How do I even begin to talk about this trip?
Going to Japan has been something on my to-do list for a long while now, and when my dad let me know that he was heading there for another business trip about 7 weeks out from the day he informed me, I made the instant decision that I needed to go too. For years, I had always said 'one of these days, I'll tag along with him,' and I knew I couldn't continue to procrastinate because before I knew it, I would have never made the trip. I quick collected all of my documentation needed to apply for my passport, submitted everything and patiently waited for them to tell me that they were unable to verify my identity. The same day I got that notice, I put together a portfolio of absolutely everything I could think of to show the agency who I was and that I'm a legitimate citizen, then sent my back-up overnight. A few short days later, I received my crisp and fresh passport in the mail and it hit me that I was about to embark on my first true international experience.
When I found out that Yokohama would be our hub for the trip, I instantly started looking up things that I'd definitely not want to pass by while in the area. It wasn't long before I got hit with the info that Nissan Global Headquarters was only a short walk from our hotel, and that the Nismo Omori Factory was roughly a 10 minute car ride away. Say no more - I could have gone to Japan and just seen these two things and would have been a happy camper.
Our travel day finally came and the wonky flight route took us from Phoenix to Dallas, and then we had an incredibly zombie-ish 13 hour flight from Dallas to Narita. Watching the flight path on the plane was pretty wild, as I would have never expected us to fly northwest basically over Alaska and continue around the globe until touching down in Japan. Also the interesting meals and snacks provided on the flight were almost enough to keep me entertained - not so much on the Japan Airlines return flight though. Once finally escaping from the jumbo aircraft, we made our way through immigration, then to the bus station and snagged our tickets for YCAT - Yokohama City Air Terminal, which spits us out into an entanglement of trains, buses, taxis and underground walkways brimming with commuters - But conveniently enough, directly next to our hotel! We did however, get off our bus at the wrong stop and ended up adding about one mile between us our our destination. I wasn't complaining though, as we passed by a Tsutaya bookstore and popped inside to make my first purchase in Japan - a Drift Tengoku DVD and HyperRev magazine! We finally got ourselves checked-into the hotel, rinsed up after an entire day of plane hopping and traveling, snagged some dinner and called it a night before starting our week.
My dad had two days of actual work that he was committed to on our visit so Monday and Tuesday, I was on my own to discover this new world and culture. I started day one by just trekking on foot to explore my immediate area and see what's out there. I had no specific intention or thought in mind and just let my feet take me wherever. I ended up walking up this rather steep street, thinking that I could get a cool view looking down on the city a bit, but about 10 minutes in I was dripping sweat from my forehead like I was hiking up Camelback Mountain. I had no idea how humid it was going to be, but continued to push on and ended up stumbling upon the Kanto Driving School. I took a break to rest for a few minutes, and enjoyed watching some of the students navigate the parking lot course. Above is just a snap of the main intersection I crossed while coming back downhill.
Boss, Wonda Coffee, and Asahi vending machines line the streets of any route you choose.
I started snapping everything I saw. Signs. Buildings. Anything random that caught my eye, I made sure to snag a photo. As I walked back in the direction of the hotel to find some shops to peruse, I passed this side street that caught my eye for some reason. The more I delve into this one shot, I think the repetitive patterns are what drew me in.
Spotted some local slap stickers. Already liking it here.
The morning sun peeking through this reflective building. I was enjoying the architecture and building styles different from what I'm used to.
I saw plenty of delivery vehicles around town, and it seemed like everything happens on a much smaller (physically and economically) and local scale which is really cool!
Spotted this BEAUTIFUL Mercedes 350SL posted up outside of the Starbucks that I popped into for some familiar coffee. Two well-dressed gentlemen looked on as I awkwardly stopped to snap the photo and I had to assume the car belonged to one of them.
This Gloria caught my eye REAL quick. Something about Y34's are just so cool to me, and I still hope snatch one up one day.
