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2023 Tokyo Auto Salon Welcomes Back Overseas Visitors With A Blockbuster Show
BY Sam Du //
January 24, 2023
@duspeed
  • Tokyo Auto Salon is Japan’s largest aftermarket automotive car show and product showcase held annually at Makuhari Messe International Convention Complex.
  • Established in 1983, Tokyo Auto Salon is one of the most anticipated events of the year for Japanese car fans from around the world to attend.
  • 2023 marked the first Tokyo Auto Salon following Japan’s stringent COVID restrictions. This allowed for an influx of foreign media and tourists to attend.
  • Tokyo Auto Salon 2023 by the numbers: 341 exhibitors, 789 display vehicles, and 179,434 attendees across three days.

FEELS GOOD TO BE BACK

 I attended my first Tokyo Auto Salon in 2012; however, I’ve been reading about TAS and following coverage since high school flipping through magazines like Super Street, Import Tuner, and Turbo. In a nutshell, Tokyo Auto Salon is a three-day mega convention that embodies everything cool about the Japanese car scene. It’s where you’ll get a chance to check out all your favorite JDM tuners: HKS, Mugen, Top Secret, Blitz, Trust/GReddy, and RE Amemiya. You’ll also experience a bit of culture shock from seeing all the rad vehicles that we don’t get here in the States — kei trucks, VIP vans, and Super GT race cars, just to name a few. Because it’s open to the public, you won’t find an automotive event more flooded with people. This year nearly reached 180k attendees, which is slow for Auto Salon but still massive compared to events back home. So many people go because there’s simply no event quite like this in the world that celebrates the Japanese tuning scene. It is, without question, one of my favorite events of the year — not just as a journalist — but as a genuine car enthusiast. I haven’t been able to go since 2020 due to strict COVID regulations, but last October, Japan finally lifted travel bans for foreign visitors with proof of vaccination or a negative test. My prayers were answered, and it was time for my return to TAS.

There’s just way too much to see at Tokyo Auto Salon that it honestly takes practically three days of walking the show to catch every booth and build. I’ve put together a short list of some of the more interesting things I saw that might not have been blasted all over your social media feed.

CARBON FIBER HAKOS

There’s no car that says Japan quite like a Hakosuka. The white example here is an authentic GT-R that’s slammed on RS Watanabe wheels and features carbon fiber doors, hood, and trunk. As for the other two vehicles, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. They both wear two complete carbon fiber body replacements!

RS WATANABE BOOTH

Racing Service Watanabe, better known as RS Watanabe, was one of the more surprising exhibitors. It displayed a couple of new wheels: the company’s Forging R design and its classic 8-spoke wheel in 19-inch, which is intended for the new Nissan Z. The black Datsun 510 belongs to a singer in a popular Japanese music group called the Crazy Ken Band.

4-ROTOR SLEEPER

This FC RX-7 from Anniversary Racing Factory is quite the sleeper. On the outside, it’s fairly basic with ADVAN AVS Model 6 wheels. But under the hood is a 26B 4-rotor with nitrous! In my opinion, it’s one of the coolest and most underrated builds of the show.

ROTARY-POWERED, WIDEBODY CHANTEZ

I tend to gravitate towards quirky builds, and this Mazda Chantez by Yutaka Komaba was undoubtedly the quirkiest. The fenders are so wide and silly that it’s hard not to crack a smile looking at this ridiculous thing. I have to give it props, though, as the kei car is powered by a turbocharged 13B rotary.

JAW-DROPPING FD3S

FD RX-7s never get old, and these two were breaking necks all weekend. The first is from a body shop called Looking; it sits just right and shines stunningly bright with its candy red paint. The black build with Coke Zero livery is one of Liberty Walk’s latest creations that wears a widebody conversion inspired by the Porsche 935.

VARIS EVO WAGON

The VARIS Solid & Joker 2006 Lancer Evolution IX wagon is a beauty in person. Wrapped in a British Racing Green-like vinyl, the widebody conversion and carbon aero pieces flow very nicely together. I’m also loving the Alcantara interior with reupholstered Recaro SR-3 seats, 18×10.5-inch Volk Racing 21A wheels, and one-off roll cage. Builds like this make me wish I had a wagon project!

TARZAN’S TIME ATTACK RWB

Akira Nakai originally built this RWB Porsche 930 in 2001. Now, it’s a time attack car driven by the famous Tarzan Yamada. The powertrain is a twin-turbo 993 GT2 3.8-liter engine with six-speed sequential transmission and paddle shifters.

FERRARI STANCE

A very popular trend in Japan is taking aged and new Italian sports cars, then slamming them on wheels. The 328 GTS from Str8autoworks and 488 GTB from Moontech are both bagged and rock five-spoke Neutrale SCD forged wheels.

KEN GUSHI’S IS500 FOR FD JAPAN

Introducing Ken Gushi’s competition drift car for the 2023 Formula DRIFT Japan season. Built by Kazama Auto, the IS500 F Sport Performance ditches the 5.0-liter V8 for the tried ‘n true 2JZ-GTE with a big Garrett turbo.

GARAGE ACTIVE NARDO GRAY R33

Dai Yoshihara tells me the Garage Active kit is the best-looking widebody conversion for the R33 Skyline GT-R. I’d have to agree, especially when it’s painted Nardo Gray! Always a pleasure to hang out with Garage Active boss Kazushige Sakamoto.

STAY TUNED

There’s so much more to come from TAS 2023 — I’ll be writing separate articles highlighting the plethora of Nissan Z builds, HKS’s 50th anniversary, and the latest GR Corolla goodies — so be sure to stay tuned and follow us!


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