Photos: Mitzi Valenzuela; Words: Tokyo Soul
Japan is full of things that don’t make sense. We drive on the left, sometimes “yes” means “no,” and hot rods are legally illegal. Self-proclaimed outlaw Tsuyoshi Sato, or “Shorty” to just about everyone, breaks the law on a daily basis. But as long as nothing really bad happens in the cars and machines that he makes, there’s really nothing to get in trouble for. For a country with such an image of newly-modern and perfectly-structured, it’s weird that hot rods exist at all.
As in any kustom car kulture, models and styles of vehicles run the gamut of modern automotive history. Whatever you can think of, someone somewhere has done it, and even added a few homegrown specialties into the mix.
Shorty lives at his garage. Not actually in it, but out the front in a silvery vintage Streamliner. It’s not very big inside, but Shorty doesn’t need much room. Sleep, eat, build cars, repeat.
The garage itself, affectionately known as “Pumpkin Sally,” used to be a supermarket, frequented by quaint ladies on bicycles stocking up on eggs and milk. Now it’s a four-booth garage (five if you count the plastic-curtained corner set aside for paint), bristling with automotive relics inside and out. Some are alive, some are destined to be, but all have seen better days. They are all on their way to something better with tender loving care from Shorty, and his #2, Fuku-chan. It’s not a big operation by international standards, but it’s hardly an undiscovered garage band waiting to break into the Top 20 either.
Check them out on facebook.