Osaka Auto Messe: Opening Up Japan’s Automotive Culture

Osaka Auto Messe (OAM), is one of the bigger automotive events held in Japan. You can think of it as Tokyo Auto Salon’s (TAS) little brother if you like. We’d hoped to go to an event like this for years. This was our reason for moving to Japan, to be indulged in Japanese car culture. Although it’s not always so easy to do that when you live 3 hours outside of Osaka. However, we did it! This weekend would be the sensory overload that we were hoping for ever since moving to Japan.

It was a nice 4.5-hour drive to Osaka, through a snowstorm and toll gates equalling around $50USD one way, but we got there around about 9pm on Friday night ready for OAM on Saturday. I had seen photos from TAS online as it was held a few months before, meaning I had a slight idea of what may be present at OAM. It was a good day, let me start off with that. Cars, Food, Girls, and weird and wacky Japanese things that make Japan so… Well, Japan.

As we walked through the entrance point we were met by four absolutely beautiful cars. The booth spot was rented by the “Autobacs Super GT 2017 Series” team, advertising their new season which hit the grounds of Okayama International Circuit on the 8th and 9th of April for the first round of the new season. The first round was labelled as a 300km race, not a bad title to start off a fresh season of epicness and glory.

The cars in question had travelled down a different path than their factory released brothers and sisters. These cars had spent all their wages at the local plastic surgeon, to get the latest in aerodynamic goodness. Our hopes were high, we’d already seen one booth during the first five minutes through the entrance gates, what would the rest of OAM hold for us?

I’ll tell you now, it wasn’t what we were expecting. To be honest though, we didn’t really know what to expect, being our first rodeo and all. Six halls if my memory isn’t mistaken, all filled with different groups of styles from multiple companies showing off their modified Toyota Hiace vans, to off-the-chart bosozoku inspired kei car builds. It was all there, everything we’d seen on the internet before hand, was now within fingers reach, what a feeling.

The trends were obvious, each hall was loosely focused on a certain genre, be it modified sedans, the latest trends, new wheels, automotive booths, or food stalls. There was everything!

Our main observation of the day was the amount of promotion staff at the show. Most booths looked to have hired women to wear very little clothing to bring the punters to their stalls. Those booths sure had their marketing sorted, because every time I found a large group of onlookers, it wasn’t for an amazing car. It was usually a group of Japanese men photographing the promo models.

This was actually good for us. The event was so busy, compared to one from NZ, you would think shooting in such a crowded space would prove to be difficult. It wasn’t though. With all the people only going after their beloved promo models, it left the actual stars of the show somewhat alone.

Walking around the many halls made our eyes overload. It was like a memory game, trying to look everywhere, but not knowing really where to look. Everything was feature worthy, some cars or rather works of art, like this one, were on a totally different level than its neighbouring show partners. The amount of hours that have been poured into this would probably satiate my BK addiction for a good few years.

I think most foreigners would consider Japan lucky in the sense that they can modify their cars however they like and not get much heat from the police. This is one prime example of just that. Painting your car to look just like a police car is okay(ish) as long as the text for police isn’t written on the side of the car. I sure wouldn’t mind rolling around in a police car, doing high speed pulls on the C1-loop and what-have-you.

The amount of VIP sedans present was quite a shock. We knew the style was booming in Japan, but wasn’t expecting it to be exploding at the seams. Wandering through the stalls we managed to find the guys at Junction Produce. An older man came up to us, in his dark as night black suit (with cap), sparking up a conversation, then proceeding to do his salesman pitch. Their stall gave you a real yakuza-like feeling. Would recommend.

A car I wasn’t expecting to see was this Ferrari F40 – it reminded me of my childhood. Getting home from school, swinging the door to my room open, to find the miniature F40 still sitting pretty on top of my Playstation One. Those were the days, and although they may be in the past, I don’t think you’ll ever find the F40 to be ‘just’ a memory.

The sheer presence of promo women at this show was astounding, everywhere you look: women. However, women that were actually there to have “professional” photographers take photos of them for any reason other than going in ‘that’ folder were far and few. When the right girl was was found, the amount of Japanese men and “Photographers” surrounding her was insane. This photo was shot through a person’s arm, past a neck, and behind a sign while leaning over a rope. That’s how many people were crowded here.

A popular stall of the day seemed to be the 326power box. With two epic cars on display, why wouldn’t you come see them? I suppose it helped that they were right next to the entrance as well. One day I wouldn’t mind a set of their adjustable suspension, I want to see what it feels like scraping my chassis on leafs.

N-Style’s Naoki Nakamura had his brand new S15 on display in front of the Origin Labo booth. The parts list on this car would make any person’s mouth water. One day we will hopefully be able to see it in action and create a spotlight or even a full feature of the car.

Recently, this front end conversion on a 911 has become increasingly popular. Created by Old & New in Hiroshima, they have swapped the original front end of the 911 and replaced it with the older 935. Creating this bizarre, yet somewhat oddly satisfying, Porsche.

