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The Week I Drove A Honda S800M By way of Japan

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Introduction

Why can’t plans go our method?

I’m critical. This from somebody who does much less precise planning and extra normal path pointing, however nonetheless! We as automotive fanatics have a plan of journey throughout a street journey; a imaginative and prescient if you’ll of how we see an epic journey unfolding. We regularly wait months, typically placing in lengthy hours of wrench time and spending more cash than deliberate, however isn’t all of it justified ultimately?

I’m a US navy member who has lived in Okinawa, Japan since early 2020. Over a 12 months in the past, I bought a 1969 Honda S800M that was as soon as owned by long-time Japanese Nostalgic Automotive contributor Skorj. This was after a two years of digital correspondence between myself, Skorj, an S Automotive Honda Membership mechanic, and the automotive’s then proprietor/collector. You possibly can learn extra about all that in The Day I Purchased A S800M.

Now, again to my newest chapter on this story…

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Let me paint the image: I deliberate an epic 10-day street journey with my brother who was going to fly in to Japan from the US to hitch me. We’re speaking a generational pilgrimage-type street journey right here; stops in any respect the meccas of Japanese automotive heritage areas and bucket checklist websites. Honda’s god-status tuners Spoon/Kind One and Mugen? Sure please! Nismo and RWB? After all! Daikoku Parking Space for iconic automotive meets? You betcha!

Then, for our journey south, we deliberate in a single day stays in Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Fukuoka and Kumamoto. We’d keep away from expressways the place doable and search out conventional touge routes by means of the mountains for the complete JDM fanboy expertise.

This might all be performed within the traditional Honda icon I had simply bought. True childhood dream come true stuff. However alas, it was not meant to be.

It may need been a bit too bold actually, particularly throughout an period of ongoing pandemic journey restrictions. On the time, I figured Japan would quickly open again as much as tourism and every part could be again to regular, effectively earlier than our chosen begin date, which in fact got here and went. Life has a humorous humorousness and historical past is 20/20 as a result of I used to be method off.

The time ultimately got here once I may now not maintain off on the journey hoping for ultimate situations. The automotive needed to transfer earlier than April after spending longer than deliberate within the care of a beneficiant buddy with an additional parking house. These have been the playing cards I used to be dealt, so I needed to make one of the best of it.

As a substitute of a shared Japanese street journey between two American brothers residing their greatest lives, I give you a comfort prize of a four-day dash from Tokyo to Okinawa. One filled with lengthy hours on the expressway, frequent stops to native comfort shops for fast meals, changing into a primary time open ocean car ferry passenger, and hoping my 50-plus-year-old Honda didn’t go away me stranded in a rustic that I don’t communicate the native language.

Day 1

I arrived in Yokohama by way of airplane and prepare on an early March morning. My household and I had spent Christmas in Tokyo just some months prior, so I used to be feeling assured in my giant metropolis public transportation navigation expertise. I solely acquired misplaced as soon as…

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Like a person on a mission, I walked as much as a well-known workshop and pleasant grasp mechanic that had been taking good care of my little Honda whereas I lived greater than 1,000 miles away. We exchanged greetings and I thanked him for the kindness he had proven me. His brother, who additionally dabbles in traditional Shōwa-era automobiles, was on the town and collectively the pair did a remaining mechanical test of the Honda earlier than serving to me pack it with all of the spare components I had acquired throughout the previous 12 months and a half.

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In typical Japanese politeness, they escorted me to the closest kōsoku-dōro (expressway) entrance to see me off on the beginning of my solo street journey.

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I had numerous miles to cowl till my first in a single day cease and solely half a day to do it. With a room booked in Kyoto for the evening, it might be one other seven hours earlier than I may relaxation up. Like most individuals, I desire to make lengthy drives in daylight if I’m unfamiliar with the route. It was one much less factor to fret about amongst different variables that might make this complete journey go south. I made a decision to push the little Honda to get forward of the clock, and it didn’t disappoint.

