Friday, August 7, 2020

Visit to Nismo and First Summer Touring

And finally, after what felt like two endless months of absolute crap weather, the rainy season is over! I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I enjoyed a proper drive, so last weekend I made sure to make up for it.

First things first: a quick stop at Omori Factory. Yes, I know, another visit, but this time I had a good excuse, plus this was my last chance before they'd close for two weeks for summer holidays.

Truth is that I finally picked up the two parts for the GT-R that I’ve been waiting for over one year. I ordered them at the same time I took delivery of the car and I can’t wait to have them fitted. More on this an another post.

The guys seemed busier than ever, with several cars coming in and out of the shop, but also new products in development, including a new package for the RB26 that Kambara-san has been working on for a while, as hinted on this post.

Far from being a proper touring session, but it was such a long time since I drove on the Shuto Expressway that even a short 30 minutes run felt therapeutic. The sequence of elevations and curves that connect to the Rainbow Bridge is so smooth to drive...

Once back in Tokyo I stopped for a quick coffee in Ginza and with nothing but clear skies in the weather forecast for the following day I found myself planning my first touring of summer 2020.

Set on leaving as early as possible in the morning, I gave the windshield a good clean and headed back home for some rest. Driving through the Ginza lights at night is always fascinating.

So, where did I go this time? My destination of choice was Cape Ose: a renowned diving spot off the western side of the Izu peninsula, famous for its beautiful shrine and a pond located at its centre.

But there was a caveat - instead of driving straight to Ose on the Tomei Expressway I decided to take a little detour and pass through Hakone Turnpike. So here I am, sipping on an espresso at 7:30AM at the famous parking area at the top of the hill climb.

Truth is that Mount Taikanzan was immersed in a petty thick mist and, with barely 15 meters of visibility ahead, I drove the last section at minimal speed. This is not uncommon during very hours and it usually clears up, but didn’t really concern me as I had no plan to hang around Hakone.

After a quick climb down and a bit of traffic heading towards Numazu I finally found myself cruising through the south edge of the Nishiura coast. These roads are not the widest and require to drive through some of the villages, but sometimes the experience is not all about speed. There are some very nice bend sequences coupled with an incredibile view of Uchiura Bay: match them with the meaty torque band around 3,500 rpm of the Fairlady and a crispy Sunday morning and it’s pure driving heaven.

The last couple of kilometers the roads gets considerably narrower and a bit of caution is definitely required to get through, but I managed to reach the parking area of Cape Ose without any scratch or scrape. Surprisingly it’s quite big and fairly well shielded from the sun. So I let the Z cool off and started to get around.

I’m not going to beat around the bush here: this place is great and was worth every single one of the 160 kilometers that it took me to get there.

The beach perhaps is not the most beautiful (mostly gravel rather than white sand), but the scenery is fantastic and the tip of the cape alone is worth the visit.

The whole area is free to be explored, just be careful to use one of the many local professional shops if you are planning to dive.

After walking through the main torii gate I headed towards the entrance of Osezaki shrine. It was still around 10AM, so I was one of the first people to get there and I had a few good minutes to get around in peace.

After 13 years in Japan I lost the count of how many shrines I have visited, but I have to say that, as small as it is, Osezaki shrine is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen.

What lacks in size compared to some of the major ones that can be found elsewhere, it compensates with an array of small little details. Times like this I really wish I had a proper camera.

The shrine itself is actually located on top of a small hill and you need to climb a short stairway to reach it. I spent there a good 15 minutes relaxing, taking photos and discovering the intricacy of the structure.

Interestingly, the following days I mentioned about the place to a few Japanese friends and long term residents and none of them had ever heard of it. This is the great thing about Japan: it’s filled with little gems like this one and I never get tired of discovering them. After a much needed break I decided to go back to the village in search of something to eat.

As always, Japan delivered again and I discovered a small local spot that served a pretty epic maguro bowl (fittingly named Ose-don) for a mere 1,100¥!

The soft-boiled egg added just a bit of richness to the maguro sashimi, yet was still very light and easy to digest (I am mindful not to stuff myself when I’m out on a long drive).

After a quick walk around I got back in the car and literally devoured the road back home. The Fairlady is an awesome cruising machine and Japanese expressways are absolutely fantastic when free of traffic.

Two hours later I was back in Tokyo (and ran into a very clean R32 after getting off the expressway). Cape Ose was a pleasure to discover and quick, spontaneous trips like this are everything I love about driving in Japan.

Another 315 kilometers of great roads, photos and memories are in the books. Looking forward to the next drive!

Thanks for stopping by today.

Until next time.

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