While walking around the halls, we started to notice that being a promo woman in Japan was a tough job, to say the least. So to make a difference, we asked this lovely lady to pull the funniest face she could, hoping it would brighten up her day, at least a little bit. This was the end result, not a funny face, but an impossibly cheerful face! Maybe she was enjoying herself.

Another new-ish trend that we spotted at OAM was the absence of the rear part of the front guards. It’s just completely gone, like the modifier cut the end of the guard off and said “Alright, I’ll call it a day”, releasing the product to the marketplace as is.

I’m much more a fan of this styling on the front fenders. It hasn’t been cut, but it’s got an over fender that looks like it’s been cut. It still looks like it would have functionality also, the wheels are covered, and it would let heat escape without exposing the inside metal of the car.

We’d actually seen this car the year before at Tokyo’s Stance Nation meeting. We thought to ourselves then, if this is static, how the hell would it get anywhere? Sitting at the same height today makes me think that it is static, and this is how it gets driven around when it isn’t relaxing on the green carpet under brightly lit lights.

One of our friends we were staying with introduced us to Tomomi Fukujyuu. As my Japanese was still sub par, not much was exchanged apart from the usual ‘Hello, how do you do’ scenario. I think it’s good practice to talk to promo models, even if you don’t know them, as it takes away the thinking that they are just something to look at. While at a show like this they probably are just something to look at, but it’s also not the best way to preserve these women.

D.A.D – If you don’t know about this company, you’re seriously missing out. In the corner of the BLING BLING hall, you could find two Mercedes 100% covered in BLING. Nobody in their right mind would want to be seen dead in one of those BLING-mobiles, right? D.A.D has anything and everything for making your car that little bit special, and stand out just a little bit too much.

Bang… BANG… BOOM. We turn our heads to see nothing. Bang… BANG… BOOM. There it was again. After a good few minutes trying to figure out where that sound was coming from, we found the culprit. It was the air-suspension set-up hidden in this yellow Toyota Celsior. That wasn’t the only thing we were surprised about. Our eyes couldn’t leave the rear end. A maze of exhaust tubing was hanging out of the ass, with welding so smooth you could eat off it.

If you want to talk crazy though, you’re at the right photo. A new automotive craze, or a craze that has just been caught by the media’s eye is what you see here. Usually in silver or gold, cars like this are designed all by hand. Hundreds if not thousands of hours get poured into cars like this. We would definitely call this stepping outside of the box.

That’s what the Japanese people just love to do though, step outside the box and break those boundaries. The Bosozoku area of one of the halls made for a good laugh. I had been through here twice with about a 3-hour gap between, these champs though were still in their costume posing for the cameras. Obviously looking badass while doing it, don’t you think?

Do you think that sometimes, maybe you just shouldn’t step outside of the box? That there is a box for a reason and stepping out of it isn’t the best idea? This transformer sure fit in that category. It’s not something that we would want to drive around the streets of Japan. If the owner likes it though, who are we to moan? That’s the main point, right?

Another style that seems just a tad over the top. RICE. These modifications are for the sole purpose of changing the look and nothing else. There is a market for this kind of bosozoku style, that’s why people produce such a thing. I do have to say though, although it’s out of the box, the amount of effort gone into creating it gains our respect.

This is more our style: clean. Nothing over the top, and definitely no spoilers that are one metre long. Just a nice and simple slammed four door sedan. Easily our favourite VIP style cars from the event, but unless it’s ground scraping on air-suspension, we’ll give it a pass for sitting in our garage.

Obviously, we have to finish the event with another promo woman. The one that created the biggest crowd of them all. I turn my head to see a wall of men. I kid you not. A wall of men shooting all sorts of bright lights at this lady. It was a great insight to see just how Japanese events work, and how they compare to events like this in New Zealand. We are a fan, and we’ll be heading to more soon.

After reading Speedhunters for so long, it was mandatory to walk through the carpark on the way home as this is where the true car gems can be found. The car gods had given to us a super tidy panda Trueno just sitting there, all by itself.

Right beside our car, was non-other than Yama Channel’s S15. It’s a car I would love to own in the future, and probably why an S15 may be next on the shopping list. Bolt on parts galore makes for a reliable daily driver and weekend cruiser that snaps necks on the daily.

What a weekend it was, OAM, our Kanto Club meeting, plus Friday and Saturday night visiting various different parking areas, gawking at enough metal to fill up your porn folder. If you’re ever in Osaka, feel free to message us and we will be sure to advise you on what to do the best we can. Stay tuned, because next, we head to Tokyo to see what 1000 anime painted cars look like!

Grab some Ambition Work’s stickers from our shop!

Photos: Shaun Constable | Words: Shaun Constable | Proofer: Chadd Davis

© Ambition Works 2013 – 2017

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