This is going to be an extremely long blog so take some time to look through the pictures and read the text as there is a great deal of information.
I woke up this morning extremely excited about our plans as we were going to visit two places that are rich in Honda history and special for their own reasons. Since we spent most of the previous day hanging out with Teraoka San and Omino San from SEEKER, we didn’t have a chance to make it to Spoon before they closed. So naturally, the first item on our agenda was to locate and consume breakfast food that didn’t come from a bowl or consist of rice.
We made our way downstairs and headed to the building across from the Makuhari convention center as we were told there would be places to eat there. Tim was coming to meet us shortly so we didn’t have much time to walk around. Luckily there was a cafe which had croissants for breakfast with egg and sausage.
This stuff was made fresh to order and was cheap… good deal if you ask me. However in true Japanese fashion, the eggs were served cold… which is really different as it isn’t something I would normally eat for breakfast. In any case, it was quite good and Will managed to get the worlds hottest cup of tea which would have certainly killed him if he tried to drink it as served.
We met up with Tim after breakfast and headed out. I spotted this old Nissan Cube pulling in the parking area.
Tim picked us up in his Odyssey, which looks freaking sweet with the optional Modulo aero kit and wheels. It’s a shame we never got this version in the USA.
The inside of this thing had a fold down HDTV and tons of other cool stuff you’d think a van should have.
We had to head back to his house to get the DC5, then we would be off to Spoon. We passed some JDM road workers on the way. haha
I saw a lot of weird crap while I was in Japan and this is one of them. I don’t know what the hell that sticker is… but it certainly can’t be good.
A few blocks away from Tim’s house this late model DB8 Type R just sits. Tim said that he have never seen it move…
I got out and snapped a few pictures of this thing as it was too mint.
The mileage on this thing was low… around 40k.
We grabbed the DC5 and headed out into the heart of Tokyo on the way to Spoon. I spotted this cool 4dr Skyline R34.
I didn’t really see many Skylines during my stay. I guess being in the American car scene the R34 Skyline GT-R is like the ultimate Japanese tuner car, but short of the black one I saw on the trailer heading into Tokyo I really didn’t see any other R34s. I guess they are just as rare as all of the other cars that we Americans think are still roaming the streets of Japan.
The buildings in this area were really cool, some were far more modern than others.
This tuned EVO flew by us in traffic. Cool looking car but I still don’t care for tinted tail lights… no matter what sort of the car they are on.
We made our way to Spoon and had to park like 7 blocks away because all of the lots were full. After we parked I walked by this truck and noticed this sticker. As I was taking the picture these Japanese guys were screaming at us. Tim started talking to them and he said they asked why I was taking a picture of their truck. He explained that it said Fucker Sports Club, which sounds ridiculous in English and a picture was necessary.
We are only a few blocks away from Spoon head quarters now. The streets look pretty traditional.
CoCoLo… you know, hair cuts.
Yes, Hairs Glamour.
More cool buildings and garage doors.
Being that we were so close to Spoon, we figured it would be best to stop and grab a drink and use the rest room. I was so excited to talk to the guys at Spoon, peeing on myself would have probably given the wrong impression.
Don’t leave home without them.
Now I know this seems sketchy but bear with me for a second. I had to take a picture of this because I don’t think anyone would believe me when I explained it. I wasn’t surprised at the… uhh.. hole in the ground, but I was more amazed at how small this room is. My shoulders were literally touching both sides. Thankfully this was my first and last experience with the JDM toilet.
How can you resist these hot meat filled buns? Actually… I think this one had pizza in it. Either way… amazing stuff right here.
Honda International Seminar is next door to Spoon. Coincidence? Not related to Honda of Japan? Who knows, but thought it was interesting anyway.
We made it!
I swear it was like that when we walked up. These guys must have known we were coming! I guess I’ll take the time now to give you the back story on our visit to Spoon. After talking with Seeker and Tim, they both expressed that the guys at Spoon were probably going to be pretty cold to us. They aren’t interested in talking to people… about anything. They aren’t very helpful and they may not even be willing to let us in. It was worth a try, and since we traveled 9,500 miles, you can’t NOT try to get into Spoon.
Anyway, Tim poked his head in the office door and mentioned that we would like to come in and look around and that we knew Teraoka San from Seeker. They agreed and opened the door.
An AP1 S2000 was sitting in their showroom. You can see this car from the street… it was really nice.
Of course, a Spoon steering wheel would be fitted to the AP1.
