It was another early morning to catch the bullet train to return to Nagoya. Just
enough time for a bite to eat at the coffee shop next door, and rush by cab to the
time I was going to have to transfer trains in Osaka.
With a little spare time to
actually admire the trains, I shot a couple pictures and got a good look at the famous
shinkansen. These were 700 series trains. Impulse and Piazza JR enthusiasts might
remember a magazine advertising campaign showing a Piazza ripping down a stretch of
highway parallel to some railroad tracks, and the Piazza was actually passing a
bullet train. Those were the older 500 series trains, that looked more like a real
bullet. The 700 series has something more of a duck bill or shovel nose appearance.
I arrived at Nagoya station at a little before 10:30 AM, and I thought Mr. Imura
Yoshiyuki said he was going to meet me at the station at 10:30. I waited a while
outside the shinkansen platform exit, started to get worried, walked the station a
couple times to make sure he wasn't waiting for me somewhere else, and eventually
located a pay phone and telephoned him. My mistake, he had said 11:30.
I had some time to kill, and didn't want to go very far, so I broke down and had
lunch at the McDonalds that is attached to the front of the station. I already
knew that Japanese McDonalds was a little different and actually tastes a little
better than their US counterparts (it seems like the ingredients are fresher and
of a little higher quality), and I would have rather gone local, or even gone to
Moss Burger (McDonald's Japanese market rival with more of a Japanese blend to
the flavor), but wheeled suitcase or not, my travel range was hindered by the luggage
I was dragging with me.
It turns out this was not the best idea anyway, because I was going to experience
another one of those days where I would be the guest of several different hosts, and
in Japan, hospitality is shown by feeding the guest a meal. By the end of the day,
it would feel like I had at least six or seven meals.
Mr. Yoshiyuki arrived (A little after 11:30) and we were off in his mini van to
his house. As I had mentioned earlier, Mr. Yoshiyuki is the owner of the Gerald Auto
Shop. He restores and sells Isuzu cars as well as a few Nissans and other cars.
And no visit to his house is complete without walking around to some of his parking
areas where he keeps the cars he has not yet restored. Think of these as the "before"
pictures to what will be seen later when we visited his shop.
Mr. Yoshiyuki also showed off one of his more recent projects and used his own Gemini
Coupe JT 151 as an example. Faux burl wood trim for cars. I would guess it is a flexible
laminate sheet that is vacuum formed over the original pieces, but it is extremely
smooth and shiny and has that really deep look like paint with many layers of clear
coat, or more appropriate to the finish, wood with a quarter inch thick polyurethane
I looked over the rest of the car and Mr. Yoshiyuki opened the hood so I could look at
the engine, which is the 1.5 liter SOHC 8 valve multi port fuel injection 4XC1, that was
the standard in the base model Gemini for 1990 through 1993, instead of the 1.6 liter SOHC
12 valve 4XE1 that was unique to the US market. Then he looked at me with a grin
and said "You know, the 1.5 liter engine accelerates faster than the 1.6.". I was a
little skeptical of this. I know that the US market SOHC 1.6 liter engine, and SOHC
engines in general, offer a bit healthier torque output than four valve per cylinder
engines, at least in relation to the horsepower numbers, but the torque output of the
1.6 SOHC engine is lower than the torque output of the its DOHC counterpart. I've
also seen the Best Motoring video magazine road tests and acceleration tests for the
the JT151 and JT191 cars, and the car with the SOHC engine was a couple seconds slower.
But Mr. Yoshiyuki insisted that the 4XC1 engine would walk away from the 1.6 DOHC
from a standing stop. I have to conclude that he has a few tuning tricks up his sleeve
and that he has had more success tuning the SOHC engine than the rest of us have with
the 1.6 DOHC engine.
Back to Mr. Yoshiyuki's house, we picked up Mrs. Yoshiyuki and we were off to
Royal Host, an international style restaurant (read Japanese version of western food),
for some lunch. An example of what I mean by Japanese version, my batter fried shrimp
had a distinctly tempura-like flavor, so even the seemingly plain and tame are an
adventure in Japan.
