This year was the 27th anniversary of the Mooneyes Yokohama Hot Rod and Custom Show. Yes, you read that right. The Mooneyes show in Japan has been happening for an admirable 27 years. What’s even more impressive is that it’s not showing any signs of slowing down. The Mooneyes show is where to go if you want to see the latest creations from Japans best builders. Two weeks ago I flew to Japan with Luke Ray from Fuel magazine to witness it all first hand.
A bit of Mooneyes History
The Mooneyes brand was created by hot rodder and land speed racer Dean Moon circa 1950. He established the brand as a manufacturer of aftermarket parts for hot rodders and drag racers. Dean purchased a property in Sante Fe, California a short distance from his fathers Moon Cafe where he built the company into an internationally recognised brand. Today over 50 years later some of Dean’s very first products are still available in the Mooneyes catalogue.
After the unfortunate death of Dean Moon in 1987 Japanese Mooneyes dealer Shige Suganuma and Chico Kodama purchased the company. Under their ownership, the brand has continued to grow and now has a worldwide network of official dealers. There are also two Mooneyes headquarters. One at the same address in Sante Fe where Dean first established the business, and the other in Yokohama, Japan. At the Yokohama branch, you’ll find both a Mooneyes retail store and a replica Moon Cafe built to mimic Dean’s father’s cafe in California.
Today the Mooneyes product range includes aftermarket performance parts, accessories, and apparel. The brand also extends well beyond its original hot rodding roots to include most aspects of the custom car and motorcycle scene. Recognised by the unmistakable eyeball logo and bold yellow branding Mooneyes is synonymous with kustom kulture.
The Mooneyes HRCS Show
We all know Japan is the place to go if you want to see the craziest street culture. Their seemingly unbridled self-expression produces some rather eye-opening street fashion, but it doesn’t stop there. Events like the Mooneyes Yokohama HRCS are the best place to see how these styles translate to the custom scene. While most of the vehicles at the show can be easily categorised as hot rods, choppers, low riders or cafe racers, they’ve all been built in a way that is unique to Japan. From their attention to detail to their ability to make a crazy idea look unquestionably cool, this is the reason the Japanese custom scene is one of the most revered in the world.
Despite their incredible creativity Japanese workshops are still heavily influenced by builders from other countries, in particular, the USA where many of the styles they recreate originated. As a result, each year Shige invites a handful of builders from the USA to attend the show and bring along some of their latest creations. This year special guests included Rolands Sands and Shinya Kimura to name a few. They also brought with them their latest builds which are a big drawcard for the droves of Japanese enthusiasts who attend the show.
Considering the size and scale of the Mooneyes Hot Rod and Custom Show it’s hard to believe it is only a one-day event. It takes place at the Pacifico National Convention Hall that sits on the edge of Tokyo Bay in Yokohama. Pacifico is one of the largest convention complexes in the world and on the day of the show hosts over 600 of Japan’s best custom cars and motorcycles and approximately 15,000 show attendees.
Awarding my pick of the show
Unfortunately, you won’t find as many cafe racers as you will choppers at the Mooneyes show. This was a little disappointing, but it didn’t detract from how amazing being at this event was. Part of my role at the show as an invited guest was to award the ‘Return of the Cafe Racers – Pick of the Show’. So, along with trying to take in as much of the event as possible, I also had the daunting task of picking out a favourite. We were given early access to the venue the day before the show. This is the best time to check things out before they are surrounded by hundreds of show-goers. It is also when I caught a glimpse of the bike I would go on to pick as my winner.
Although it may not have been as outlandish as many of the other custom motorcycles at the show, the BMW R100RS by 46 Works was a standout. During my first trip to Japan back in 2013, I visited the workshop of Ritmo Sereno. Here I met Shiro Nakajima and saw first hand how each of his motorcycles displayed a perfect balance of purposeful performance and style. Since then Shiro left Ritmo to launch 46 Works and his approach to building has remained the same. His Mooneyes BMW was no exception and it was one of the most tastefully executed machines at the show.
On the day of the Mooneyes Yokohama show, I awarded Shiro with his trophy. I watched Japanese rockabilly bands get loose on the main stage. I shook the hands of many of the builders whose work I admire and caught up with friends who’d also flown to Yokohama to experience this truly amazing event. In the days following the show, the custom scene is buzzing with adrenaline. If you’re lucky you can end up cruising the streets of Tokyo in a low rider or attending follow up events like the Mooneyes Yokohama after party or the Okie Dokie flat track races hosted by Brat Style.
No matter what you’re into the Japanese custom scene has something that’ll blow your mind and the best place to see it is at the Mooneyes Yokohama Hot Rod and Custom Show. I hope I will see you there in 2019.