The Local Hero: Cruising Nagoya In Style

Words: Craig Metros & Luke Ray Photography: Luke Ray

Craig: I was worried we would miss some of the cruisers. After a long day of shop visits, interviews, and photoshoots, we still had to check in to our hotel before heading out to the centre of town. We did miss out on our invite to a small but popular burger joint where a few members of the Pharaohs car club gathered for a bite before the cruise. We settled for a fast food establishment, the only place still open. However, we didn’t miss out on the cruising.

It was Saturday night and we were in the heart of Nagoya and it was buzzing. Lowriders, customs, hot rods, muscle cars, modified domestics, and clean classics; all out cruising through the city. Though the shops and businesses had closed for the night, all of the massive advertising screens, monitors, and signs were still lit and running. This helped to light up the cars as they cruised through the shopping district. It was so inspiring to hear and see the wide spectrum of vehicles that were being driven by their proud owners.

Lowriders were bouncing, muscle cars were revving, and the customs were purring by. The muffled bass of rap and hip-hop thumping out of audio systems and random phone camera flashes outside passenger windows was backdropped by brightly lit advertising and modern architecture. This was definitely not the era or the environment where cruising was originated. However, the camaraderie between cruisers and the naive intrigue from the local police was reminiscent of cruising scenes from movies like American Graffiti and Hollywood Knights.

Junichi-san from Paradise Road invited me along in his late ‘40s Chevy lowrider for a couple of laps around the city. Watching cars and chatting to other observers from the curb is fun enough. Being in one of the cruisers was another perspective and definitely the highlight to an already entertaining night in the streets of Nagoya. It was also the perfect ending to our very short stay in Nagoya.

Luke: The Local Hero first hit my radar some years ago when Toshi Shimizu sent through the first TLH photo book through to the Fuel Press office. The Local Hero are a small group of guys based in Nagoya who celebrate the hot rod, custom and lowrider cultures that they love so much. They regularly attend events, cruises and shows happening in and around Nagoya, not to mention their reach with added contributors to their website nationally and from overseas too.

Toshi regularly heads over to California to check out the scene over there, and as a result has a close affiliation with the guys at Deadend Magazine. If you want to know what's happening within these genres in Japan, then the Local Hero Website is a must for your bookmarks list. The guys were all absolutely fantastic with their help during our trip, we really couldn’t have done it without them. I took a few minutes with Toshi to ask him about TLH whilst we were on the Nagoya cruise night that they introduced us to:

Who is involved in TLH, and what roles do you each have?

Myself; Toshi Shimizu, and three other staff; Jun Nagashima, Honda Shinya and Yudai Okuda. The four of us run The Local Hero. Also, we have 12 blog writers; seven in Japan and five abroad.

Which car culture styles and genres are you guys in to?

American style car culture mainly, such as lowrider, hot rod, and custom.

The cruise night that we went to.. That was a fun night. Do you do that every month?

That cruise night is on the 4th Saturday of every month.

Did TLH start the cruise? For how long has it been running?

No we didn’t. The Nagoya cruise night started 25 years ago, and it was originally started by local people who love American cars.

Do you see the same cars coming every time, or is it always different?

Recently, a younger generation gather for the cruise night mainly, but there are a few occasions where people of many different ages get together. You will sometimes only see the same cars and sometimes never before seen cars. It depends.

What is the car scene like in Nagoya? There seems to be a lot going on.

In the Nagoya area, there is the headquarters of Toyota, and the area has been a motor town for a long time. So, there are so many kinds of car shops, and many custom cars and racers exist. There are also motorcycle companies around this area, so I would say the Nagoya area is a core of motor culture.

Have you seen new styles of car customisation happening over recent years? How have things changed in Nagoya?

There are two trends in this custom car scene. One of them is ‘old school’, and the other is classic cars with a newer motor and suspension system. The custom cars you see in Japan are mostly newer cars, but the numbers of classic car fans are increasing again.

What new styles are people trying out now?

I think ‘high tech classic car’ is a new trend. Classic looking, but high tech inside.

How does the car culture in Nagoya differ from other regions of Japan?

There are more lowriders and customs in Nagoya compared to other areas. There are some top level builders for chop top and custom paint in this area.

Toshi, You have visited California many times. How does USA car culture compare to Japan?

It is hard to keep classic cars in Japan because of tax or vehicle inspection. There are too many strict laws. Because of that, owning classic cars is not that typical of a thing in Japan. Keeping a classic car is tough, but the owner has a passion and their own thought about classic cars, that's why you will see a lot of better quality custom cars than in America.

You have a new show coming up in March. Tell us about that.

On March 8th 2015 we will be holding the best and biggest custom car show called Classic Legends. It will feature the best lowriders and customs from all over Japan, plus four guest show cars, guest car club and artists from the United States. We are expecting that many people will visit the show from all over the world, so please come and enjoy the show from Australia as well.

It sounds great, how many cars & bikes are you expecting, and which styles will be on show?

Total 450 lowriders, custom cars and motorcycles will be exhibited, and about 200 booths will be there. It will be the biggest indoor car show. There will be an outdoor car show and reception party on the day before Classic Legends, and custom fans from all over the world will get together!

This article first appeared in Fuel Magazine issue 18.

Follow Toshi: @toshi432.

Craig MetrosJapan, Lowriders