A K20A engine sitting quietly in their hallway.
Boxes of Momo wheels stacked up. I assume these are all Spoon wheels made by Momo.
Their offices aren’t super big, but you can tell they get work done. It was extremely quiet in this place and all of the workers seemed to be middle aged.
Pretty cool racing helmets sitting on the counter. I wonder how many of these guys actually go out and race?
We walked in and they were boxing up orders which I assume are shipments going to customers or vendors around the world.Their old school Civic race car was stuffed away in the corner.
CR93′s anyone? Most of the upper level was filled with them… I personally don’t care for the way they look. For their sake, I hope many don’t share the same opinion as me because they had a LOT of them.
What are these guys doing with Acura ZDX emblems..? Weird.
Crappy picture, but you get the idea. Spoon seat in the inside of this old Civic race car. Looks like fire suppression and a neat little roll cage.
Center lock wheels on a Civic…? Yes please!
Shelves of spoon parts in boxes. These parts have to be assembled somewhere else… there was simply no room for any of this stuff to be built here. Unless they do assembly and manufacturing on the top two floors… but I doubt it. We talked to the guy in glasses for a few minutes, ( I can’t remember his name) and Tim told him what we did and why we were in Japan. He mentioned that they had completed a few K series swaps in a few EK9s but didn’t do it regularly. I then asked if I could buy one of their windshield banners and have him sign it as a memento to my trip. He then said that I would have to purchase one from one of their vendors and that he couldn’t help me.
Now, I know we aren’t as big as Spoon in the terms of employees, sales or even as a retailer/dealer… but if someone traveled 9,500 miles away and walked into my shop, I’d probably take them out to dinner and seriously hook them up with HR gear. I guess hospitality and interest in our customer base is more important to us than it is to them. Needless to say, after that… we left. Maybe I’m over reacting, but I was disappointed. Truly and honestly let down as an enthusiast. I remember before I could even drive, reading magazines with Spoon cars featured, and playing video games with their shop race cars. To finally get to meet some of the guys affiliated with them and see their place only to have them tell me I can’t buy a sticker was pretty shitty.
Oh well… we carry on to K-TECH.
On the way to K-TECH we passed this nice late model FD2 Type R. I can’t get enough of these cars.
I then spotted this silver EK9 with stickers all over it.
Check out the yellow sticker on the quarter glass. Nikko circuit… that is a pretty hardcore grass roots track a few hours north of Tokyo. Also well known for drifting.
I saw this white Ferreri GTO on the back of a Ferrari / Isuzu truck. Pretty cool.
Nerima BMW.Dealerships like this in the USA are like 10000x larger.
K-TECH is about an hour away from SEEKER and Spoon.
A Honda Oritha work vehicle. I’d like to have one of these over in the USA as it’s basically an EK wagon.
I saw a fairly large amount of Japanglish while I was there and I had to snap a picture of this. I guess the question mark would confuse people, so they left it out.
I know there is at least one thing in America that isn’t larger than in Japan… Road signs. These people do it right.
There are also a large amount of what we call, sketchy hotels. Go here if you want to bang someone that you can’t bang at home. I was also told they also offer covers for your license plates so no one can see where you are from. -__-
Yellow Hat auto parts store. Kinda like Autobacs… Not nearly as cool.
FT-86 in the parking lot with tuner stickers on it.
Finally! We arrived to one of the most surprising destinations of our trip. K-TECH Engine Service. (http://www.k-techeng.net)
This building was built recently for Kawashima San and I can promise you haven’t seen many shops like this, it is also his home.
He likes dogs… awesome!
Kawashima San came outside quickly to greet us. After we introduced ourselves, Tim mentioned that we had installed our DC5 shifter into his car the day before. Kawashima San was interested in testing it out… he called it “maniac,” just as SEEKER did the day before. He also said it was nice to see such an improvement over the stock part which is known to be unreliable.
One of the first things that I noticed about Kawashima San was these rad toe socks. I had to snap a secret shot of them. ^_^
Time to go into the shop, and of course, remove out shoes and put on slippers. That’s what you normally do in your garage right? haha
Kawashima San’s S2000 was sitting beautifully in his garage. More on this thing later.
In addition to being his garage, this is also where he does his dyno tuning. You can see ventilation system that sucks out all of the toxic fumes from the room while the car is running.
