To say that our arrival in Japan was overwhelming is an understatement. The Land Cruiser community’s welcome blew us away. While we were in Japan recently, that was just for the day to renew our Korean visa (read about it here). Now we’re in Japan to stay for, we hope, many months.
The story as to how we got here is too long to detail in this blog post, but it comes down to the power of the Internet and, in this case, Facebook. One introduction led to other introductions, thanks to Duncan Margetts, Sean Rigby, Takatori Takechika, and Masa. Coen’s message about the hole in one of the engine’s freeze plugs led to more contacts.
All this came together in a message from Mr. Nakashima, a 40-series aficionado and owner of the Friendee Land Cruiser workshop on the island of Kyushu. He had two exciting things to share with us:
- I have 21mm freeze plugs for your Land Cruiser.
- We have a Land Cruisers get-together on Nov 5 & 6. Please join us.
The message included a photo of Toyota Trail’s cover which features our Land Cruiser (find the magazine here).
Kunchi Festival in Karatsu
We took the ferry from Busan (South Korea) and arrived in Japan (port of Fukuoka) on November 4. This gave us just enough time to see the last parade of the three-day Kunchi Festival in Karatsu on Friday afternoon. It was a perfect way to fall right into one of Japan’s traditional celebrations.
The island of Kyushu is quite mountainous, we learned the next day. We needed a large part of the day to meander through beautiful, forested mountain hills to cover the 150 kilometers to a camping area near Mount Aso. Here we fell right into a part of Japan’s modern culture: Toyota Land Cruisers.
The 19th Land Cruiser’s Festa
Some hundred Land Cruisers stood spread out over the terrain in clusters: The bad-ass, highly modified, tough-looking vehicles equipped for serious rock crawling, the brand-new, shiny Land Cruisers, and the bright-colored, classic 40-series to which our Land Cruiser belongs.
The Land Cruiser was immediately admired and would continue to do so throughout the weekend, and Mr. Nakashima walked up to Coen right away with two new freeze plugs – Thanks!
As it happens during events like this, we all admired each others’ cars and took the vehicles for a spin in the forest. We finished the weekend with a fun competition: which vehicle could make the fastest loop while being pushed by five persons.
A Bath, Food, Language, & Signatures
Besides seeing the Land Cruiser’s family, we were introduced to the Japanese onsen (a hot-bath) in a lovely, secluded wooden cabin. Scrubbed clean we joined the crowd in a big teepee where Mr. Nakashima and his wife had organized dinner: a hot-pot with vegetables, meat, tofu – ingredients that were added as the evening progressed.
Few people spoke English, and while hands & feet language do work, here’s a big thanks to Eisuke for all the translating throughout the weekend!
All in all we had a blast. We felt at home, felt welcome, and without doubt if cars can have feelings, so did the Land Cruiser. We felt somewhat odd with the celebrity status though, to say the least. Many asked us to sign not only their Toyota Trail’s cover featuring our Land Cruiser but their vehicles as well!
Thank you, Land Cruiser friends for sharing your reunion with us. We hope to meet many of you again in the months to come!