Toyota Crowns are definitely the weapon of choice for taxis.
The area around Yokohama Station houses many department stores and lots of options for shopping and dining. It seemed like a popular set-up: multi-level buildings, with the floors split up into sections for women's, men's, home, electronics, etc. I really enjoyed Tokyu Hands and their array of items for sale.
Watching the flow of operations through the bus and taxi lines at Yokohama station was mesmerizing. I found myself on multiple occasions, standing on the overhead walkway, simply watching the clockwork movement.
Crowns on Crowns on Crowns - STACKED! Rows of 'Takushi' line up outside waiting to take passengers to their next destination from Yokohama Station.
I explored a little more, being sure not to wander so far that I wouldn't remember my way back, especially since I definitely brought the wrong pair of shoes with me on the trip and could feel blisters starting to form just from one day's worth of walking.
I kept my bearings by locating this funky tower that I still am not sure the purpose of. But it helped me to ensure that I was on the right path back to the hotel. Honestly, the first several days were extremely exciting for me but certainly overwhelming due to my lack of ability to read or understand pretty much anything. Sure there were a few people who could speak some English, but I would have loved to actually interact and have conversations with strangers - something that a fast-paced society didn't seem to have time for. In the beginning of the week, I was not comfortable reading street signs or attempting to purchase a train ticket to go anywhere beyond my little bubble. The train ticket machines could operate in English, but once you're on the platform pretty much everything is in Japanese and Kanji again; some trains were express trains and some were local; I didn't want to take the chance of getting on the wrong line and ending up somewhere I had no clue on how to get back to from where I came. So days one and two just consisted of me exploring the immediate area, trying some new foods for myself, popping into random stores, and attempting to clumsily pronounce brief Japanese phrases to at least show the locals I was trying!
The view of Yokohama Station from the window of our 15th floor hotel room. As far as weather goes, we lucked-out for the most part as it only rained for a brief period of time on two separate days while we were there. But I will say how unbearably humid it was - either that or I'm just not used to humidity anymore since being out in the desert.
Today's the day we get to go check out Nissan HQ, which I had gotten my dad excited about after showing him some photos. Following that, we'd make our way up to Omori Factory!
But first - Breakfast!
We made our way from the hotel, through the train station and planned on stopping somewhere in between to grab a bite to eat before starting our day. Every which way you turned, there were some crazy structures to admire.
Or uncommon cars to admire! 3-Series Wagons seemed pretty popular!
We got into the flow of foot traffic and navigated our way through Yokohama Station, which freed us through the East Exit. Up and over by way of one of the many pedestrian overpasses leads us to the next set of stairs and walkways. We're headed towards that SOGO parking structure.
A view from our next over-water walkway leads us towards Bay Quarter where we popped in for some coffee and breakfast. From there, we were taking that next Sky Bridge back across the waterway.
A view across the canal from Bay Quarter. That's Nissan's building on the right side of the bridge, and Fuji Xerox on the left. Just above that tree line, you can faintly make out the sky bridge that feeds into the second floor of the Nissan HQ building. While the offices were off-limits until operating hours, commuters are welcomed to pass through the building to safely make their way to the southeast side of the building and out to the street. French-themed restaurants seemed to be a trend over there, so we enjoyed looking across the water while sitting outside and enjoying our croissants and coffee.
That's the Metropolitan Expressway Route bridge off in the distance, just shy of the famous Daikoku PA Toll Road Rest Stop.
Another perspective to the east from the Minatomiraio Bridge.
We now make our way across the moving walkway of the Sky Bridge, slowly entering Nissan HQ on the second story.
As we had arrived before 10AM, the doors down to the first floor had not yet been unlocked so we gazed down to what Nissan's home building had to offer ahead of time. The decision was made to take the stairs out the southeast exit to the street, and poke around outside the building while we waited for the guard's permission to let us enter.
The Nissan Gallery Test Drive GT-R quietly waits for its day to begin, and allow enthusiasts and potential buyers a chance to experience the R35.
