Nissan Enthusiast Japan Trip (Part 1 of 6)

Photos & story by Ahmed Rashid

A few months ago I found out that a a few of my friends from Chicago were heading out to Japan for a once in a lifetime trip. Mark took some great shots and already posted them on our forum, but Ahmed just finally wrapped up his set so we’re going to post them up here on the blog. This is going to be an amazing 6 part series, so make sure you come back to check out each individual part.   With that said, enjoy the write-up and pics, and here is Ahmed’s story and photos…..

So, there is a guy in Dallas – “Mad Mike” – who has the ultimate hook up to everything Nissan in Japan. I’ve known him for several years from when I lived in Texas. Mad Mike is the ZCCA (Z Car Club Association) liaison to Japan. He takes a small group to Japan every year to do lots of amazing Nissan-related things, make new friends, and build new relationships and contacts. He has built these contacts over the last 30 years (he is 70 years old). The trip is by invite only and I’ve had an open invitation for the last 4 years. I finally made it to the trip this year and told Eric (spdrmn15) I would take him if I ever went. An extra spot opened up as the trip got closer, and I was able to get Mark (intel) added to the trip as well. The trip is known as the Z CraZies trip and we are VIP guests of Nissan/Nismo and have open access to EVERYTHING – you’ll see as you see the pics below and read this massive multi-part post.

Let me start by saying that the Z CraZies trip to Japan was the trip of a lifetime. I was suppose to go in 2008, but was unable due to a new job at the time. Mad Mike had me on the list every year since then, but my wedding and my 2 brothers’ weddings in consecutive years and 20+ weddings for friends in a 2 year span left me with no vacation time. My wife and I were suppose to go to Spain this past August. But when I realized I could make the trip to Japan if I passed on Spain, I knew I had to do it. My wife was very cool with it and told me to go to Japan b/c it was a dream trip; Spain can wait till next year.

This trip is a bucket list trip for a Nissan enthusiast. The biggest thing that stood out to me was the amazing people we met. I have never seen such hospitality and generosity from a group of people ever; and we were basically strangers to them who just happened to share the passion for a car. I had been looking forward to all the cars we would see, but didn’t expect to leave Japan with all these new friends. Nissan and Nismo were very gracious and amazing hosts. The interactions with our hosts and new friends were very memorable. As far as Japan, what a wonderful country. It has such an amazing infrastructure, it’s super clean, and are just so technologically advanced. It has a great history, great food, and great culture and traditions. I cannot type into words how amazing this trip and country was, you have to experience it for yourself. I have to thank Mad Mike for making this possible and to all of our friends/hosts in Japan who spent significant time with us, shared their lives with us for 10 days, and treated us like family. I’ll try my best to cover our trip below. I want to tell the full story, so I will be posting much more than just car pictures in this thread.


Day 1: I arrive in Tokyo and run into Eric and Mark  at customs. I was rooming with Eric and he kept me up for hours the first night snoring. I was re-thinking bringing him along on the trip that first night, but quickly found out that if you smack him with a pillow across the chest, he stops snoring. We met up with Mad Mike and Jeff outside the terminal, Jeff was the only person on the trip I didn’t know prior to the trip. After jumping back and forth between terminals, we get on the bus from Narita to Yokohama. We check-in late, Tetsu comes by for dinner, then we crash for an early morning the next day. For those who don’t know, Tetsu owns his own Z shop, is very active in the Japanese Z clubs, and is very well connected to Nissan.


We were staying in the Landmark Tower in Yokohama, it’s a 70 story building. The hotel is from floors 50 to 70. Here is the incredible view from our room on the 61st floor.

Here is one from the 70th floor facing Yokohama Bay.