We made a short stop at a Nissan dealership that was conveniently located below the
restaurant. I believe it was the only dealership
I stopped at on this trip. I was lucky enough to visit a lot more on my 2002 trip, and
unfortunately did not see as many on this trip.
Across from the restaurant was a regular Autobacs auto parts store. I had a shopping
list of parts and pieces I was looking for, and this was to be my lesson that all
Autobacs are not created equally. Autobacs actually has five or six different styles
of stores in their chain, and the regular stores don't carry any of the performance
or racing parts, for those you have to go to Super Autobacs...
Next stop was a rather large hobby shop, actually more like a hobby department store.
Models of cars. Models of trains. Models of ships. Models of airplanes. Models of
comic book characters. Radio control of all of the above. And then I got around to
something I really hadn't expected, a huge section of air soft machine guns. Real
firearms are prohibited in Japan, but this seems to have made BB guns and plastic
replicas of pistols and assault rifles all the more popular. I was asked if all
Americans had guns, and I believe my answer was something like "Half do and half don't.
The 51% who voted Republican in the last election do.".
I was not about to pass up another opportunity to pick up some more Choro-Q Isuzu cars
and a few more Tomy diecast cars, so I did a little more shopping.
From there, we went to the Gerald shop. It's a little difficult to get a good picture
of the front of the shop, because it is located on the side of a highway, with only a one
lane outer road and a waist high concrete barrier between the shop and traffic traveling at
high speed. You don't quite get a sense from the pictures, but the front of the place is
carpeted with Isuzu cars, parked so closely together that you can't walk between them, and
there are a lot of blue "Car Sensor" banners flapping in the wind. The sort of thing that
an Isuzu enthusiast wishes they could see, but is certain doesn't really actually exist
anywhere in the world. The market price for Piazza JRs and Gemini JT190s seems to be
in the $4,500 to $7,000 range. Mr. Yoshiyuki's custom cars with the flared fenders are
in the $12,000 range. And there are quite a few with "Ask" on the windshield.
We went inside and sat down in the office and lounge area for a little while, which has
another one of those glass display cases filled with Isuzu memorabilia, and the rest of
the room is filled with books, pictures, and every possible piece of Isuzu history an
Isuzu nut could imagine.
One of the more unique pieces was a spoiler set for the 1/24th scale Testors/Fujimi model
of the Piazza/Impulse JR. The original model kits are of the early car which did not
come with an air dam or a rear spoiler, but Mr. Yoshiyuki had the air dam and spoilers
made and offers those as well as the finished models with the spoiler kits. He also had
a radio controlled model in the case.
Another unique item was a pair of ceramic car caricature sculpture of a Bellett GT and an
Isuzu Aska (Japanese made Cavalier). These were made by another Front Row club member,
Mr. Masuaka Iwata. Mr. Iwata does these sculptures and illustrations, and his work is
absolutely beautiful. In 2002, I was given a sculpture that was a reproduction of my
own Isuzu Stylus race car and a 1989 British Racing Green Piazza Nero Turbo, and later
given a sculpture of a Blue Lotus Elan M100. The detail and artistic work of
Mr. Iwata is second to none.
Mr. Yoshiyuki showed off some rare Japanese Piazza and Gemini shop manuals, which are
extremely rare. I have never seen these before, there seems to be a total lack of
technical manuals for Isuzu cars in Japan. I have a set of the Japanese parts catalogs,
and have seen a few of these in other places, but never the shop manuals.
It was time for another meal, this time to a Chinese restaurant. Americanized
Chinese food is quite a bit different from authentic Chinese food, and Japanese version
of Chinese food is likewise tweaked to match the taste preferences of the Japanese
people. But I love Chinese food, and even the Japanese version was very good.
For those keeping track, this would have been the fourth meal of the day, and I
wasn't particularly hungry after the second meal. For the Japanese, it seems to be
a little odd not to devour everything that is placed in front of you at the table.
