Dsport Tokyo Auto Salon Tour 2017 Day 7 - All Good Things...
We're finally wrapping up the posts on the 2017 DSport TAS Tour with the last day. If you've read the previous installments you'll know the tour had already been filled with some huge highlights - Tokyo Auto Salon of course, the Dsport drift meet, touring Nissan Zama, Nismo HQ, and Nissan Global headquarters, plus numerous other activities. The final day was low-key by comparison but it was still very interesting if you're a big import fan since it involved visits to both Tein and Tomei's headquarters.
Tein as you probably know is one of Japan's top suspension manufacturers. What you might not know is that Tein still makes all their suspension kits in-house at their factory in Yokohama, unlike most car parts manufacturers nowadays who go: 1. Find anonymous Chinese factory 2. Slap logos on 3. Profit! 4. Go to nearest bar on Friday, get sloshed, and try not to get divorced when you stagger home at 3 am reeking of stale beer and fresh lipstick.
We boarded another charter bus for this trip, although this one amused us because it had a small loo in the back that most of us HAD to try for shits and giggles - more of the giggles than the shits thankfully or else it would have stank up the whole damn place.
The factory itself was a fairly nondescript industrial building in a fairly nondescript industrial area in Yokohama. Your only tip-offs that this place made cool car parts instead of chopsticks or Japanese sex toys was the subtle Tein logo on one corner of the building...and all the cool cars parked outside!
The Tein BRZ was nice but it was actually the employees' cars peppered around the lot that were really interesting. More on those later because first we had to head inside for a lecture.
Oh, I said I'd talk about the employee cars later but I will mention this, see that cute little lady on the right of the photo? She was one of our tour guides and you wouldn't guess from looking at her what her ride was like. Again, we'll get to that in a bit.
Before we could enter the factory itself and start the tour we were required to bow and chant praises to the statue of their great coilover god. They were offended by me taking this picture by the way and it was only by my immense skill in the fighting arts that I made it back alive with this image.
Nah, I just made that last part up.
Anyway, before the tour Tein did want to sit us down in a classroom to go over a few things. For good or bad they didn't make us change into Japanese high school uniform cosplay outfits - but they did make us put on some snazzy blue shoe covers which I heard were all the rage in Harajuku.
I know the shoe covers look lame but they more than made up for subjecting us to such an uncool fashion statement by gifting us with a nice goodie bag filled with all sorts of Tein-branded goodies from stickers to a car celphone holder to a ballcap.
Like any good factory tour the Tein staff wanted to teach us the important information about the company - their mission, their history, their production process, where they stash the weed when the cops pay a visit...maybe not that last one, but you get the idea.
To start off they showed us a short animated clip that looked like rejected footage from Speed Racer - the '60s cartoon, not the underrated Wachowski version:
Looks like somebody just found out how horrible it is to barf inside a race helmet...while still wearing it.
After the brief talks all about Tein's history and facilities we were given a short health and safety spiel since we were going inside an active, working factory.
It was mostly the usual stuff about no food or drink inside the facility, following the guide's instructions, and not teasing the workers so they don't try to engage in some batting practice on your skull using a coilover.
Oh yeah, one other thing they told us NOT to do was take pictures or video - not an unusual policy for a big company that prides itself on developing new stuff. That by the way is exemplified in Tein's name - apparently it didn't come from some founder named Mr. Tein but rather it's a contraction of the words TEchnical INnovation. See, I didn't just go to sleep during the lecture like I made a point of doing back in college so I actually learned some things!
Unfortunately the no photo policy meant I don't have any pics from inside the factory to share but it was all fairly normal stuff for a car parts factory. Lots of machines, the usual paint booths, storage areas, and whatnot. I hope you weren't expecting a building full of leprechauns cheerfully assembling shock absorbers while supervised by a bunch of hot green-skinned alien babes 'cause that wasn't what we saw. I know, I know, I was hoping for hot alien babes myself. Sigh.
We didn't get any extraterrestrial hotties but once we left the classroom to head over to the factory itself we were greeted by something green and alien-looking alright.
It was Tein's mascot Dampachi and his bae, Dampatty!
Ahem, moving on. After the group was done molesting the mascots we divided into smaller groups and went inside the actual factory.
Tein had laid out this little waiting area for us and had prepared some refreshments while we waited for everyone to finish.
While passing the time we started chatting with the staff, some of whom had good English skills after having worked at Tein's USA branch. One of them was the owner of this lovely red Audi Quattro which was left-hand drive for maximum import cred in Japan.
This Nissan Pino kei car wasn't owned by one of the staff with us but I had to snap a few pics since I hadn't seen one before.
Far sexier and more desirable than the little kei-mobile was this very clean Celica GT-Four ST250. Everybody dotes on Evos and Subies but this car has just as much rally cred and is a much less common sight.
