ on a Harley I was not prepared at all for what unfolded! From either end of the seating area these huge floats with dancers, drum kits, giant fish things, and more cosplay than San Diego Comic Con came out to high tempo music and lurid videos on the huge display screens on either wall! And that was just act 1!

Between the three "acts" of the show there's about a fifteen minute intermission where you can order food or drinks if you missed your chance at the start or need some more. There's absolutely zero chance to do so when the show actually is going on for obvious reasons that you can see from the pics. Me and my tablemate Jon decided to take the first intermission as our chance to grab some food - that came to us in this piping hot bento box - but it soon became plain to see that actually eating would be hard to do.

It's kind of hard to actually grab a bite to eat when you've got the distraction of some crazy story about the forest and sea creatures banding together to fight off the evil invading robot empire and holy shit is that Mothra?!?

Then you had this ginormous thing that came out to eat the bondage lady that was manning the gatling gun tank thingy. Kinky.
After one final Kaiju Big Battel the robot empire was vanquished, all the forest and sea creatures could go back to shagging each other like good forest and sea creatures, and everyone lived happily ever after. And I had to hurry and scarf down my food before the next crazy scene unfolded...
A brief laser-riddled dance show gave me a bit of a chance to wolf down my bento box then they had a kind-of halftime show where they introduced some of the more prominent performers.

Interestingly only the hottie ladies were listed on the screens and none of the dudes. No complaints from me but female attendees may not share that sentiment.
For the final act they handed out glowsticks for some audience participation time. One suggestion Robot Restaurant, you should let the customers just keep them at the end instead of asking for them back. All of us who went from the tour would have gladly kept them as souvenirs even if the entrance fee were a little higher as a result.

Act 3 was basically pull-out-the-stops time and was robot, dancer, giant horsey, giant robot, creepy doll thing overload. Quite a few of us were bopping in time to the beat and by the end we were sad it had all finished.

Google describes the Robot Restaurant as a "Theme restaurant/bar featuring a raucous pop-culture show with robotic monsters, dancers & lasers." I say it's "Mardi Gras meets Mad Max". Either way, if you're in Tokyo, go and see it. Your life is not complete without it, my friend.

After the insanity at the Robot Restaurant some of us indulged in another uniquely Japanese establishment and hit up the Maidreamin maid cafe nearby for some desert. No, not that kind of desert you perv! The girls were cute though...

Ahem. Yeah, we each had a parfait. I had the bear...I mean, the chocolate one and washed it down with a beer. Yes, to my surprise alcohol is normally served at maid cafes. I can see the combo of alcohol and cute young girls not exactly working out as well here in the States but we were in Japan so we managed to stay out of jail that night and make it back to the hotel.
It was pretty late by the time we straggled back to the Shinagawa Prince. I was happy to be hitting my bed after another fun-filled day. On the way back to my room I noticed this contraption that I hadn't really paid attention to on my previous passes in front of it. Turns out it's a vending machine to get a code where you can unlock the "premium" channels on your hotel room TV. Yeah, that includes THOSE "premium" channels. The Japanese think of everything. 

But I wanted to sleep so no censored Japanese smut for me. Tomorrow would be the big DSport tuner meet so I needed to save my energy for that. Please come back for that post later!