Want to visit some Japanese tuner workshops but don't know where to start? Here's what to do...
If you’re a passionate gearhead, no doubt you’ll have a few workshops in mind that you’d quite like to visit while you’re in Japan. This is going to differ person to person, but chances are that you’ll have a specific automotive genre or car make or model that you’re really into, in which case you probably know which shops you’re wanting to visit – or at least you have some idea.
Every tuner workshop in Japan is set-up differently; some belong to larger companies with open customer/guest facilities and some sell cars as well as having a dedicated workshop, whereas some are much smaller scale operations – people working out of their backyard or even in a small shed surrounded by rice paddy fields! So how you approach visiting a shop is really going to depend what type of business it is…
Do your homework.
Say there’s a particular shop you’ve had your eye on for a while and you’ve always dreamt of seeing it for yourself in person. If this is the case, then you probably already know a bit about it and have done some research on it. If not, this is your starting point. Jump on Google and run some searches – who’s the owner? Have other foreigners visited there before and if so, what did they have to say about it? What do their facilities look like? Do they have a website or an active social media page?
With some smaller tuning shops (and there are so, so many of these in Japan), you might not be able to find them or their owner on Facebook let alone with an updated and English-friendly website! So you’ll just have to go with what information you can find.
Have an action plan!
Before you rush ahead and just turn up somewhere, it’s really important to remember that workshops are businesses with paying customers, and they’re often going to be busy with their daily operations. Many workshops don’t have customer areas and some might be more accommodating to guests than others. So, for smaller workshops generally it’s polite to get in touch with them first to check if your visit will be okay.
Now this is where the language barrier starts to make things a little tricky; if you don’t have a contact person that works there or knows someone at the shop you’re wanting to visit and you can’t speak Japanese, it is going to make things harder. But that’s okay, because the challenge is part of the fun, right!? You’ve got a few different options:
Send them an email or try to get in touch on social media. It’s worth a shot! If they seem like they’re social media or computer-savvy, what have you got to lose? If you send something in English, you’re less likely to get a reply, however if you send a very simple message in Japanese, you should be able to expect a response. Here’s an example of something you could send. Say your name is Jim and you’re visiting Tokyo for a week:
来週, 東京にいます. 来週の水曜日は, [WORKSHOPNAME] 訪問は大丈夫ですか？
This roughly translates to: “Hello, my name is Jim, I’m Australian. I’m in Tokyo next week. Would it be okay to visit your shop next Wednesday? Thank-you.”
It really depends on the situation. Alternatively…
Give them a call. It’s the scarier option, we know, but it’s proper etiquette. If you really wanted to visit them but you weren’t keen to test your Japanese pronunciation skills, you could get your hotel receptionist to call – but this still might be quite a confusing experience! If you were keen though and if you could find their number, you could say:
“Kon’nichiwa (hello), watashi/boku no (my) namae (name) wa [Your name] desu. [Your nationality]-jin desu. Konshū (this week), Tōkyō ni imasu (I’m in Tokyo). Ashita (tomorrow) wa, [Shop Name] houmon (visit) wa daijoubu (okay) desu ka? Yoroshiku onegaishimasu (thank-you)!”
The fun part is then trying to understand their reply in Japanese. Hopefully it’s something along the lines of ‘OK’ in which case you can reply with arigatou gozaimasu – thank-you!
Showing up and hoping for the best. By all means, you can always just show up and hope that they’re willing to show you around. The risk of this is that they might not be open, or perhaps they’re having a super busy day and it’s a slightly bad time. Keep in mind that if there’s a big event coming up that their customers might be attending or that they’re entering cars in, they’re likely to be flat out.
Once you’re there, be respectful of their workplace, try to be quiet (don’t shout and yell!) and don’t touch anything. If you want to take photos, it’s polite to ask first. You can do so by asking:
“Shashin wa daijoubu desu ka?” – (Are photos okay?)
Bigger, more well-known tuning brands are going to be used to foreign visitors popping by now and then, but smaller shops might be a bit surprised! Remember to use your best manners, say lots of thank-yous and bow accordingly if you get the chance! You don’t have to do this, but we’d recommend going all out – if people are taking time out of their working day to show you their facilities, you really want to show as much gratitude as you possibly can.
PRO TIP: Use some of things you learnt from our Intermediate Guide #5: An Outsider’s Guide To Networking In Japan! If you have something in common with the shop you’re visiting, (for example, if you’re visiting a Honda tuning specialist and you’ve got a pretty sweet Honda of your own back at home in your garage), make sure to show them some photos! If they know that you ‘get it’, they might have a little bit more time of their day to spare for you…
Lastly, we’ve put together a quick list of some popular tuning shops that people have asked us about, including their address below:
TYPE ONE (Spoon) – Tokyo
Address: 1 Chome-3-16 Minamiogikubo, Suginami, Tokyo
Garage WORK – Chiba
Address: 市原市 千種 1-8-11, Ichihara, Chiba 299-0109
Advance – Yokohama
Address: 〒224-0053 横浜市都筑区池辺町3947-1
Tactical Art – Osaka
Address: 鳥飼中2-1-82, Settsu-shi, Osaka, Japan 566-0064
Car Craft Boon – Osaka
Address: 8-2-15 Nishitoriishi, Takaishi City, Osaka
Nissan / GT-R
Nismo Omori Factory – Yokohama
Address: 230-0053, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, Tsurumi Daikoku-cho 6-1
Nostalgic / Kyusha
Mizuno Works – Saitama
Address: 342-0005 Saitama Prefecture Yoshikawa City Kawafuji 97-2
Rocky Auto – Aichi
Address: 〒444-0003 愛知県岡崎市小美町字殿街道153
RE Amemiya – Chiba
Address: 439-10 Nanae, Tomisato, Chiba Prefecture 286-0221
Address: 2 Chome-7-8 Sekiyama, Hasuda-shi, Saitama-ken 349-0121
Rauh Welt Begriff – Chiba
Address: 1-14-33 Fujigokoro, Kashiwa-shi, Chiba 277-0034
Promodet – Saitama
Address: 〒343-0827 埼玉県越谷市川柳町3-106-1 [地図]
Garage HRS – Yokohama
Address: 〒224-0053 横浜市都筑区池辺町4831
Hot Rods & Customs
Luxury / Supercars
HKS Technical Factory
Tec Arts – Saitama
Address: 〒340-0835 埼玉県八潮市浮塚54-1
Run Free – Kanagawa
Address: 〒243-0303 神奈川県愛甲郡愛川町中津２３９－１
Weld – Yokohama
Address: 都筑区早渕1-31-18, Yokohama 224-0025
Bee Dragon – Gifu
Address: 〒503-2111 岐阜県不破郡垂井町平尾725
Kansai Service – Kyoto
Address: 〒632-0111 奈良県奈良市小倉町1080
Nagano Koubou – Osaka
Address: 5 Chome-54-5 Hoshidakita, Katano-shi, Ōsaka-fu 576-0017
If you’re not sure about visiting workshops, don’t worry too much – you can still have some amazing experiences at automotive events in Japan! Check out our Awesome Guide #4: A Guide To Automotive Events In Japan to learn more.