I love hiking in the mountains of Japan. It’s a great way to escape the city, get some fresh air, and, it turns out, stumble upon a secret collection of rotting VW Golfs.
This is exactly what happened to me one day two years ago. It took several emails and as many phone calls to make it happen, but this winter I was finally able to shoot the feature at the Spinning Garage into what I call “the sea of golf balls.”
The owner of Spinning Garage, Nobuwa Tanaka, is a hard man to chase. Naturally, I emailed the garage as soon as I first found it, and with no response, I gathered my Japanese thoughts (and a little guts) and made a call. Mr. Tanaka was not there at the time, so I explained my request to the staff and asked them to pass it on to the boss.
Weeks passed without any reply. Again, I sent an email, and again, after no response, I called. same result. I tried the combination again and gave up.
But nearly two years later, after driving past the garage again, I decided to try my luck and sent one last email. Long live! A response and an open invitation to photograph Sea of Golf.
Of course I asked to see my boss, Mr. Tanaka, but as expected, he didn’t come to greet me. That’s okay, because the 11 employees at Spinning Garage are passionate.
Apparently, Mr. Tanaka’s love for MkII golf began when he was a student. He used to race on the track with friends and do all the maintenance and tuning himself. Mr. Tanaka seems to have known from the beginning that he wanted to open a golf pro shop, and in 1998 he realized that dream with the Spinning Garage.
keep the dream alive
Even after all these years, he never got tired of the MkII Golf. Not just because he loves how it rides and handles, but because of the hospitable community of owners, collectors and enthusiasts in Japan.
These cars are a rare sight on the streets of Japan and around the world. I think there are more MkIIs in the main yard of the Spinning Garage than I’ve seen on the street in my lifetime.
Yes, it’s kind of sad to see so many end up in disrepair, but at the same time it’s amazing how many people are waiting to be brought back for a second chance. Clearly, the Golf has a huge following around the world, especially in Europe, but largely due to the availability of Japanese parts and the Mini Cooper’s dominance of the European minicar segment, the Golf has been relegated to cult status here.
This must be a bigger cult following than I know, or they only come out at night. Because, at the time of my visit, with such a large team and more than half a dozen cars, Spinning Garage is all about keeping Golfs on the road, as well as restoring and selling them.
It’s safe to say that the team can accommodate almost any request, from repairing window seals to completing engine replacements. They’re cramming an R32 VR6 into this MkII. This isn’t a new method of engine swapping by any means, but it’s interesting to see it happen in a remote shed.
Step out of the workshop area and things get interesting. Among the more than 200 cars littering the two yards was a shed containing two Golf Country Syncro 4x4s from military vehicle maker Puch. Only 558 were produced worldwide, and only 110 were imported and sold in Japan. Of the 110 cars, only 15 green metallic cars and 65 black cars were imported.
I leave you here and let you walk around the yard. It might be a little scary, but remember, the Golf is the friendliest car in the world.