January 11-13, 2013
Makuhari Messe International Exhibition Hall
280,000 people, 800 cars, four days, 12 hours of sleep, one M6 convertible, 73 cans of Red Bull, and 3,000 shots later, the curtain, mercifully, fell on the 2013 Tokyo Auto Salon.
As with any Tokyo Auto Salon, it’s sensory overload from the minute you get in to the minute you leave. This year we had a ton of spectacles to witness inside and outside the Makuhari Messe in Chiba and an indication of how much bigger 2013 was, was in the opening of the North hall, which has remained empty for many years previously.
It was literally the “Attack of the Toyota Eighty-Sixes” this year with an unprecedented 91 individual builds of the car present in virtually every corner of the four gigantic halls. Everywhere you turned, you were bound to bump into one; and after four straight days at the show, I was actually starting to get a little tired of seeing them. Some of the builds were simply astounding, some simply awful. Japanese tuning is like that though. It tends to polarize people; you either love what the tuners build or you simply scratch your head and ask yourself what the hell you’re supposed to be looking at? It’s a quirky, idiosyncratic and sometimes questionable tuning style, but is always a huge load of fun to take in.
Thanks to Abflug and Pentroof, I had backstage access for the Thursday set-up day and some of the shots you see here are from that day, so please don’t mind the “mess” at the Messe. When I left, it was 9 P.M. and I thought there was absolutely no chance the halls could be cleaned overnight for the Friday opening, but sure enough, in true Japanese style, it was absolutely spotless the following day.
Friday brought with it all the industry insiders, big-wigs and the press, but for some strange reason, the TAS organizers only gave us four hours alone with the cars – that’s nowhere near enough time to cover a single hall, let alone four of them! By 1 P.M., the freaks had arrived in droves on special advance tickets and there was only one thing on their minds; the girls. I am constantly blown away by how intense their fascination with the TAS girls is and sure enough, at some booths, the mosh pit was five deep with a sea of camera and cell phone wielding “otaku.” Getting photos during this time is difficult to say the least but, with a flash of the press card, in I go to have some quiet time with the girls uninterrupted. You can’t imagine how it feels to have hundreds of cold stares boring holes into your back while you’re trying to take your shots! Some say over 70% of the people that go to TAS do so for the girls. I don’t doubt that at all.
The TAS is really the best way to kick off the year for automotive fanatics and there were lots of interesting new products being developed by the biggest names in the game. Despite there being an absolute overload of Hachi Rokus at the show, it was clear the Japanese are absolutely in love with the platform and are innovating at a superior level and pace. This is a good sign for the industry and all its followers, but one has to ask the question: “What the hell is wrong with you, Nissan?” You’re wondering why I say that, but there is still no S16 Silvia to speak of and the show needs it; the industry needs it, the 86 and BRZ need it. I think Nissan has dropped the ball big time and the success of the Toyota 86 and BRZ at this year’s TAS is damning proof.
Despite extreme sleep deprivation, I had an absolute blast shooting my brains out. I left the show, however, puzzled about one very important thing. A lot of people are concerned about the future of the Japanese tuning industry and their concerns are valid. When the day comes for some of the tuning legends to move on, who will be there to step in and take their places? There to grab the torch and run with it? The worrying thing is that there doesn’t appear to be many people following in the footsteps of these giants and that’s not a very good sign at all. I suppose they are, after all, very big shoes to fill.