Thursday, December 29, 2005

US v.s. Japan Friendly Match

After the D1 grandprix on 12/17, we had our own little friendly match between the US and Japan. Yasuyuki Kazama, Ken Gushi and Rhys Millen. Oh and even Verena Mei too. But to make all conditions equal we had everyone go in the same car. A car known to be a pretty hard car to drift. The new Mazda MX-5. It's easy to drift in your own machine you are used to competing in. You're really good when you can look good drifting a stock MX-5 without any modifications at all. (We got a stock MX-5 with the Sport Package that comes with an LSD and sports suspension) They were all good and we had a great time watching them. Lots of laughs too.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Some more staff shots

Photo #1. Camera guys. Definitely people you do not want to mess with. They are the toughest of them all. There would be no video product without these guys.
Photo #2. From left. Girl drifter and model Verena Mei. Now this girl has guts. The day before the shoot, Tsuchiya asked her if she wanted to join in on the drift competition between Kazama, Rhys Millen and Ken Gushi. I wouldn't blame any hard ass to back down from that challenge but she accepted and went head on with those guys. Hats off to her. You have to buy the video to see what happened.
Middle is Ken and to his right is Tina who helped us out for the day. Tina can't drift yet but she has the looks to become a model soon.

Photo #3. 2&4 Production guys. From right, Yamada-san who is the genius that first came up with the original Touge Showdown in Hot Version. In the middle is Tanabe-san who was basically the guy who said 5 years ago, "Zigzag Asia? I have no idea who the hell you guys are but, I'll let you guys make the English version of Best Motoring". We owe it big time to him for believing in us from the beginning. Last is Mi Amigo Matsuda-san who's the production manager of these shows. Some people say his roots go back to Pancho Villa but I'm too scared to ask him in person.

Zigzag Asia Staff

We are actually a pretty small group. Starting from the left is Masa Kuji who is our General Manager for Zigzag Asia(America) and he's also a board member of the Japanese HQ. Masa grew up in Canada and plays hockey but he's also a car nut. He was just about to cry when we sold the Tommykaira Z but it wasn't doing us much good to pick us up at LAX so we decided to sell the car. I know he used to own a Mark II in Canada, a 180 during school and an M3 before moving to LA. Next is Ken Takahashi Ken is our sales director for Zigzag Asia (America) among many other roles like chief gossip officer since he's so plugged into the import industry. Ken is also a judge for the Formula D drifting series. Ken is OG and native so he drives a big O'l American Hummer and also owns a Grand National from the 80's. For some reason, he also owns a right hand drive JDM S13 Silvia. I like driving it around town when I'm in the States. It's completely stock but it's a great little car. Next to him is Katsu Takahashi who is not related to Ken Takahashi despite their resemblance. He is our wonder guy who is in charge of practically all creative work from video editing, ads, t-shirts, DVD packages, website, stickers you name it. Katsu has been into cars and I think he's just about changed cars every year for the past 5 years. I don't even know what he is driving now. Oh, wait I think it was Citroen. Yeah, he likes European makes. Last is me, Taro Koki who is the president of Zigzag Asia Co.,Ltd in Japan and Zigzag Asia(America) located in Torrance. I live smack in the middle of Tokyo and I don’t own a car. In Tokyo there is Yuko my sister who takes care of administration and accounting. She's usually in Japan holding down the fort while Katsu and I go back and forth. This picture was taken at Willowspring immediately after our American Touge shoot. Katsu and I are back in Tokyo starting to edit AT2 and Masa and Ken are back to business as usual selling Best Motoring and Hot Version DVDs.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Hot Wheels presents American Touge 2 Report

