As much play as the Japanese custom scene gets on the internet and in American Mags, one might get the impression that every teenager owns a Panhead here. Not so. Where there are plenty of killer bikes in Nagoya and Tokyo, overall the old bike scene in Japan is a niche culture. Most folks in Japan want new stuff that is clean and works quietly and efficiently. The ladies and gentlemen you see in these pictures are an exception to almost every rule that I have been able to grasp in my stay here and the families units they have created out of devotion to old machines are admirable. Any Japanese person is doing good just to get their hands on a vintage engine of any make, much less the rest the rest of the bike in working order. In the states we still share stories (and lies) about the proverbial old fellow who lived the life in the 60 and 70s with a shed full of parts. You won’t hear any stories like that here. By the time any old parts get here they are already worth a fortune, leaving them only for the use of those that can afford them. As for everyone else, they have to rely on friends, luck and one-offing to get what they want out of their machine. In this way many customs you see here are the result of patience, study and hand, giving them a look and style which, although it pays homage, looks distinctly different than the custom bikes put together in the states.
At the heart of this event was the riders’ willingness to ram their valuable machines down a natural beach surface in the name of finding out who’s handiwork will hold up and go faster... on wet sand. Triumph vs. Harley vs. Indian vs. BSA vs....... Yamaha. Calling the track a “sand flat” was either a hilarious distortion of the truth, or a translation mishap. The beach track was riddled with imperfections which sent the riders off of their seats and into the air regularly while they kept their throttles pinned and their handlebars doggedly gripped. It was a fight more against the sand and and their old front ends as much as each other. Not all that different from watching rodeo. An unforgettable day.
A.G. and Yuka, thanks for everything! See you soon.