Unfortunately, test drives are only an option for Japanese residents - otherwise this could have been a VERY fun day.
I'm really liking the GT-R's new aero designs and by the end of the day, my father was looking into costs. . .
Some of the other available vehicles for test drive included the new Nissan Murano and Serena.
The Serena had this cool roof wing that screamed style, in my opinion. I appreciated its subtle yet aggressive look.
How about these sweet DAYZ? Suckers get something like 50 MPG - I'd totally rock one!
Then there's the DAYZ ROOX - Peep the suicide door!
Not sure most Americans would be ready for a pink Nissan March though. . . stay tuned further down the post for another version of the car that I bet most would appreciate though!
Familiar looks - different names!
These little two-seater, electric cars were awesome aside from the slightly threatening burnt electronics scent.
We finally gained our entrance - time to see all things Nissan!
The sliding doors give way to a heavenly showroom with an array of historic and modern technology.
Immediately on the left, you see 1 of roughly 200 Altra EV's that Nissan produced.
And Nissan's very first electric car - the 1947 Tama.
Would absolutely drive a Nismo Note (Versa).
This translucent VQ37HR display was incredible. I inspected all the happenings for several solid minutes.
Even the LEDs would change colors depending on whether the cylinder was compressing or exhausting!
The 370Z has slowly grown on me. But this Nismo version was just impeccable, and wish the interior of my 350Z was as cushy as these chassis!
Step over to GT-R land and be amazed at what's hidden below the surface and body panels of a new R35.
Do you know who your engine was hand-built by?
Wonder if all GT-Rs come with polished secondary driveshafts?
I knew GT-R missions were complex. . . but DAMN! Check out all the clutch packs up front.
SO much better than the 2009 aero.
A dry carbon wing sits just right atop the trunk lid; not too subtle and stands out just enough!
New Leafs being displayed in what seemed to be the demo area.
Over in the 'Global Products Zone' we found this Nissan Intelligent Mobility vehicle on display. We didn't hang around long enough to see or hear more about the story on this one, but with Nissan's sights set on making a majority of their fleet electric powered in the near future, this could certainly be a glimpse of what we can expect eventually.
Loads of modern styling on the inside, with a hinted reminder of why electric transportation is the future.
Part of me REALLY wanted to put those VR goggles on and see what this table situation was all about. But it was all roped-off and looked like no demos were scheduled to be happening during our time visiting.
But step over into 'Heritage Corridor' and you'll learn everything you could possibly ever want to know about Nissan's history and background.
You could pick an emblem from any era and be able to find it along this wall!
This badass Fairlady Roadster model was large enough to comfortably fit Kenji inside. Now that would be cool. . .
Same scale model of a CPV35 Skyline, featuring yours truly in the reflection.
Sweet little collection of ~1:64 models from all different eras. Wait til we get to the Engine Plant Museum part of this post. . .
I still get my hopes up that Nissan will make the IDx one day in the near future. These things would sell like crazy. With that said, I did notice that right next to the Nissan and Infiniti logos on the wall behind the reception desk when you first walk into the building, was a modern version of a Datsun logo. Maybe there's something we can expect in the next few years? I know there are industrial Datsun trucks and vehicles out there, but one can dream right?
Moving onward down the hallway, the walls were lined with Datsun, Nissan and Infiniti history from their first cars and production plants to current-day ways of business.
LOOK! Back Scope
There were a couple of these mysterious little peering holes scattered throughout the history wall, and what they contained were little gems beyond enjoyable.
This one holds a model of the original Silvia! I did my best to get a photo of what was inside, but it was pretty tough getting the camera to focus that closely. Each scope was a different chassis, from a different era, in its own natural habitat. It's the little things like this, attention to detail over such a small item, that I found particularly pleasant.
I noticed an employee sneak into a hidden door along this wall, which I guess was the access to the Information Counter.
An original brochure for the 1988 S13. Good year.