Of course you wouldn't expect a GT-R to be missing from this kind of a parking lot, right?
Now, remember the cute, little, unassuming female tour guide I mentioned earlier when I was talking about the giant coilover in the lobby? I said I'd talk about her car later and here it is - an S13 sat low on Tein suspension all set up for dorifto because apparently that's how she gets her kicks on the weekends. You go, girl!
After perusing the employee cars everyone had finished the factory tour and we were then ushered to a nearby restaurant where Tein treated us to a delicious lunch of pork katsu. When we finished, we thanked our kind hosts profusely and piled back into our charter bus with the little loo in the back to head over to the next company on the day's itinerary - Tomei!
It'd be hard to be a devoted import fan without hearing the name Tomei (no relation to the one who plays Spiderman's Aunt May btw) since they make a huge variety of upgrade parts for most major platforms. They offer everything from stroker kits to camshafts to titanium exhausts to oil pumps to nice chrome stickers that add 5 hursepurs just by looking cool.
Some of their huge parts catalog was on display in their lobby including an ExpremeTi exhaust that I believe is the same model that found a home on my R32 back in the States.
Tomei's HQ was a more compact affair than Tein's since this building was primarily their administrative and R&D office unlike Tein where the HQ facility was also the site for their manufacturing plant. It was actually impressive to see how efficiently Tomei had packed so much into such a relatively small space - but that's a pretty common thing to see in space-starved Tokyo.
Examples of Tomei's finely-tuned - and expensive - Genesis crate motors were crammed into the shop when we entered, all in Tomei's trademark blue.
As you can see, space was at a real premium in the workshop area.
Their engine test cell was right beside that workshop where they were getting ready to test out a Subie boxer motor.
And to emphasize even more how efficiently they had to utilize space yet more engines were hanging out by the door.
After checking out the engine cell we were shown into the area where Tomei develops their famous Poncam camshafts.
Tomei obviously love their GT-Rs since a Skyline cam cover badge adorned one of the milling machines.
Mike Ferrara, DSport's publisher led the tour together with some of the Tomei staff. Here he is telling us about the humongous sushi roll he had the previous night - or he could be telling us about the products Tomei develops. Sorry but my memory is so hazy after all these years.
We had to head outside to continue the tour but on the way out I spied this little gem hiding in a corner. An Omori Factory tuned Nur-spec RB26 would have been a tasty souvenir from my trip - they had plenty of other engines, surely they wouldn't have missed this one if I borrowed it, right?
The exit was through this work bay where a USDM Scion FR-S was up on the lift no doubt awaiting some sexy new Tomei parts.
In the bay right beside the lift area was Tomei's dyno on top of which sat a car that was decidedly more old school than the FR-S.
It was an '84 Nissan Sunny race car that Tomei had campaigned and they were busy restoring it. For 500 yen (roughly 5 American greenbacks) we could get one of the postcard sets on the table and help contribute to the effort. A lot of us dropped our coinage in the little repurposed oil tin to help out and take home another cool souvenir.
Taking home one of the Tomei shop cars would have been an even cooler souvenir but sadly both my wallet and my luggage were totally not up to the task.
After checking out the cars our official tour activities finally came to an end. We had one more night left in Tokyo though before we had to leave. After getting back to the hotel everybody split up into smaller groups and made their way to do different things. I ended up going with several people for one last visit to Akihabara.
We were tempted to try out this fancy cat cafe but it seemed pricier than what we felt like paying so we just peeped through the windows and headed off.
Most of our group hadn't been to Harajuku yet, famous as being the nexus for youth fashion in Tokyo, so before we headed back to the hotel we took a quick trip out there.
Once we got back to the hotel though several of us realized we hadn't tried the penthouse bar yet. Since it was our last night in Tokyo we decided we had to end it with some drinks and lively conversation so we headed up. We took turns buying each other a round of beverages and had a grand time to cap off what had been an awesome tour.
Afterwards I had to catch what little sleep I could because I had an early morning flight to the Philippines. The others were heading back to the States later in the day.
At Haneda International Airport I was boarding another Boeing 787 like the one I flew in on from L.A. but this time it was with Japanese carrier ANA.
Taxiing to our take-off runway was interesting because Haneda is right on Tokyo Bay and one of its four runways is actually built on the ocean.
As we took off and Tokyo receded away I already missed Japan and vowed I'd return as soon as I had another chance.
Japan had one last treat in store for me to bid me farewell though. As the plane headed south to Manila I had an amazing view of Mt. Fuji.
It was only fitting that my last glimpse of a country I'd grown to love even more over the past week was one of its most iconic symbols.
And with that my first trip to Japan came to an end. Thank you for being patient as I wrapped up this long-delayed travelogue and please look forward to my future write-up of my more recent trip. This one shouldn't take two years to finish although it is taking me a while to do since I'm hoping to include a video this time around. Until next time, drive safe everybody!