Our Car-filled 10 days in Japan

In November/December, my husband James and I went on the trip of a lifetime – for a Nissan Z-car enthusiast, anyway! Good thing James fits that bill: his father had a 240z and later a 300zx, and James had a 350z and currently drives a 370z.

For 11 days, we joined 16 other “Z Crazies,” as the Japanese have dubbed our group of visitors from the U.S. (a different group goes each year), visited Yokohama, Tokyo, Nagakute, Utsunomiya, Nikko and Tochigi. In each city, we visited a variety of Nissan and Yokohama facilities and spent time with local Z car clubs.

Driving brand-new, 2015 Nismo 370zs at Nissan’s Grandrive proving ground in Yokohama – and getting driven around by Nissan test drivers and in local car club members’ own cars

Attending Nismo Festival at Mt. Fuji Speedway with some of Nissan’s most historic racing vehicles and drivers – past and present.

Viewing Toyota Motor Corporation’s Automobile Museum, full of some of the most historic and industry-changing vehicles ever made by all OEMs, and Nissan’s DNA Garage that houses the company’s pristine collection of notable cars… from 70-year-old trucks to one-of-a-kind racecars with 115 miles on them.

Dinner in the executive dining room at Nissan’s world headquarters in Yokohama with the COO and the
head of the 370Z and GT-R product team.

Spending the afternoon with Mr. K, the former president of Nissan North America who is credited with bringing Datsun and the Z car to the U.S. – and who is spry and witty as ever at 105 years old!

Visiting the Tochigi factory where 370zs, Nissan GT-Rs, and Infinity sedans and SUVs are made – and a special trip out on the test track in a Nismo GT-R with one of the company’s GT-R test drivers.

Riding around 45-degree banked turns and going 180 mph in a Mercedes C-63 AMG and a Bentley Continental Supersport at Yokohama tire’s D-PARC testing ground.

But it wasn’t all cars….

We visited the famous Nikko Temples…

Walked the Imperial Gardens…

Prayed at the oldest temple in Tokyo, the Sensō-ji temple in Asakusa, which was built in 645 AD…

Visited the Kirin brewery…

Watched Mt. Fuji out the window of a bullet train going 165 mph…

Ate sushi for breakfast at Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji fish market…

Visited a traditional Japanese hot spring…

Crossed the hectic Shibuya crossing…

Ate more ramen that I care to admit…

And met so many wonderful people who share our enthusiasm for the Z!

And here’s a fun tidbit: we dined one evening with the owner of Datsun Freeway, a well-known performance, repair and body shop. As we exchanged business cards, a formal tradition in Japan, he was excited to see that I worked for AutoTrader. Turns out that he knows and uses AutoTrader.com and KBB.com when he comes to the U.S. to buy and price Z cars to take back to Japan (for parts and because left-hand drive Zs are a novelty).



I’m not a “selfie hater” because I do not support people being confident and beautiful… I simply believe that in this age of social sharing, they are overused. The vast majority of the selfies I see are just as over-posed and over-primped as the girls in this video describe. And, most of the time, the images I see are of the same people’s faces in the same places with the same expressions, multiple times a week. I have seen that some people use selfies to hide their bodies (this goes all the way back to MySpace), which goes against the exact premise of this video. When they’re overdone, especially in this fashion, I believe selfies inherently demonstrate a state of narcissism – not confidence and self-acceptance – that social media helps propagate.

I also think that selfies further the incessant need to share every moment of our days. They are the visual representation of the over-sharing status update, the photographic equivalent of the let-me-tell-you-what-I-had-for-breakfast-lunch-and-dinner-in-real-time quibble that no one truly needs to hear.

In addition, I believe that selfies encourage the growing problem of smartphone and social-media induced isolation while in public. I cannot tell you how often I see people taking selfies in public. Maybe they’re really documenting a great moment in life and I should not pass judgment. But, I have to believe that, based on what I see in my own social channels, these self-photographers are more often than not missing out on what’s around them in favor of their personal portrait. I think if we all put down our phones for a week, we’d realize how much is happening around us that we do not see. I’m guilty of this myself, but that’s another rant for another day….

Last, I have seen an increasing number of people using selfies when a real photo would be great! If a friend is nearby and offers to take a picture of you in front of a beautiful landscape – take them up on it! Or, ask a stranger to snap the milestone moment when you finally get to see the Eiffel Tower. Later in life, you’ll appreciate the picture of the moment/landmark AND your smiling face, not the 10 percent of whatever it is that managed to sneak in the frame. Don’t get me wrong, I, along with everyone’s friends and family, LOVE to see the smiling faces of those I know – but not the same pose day in and day out in front of a background I can’t decipher.  Or – better yet – absorb the moment, take it in and remember it in your head. We don’t need to snap a cell phone photo of everything.

Now, I will admit that sometimes, selfies can be fun – I think of the picture of my sister, my cousin and I during the half-marathon in Akron, for example. Or even the one my friends and I took before a race last winter – both of these capture the energy and excitement of that moment in time, which cannot be conveyed in a posed photograph taken by a stranger. And that’s completely fine. I support that. But, like anything else that is overused, the selfie has been misused and abused… and that I can’t support.


Note from the Universe

Trust yourself. You chose superbly, and though you may not see it yet, you've already mustered the courage you had to muster, faced the fears you had to face, braved the storms, fought the battles, and exceeded every expectation you ever had for being the kind of person you hoped you'd be.


Note from the Universe

Everything in your life, right now, is awesome. Everything is in its right place, under grace, and whether or not this makes perfect sense yet, one day it will. And the time swiftly approaches when you'll be exceedingly grateful for all that has brought you to this day and contributed to who you've become, because it is exactly that person who is now poised to live as you have always dreamed you would one day live.


Note from the Universe

To make hard tasks easy, mountains molehills, and challenges simple, you can opt for one of two paths. You can be still, wait for guidance, and expect spontaneous enlightenment. Or you can just roll up your sleeves and get busy doing what you can, with what you've got, from where you are. May I suggest the latter? It's usually much faster. And it makes you a bloomin' lightening rod for divine guidance and spontaneous enlightenment.


Note from the Universe

it's one kind of victory to slay a beast, move a mountain, and cross a chasm, but it's another kind altogether to realize that the beast, the mountain, and the chasm were of your own design.


Note from the Universe

A runner's high doesn't come from thinking about the end result; to a runner so affected, the end result is assured. Instead, they think only of the moment, one step, one breath, and one heartbeat at a time.