Glistening metropolises of neon lights, tropical beaches to the south, breathtaking snow-capped mountains to the north, with countless adventures and experiences to undertake in between; there are endless ways to discover Japan!
Well that’s how the average travel brochure depicts this amazing country that boasts a population that exceeds 126 million people, with around 13 million living in Tokyo alone. That’s over half of Australia’s entire population dwelling in the country’s capital city. With numbers like that it’s easy to presume crime of the highest level and unfathomable pollution but on the contrary, it’s one of the cleanest and most cordial countries I have ever had the pleasure of visiting.
The combination of historic and modern beauty makes Japan the ideal vacation destination for most travellers year round, but for the past 28 years gearheads like myself gravitate to the land of the rising sun in December for one reason; the Mooneyes Hot Rod and Custom Show in Yokohama.
A personal invite by Mooneyes owner, Shige Suganuma combined with good mate, Ben Forster becoming an unprecedented second time entrant at one of the world’s most acclaimed custom automotive indoor shows was too hard to pass up. With camera and gear outweighing clothes once again, I was soon jetting my way across the pacific for an unforgettable week of cool cars, crazy cycles, beers and best friends from around the globe, all gathering for a one day show.
My second visit to the home of Pikachu, sushi and Mt Fuji, I had some idea of what to expect and I wasn’t disappointed. The sensational cuisine, breathtaking scenery, unpredictable eccentricity and humble hospitality already have me making plans to return.
Organising this monumental automotive spectacle of Kulture with an Asian twist, is Shige and dedicated Moon-crew that continually impress with their tireless effort to produce the best possible experience for all who attend. In between orchestrating international guests, overseeing the elaborate floor plan with 100s of moving vehicles and playing host at Mooneyes HQ, I spent some quality time with the main man of the moment for his take on the past, present and future of the monster that he created.
Q. Twenty eight years for any event is a major achievement; what inspired the very first show and how has it evolved over almost three decades?
In 1991 I had an outside show called “4th Annual MOONEYES Street Car Nationals”. It was heavy rain. I don’t want to bother my show by weather so I decided to have an indoor show. Well time flies for 28 years… I’m just doing what I want to do.
Q. The Minato Mirai Pacifica Yokohama Exhibition Hall is an amazing venue; has this been the home for the show from the beginning or were there other locations in the past?
When I started 1st Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show (HCS) in 1991, it was 1st year for Pacifica too.
Q. What is the number of entrants for this year and has the quantity of vehicles and vendors grown over the years?
Spectators is 19,000, car is 320, bike is 650 and vendors are 350. If we have more space, we will be able to grow more. But the space is limited.
Q. I imagine the process of selecting vehicles is lengthy; how does a regular entrant attain acceptance as a participant in one of the world’s largest indoor custom car and bike show?
We select car and bike. Entrants must submit picture of car and bike with their application form.
Q. A major highlight and crowd favourite has become the ‘drive in’ element of the show with VIP guests entering the building to an applauding crowd. When did this much anticipated component of the show begin?
I’m not sure but it was about in 1998 or something, when Ed Big Daddy Roth was guest.
Q. This year Beau Boeckmann drove the recently restored ‘Bathtub’ show rod into the building assisted by the man responsible for its resurrection Dave Shuten. You remarked to me that this was the most nervous you had been during a drive in.
I’m kinda worry about driving such a car as it is very tricky and Dave finished the car only a couple days before loading into container. No practice for Beau!
Q. Viewing the event in its entirety from the pre-party to the after-party at Mooneyes HQ, the scale of the combined activities is enormous. How many people work on achieving this astounding accomplishment?
My Staff is about 40 and volunteers is about 100 during the show, but Pre-Party and After Party is about 20~30… not many. You might see the aged volunteers during the show; they are all my friends and same age, around 64. They’ve been helping my show since 1987.
Q. Next year Japan will be hosting the Olympic Games 2020; do you think this global event will have any effect on the 29th show?
Well my show is after the Olympics, it will be OK… I hope.
Q. Keep calm and stay cool, ‘Shi Zu Kani’ is a campaign that was initiated for longevity of the event, adding mufflers to the overzealous participants leaving the show. After six years since its inception, is the request being respected and how is the relationship with the venue for the future?
Well, we must keep doing as long as we have a show at that venue. Venue is not the problem…. neighbours complain a lot of things to the venue.
Q. In just two years the show will reach the milestone of 30 years, just as Wildman celebrated at this event. Do you have any ideas for the anniversary that you can share with us now?
No idea for 30th yet because I don’t have nothing for 29th either. I’m like a kid… I don’t do nothing until last minutes! People come from all over the world to the HCS. Meet together, have fun together Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Then, they spread to their own schedule. It’s not just show… it’s a reunion!