Oh, look another LOOK! Back Scope!
This one housed a 1990 Calsonic BNR32 Skyline GT-R, stabled in a workshop equipped with mini toolboxes and garage decor.
Moving on - they had this lovely Skyline 350GT (Q50) Hybrid on display, which is a ridiculously luxurious display of how a sport-hybrid can be done.
I was for some reason drawn to this Caravan NV350, with its root beer metallic paint. It's a true shame we don't get some of these more interesting and versatile vehicles over in the States.
An interesting take on the Juke.
Let's go take a peek in NISSAN BOUTIQUE!
All the Nissan model cars you could ask for, and more!
The attention to detail on some of these models totally validates their prices. I would have loved to bring one of these back home with me, but at $300+ I chose to save my funds for other items.
One-stop shop for any Nissan-related Tomica cars.
As well as the collector sets! I held out though, as I had discovered the night before that there was an entire Tomica shop nearby. . .
There were two entire walls worth of Nismo gear - stuff that I had never even seen before online. Plenty of time was spent in this section trying to pick out the right items.
A $1,500 tool-set for the truly committed GT-R enthusiast.
On the first floor entrance on the bridge-side of the building (where the Sky Bridge brings you in on the second floor) was a Starbucks, and these sweet Gran Turismo 6 simulators. I tolerantly waited my turn to hop in the Recaro seat and give an R35 a go around Tsukuba Circuit.
Having seen most of what Nissan had to offer in this location, we decided it was time to make our next move for the day. Before heading over to Nismo, we were nearby somewhere that required us to make a pit-stop.
More funny kei vans!
And this dude had a look on his face implying that he was having a blast riding that cruiser around Yokohama.
Now we made our way over to Minatomirai - a fun little section of town for shopping and entertainment. This was actually right where we ended up getting off the bus on Sunday when we first arrived and missed our stop.
Minatomirai (MM for short) seemed like a pretty artsy, cultural area and there was some pretty interesting structures and architecture around aside from the other sights.
Ahh!! What we side-tracked for! This Tomica shop seemed particularly catered towards very young children and they didn't have much in terms of collector models. But I was still able to pick up a good amount of cars that I had in mind.
Another kei service truck! We spotted this little guy in front of rather simplistic but cool residential building on our taxi ride over to Omori Factory. While it was only a few miles from the hotel, the building is tucked back in an industrial area that's difficult to reach by walking and doesn't really have a nearby train station, so we had the hotel staff help us instruct a taxi driver on where we were headed. Note: Look out for the automatic pop-out door on the taxis! It totally caught me off guard when we went to go enter from the left side of the car and the door opened into me haha
About 10 short minutes later, we were waiting at an intersection for the driver to safely pull over and let us out. This was the sight from across the street as I got giddy in excitement and anticipation to cross the walkway.
We made it. I'm home. Can't wait get inside!
Walk up a couple steps, and down a well-marked parking lot to find yourself at the entrance of Nismo's Omori Factory.
The view when entering the front door. You're greeted by the actual #32 Nissan R390 GT1 which took 3rd place in the 1998 24H of Le Mans.
You are then greeted by a scale model of a GT500 Nismo GT-R.
Just on the other side are three beaming Nismo RB26 engines on display. The crinkle black and carbon fiber unicorn above has a total of over 100 new parts in comparison to an OEM RB26DETT, and also comes with a price tag of ¥7,150,000 - that's over $60,000 USD! Omori Factory rates this engine at 500PS (493HP).
Just to the left are your two other Nismo options. . .
And you know it's real when they have their own Omori Factory VIP rope.
Above is the R2, which is a ~$40,000 streetable circuit engine set-up. The hefty price includes upgraded features from a normal RB26 including larger capacity turbos, N1-style reinforced block, pistons and rings, R2 specialized camshafts, R35 fuel injectors and upgraded delivery system, a tuned ECM and of course Nismo 5W-40 competition engine oil. I've read that this engine produces somewhere around 450HP.