Initially constructed as a high-revving sports activities automotive with European inspiration, the early Honda S-cars usually are not actually designed for sustained fashionable freeway speeds. Fortunately my automotive is a later S800 Coupe mannequin that traded 1,000rpm from the rev restrict (now solely 9,000rpm as a substitute of 10,000rpm, the horror!) for extra usable torque, just a few creature comforts like an environment friendly heating system and extra reliability. After all, my automotive had additionally simply obtained a mechanical refresh of all the engine and drivetrain with just a few bits thrown in to bump up the unique energy output quantity and improve reliability throughout the board.

To my aid, cruising at 70mph (112km/h) proved no hassle in any respect, if not a bit buzzy with the 4-speed transmission. There was ample energy to encourage confidence and the coupe design makes the cabin really feel extra like the within of a miniature Jaguar E-Kind when it comes to perceived house. I felt like I used to be a street rally driver of the previous as I soaked up the miles to Kyoto.

Day 2

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Kyoto for a foreigner is sort of a ‘pinch me’ second, and I wakened early to try to do some sightseeing earlier than I hit the street. Though the unique journey plan was a bust, I didn’t wish to miss a possibility that may not current itself once more.

Strolling the streets you may have solely seen on Instagram is a bit surreal. Colourful temples on the finish of winding alleyways, cherry blossoms lining streets and framing wood constructing – Kyoto actually made me really feel fortunate to be residing in Japan. As a result of early time there was not a lot foot site visitors, so it was ultimate for taking photos. Nevertheless, the outlets had but to open so I couldn’t seize any souvenirs to take dwelling with me. It’s a good motive to come back again for certain.

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Driving from Kyoto to Fukuoka took probably the most time behind the wheel. It was right here, as I moved away from town to the countryside, that I got here to actually recognize the Japanese roading system. Sure, the tolls have been costly, however I may see precisely the place the cash goes.

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The pavement was superb and I drove over lots of of bridges and thru dozens of mountain tunnel passes that should break the bank to keep up. The roads have been all as clean as glass, freed from trash and particles, well-lit, and enormous relaxation areas have been frequent. Within the US, you level your massive SUV in a path, set the cruise management and take a look at not to go to sleep. This drive was totally different in each method. Fixed sweeping turns and hills to play with and one of the best roadside handy stops on the planet.

As soon as once more, I couldn’t consider {that a} child from Maryland whose first automotive was a 1991 CR-X that acquired totaled (not my fault, I promise) was driving Honda’s first sports activities automotive by means of the Japanese motherland.

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Having arrived in Fukuoka earlier than the solar set this time, I did what any Speedhunter would do – discover the streets on foot from my lodge with a digital camera in tow. Regardless of the wet climate, I discovered some attention-grabbing websites, together with a boutique racing store that had a Nissan Fairlady Z and several other very good European sports activities automobiles inside.

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What do you suppose is below that purple automotive cowl? Most likely a Ferrari, and maybe sporting a Liberty Stroll equipment? That’s simply my guess…

Fukuoka itself has a particular Japanese metropolis feeling that separates it from the extra well-known cities within the north. It isn’t the glittery worldwide vacation spot hotspot of Tokyo, the hipster coastal metropolis of Osaka, or a world-class historic tradition and tourism hub like Kyoto. It doesn’t fake to be any of these factor both, and I can respect that. It’s like a small powerful child that needed to develop up with larger of us on the playground and have become a little bit of a rascal with a chip on its shoulder. It jogged my memory of my little outlaw S800M, holding its personal amongst different JDM legends.

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Day 3

The sample of early morning rising continued on day three and it was nonetheless raining. As we speak was going to be the final drive by means of mainland Japan, my vacation spot being the south port metropolis of Kagoshima to catch a ferry again dwelling. The ship was scheduled to depart early afternoon with a 25-hour sea journey time to Okinawa, stopping at a number of ports alongside the best way.

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As normal, I left with simply sufficient time to make it to the dock. My luck was nonetheless holding out, as a result of simply by probability I checked my GPS at a cease 10 miles from town and noticed that I used to be headed to the incorrect location. The automotive gods will need to have been nonetheless smiling down on me…

Let me go on some recommendation should you ever come to Japan: Don’t be too proud to make use of Google Translate and just about beg the locals to take pity on you should you’re a poor ignorant American. After I arrived on the ferry ticketing workplace, I used to be informed I may solely reserve automotive slots on-line the day prior to departure. I had truly tried to do that just a few occasions, however Japanese monetary institutes and companies don’t all the time work effectively with US banks so the acquisition by no means was capable of undergo. In typical cowboy trend, I figured I’d present up and deal with it once I arrived.