Right away I noticed this K20A motor on an engine stand. This is actually the engine out of the Mugen RR that was sitting outside of SEEKER’s shop. It’s getting a full K-TECH built engine. Mmm.. sounds cheap. >_<
I’ve never seen this until I came to Japan. I first noticed it on the car at SEEKER. Safety wired oil filter… pretty hardcore.
You know the expression, “so clean you could eat off it”…? As cliche as it sounds, it was true. This place was immaculate. The cleanest, most organized workshop I have ever been to.
SEEKER has their own engine cart.
The man’s work area where he specs out his crankshafts, cams and bearings…ect
Empty shelves waiting to be filled with the variety of parts that make up a K-TECH engine build.
A B16 motor being built for a customer.
You can see all of the parts laid out perfectly, waiting to be assembled.
Another spotless table. This one had a rubber pad on it to protect the parts that were set on it.
This shelf was filled with an F20C in pieces. Pretty gnarly stuff.
This one was filled with the usual stuff. Flash-Pro’s, Spoon and Toda pistons, tons of OEM Honda parts and South Pole hats.
Every master must have the right tools for the job. I can tell you that Kawashima San wasn’t missing anything.
Even the trash can vacuum were clean. haha
I don’t know what the signs said on the doors, but there was more magical stuff behind them.
So clean it made me sick! You can’t call this a garage… it’s a laboratory.
Every tool, stand, cart, stool and part has a specific place.
Each individual engine type had it’s own drawer for specific gaskets, plugs and miscellaneous parts.
K-TECH pistons and rods are laid out in these bamboo trays before he specs them out and assembled them.
Specifically numbered valves in a custom JDM holder.
He took us into one of the rooms where he does his cylinder head porting and polishing. He showed us his cool little trick light bulb / vacuum that sucks all of the metal dust up so it doesn’t rest on anything else in the room, nor will it find way into the cracks and crevices of the head.
We got a demonstration as Kawashima San went to town and cleaned up the ports on this cylinder head.
In the next room he had his parts washer and sink. This guy is old school, and not only was he a professor at one of the engineering labs for Honda technicians, he has a son that helps him build engines. He said his son has been working with him for a few years and the ONLY thing he is allowed to do is wash and clean engine parts. Not only that, but he isn’t allowed to carry any part to the wash room. It must be placed on it’s specific cart and wheeled in. It’s small things like this that just blew my mind… he is like a Honda engine sensei.
He also demonstrated how he keeps the floor spotless by squirting a drop of oil on it.You can BARELY see the dot of oil… but it’s there. lol
Not sure what was in the spray can, but it cleaned up the oil and left a squeaky clean surface.
I spotted a K-TECH header in bubble wrap above the porting room.
OEM Honda K20 piston next to a K-TECH piston. He designs and engineers all of his own parts.
Kawashima San was showing us how he inspects engine bearings and can tell if they have been installed correctly.
He then showed us how he specs out bearings and measures cranks. Granted Kawashima San doesn’t speak English, so like always, we were talking through Tim.
Here he is showing us the equipment he uses to calibrate his torque wrenches before they touch any bolt. He will calibrate them every single time the settings need to change.
Like Suzuki San of BYS, Kawashima San loves dogs and has an affinity for Dachshunds.
We sat down with him and discussed engine design and had him tell us more about where he started and where he came from. He said that his family has always been involved with Honda and that growing up he had a love for the mechanical parts, engines mainly. He had no interests in anything else except building engines and making parts for them. He worked with the Mugen team that was responsible for building the formula engines in the 80′s and 90′s. He also mentioned that he has never had a single engine that he has built fail from construction error. Engines that he built back in the 90′s are still in cars running today.
He also mentioned something that was interesting… he only uses K20 engines. He refuses to build K24s. He doesn’t like the stroke of the K24 and says it’s not the best engine to use. I know that is going to turn a lot of heads but this is what makes Japanese tuners different than us in America. He builds K20 engines for efficiency and maximum power and torque using as many OEM Honda parts as possible. He isn’t interested in making 300whp, but real, useable power that you can keep for an extended amount of time. Out of all of the parts used on his engines, only the pistons, rods and camshafts are aftermarket and that he only uses TODA cams.
A ballpark number to have a K-TECH built engine, which is the full on original engine with his parts is about $25,000-$30,000. He does not sell his parts separately… if you want his internals, he is the only person that can install them. A motor to that spec will produce roughly 240-250whp and keeps the stock intake manifold, stock throttle body… ect
He opened up his program that would simulate stress on the rods at any particular RPM. I will admit that most of the stuff he was explaining was over my head, as I’m not an engine builder, but interesting nonetheless.He did mention that he only builds used engines and does not like to start with new ones. He says the used engines although may have more miles, they have already been heat cycled so the metal won’t contract and expand as much as a new engine block does.
