Exploring Japanese Garage Culture At Owl Works – Speedhunters


One car that really stood out to me was this 1974 Toyota Celica 1600GT with a unique blend of period-correct and contemporary modifications.


So how can an independent garage like Owl Works, and so many more, keep business going here in Japan? In the UK for example, classic car sales are either done privately or dominated by a couple of big dealers. These kinds of independent garages simply don’t exist in Great Britain.

It’s worth mentioning that the term ‘garage’ is often interchangeable with ‘dealership’ in Japan, because more often than not they are able carry out repairs on site. Owl Works, for example, offer their clients a full ongoing maintenance service, which surely extends to taking care of the bi-annual shaken (roadworthy) inspection.


There are a few contributing factors to the garage bubble in Japan.

Firstly, physical space. Many people don’t have the space to keep cars let alone work on them. Sure, you can go full rebel and pull the engine out of your Subaru DIY-style as I currently am, but most enthusiasts would run a mile at the thought of such a thing.


Secondly, time. 99% of Japanese people are at work from 8:00 in the morning till 8:00 at night, and sometimes more. So no one really has time to be messing around maintaining old cars when there are barely enough free hours to just enjoy them.


Thirdly, customer service. This is the #1 priority when conducting business in Japan, because no one wants to buy a car privately and actually have to deal with another person; the risks are just too high. When it comes to shopping, the Japanese are so accustomed to being taken care of that anything less is unthinkable.


My last point relates to customer service, because buying and selling a car privately in Japan involves a mountain of paperwork, and then some more. The government has made the process such a bureaucratic headache that no sane person would dare attempt it.


Now, I’m not saying that the Aowuru the owl is going to do any of the paperwork for you if you buy a car from Owl Works, but Dan Takahashi certainly will.

When it come to these sort of specialist automotive businesses, I think it all works out for the best. Customers get looked after when buying their classic investment, the cars get maintained properly, and best of all Japan is blessed with a rich and vibrant garage culture unlike anywhere else in the world.  

Toby Thyer
Instagram _tobinsta_

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