The RWB New Year Meet before the Tokyo Auto Salon is a January tradition as old as keeping Christmas decorations up too long. As far back as I can remember the RWB New Year meet signiﬁed the start of the Tokyo Auto Salon weekend. It was a night where the RWB family from all around the world got together in one convenient parking lot at the Hard Rock Cafe in Roppongi.
But this year might’ve been the last time this meet would be held at the iconic location. We’ve all seen the videos and the photos from the Hard Rock Cafe car park. The unmistakable neon sign in front of the building illuminating the cars as the queued to go in. Once in, there’s not a whole lot of space to spread the cars out but the grungy backdrop of the buildings around the car park ﬁt the whole aesthetic of the RWB lifestyle.
[Editor’s Notes: RWB/RAUH-Welt BEGRIFF is a Porsche tuner located in Japan and now with US Operations in California. RWB combines Japanese and Euro tuning elements, creating the distinct RWB style for Porsche chassis. Starting off as a small countryside body-shop in Chiba-ken, RAUH-Welt 911’s are now a common sight on both the streets and racing circuits of Japan. They create only one RWB Porsche for each customer. All RAUH-Welt Bodykits are hand-made in Japan by Nakai-san and his team.]
On ﬁrst appearances it’s the sort of place you wouldn’t want to leave your mother unattended for too long but in actuality there’s not much to worry about it. The covered parking area is a bit sketchy as cars drive literally inches from you head causing the ceiling to wobble and creak but hey, it’s Japan and they do things properly here, right?
Anyway, the location for the meet was as integral to the atmosphere as the cars were. As much as I hate to use the word, it was the right vibe. Unfortunately there are plans to get rid of the old car park for some new development. Which means either they’ll have to ﬁnd a new location to meet up next year or not do any more RWB New Year meets at all. That would be a shame because it’s always an event I look forward to attending.
I’ve only been four times but it’s gotten better every year. More and more cars have showed up, which makes sense as new ones appear every year. This year there were around 23 RWBs in total and because it was a special occasion they had cleared out all the cars from the covered section and arranged all the various RWBs with, get this, space around them.
In theory this would’ve made it easier to get around the cars and bask in their colourful magniﬁcence but in reality it just meant the bigger crowd this year had more space to gather around each car. It was quite amazing to see how many people from diﬀerent backgrounds had showed up to see a couple dozen modiﬁed Porsches in a car park on a cold January night in Tokyo. The easy accessibility of the Hard Rock Cafe meant anyone could join in on the fun without need to rent a car if it was held at say, Daikoku Parking Area or Tatsumi Parking Area.
Each RWB car in their diﬀerent colours, styles, and liveries seemed to have a diﬀerent characteristic. Whilst all starting out as basically the same car (either a G-model, 964, or 993), the small diﬀerences between each one have given them unique personalities with diﬀerent ethos in mind. You could see two 964, one with a ducktail and one with a double-decker wing, with completely diﬀerent purposes.
It’s not just the wings either, each car was a reﬂection of the owner’s diﬀerent styles. Some hard far too many stickers, others had minimal amounts. Some had roll cages, others were convertibles. Just to see all of these with their varying colour schemes under essentially the same roof was something special. A lot of these have been to various meets and events, you might recognise some from the Idler’s 12 hour race at Twin Ring Motegi last year. Some are new cars making their debut here.
Up top the diversity were hiding. It was hard to miss the dark blue 993 Carrera parked nicely in front of a view of Tokyo Tower. The brownish-red R34 GT-R was particularly tasteful too, it even had Porsche style bucket seats. Opposite that was a DeTomaso Pantera (because of diversity) and a pair of drift ready Nissans. But without a doubt the best car/thing on the rooftop was the Cat-Bus. There’s no context here, just a kei-van inspired by the ‘Nekobus’ from ‘My Neighbour Totoro’. As you were.
Towards the end of the night, after everyone had their ﬁll of dinner, it was time to leave the Hard Rock Cafe parking lot in a convoy of very bright and very wide air-cooled Porsches. Quite possibly the last time we’ll ever see this lot leave that lot, it was straight into one of the busiest roads in Tokyo on a Thursday night. Things weren’t made easier thanks to the shortest green light in the entire world managing the only exit out of the Hard Rock Cafe parking lot.
It was utter carnage as cars were only able to leave in groups of two or three after every green light. With taxis and chauﬀeured cars blocking an entire lane of the road, it was literally an RWB traﬃc jam backing up the rest of Tokyo’s night traﬃc. As messy at it was, it was still a spectacular sight to behold as confused passersby and drivers tried to make sense of it all. On the plus side, I did see an Alphard Royal Lounge.
After what felt like an eternity all the cars made their way to Tatsumi Parking Area. Unlike most years where everyone either went home or just left their cars overnight at the car park, it was a quick drive to Tatsumi to commemorate this special evening. Being a cold Thursday night Tatsumi had enough space to for they entire crew to park up together. Having them all parked up side by side in one parking lot made it better to see just how many cars were actually there. It was a pretty bloody good turnout.
Tatsumi was cold. It’s always cold because of how high up it is. The wind is never kind there during winter but luckily we didn’t have to brave the Arctic-like temperatures for very long as the police came to break up the party. Like clockwork almost everyone got in their cars and drove oﬀ out of the exit as soon as they saw the ﬂashing roof-mounted lights from the Toyota Crown patrol car.
In an instant the 20-something RWBs that were static on second had all descended on the Tatsumi exit and launched back onto the Tokyo Expressways leaving behind a few tyre makes and a whole lot of smoke. That is, all except for one 930 owner who stayed behind to ﬁnish a conversation he was having with a friend. Unbelievably the policemen waited next to him until he ﬁnished but when it started to look like he wasn’t in any rush to leave the policemen kindly asked him to move to a diﬀerent parking spot, one that wasn’t reserved for trucks and buses. My American friends were quick to point if this had happened over there he would’ve been ticketed, but not in Japan.
It was a bittersweet moment as all the RWBs eventually left Tatsumi and ultimately the Hard Rock Cafe. An iconic and signiﬁcant meeting place for these guys, and an institution in itself during the weekend of TAS, these guys will have to ﬁnd a new place to gather for next year’s New Year’s meet if there even will be one. I’m glad to have been able to attend these meets a couple of times; but at the very least, there’ll be the Idlers Games in Tsukuba to look forward to.
Ken Saito is a Guest Writer specialising in Automobiles who resides in Japan. With a B.A. majoring in Media Studies with minors in Asian Studies and History from Victoria University in New Zealand, Ken has contributed to motoring websites like DriveLive New Zealand, CarsOfTokyo (Japan), Jalopnik (USA) and Petrolicious (USA), as well as magazines like Lords Magazine (France) and Automobile (USA).
Ken may be one of the few people to have been ‘canyon carving’ in a Cadillac SUV against a Ferrari F40…