That’s proper, I flew throughout the nation, drove a traditional automotive 900+ miles in a land that I don’t communicate the native language in any respect, praying I didn’t break down someplace with no actual technique to simply get the automotive repaired, on a perception that the ferry firm would promote me a ticket on the day of departure to fulfill my tight timeline. The response from my spouse after I texted her an replace was, “why do you reside your life this manner?”. I should not have a great reply, so transferring on…

That is an instance of me doing normal path pointing relatively than having an precise thought out plan, like I discussed firstly of this story.

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An fast hurdle was that the car maintain was full. Good travellers, who adopted the conventional process, had reserved all of the obtainable spots. I prefer to stay on the sting.

The subsequent ferry was in two days, which might not work with my schedule as I used to be departing on a piece journey as quickly as I acquired again to Okinawa. So I did what any self-respecting man in my place would do, I requested for assist. I defined my state of affairs by way of Google’s robotic voice, utilized to the innate Japanese courtesy I’ve come to extremely admire, and threw myself at their toes for mercy.

The younger man behind the counter saved my butt. Not solely did he persuade his supervisor to promote me a passenger ticket, but additionally introduced a deckhand from the ship to actually measure my automotive within the car parking zone to see if there was room for it. There was! My luck at this level will need to have been legendary.

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Inside half-hour I used to be in line to load the little Honda with the remainder of the automobiles being transported to Okinawa within the ship’s cargo bay. One way or the other, towards all the percentages and with numerous assist, I had reached the ultimate a part of the journey. I used to be grateful, however all I may take into consideration on the time was whether or not or not sea illness could be in my fast future.

Day 4

I used to be not capable of e-book a single particular person passenger room since I used to be just about one step off a stowaway at this level. The passenger maintain lodging have been separate cubby areas with sleep mats in a big open space. Though we had handed by means of some fairly tough water between the mainland and the southern island chains, my heavy tiredness and empty abdomen hold me affordable and principally handed out for many of it.

With calmer waters forward I ventured for a late lunch within the eating space and sat exterior to go the time, starting to course of the previous few days. It had been a whole dash by means of Japan, however one thing I’ll always remember. Adventures like these carry us nearer to our automobiles. The experiences we share bond us to our machines and elevate them past easy, fascinating purchases. It was additionally an important crash course within the S800M’s quirks. I’ve began to determine what it does effectively and what I can enhance on.

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Arriving in Okinawa was straight ahead. I may drive my Honda proper out of the cargo maintain on the path of the deckhands, by means of the port gate after which onto the road. I nonetheless had an hour drive again to my home, so after a fast cease for gasoline I used to be on my method, cruising in acquainted territory.

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Taking the coastal street as a substitute of the expressway offered one other perk of possession I had but to take pleasure in. The slower motion tempo and frequent stops for site visitors lights allowed me to share the automotive with others for the primary time. On extra events than I may depend, the little sports activities automotive drew smiles, seems with pointed fingers and thumbs up from the Japanese locals.

What are my plans now that the S800M is in my possession full time, you may ask? Properly, there may be all the time rust to restore and shield from, particularly on a tropical island within the Pacific. I’ll admit it’s not precisely sensible being a tiny two-seater with no air-conditioning for full-time household duties, so I might be holding my each day beater in the intervening time. I nonetheless intend to take the little Honda with me once I transfer to my subsequent task in 2023.

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Actually, at this level I simply relocated it from one hibernation spot to a different, however we added a reasonably vital chapter to the e-book of possession and that makes this necessary.

So I suppose this brings this a part of the story to an in depth. Certain, it was not the unique street journey I deliberate, nonetheless it was a whirlwind journey nonetheless. One which I’ll cherish and recognize each time I have a look at this little rascal. Daddy’s “toy automotive,” as my children say. Till subsequent time!

Brian McIntyre Ray
Instagram: brianmr87

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