It seems rude not to dig in to a meal. And part of the hospitality of the Japanese
is make very sure that any guest is well fed. I was stuffed after the second lunch,
and at this point, I was along for the ride more in a support role than an active
This brought some questions from Mrs. Yoshiyuki, who asked me about my weight. I
had not ben taking care of myself before my trip to Japan in 2002, and started watching
what I ate and exercising more after I returned from that trip. Now, everyone seemed
surprised to see me, and how much less of me there was. I got out my four year old
passport and my three year old driver's license, and let them compare the pictures to
how I looked now. Mrs. Yoshiyuki asked me how I did it. I explained that I
bought a bicycle and rode it a lot. I started eating low fat and low carbohydrate
food, and sugar free drinks. And I made a conscious effort to eat only as much as
it took to stop feeling hungry, instead of eating until I was stuffed.
After dinner we stopped by a department store and a home store (Japanese version of
a hardware store) to look for two prong to three prong electrical plug adapters.
Before I left for Japan, I did a little research to see if I would
need a voltage converter to use my camera battery chargers, laptop, and etc., and
was surprised that Japan uses 100-105 voltage and the little illustrations showed
two prong plugs identical to the common plugs in the US. I assumed that they were also
plagued by the consumer safety activists that we have in the US, who have required
all appliances larger than a children's night light to have a third prong with a
ground circuit. Apparently, in Japan, they don't worry much about electrical fires or
accidental electrical shock, because the third prong is totally unheard of. And
there doesn't seem to be any Japanese version of the Underwriter's Laboratory, the
company that certifies appliances safe in the US.
The closest we found was a surge protector power strip, and this had to be one of
the more strange pieces of equipment I had seen, a normal looking surge protector with
five or six three pronged outlets in the face of it, with a short cord, but on the
end of the cord is a two prong plug. It just screamed "electrical hazard".
We headed back to Mr. Yoshiyuki's house after dinner, and were met there by Mr. Kenji
Tsuzuki, who had been nice enough to relieve me of lugging my second suitcase to and
from Hiroshima, and was nice enough to keep it for me while I was gone.
I had a few minutes to visit with the Yoshiyuki children whom I had not seen in four
years, and the biggest shock was that Mr. Yoshiyuki's son had grown from a sub four
foot tall 12 year old in 2002 to be over six foot tall at age 16, taller than I am.
He is a car nut too, and both he and his father are fans of hard rock and heavy metal
music. Mr. Yoshiyuki's daughter had grown from a grade schooler to a pre-teen and she
loves to read manga comic books. I will comment that during my gift search before leaving,
I discovered that it is extremely difficult to find manga books meant for pre-teens
that isn't the strange American otaku stuff in an American book store. It was
surprising how much they had grown in the last four years.
I had only a few minutes to admire Mr. Yoshiyuki's personal glass display case filled with
Isuzu and car memorabilia. I'm pretty sure his collection has every Choro-Q Isuzu
in every color. Plenty of diecast models too.
Mr. Tsuzuki explained that we had to get going, and we were quickly on our way to
Mr. Tsuzuki said we didn't have much time to visit as we arrived at his house.
This was a flashback of the last time that I had been to Mr. Tsuzuki's house,
a rush to visit for a few minutes and a mad dash to the Aiichi Health Center hotel
because their check in time closes a little too early to match our schedules. But the
place is nice, clean, and most of all extremely inexpensive.
I greeted Mrs. Tsuzuki and his son, and we sat down to a table that Mrs. Tsuzuki had
set with snacks and a small meal. Was this the fifth or sixth meal of the day? I had
lost track and I was just nibbling on a few crackers, trying to be polite.
We hurriedly exchanged gifts and Mr. Tsuzuki took a picture with his camera and tripod,
and I didn't even have a chance to get my camera out before we were rushing out the
door and to drop me off at the hotel.
As I had mentioned,
Aiichi Health Plaza sounds like an odd name for a hotel.
But the rooms are noticeably larger than the typical Japanese economy or business class hotel,
there is actually space for a little table and chair in the room.
The bathroom is still small, with the typical step up into a little nicer prefabricated
bathroom unit, and as always, the "power" toilet.