søndag den 22. juli 2007

Thursday Nov. 9 - Rocket Plane, Mexican Style Custom Cars, Toyota And A Tube Hotel

We start by visiting a museum that the large Mitsubishi Corporation has here in town. Supposedly the place is closed, but Masao pulls some strings and we get access. Very small museum indeed, but the contents are top class, especially the two real planes the factory has restored. Most people know the WW2 vintage Zero fighter, but very few have even heard of the tiny tailless rocketplane Shusui, which is a virtual copy of the German Messerschmitt Me 163, the latter of which became operational in the closing months of the war. Few probably care about this, but for an aircraft nerd like me, with my special interest in these particular years of airplane development, I feel like a catholic who accidentally gets to eat lunch with the Pope.

Shusui means ‘Fall Water’, one of the typical lyrical names the Japanese also gave their aircraft carriers and other deadly hardware. Another evil little thing, specially designed as a suicide plane, got the name ‘Cherry Flower’, but the Americans – who usually assigned American code-names like ‘Frank’ to fighters or ‘Betty’ to bombers – broke this tradition by calling it ‘Baka’ – Japanese for ‘stupid’.

Just my incredible luck chasing down Kaikado yesterday (despite running a slight fever), and not postpone the visit until today.

From the museum we go to a series of other hotrod driving friends. The Aichi Prefectorate here is the center of the Japanese hotrod- and custom car culture, I’m told. One place I also get to take part in a small religious ceremony, where the owner of a carpentry shop is dressed as a ‘shaman’ – possibly a Shinto-priest – for the occasion. All bow as required, clap in front of the altar, and outside I get a bit of holy salt on my shoulders while sake is poured around me, in order to ward off evil spirits. Like I said before about superstitious stuff like this: Just try and prove that it does NOT work….

At the hotrod shops ‘Malibu Classics’ and ‘Paradise Road’ they also get to see the Nimbus, in return for a peek inside their workshops. The 50’s and the 60’s style rides high around here, but at MC the Airstream camper shop office, is the real attraction, as far as I am concerned. Like so often before the game of ‘guess how old the Dane is’ get played. “Over 18”, I usually sneer, before revealing my exact age. Thanks to it’s Mexican style custom cars, which has earned Paradise Road an endless number of trophies, I knew this was one of the workshops I really had to see while in Japan. They also get to sign the Zero book, and like practically all other place they’re generous with t-shirts and other gifts.

After lunch in a restaurant, where the whole staff yells in unison every time a customer enters, Masao leads me to The Toyota Museum. We say our goodbyes, and I repeat my invitation for when he and his wife want to see Scandinavia. Despite Copenhagen being the third most expensive town for tourists (Tokyo and Osaka being number one and two), I really hope they will come to stay with me. I also hope they’ll follow my advice and come here during our ‘green winter’, rather than in the hara-kiri season.

The Toyota Museum is fine, with the occasional absolute great car in the large collection. Of course it is the early Japanese cars that have my interest, and the background history of things like the Toyota V8 engined prestige cars aimed solely at the home market. I’ve seen quite a few of these Mercedes-killers on the roads, and they were completely new to me. A special exhibition with original artwork from the GM, Chrysler and Ford studios is worth the entry fee alone.

Now satisfied from seeing planes, bikes and cars in all shapes and sizes, I fight my way through rush hour traffic to the center of town, and check into one of the famous capsule hotels. This is pure ‘Alien – The Third Passenger’, all those small beehive-like compartments, but I just had to try it. I’m still running a bit of the fever – maybe the sauna will help.

Ingen kommentarer: