Shige Suganuma has been coordinating the Mooneyes Hot Rod and Custom Show in Yokohama, Japan for the past twenty three years. It has become the premier international show and attracts visitors from all over the world. Every year, Shige hand picks guests from the United Stated to attend the Show. My husband, Duane, received an invite during Born-Free 5 for his “Kosmosaki”, a 1981 Kawasaki KZ100 custom chopper. We had to keep it a secret for a year because 2014 was going to showcase Diggers. I have to tell you that it was one of the hardest secrets to keep, but we honored Shige’s request. Being a guest of the Mooneyes show is a chance in a lifetime, and we’ve been fortunate to have been invited twice. It’s mind-blowing to say the least. I never expect people to understand Duane’s vision because he walks a different path than most and prefers to run Japanese motors. Shige and Duane have formed a friendship through their mutual admiration for Hondas.
Normally, the Mooneyes show goes on without any issues or concerns. That was not the case for the 23rd Mooneyes Show. In the beginning of the year, there was a lot of “talk” about the show not even happening. The rumors became true as the neighborhood that surrounds The Pacifico Yokohama convention hall sent in many complaints about the noise pollution. Shige had to jump through many hoops to prove to the city that he could maintain a quiet zone during the day. You see, The Pacifico Yokohama is located in a residential zone and thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts normally ride to the convention hall. Most people that attend the show spend countless hours in the lower garage checking out the motorcycles that have been ridden in. Shige and his staff created the “Be Calm Not Loud" Shizukani campaign in 2014 to prove to the powers to be that he could make the event enjoyable for all. Some neighbors still opposed the Mooneyes Show because they felt that their rights were being taken away. I was there, and I can tell you, attendance was not affected by the neighbors’ opposition. It was quite impressive to see everyone respect the new rules.
The Mooneyes Show is five days of non-stop activity for the invited guests and vendors. Most don’t sleep on the 15 hour flight due to the anticipation of what lies ahead. Once we landed, we were greeted by Shige, Steve and some the Mooneyes staff, found our bus, and headed off to Yokohama. As always, there was a planned rest area stop, which is the new comer’s first experience with the Japanese culture. The language, money, food, drinks, sounds, overall cleanliness, and dedicated smoking areas all seem foreign in the beginning. But, within a few days everything seems normal. Duane and I introduced Duane’s mom, Lynda, and our friends, Chris and Michelle De Ley, to the “go to healthy” snacks that we enjoyed the last time we were in Yokohama: ice cream, coffee, chips, beer, candy, and soda. The bus takes about an hour and a half to arrive at our host hotel, the Pacifico International. Once we checked in, we were free for night. Duane, Chris, Michelle, and I met up with Kutty and Jamie Noteboom for dinner. Kutty and Jamie have been to Japan plenty of times, so they knew what restaurants everyone would enjoy. It was a great night, filled with laughter and great food.
On Saturday morning, the invited guests met up with Shige and his staff to grab their vehicles and be filmed for the Mooneyes Show DVD. Normally, there are a few trucks that go on the ride for photographers to get extra imagery of the guests, but that wasn’t the case this year. Shige only allowed a few editorial staff to attend, because he didn’t want anyone to complain about noise or make a scene. They actually filmed in a different location so as not to upset anyone. Jamie and I spent quality time together setting up our guys’ booths, while they enjoyed riding around Yokohama. I also used this time to obtain content for ChopCult, because I knew it wouldn’t be possible on Sunday. I knew that I should cover the show for ChopCult, but I wasn’t there for ChopCult per se, I was there to support my husband. Honestly, this was his time to shine, as it should be.
Once the guys set up their bikes in their allotted spots, we headed off for a few beers and a quick shower before the Little Get Together Party. Visitors enjoyed a hot meal provided by Mooneyes, live music, refreshments, and had a chance to meet the invited guests on a personal level. When the event ended, most of the crowd made the trek to Dice Magazine’s pre-party. We decided to call it a night and rest up for the next day. There’s nothing worse than working an event with a hangover (just ask Dean, hahaha).
Anxiety was at an all-time high on Sunday as we were required to be on location early, get the booth dialed in, and head back to The Pacifico for the beginning of the show. The crowd formed outside the main doors and the line was as far as the eye could see. I’m sure that Shige and his staff were relieved, as their campaign and hard work paid off. I did notice a lot of families in attendance this year and wondered if it was due to the campaign. One will never know.
The show begins at 10 am sharp, and the crowd was massive. The back parking lot came alive as soon as Shige gave the ok to start the vehicles. To hear cars and motorcycles built by Bobby Walden, Galpin Auto Sport, Gene Winfield, Kiyo Mitsuhiro, Brent Rogers, Kosuke Saito, Oliver Jones, Jamie and Kutty Noteboom, Paul Wideman and Duane fire up at once was awesome. Each person drives into the show under Shige’s well-orchestrated direction. Once inside, the invited guests spoke to the crowd and then headed to their booths. It was inspiring to watch people stand in line to meet my husband and the other builders. We never expected Duane to be at this level of notoriety, and it’s humbling to say the least. Our day was spent meeting past customers, and our social media followers. Our friends at Biltwell were kind enough to print up posters for Duane to sign and hand out.
Monday was considered a free day for invited guests to explore Japan and some people headed to Tokyo for the day. Our group decided to stay in Yokohama, as we had extended our trip for a couple of days and would be able to go to Tokyo later. We joined Paul Wideman and artist, Darren McKeag, for a day of getting lost on the subways and trains. We visited a few temples, found the beach, and ended the night having dinner with the De Ley’s. It was a fantastic day indeed.
Tuesday everyone packed up and headed to the airport. We said our goodbyes and began the second leg of our trip. There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t thank Shige for allowing us to be a small part of his event. I’m forever grateful for his ongoing support and friendship; but most of all, for his supporting Duane and his vision. I hope that one day you can attend the greatest show on earth.
I recently received a note from Shige: “The date has been set for Sunday December 6, 2015. It was all made possible with your support. Everyone that values this culture and lifestyle we are in, came together as one. Thank you very much!” Please go here for updates, and follow Mooneyes on Facebook and Instagram, https://instagram.com/mooneyesusa and https://instagram.com/mooneyesjp.
Photo By Jessie Stopnik.
Congratulations to Ryan Grossman for being chosen Born-Free's Best in Show, and winning the trip to Japan. He'll be joining Tom Foster, Oliver Jones, Mark Drews, Jason Webber, Jeff Leighton, Scott Stopnik Sr., Arie Vanschyndel, and Andy Carter for Mooneyes' 24th Annual Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show.