At ~$35,000, the S2 engine is a slightly less expensive option, more catered specifically to streetability and occasional track use. The biggest differences here are stock-sized BNR-34 BB turbos and the special S2 camshafts, yielding an approximate power output of around 400HP.
Continue onward into the holy house, and you'll come across this door on your right.
How about that door handle? . . . The handles on the meeting room and restroom doors were also camshafts.
On our way out, we saw these Recaro seat boxes getting loaded onto a delivery truck. Some lucky soul had Christmas coming sometime soon.
Wait, are those . . .?
Yup, a bunch of Tomica R35's composing the GT-R logo in a pointillism fashion.
Along the back wall, you'll find VR38DETT and VRH34A engines on display, the latter of which being the 8-cylinder, individual throttle bodied power plant used in the Super GT500 R35's.
Back to the center is a lovely scale display of Nissan's racing history.
I think I'll just go silent on this next bunch of photos, as no words are really necessary. . . Enjoy these racing legends!
Remember that alternate version of the March I mentioned earlier, as opposed to the pink one that was sitting outside of Nissan HQ? Not sure about you, but I'd gladly drive this around town and take it to the track on the weekends!
Here's the one we all know and love, and transcends generations. I couldn't peel my dad away from this Z-Tune R34.
When you were done drooling over the machinery, you could watch some spirited GT-R films on the 4-screen set-up.
And then there's the candy shop where only a Saudi Arabian prince wouldn't sweat when making a purchase. I wanted to spend so much more time in this area, but knew it was for my own good to browse through as quickly as possible and keep from maxing out my credit card.
Yes - that's a dry carbon fiber R34 fender you see hanging from the wall in the upper, right-hand background of the photo.
When normal wheel spacers just won't do. . .
The traditional Nismo LMGT4 Omori version wheel on the left in comparison to the 2017 model on the right, offered in matte black and are the same as used on the GT3 class Nismo GT-R's.
Loads of liquids.
I didn't spot that super cool Omori Factory license plate until seeing this picture. . . I was too focused on the line of boxes on the same shelf to the right. Those are Nismo Multi Function Blue Mirrors, one of which they had in stock for a Z33. . . more on that later :)
Trying to show some self-restraint.
Engine goodies! Spark plugs, valves, thermostats, surge tanks, crankshafts, turbos - You name it!
After my Tomei LSD install, I'll always have an appreciation for mechanical differentials.
While on our way out, this delivery caught me off guard and I quick tried to grab a photo but forgot to adjust my white balance after being inside of the glory that is Omori Factory. I looked-on as this minty R32 was delivered into the good hands of mechanics as Nismo.
Time to say bye - Until next time!
Caught one of the employee's returning to home base in one of the instructor driven Nismo Notes just before beginning the last bit of our day's adventure.
We calmly waited at the intersection where we got dropped off to cross the busy street of Yokohama's industrial zone.
Funny enough, while inside Omori Factory, we ran into a group of guys who were also visiting and in town for the day only from Tokyo. Their next destination was the same as ours so we tagged along together, and got to talking. Come to find out, they were from Bowie, Maryland - same as my hometown. . . really puts it into perspective how small a world it is.
Ahh, what do we have here?
Nissan's engine plant and Engine Museum is just a short walk down the street from Nismo, and the museum is free so why not go check it out!
Nissan Plant Area #2 on one side, and Plant Area #1 on the other - we wait to mosey across the crosswalk. What do ya know - a Nissan Juke going by.
In we go!
You're first greeted by the extremely friendly attendant at the guest counter, who informed us of where we were allowed to visit and provided us with Nissan Engine Museum brochures. You'll then find yourself immediately in a room showing technology over time how Nissan has manufactured their engines.
The turbocharged HR15DE engine found in the Juke!
I looked high and low to recall which turbo-diesel engine this one was, but came up empty-handed! If any of you recognize it, mention it in the comments or let me know!