We talked about power bands and such. He explained how he tunes his cars and how he tunes car for the track. Maximum torque after you shift he says is the key.
Kawashima San pulled out one of his S2000 headers, same as the one we saw on the shelf at SEEKER the other day. He was going into detail about the construction of them and that they are all hand made by a friend of his who is tragically sick with cancer. He has been making headers and fabricating his entire life and that he would have his friend make them until he wasn’t able to. It’s almost like a fine swordsmirth, taking an insane amount of hours and years of skill to make these. I don’t care what kind of factory you have, you can’t mass produce anything like this and now you know why they cost around $4,000 each. Is it worth the performance gain you might ask? I will say that it is certainly worth it to some… not to everyone.
Each section of this header is composed of multiple pieces. You can see the seams where the pieces are welded together and then smoothed on the inside for perfect flow. Why not just use a normal tube…? There is a reason.
On the right you have a normal piece of exhaust tubing, on the left you have a normal pie cut section that you’d find in a high quality exhaust. The center half cut is a cast piece made specifically for the K-TECH/SEEKER headers. By casting each piece, they can control the thickness and then polish the inside and outside. Once they are polished up, the halves are then welded together to create a perfectly contoured bend that is not only the same ID but the reduced thickness of the metal makes the part extremely light. It’s things like this that set most American tuners apart from Japanese as I find it hard to believe that many (if any) would be willing to spend $4,000 on a header…even if it promised to make the most power of any header in the world. Only a handful of these headers are sold each year and I don’t think any of them make their way to the USA.
I picked up the completely constructed S2000 header and literally weighed half as much as a normal stainless header.
Kawashima San was nice enough to open up his S2000 and show us what it is all about. Notice the stripe on the valve cover. The K-TECH engines all have a special valve cover, hand painted for the owner. Each series of engine has a different color stripe on it. In the case of an engine made with TODA parts, it will have a red stripe. The silver stripe means the engine has been overhauled and balanced by K-TECH. Then finally the gold-ish stripe means that the engine is a complete K-TECH original, built for the customer to specific specs. I think the stripe on his valve cover was black… not sure what the significance is.
Volk Racing RE30 wheels over a set of Spoon brakes.
The wide fenders on this S2000 are almost unnoticeable, but they have certainly been widened. The rear bumper has also been molded to incorporate the body line… I wouldn’t expect anything less from Kawashima San. I also found it odd that the dirtiest thing in this garage was his car and that’s because he goes out and drives this thing around town. We told him we were going to Tsukuba the following day and he laughed, then said he hasn’t been there in 30 years. He doesn’t need to race as his customers are always bringing his engines.
It was truly an honor to meet Makato Kawashima… a true tuning legend. This guy turned our day around and blew us away with his hospitality, knowledge and experience that most of us will never accumulate in our lifetime. This guy has devoted his life to the pursuit of creating the best possible engines and when I asked him what his goal is… his response was, “to be known as the best Honda engine builder in the world.” With his experience, attention to detail and a background in engineering I have no doubt that he is on his way. After the personal disappointment I experienced at Spoon, the few hours we spent talking with Kawashima San made the entire trip worth it.
I wasn’t going to mention it, but when it was time to leave his laboratory, we bowed at his feet, because if anyone deserves it… it’s this man.
After hanging out with Kawashima San all day and having our minds blown, we stopped on the way back to the hotel to eat some grub. We must have still been in awe from K-TECH as eating at this placed seemed like a good idea. I’m not sure if it is traditional, but it seemed like all of the places we went to you had to yell at the waiter/waitress to let them know you needed something. So people were in this joint yelling up a storm… and since I couldn’t understand what they were saying, I assumed it was bad.
I don’t know what this place was called.. but it wasn’t good. It was super sketchy and thankfully I didn’t get sick from eating it.
The sun was going down and traffic was terrible heading back into Tokyo. I saw this giant parking lot full of Mini’s and a lowered Toyota pickup. haha
I’ll leave you guys with a picture of a house with clouds on it and a cool picture of a laundry mat.
Check back with us next week as we visit the world famous Tsukuba Circuit for a track day with our friends in Japan. As always, thanks for reading and be sure to share this post and like us on Facebook!!