Our second American Touge shoot was a great success for us. I want to thank all of the tuners that brought out their cars, our sponsors, people that came out to watch, the media and everyone else that helped make it happen. It would not have been possible with out you!
After our first shoot last December we really received a lot of e-mails from shops around the US asking us when we would have another one. Earlier this year, we decided to go ahead but have an open casting call to give as many tuners a chance to have Keiichi Tsuchiya drive their cars. Out of about 100 cars, we narrowed it down to 40 cars. All 40 cars showed up with a total of about 200 people. Most people were extremely happy with the event. That they had Keiichi Tsuchiya and Yasuyuki Kazama drive their cars and they got to meet the two top level drivers. Just seeing the fans happy makes it all worth while for us to come all the way from Japan to do a US shoot.
On the other hand it is a video shoot and not an event so the video shooting has priority, making some people who participated unhappy. For instance, we only have so many video equipment so we have to choose which cars will get on board cameras. We equiped as many cars as possible during a short period of time. But in addition to appearing in our video, the tuners that brought their cars will for sure get exposure through the other media which were on site. Super Street, Modified, Import Racer, C16 and Jtuned were all there to shoot photos. Those are the top magazines in the industry so the tuners are killing a couple birds with one stone(coming to American Touge 2). But my biggest regret were the tire rules. All of the confusion caused on site was totally caused by the lack of preparation and lack of acknowlegement on how serious the situation would be. It is completely our fault. In Japan we don't have any written Touge Showdown rules since it is not a sanctioned race nor event. It is just a segment in our video that showcases top level street cars by the hands of our drivers. We just tell the tuners to bring street radial sports tires. We do not have slicks, semi slicks, nylon ply street legal tires. We don't have "competition" DOT approved tires. Since we didn't have time to narrow down the make and spec of which tires are Ok and not. We just left it to " street legal, steel belted radials" which caused all of the confusion. We were not intending to turn people back if they brought slicks in the first place. We were willing to give people chances if their car broke down. It is not a competition, it is a video shoot.
That all said, I appreciate that everyone cares greatly about who wins. It is awesome that each tuner takes enormous pride in how their vehicle performs at our shoot. We as producers need to take more of that into account and take this entire project as more than just a "video shoot" we plan each year. We intend to do that.
One most learn from each mistake and for our next video shoot, we will have to make the rules and judging process more clearer. We will also probably need to designate which tires are OK and which are not.
It is a learning curve for all of us. When we first started out we wanted to simply bring entertaining car content from Japan. Now our goals are to produce entertaining car content which involves both the US and Japan. Integration always has glitches in the beginning. We will work hard to get rid of the bugs to truly produce an international version of Best Motoring and Hot Version to successfully make something that makes everyone involved in it happy and proud.

Porsche Cayman

Covering the Porsche Cayman was one of our objectives for this trip in late December for us. Cars for the media have only been recently released from Porsche USA. In Japan the earliest we can get our hands on it will be mid January so we decided to fly over to the US to get the first ride out of all of the Japanese media. Best Motoring scheduled for release in January will cover the Porsche Cayman. Sam Mitani a good friend of mine who is the international editor for Road & Track appears in Best Motoring for the first time as the US host for Keiichi Tsuchiya. Sam is also well known in Japan since he has a monthly column in a Japanese magazine called Xacar. He writes about the latest movements in the US auto industry and motorsports. Thanks to him we were able to make it happen this time. I would like to see Sam appear in more Best Motorings in the future. He is bilingual and knows cars across all boarders.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Best Motoring US location

Preparing the MX-5 for the Hot Version segment in front of our office.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


I saw in the news today that Japanese police will use paint guns with florescent paint to catch bosozoku on new years eve. For some odd reason, Japanese bosozoku from all over Japan come out on new years eve and head towards Mt. Fuji. You know just like army ants on a rampage, they just come out of no where, eating everything in their path and march straight forward to the target point. Each year, that point happens to be Mt. Fuji. In Japan the first sun rise of the year is supposed to be very lucky and many people stay up to see it. If you can see the first sun rise of the year by the tallest mountain in Japan, Mt.Fuji, that is like finding a batch of four leaf clover under a rainbow in Western standards. For the bosozoku it is the same as they too want a prosperous new year. Japanese police have been trying to catch these guys but they are slippery fish so they thought paint guns with florescent paint will help identify them at night so they can chase them down. They were even showing how they were training today. They had traffic police dress up as bosozoku and drive around while cops from vans shot paint at them. Some of these police acting as bosozoku were way to good at it. I had a really good photo of a bosozuko bike I took at Daikokufuto one night but I can't seem to find it. You'll just have to settle for this photo of some crazy bosozoku wannabes. Needless to say in the bosozoku world, the lower you crouch the badder you are.