The R35's power plant - VR38DETT
This one was handbuilt by Takumi!
Pretty cool see through display of the combustion cycle.
Annnnnnnd this lovely VRH35Z engine on display, as found in the Nissan R90. 8-cylinders. Bi-turbo. Dual throttle bodied surge tank. Fucking. Nuts.
This VRH34B is almost identical to the one (VRH34A) on display back at Nismo and can still be found in Nissan's Super GT500 GT-R's, however makes roughly 30 PS and 35 lb-ft more than the A version.
This VRT35 is a 12-cylinder, 3.5L engine claiming around 630 HP @ 12,000 RPM's. These engines were built specifically for Nissan's P35 and Nismo's NP35 racecars which were to partake in the World Sportscar Championship's C-Group, but unfortunately the P35 never saw race and the NP35 only raced once before Nismo cancelled the project.
Moving on, I found some joy in this blown-apart view of a VQ35 head.
They also had a few older chassis on display, like this 1935 Datsun Type 15 Road Star that was powered by a whopping 14 HP straight-4 engine.
Let's go upstairs. . .
And around the corner, you'll find a room littered with more Datsun, Infiniti and Nissan models than the mind can handle.
I got an absolute KICK out of this scaled version of the original engine plant, locomotive and cars parked in the lot.
The control board allowed you to illuminate the lights on the different vehicles parked in the lot, then at the very end you could make the train-crossing gates close and have the train travel to the other side of the diorama.
Take a few steps to your right. . .
HOW CAN I GET SOME OF THESE?!
I loved that the Z33 and Z34 they had on display were both white!
This one's for you, Nick!
And would you look at that!? - a white Gloria Y34. It's a sign. . .
Across the other side of the room was entire scale model display dedicated to the entire lifeline of the Skyline / R-Chassis.
On the opposite side of the floor, you'll find an entire room full of exploded versions of classic Nissan engines.
After we headed back outside and around the corner, we found ourselves at one of the actual engine manufacturing facilities. The entryway was roped off of course, but you're welcome to peer into the shop and watch the happenings. I enjoyed the tilted G-Chassis Infiniti off to the right there, and their display of what was being produced from this facility.
We on-looked as self-driving machinery took completed subframes from one area of the building to another. There were apparent markings on the shop floor that I could only speculate worked with these self-driving robots so they'd know where to take the finished pieces.
It wasn't shortly after that I was scolded by an employee for taking photos. I should have known better as there was a sign right next to where I was standing that clearly showed a camera in a circle with a slash through it - but for some reason I assumed it was for people who were taking tours through the facility.
Dad and I were about wiped out and hungry at this point in the day, so figured it was time to get back to the hotel and find some grub. With the assistance of the friendly woman at the front desk back inside the engine museum, we summoned a 'takushi' for a ride back to YCAT.
This lovely sight greeted us as we stepped out of the taxi back in the center of bustling Yokohama. There are a lot of things that I would trade in a heartbeat for a GT3. . . Hard to see in the picture, but I loved the little play on the Porsche Stuggart emblem with the sticker this woman driver chose to put on her fuel door. Rather than the traditional horse inside the coat of arms, was a playful corgi dog face.
We decided on some Japanese Mickey-D's to hold us over until getting a real dinner later that night. Little did we realize how worn-out we actually had gotten and after our strange and foreign fast food hamburgers (at least the fries were delicious), and once we dragged our feet back to the hotel room, we both crashed out and never even made it to dinner that night. At least the J-Sports 3 channel we had access to in the room had some great middle-of-the-night motorsports stuff to watch when the jet-lag did a great job of causing me to be wide awake at 3:30AM.
Thursday and Friday brought whole new adventures that I can't wait to elaborate on in Part 2 of the post! Hope you got at least a fraction of the enjoyment we were able to experience from Nissan HQ and Omori Factory in this first post - let me know what you think!
武士道 - B U S H I D O!