I had a chance to attend the largest annual Mazda MX-5 Roadster meet in Japan on May 28. (Miatas to us Americans.) Nestled in the mountains of central Japan, Karuizawa is a small, fashionable, and beautiful city in Nagano Prefecture. Though centrally located, the small, local roads make it a slow drive to reach from Tokyo, Osaka, or Fukui, where I am from. Luckily, the weather was absolutely gorgeous that day and I had a wonderful time chasing down local Roadsters on a curvy mountain pass from my hotel.
Coming across the first lot, little convertible cars stretched as far as I could see. Briefly walking the first of the two visible lots, I was mesmerized by the sheer amount of varying combinations of colors, wheels, and kits. Most were tastefully adorned with a few select parts, like a beefy set of wheels, a roll bar, an aftermarket front bumper, and/or lowered to just the right usable height.
To an MX-5 fanatic, this was absolutely heaven. Nearly every car present was meticulously maintained, despite the early NA6 Roadsters ticking at 27 years old. Here, one could find all generations with crazy conversion kits, rare parts, NB coupes, lovely stock examples, and everything in between.
For you Stance or Slammed fans, sadly, very few would have made you tingle. The blue one looks like it is rocking a Project-G bikini top.
Stopping halfway through the second lot, I was puzzled. How could this possibly be the largest MX-5 meet? While it was impressive, where were the booths of manufacturers, the demo cars, the free lunch I was promised? My stomach gurgled, sustained only on rice balls, water, and Monster.
Maybe it was the tiredness of driving so much the past day, but I was certainly not aware of the procession of people passing beyond the trees. And there it was. The main lot.
I had been wasting entirely way too much time on each individual car. It was already noon and I rushed straight to the dealer tents drawing the crowds.
Here were some of the demo cars that certainly were excellent displays of the company offerings. Garage Vary's ND looks ready to attack the track or local mountain roads alike.
Also in attendance was the 1,000,000th Roadster made, an ND Roadster in Soul Red, adorned with signatures from its travels abroad.
One thing I noted, after walking the lots, was the distinct lack of engine swaps. (Of course, definitely not the V8 LS engines Americans often swap in.) Most of the open hoods had element filters and tower braces and were meticulously clean. Few others had ITBs or forced induction. Closed hoods had no hints of intercooling, so I could only assume the rest were similarly stock. Nonetheless, you could tell these owners appreciated taking care of their car and leaving it as the Mazda engineers had intended.
Some car clubs were out in full force. The two more notable groups were the Nara Gundan Roadsters were adorned with huge stickers and usually some strange theme.
Shin-kai went with full kits, gorgeously blended into the fenders. Absolutely stunning examples.
The love was evident all around. Plenty of homemade DIY modifications and customized parts if you look carefully enough.
See you guys this year. I’ll be there.
May 28, 2017