Day 2: We eat breakfast, meet up with Ric, Bernie, and Adam; then head out to Nissan Grand Drive not too far away. This is a private Nissan facility with a track used for testing. It is rarely open to the public. The Z Fiesta is happening here and they had 2 370Z’s for us to drive on the road course and autocross course. It was a blast out on the road course. I’m just a novice driver on the track, but I wanted to push it more and get those tires screeching. But there was just too much traffic for that. I wish I could have gone out there again. I got to ride with several other Japanese Z club members in their cars as well as the Nissan test driver. There were no pictures allowed at Grand Drive of the cars and track. But we saw a lot of great cars – Kei’s clean Z31 with the RB swap, a 240Z 432, a 240Z that had been restored by Nissan and looked like a brand new car, and several other very nice Z32s, Z33s, and Z34s. The impressive thing was that all the swaps in these various cars all looked stock – they were done so cleanly it was amazing. My favorite 2 cars that day were the restored 240Z in brand spanking new condition and Kei’s awesome RB26 Z31.

I enjoyed watching Adam talk to the Nissan engineer about what he wants for the next Z. The engineer mentioned he had a drawing of the next Z in his pocket. We tried to get a peek, but to no avail =) Mr. K (aka Yutaka Katayama – The Father of the Z) did make an appearance and we briefly met him here. He gave a long speech and took questions. Adam asked him about his thoughts on a 4 cylinder Z, and Mr. K said that he thinks it would ok since many of the Nissan cars are too big and heavy these days. Let the controversy begin!

The group with Mr. K

They gave us all wooden plaques to commemorate the day, they are pretty awesome and many of us would later get those signed by Mr. K. Here is the group with the 370Z we drove.


We went back to the hotel and had some time before the closing banquet. I had lugged my heavy tripod all the way from Chicago to shoot night pictures in Japan and this was the perfect chance to squeeze in some shooting in Yokohama around the bay.


Our hotel – The Landmark Tower

One of my favorite urban shots from the trip.

We went to a Chinese restaurant in Yokohama’s massive Chinatown for the closing banquet to the Z Fiesta.


Day 3: On Sunday, we switched hotels to one in Tokyo. We took a tour of Tokyo today. We went to Tokyo Tower, the Happo-en Gardens, an amazing BBQ lunch, the Emperor’s Palace, a boat ride, and then Asakusa temple.


Here is Mt. Fuji as viewed from our hotel room.

I cannot say enough about the vending machines in Japan, these were crucial to the trip! They have the most amazing vending machines you can find outside on every block and they dispense hot and cold drinks from the same machine. The choices are amazing and Bernie, Adam, and I fell in love with their milk tea. I spent more money in vending machines there than I probably have in several years here at home.

Tokyo Tower

View from Tokyo Tower

View from Tokyo Tower

For those that do not know, my wife and I are actually moving to the DC area in about a month. We have been trying to move there for 6 months and I got a job offer the day before I left for the trip. I figure I can join the NoVA (northern Virginia) Z crew after I move there and it’s the perfect time to get to know Bernie and Adam (NoVA members) a little better on this trip. But this is what I found out about the NoVA boys. Here they are having a moment.

The next stop on our day tour is the Happo-en Gardens.

This Bonsai tree is 520 years old!

I’m trying to catch up to the guys ahead, when I see the NoVA guys posing for this picture. These will be my new friends in DC. Great.

Group shot at this amazing BBQ lunch. The soy sauces over in Japan are like nothing I have tried here, they are totally something else. Dipping the meat in the soy sauce was ridiculously good. Inside joke of the trip: I don’t eat pork or drink alcohol. So I had separate portions and meals prepared for me at almost every meal since pork is a big part of the meals there.

Warrior statue on the grounds of the Emperor’s Palace

Emperor’s Palace

Here is me standing in front of Tokyo Sky Tree, one of the tallest structures in the world

Gotta love fender mirrors!

Asakusa Temple shopping area

Vintage Nissan C10 Skyline randomly seen in the wild.

We got back to the hotel and I took Eric to Mori Tower to shoot pictures from the Sky Deck. And then we went to the Shibuya district to see the busiest intersection in the world. I knew it was a very colorful area and couldn’t wait to shoot there. I had obviously researched places I wanted to shoot before the trip.

Shibuya main area

Incredible soccer field on the roof of a building. This is the view from the 25th floor of the Mark City Hotel.

Here is Shibuya intersection – the busiest intersection in the world


We have wrapped up 3 days in Japan now. The best Nissan-related things are still to follow in the next few days. Stay tuned for Part 2 for our visit to Nismo Headquarters.



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