Oakley Hemi Funny Car
and Head Office

I had a chance to recently visit Oakley at their head quarters in Foothill Ranch CA. My perspective on the company totally changed after taking a tour of the company. Not only do they make sick looking sunglasses, they are actually very hi tech! Every concept, development, testing and manufacturing of their glasses are all done in house. Nothing is outsourced. Their glasses are their core business so they do not let anyone near it. Not to mention they have a million patents too. They even have a self sustained environment at their head quarters. That means they can fix every thing in house, like their own airconditioning system or lunch tables for that matter.
The first thing you notice after driving up to their office is that it looks like an Oakley astronomical obsertatory. (Photo: With cool Ducati parked out front) Once you go inside, the the Oakley Hemi powered drag car catches your eye on the back wall. Right behind the lobby is a big auditorium where we basically sat down and got brainwashed by these cool extreme sport images and music. Got me pumping and also thinking about what our motorsports content can do with Oakley, real seriously. Joses was our guide for the day and he taught us a lot of things we did not know. All the research and testing that go behind each pair of shades are pretty impressive. We especially liked the beebee gun test. There is a rubber dummy that you put shades on and a machine spits out a metal ball at it at 200mph. The Oakley shades bounces the ball off while some "competitors" glasses cannot withstand it. Next time I get shot at with a beebee gun I'll make sure to have my Oakleys on. : ) We finished the tour with lunch at their caffeteria in front of the NBA approved full size indoor basket ball court where guests and employees are free to shoot hoops. It was truly a cool experience. I have more respect for Oakley than ever now.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

What's a touge?

The touge means "mountain" or "hill". When we first came out with our Best Motoring International videos in 2001 we had discussion whether we should translate the word to mountain or rather go with the Japanese word "touge". We thought the English language can use another Japanese word besides banzai and sushi. Since then we've stuck to using the word touge because it not only means mountain but represents the kind of hills that the Japanese race on. At first people were saying, "oh, man I love your tooj showdown". We kept at it and now it is pretty commonly used at least in the import racing community.
Initial D made touge racing known but it is still an underground activity. All of our Touge Showdown segments are shot on a closed circuit. We like to keep it on the tracks and do no support street racing.

Monday, December 12, 2005

American Touge 2

All of the participants have been fixed for our second American Touge shoot in the US. We're asking all participants to arrive to Willowspring at 7am on 12/20(Tue). We have 40 cars plus. Most people will probably bring friends along so we're estimating about 100 people and cars. It should be a fun day.
All of the regulations for the cars have been posted on our web site and the forum on the site. Biggest thing the participants need to care about is tires and the drivers seat. Tires cannot be slick racing tires. You will be disqualified so please make sure to have sports radials. I say drivers seat, because owners must realize that Tsuchiya and Orido will both be driving the cars. Now Keiichi Tsuchiya is not the tallest man on earth and even though Orido is not Yao Ming their driving positions are way different. Every car MUST have adjustable seats or Keiichi will simply refuse to drive it. So please do not forget about this fact.
Other than that just having every body close to Tsuchiya and Orido will make it a real fun day. US fans seldom get to hang out with these guys so we think it'll be a great chance to meet them and also to have the cars judged by them.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

XDL Show

We went to video shoot the XDL show at Irwindale on 12/3. It was the first time drifters and stunt riders performed together. I think there will be more events like this to come in the future. Manabu Orido, Nob Taniguchi and Takahiro Ueno all had fun at the event. Special thanks to team sponsors and partners at Paramax, Oakley, RS-R, HKS, Drift Association, Red Bull, Mazda and Yokohama tires.

Zigzag Asia will be producing the XDL Show promo video so look forward to that.

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