Find yourself in Japan enough times and you'll begin to clearly see the differences between the capital city and its second most popular destination: Osaka.
You get what you expect out of the Japanese people up in Tokyo: smiles all around, great customer service, and generally prim and proper behavior. The Kansai region, on the other hand, has a rather infamous reputation amongst the Japanese: they somewhat consider the region as their version of the wild west.
While the negative connotation is somewhat evident, we see Kansai as the more uninhibited representation of Japan. They're more liberated here as people choose to express themselves more freely.
Boy, oh boy, does this reflect in the cars they build and drive.
Our trip to this year’s Osaka Automesse was met with a refreshing view on what the Kansai region has to offer as far as automotive styling and building goes. If you know what you’re looking at, you will see stark differences to this particular show versus the more popular Tokyo Auto Salon (TAS) held last month.
For starters, people who’ve gone to both shows will tell you that the Automesse has a generally more laid back atmosphere – less crowd density, easier access from city center, and (for us content creators at least) it’s so much more convenient to take photos and videos of vehicles we want to feature.
Folks at the Automesse are very much approachable as well. Provided you know a little bit of Nihongo, queries about vehicles to the shopkeepers will be met with enthusiasm and willingness to show more details. Believe me, I’ve bugged a few shops about the latest parts for the new Suzuki Jimny, and there were plenty of new parts around.
The cars themselves are a different conversation altogether. You see, whilst TAS will show you all that’s new with the big name shops, the Automesse will show you something that’s closer to what you will see on Osaka’s streets. This is because there are a fair number of privateer entries to this show as well. From what we can tell, Kansai has a huge affinity for VIP styled vehicles.
‘Bippu’ or VIP is a genre where you start with a typical luxury land yacht (I.E. Lexus LS, Nissan Gloria/Cima, etc.) and upgrade all its creature comforts as well as its aesthetics. Quilted leather interiors, fancy cupholders, low stance, and properly expensive deep-dished wheels are the norm for these kinds of vehicles – and Automesse had a whole hall full of them.
Some of the VIP cars that really stood out from the rest included a bagged Rolls-Royce Wraith, a slammed Lexus RC350 F-Sport on the new SSR Formula Aero Spoke wheels, and the T-Demand Lexus LC500.
Interestingly, the Toyota Super Grandia (or GranAce as they call it in Japan), was also a popular choice for getting the VIP treatment at the show too. The relatively new upscale Hiace model can be seen wearing aftermarket kits from various brands, slammed on large wheels and even fitted with big brake kits. Still, the usual Alphard and Vellfire VIP styled vans were still the most popular choice in this part of town.
A quick search on what Osaka car culture will have to offer will point you towards the infamous Kanjozoku or loop runners. These daredevils run liveried Honda Civics across Osaka’s main highway loop and treat it as their circuit at night. Such is the infamy of these cars and their styling that there was an evident representation of the Hondas we’ve come to love. While these Civics are diminutive in horsepower and overall stats vs newer, more contemporary cars, the Kanjozoku has taken pride in truly pushing the envelope with these cars – and it doesn’t look like they’ll be stopping anytime soon.
There are two main Civic factions on display at the show – No Good Racing and Temple Racing. The first is more prominently known as loop runners as they still continue to do so today. In fact, there’s a good chance you’ve come across them on Facebook, Instagram or even YouTube videos. They’re also known for having the big Mickey Mouse hand logo and the signature saying “Bye Bye Police”. This year, it was interesting to note that Carlos Ghosn was their mascot for not so obvious reasons.
As for Temple Racing, they’re responsible for the really wild time attack EG6 Civic in the main photo above. It’s joined by a tamer EG6 with riddled with Loop Angel stickers to make a cohesive livery. Interestingly, they seem to be mostly focused on circuit racing and competing at the Attack Tsukuba series as of late.
There is no arguing that Keiichi Tsuchiya is an undisputed racing legend across Japan and to JDM fans the world over. You can only imagine our surprise when we were treated to seeing his very own AE86 in person in all its green-kevlar hooded glory.
The display was a part of 86 Magazine’s booth where they showcased Tsuchiya’s new black Toyota 86 as well as the MF Ghost 86 that was built to emulate the Initial D successor’s star car.
A really special treat to see at the Osaka Automesse were the hypercars. It's not every day you get to see a McLaren Senna in the flesh or even get up close with a Ferrari LaFerrari Aperta. Cars like these don't see light all that often.
Tokyo Auto Salon feels like reading a catalog whereas the vibe of Osaka Automesse can be likened to reading a lifestyle magazine. The former will show you all the new parts and tricks of the aftermarket, but the latter will go so far as to evidently show you the people and what they actually do with their cars. If you find yourself in the Kansai region around mid-February every year, the Osaka Automesse is definitely something you won’t wanna miss.