A Car Nerd's Guide To Japan An insider look at car culture in Japan.
The Tokyo Auto Salon is a show that always delivers on bright lights, crazy builds, loud cars and occasionally loud egos too. TAS2020 was my sixth time at Japan’s biggest tuner show and in previous years it was the cars that grabbed the limelight. However, during the pack up after the final day of this year’s Auto Salon two of the biggest names in Japan’s aftermarket scene collided and caused a scene of which was unlike any I’ve seen before.
At the end of TAS every year, the Lamborghinis at the Boom Craft stand, who make the hilariously loud Star Dropper exhaust, put on a show to whoever’s stuck around after the show has ended while they exit the exhibition halls. Nothing wrong with that, they’re giving back to their fans who have something to share on social media later that evening.
What made this year a little different was that they had started revving their engines before the exit gates had even opened. Better yet, not everyone had started packing up and some were still doing their final team meetings. Hall 8, where the Boom Craft stand was located, also housed other big names such as Toyota, Subaru, and Liberty Walk. I was over by the Toyota stand getting some last minute photos of the wonderful Yaris GR-4 when all this went down.
The Lambos at the Boom Craft stand started revving, thus drawing a massive crowd around them. That’s fine, business as usual then. Everyone assumed they’d rev and be on their merry way. Instead, they kept on revving. After about three minutes of non-stop revving from the half dozen or so V12s at their stand you could feel the confusion and disapproval in the entire hall. It was almost tangible. Everyone around me at the Toyota stand, mainly Toyota personnel, seemed baffled by what was going on. As the crews tried to pack up the elaborate displays at various manufacture stands, communicating amongst each other became near impossible as six extremely noisy V12s rev nonstop for minutes on end.
After five minutes most people thought it was overkill yet the Lambos still kept on going. The crowd around their cars grew as more smartphones captured the noise. There was a lot of noise, imagine the volume of 72 raging Italian cylinders revving simultaneously in an enclosed space. At the very least it makes for great Instagram/Twitter/Snapchat/Tik Tok content.
The thing with Boom Craft is a lot of the cars at their stand are part of the “Morohoshi Family.” These guys bank on Morohoshi-san, their fearsome leader who likes to play the role of a faux-yakuza member to toughen his image. Morohoshi built his image as being the “bad boy” of Lamborghini customization famously bringing his wild Diablo to Lamborghini’s 50th anniversary rally in Italy back in 2013.
Don’t get me wrong—I respect what Morohoshi has done with Lamborghinis. He’s shown a different side to supercar ownership by taking an already crazy supercar and making them even crazier. He’s the guy who pushed the LED-clad trend onto these Italian exotics and his crew followed suit. Love it or hate it, it gets people talking. Much like what went down at Hall 8 around 6:30pm.
The Liberty Walk crew were in the middle of their final team talk after the success of their appearance at TAS2020. They had unveiled their new LB-Silhouette kit for the R35 as well as a new widebody kit for the Honda NSX NA1 and their special surprise—the Super Silhouette-inspired R34 complete with a L-Series engine swap. This was without a doubt a highlight of this year’s TAS for me. It seemed like a no-brainer to take the iconic Tomica livery Skyline Super Silhouette Group 5 racing car and translate it to a more modern body. I would’ve expected it to be on a R35 making the choice of a R34 base car even more shocking.
It must’ve been around near the end of Kato-san’s speech, the big boss from Liberty Walk, when he had enough of the revving and went over to confront the Boom Craft guys to ask them to stop the revving. For context, Kato-san and Morohoshi were never the best of friends. They kept a mutual distance from each other, even though some members of the Morohoshi Family had Liberty Walk kits on their cars. Morohoshi himself wasn’t present during the whole debacle but Kato went to confront the head honcho of Boom Craft, IIda-san demanding them to stop revving and apologize to him. According to witnesses, Kato went and grabbed the driver of a Lamborghini and tried to pull him out of the car. This resulted in some of the Boom Craft guys coming over to confront Kato which resulted in his Liberty Walk army of around 30 members to come in between them and Kato.
In the witness videos posted on Twitter and YouTube, the Boom Craft guys can be heard apologizing to the Liberty Walk crew but Kato was not having it. Videos from the incident quickly spread throughout Japanese internet with netizens having divided opinions on who was in the wrong.
“Precious event is ruined”
Regardless, it wasn’t a good look for Kato-san who’s cars famously feature the line “Imagine all the people living life in peace.” Two days after the incident occurred, Kato-san posted an apology on his Instagram page citing his reaction was in part due to several shows and events being canceled because of anti-social behavior such as demonstrated by the Lambos. Liberty Walk weren’t completely clean, after the unveiling of the R34 Super Silhouette to show off the L-Series engine swap, they gave the crowds a couple of revs. Granted, it wasn’t for 7+ minutes non-stop.
Kato’s apology on Instagram goes to say “I am not an honor student. I’m not going to be an honor student, I want to keep basic adult morals in mind and make efforts to become an example for children and young people. Many car events across the country have been canceled due to such selfish overkill.”
When it all died down, Kato-san and the big bosses at Boom Craft were seen talking to each other. The Tokyo Auto Salon Association also had a word with both Liberty Walk and Boom Craft after the incident. Whether or not there will repercussions for next year’s TAS is unclear at this stage. Perhaps it was just a stern warning. Both brands attract huge crowds to TAS, though if one has to go Liberty Walk is considerably larger and more recognized.
The shift from Liberty Walk to LBWK and their transition into a mainstream brand hasn’t been unintentional. Kato-san, for all his controversial creations, has made all the right moves to make Liberty Walk one of the most well-known tuner names in the world today. By collaborating with the right merchandise companies covering apparel, model cars, and other goods, he’s turned Liberty Walk into a brand. The cleansing of their image from the rebel bosozoku roots was one of the meticulously thought-out moves into bringing Liberty Walk on the worldwide stage. Kato-san hasn’t forgotten where he’s started, the recent R34 Silhouette show car is proof of this, but it seems like him literally picking a fight with the loud “outlaws” and distancing himself from them was as much of doing the right thing as it was for his image.
Likewise, the Boom Craft guys pushing the buttons of everyone at TAS benefits their image and brand as not going with the norm. Whatever the reasons, it’ll be interesting to see if this beef is strictly a TAS exclusive or if we’ll see it come up again at future events. I do suspect there’ll be several conflicted Japanese Lamborghini owners following the incident TAS on whether to back Liberty Walk or Boom Craft.
I like to hear a car rev as much as the next person but there’s a time and place for it. Doing it in an enclosed space while people are still trying to work is not one of them. Attempting to physically remove a person from their car, for whatever the reason, isn’t cool either nor is picking a fight with someone while 30 members of your crew surround them. I just hope this doesn’t spoil future Tokyo Auto Salons and car shows in Japan because TAS2020 was actually pretty decent.