Nonthaburi, Thailand - For anyone in Bangkok looking to immerse themselves in Japanese car culture to a backdrop of that Far Eastern country’s daily way of life, then there’s no need to take a trip much further than “Tofuya”, located around 25km north west of the city centre.
Tofuya is a unique concept with the somewhat humble origins of a life spent as a roadside filling station. However, it’s since been transformed into a lively “eco system” that pays homage to Japanese culture. With a cluster of car focused businesses clustered around the forecourt, that also includes a café, it’s been dressed up to the point where one could easily imagine having pulled up at any petrol station in Tokyo.
All the instruction signs are written in Japanese language – there’s no Thai or even English lettering to be found here – and all the iconography is drawn from the land of the rising sun.
This oasis of Japanese lifestyle can be found by taking a short drive north of the city before swinging out west and hopping over the Chao Phraya River; even so it still remains locked tightly into the sprawling suburbs of the metropolis.
“JDM” culture is the mantra here, it’s sucked from the air of Tofuya – so the bouncy “Initial D Meet” event was always going to be a lively and closely Japanese themed affair.
And that started with a retro Toyota AE86 – finished in that model’s iconic black and white paint finish of course – which greeted visitors at the gate. It nestled inside a brightly lit shipping container that had one side chopped away to transform it into a crisp gallery that paid homage to this 80’s legend.
The AE86, small, light, rear wheel drive and a competition winner, cemented itself car culture in part thanks to becoming synonymous with the pioneering days of drifting. It’s synonymous with Tofuya too, with several more being on show for the “Initial D Meet” as well as being featured in an expansive wall mural while a loose door mounted on a plinth provided fans of this model the opportunity for selfies.
The idea of snapping a selfie with the door of an AE86 probably isn’t most people’s first thought to come to mind – however it clearly demonstrates that this event was really reserved for those who understand and are in tune with JDM culture.
That container-embedded AE86, in hatchback format, was mirrored by a coupé version displayed at a dizzying angle on a tilted-up slide parked on the other side of the main entrance. That theme continued with yet more examples of this classic model scattered around the venue and that theme was further complimented by a clutch of examples of the current generation “86” that were also on show.
Most popular with the fans was the “showing” of cars which paraded one-by-one through the forecourt, stopping to allow girls, dressed in what is regarded by some as the “cute” fashion style of Japanese schoolgirls – along with a coterie of crisply uniformed petrol pump attendants – to pose with the cars while they were resting on the “carpet”.
Plenty of rarer “kei” cars in evidence too while there were a number of smaller-end-of-the-scale sportscars on show, such as Honda’s S600 and Mazda’s MX-5, as well as an oddity in the shape of a carefully restored classic Daihatsu “Tuk Tuk”.
And then through obligatory sports cars, including Mazda’s RX-7 and RX-8, Mitsubishi’s Evo, Honda’s DC 5 and S2000, an immaculate retro Toyota Crown and Nissan’s 200 and Skyline, to the always big, brash and bold Liberty Walk “widebody” cars, here in the shape of a matte grey Nissan GT-R R35 and a Rothmans racing livery inspired Mercedes C-Class Coupe. Also popular with the cameras of the visitors was a slammed Toyota HiAce minivan.
Novelties included a ninth-generation European market Honda Civic Type R hatchback, a car which only ever came here as a private import in miniscule numbers. And not to miss the aggressive Nissan Skyline GT-R R34 in the same grey-with-blue-stripes livery as immortalised by Paul Walker in the “2 Fast 2 Furious” movie.
The only interloper into this veritable JDM fest was a rather wild looking black and white finished Holden Calais that however got stuck into the theme of the night as it featured Japanese symbols splashed down its flanks and a Nissan turbo engine lodged under the bonnet, which, of course, had been tuned to the max, its intake pipe angrily thrusting itself out of the bonnet.
Alongside the expansive roster of JDM cars were supplier booths – including Silver’s Suspension, Run Stop and Wise Lubricants – as well as a “flea market” with stalls selling Japanese items including model cars and a racing game simulator.
A night of JDM culture set to a vibrant and bright backdrop that could well have been in Tokyo, all very appropriate in a city that draws many of its influences from the Far East and a new car market where more than nine out of ten cars sold wear Japanese badges.