Home > Archaeology > ARCHAEOLOGY> Keiichi Tsuchiya Tanjoubi

ARCHAEOLOGY> Keiichi Tsuchiya Tanjoubi

I was talking to a new AE86 friend earlier on Facebook, and he told me that today was Keiichi Tsuchiya‘s birthday. Tanjoubi omedetou, Dorikin! Those that follow the drifting scene in Japan obviously know that Keiichi is highly revered in Japan’s automotive media industry; nicknamed Dorikin, or “Drift King,” Keiichi basically became the media darling of Sanei Shobo Publishing, which is the media powerhouse that owns and produces Option Magazine (and all its variants), Drift Tengoku Magazine, and Video Option.

Video Option may well be the most powerful media outlet in the group; after all, most of my friends might agree with me when I say that the first time I (we) ever watched an Option Video tape, we were dumbfounded and immediately hooked on drifting and Japanese car culture. (Yes, that’s right… I did say video TAPE… I’m showing my age here. I know that many of our readers have never used video tapes, only DVDs.) However, this isn’t a story about Video Option… after all, it’s Keiichi’s birthday, so I thought it might be fitting to share some old school photos of my first (only) encounter with Keiichi’s famous white TRD AE86, which inspired the hell out of us at an early age.

I realize that most people might think, “What the hell? A post about Keiichi on his birthday? You JDM fanboy!” Haha, it’s okay, I’ll admit it. When I first learned about drifting and Video Option and Best Motoring and AE86s and Keiichi Tsuchiya and Initial D in the mid 1990s, I was a fanboy. I don’t care if you think that’s lame, either… because at some point in our lives, we all idolized someone… whether it be a sports figure or famous celebrity or whatever. The only difference is, I have enough confidence to admit it. As I was growing up, I definitely looked up to guys like Keiichi Tsuchiya (and Nas and Blackthought and Q-Tip and De La, but that’s another story).

Let me explain. When I was getting into cars in the mid-1990s, I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. In that area, at that time, fixed up Hondas and turbo Eclipses ruled the streets. Oh geez… I know…. but at the time, Import Showoff was the shit, Hot Import Nights had just started, SEMA was still a tradeshow for  domestic car guys (for the most part), Biggie Smalls just dropped Hypnotize (and everyone was jocking the Remix Twins in his video), and Hondas had just broken into the 10-second barrier at import drag events. The scene for Japanese cars in the United States was still very, very young…

Most of the Bay Area car guys would bring their FWD street drag cars at In N Out Burger in Milpitas, wearing bright Tommy Hilfiger and Nautica jackets in an attempt to attract the “hot azian chicks” that they were chatting with online. (Yes, I’m serious!) Integras and Civics were the cool cars to have at the time; I didn’t own a Honda though, so most people in that scene never thought my cars were cool. (I hated those guys anyway.) To them, I owned a shit brown Celica and a shitty old Corolla. So when I first saw Keiichi the Drift King in the videos, and he was driving the same kind of Corolla I had, I totally thought he was the shit! Especially back in 1998, when I bought my VHS copy of Best Motoring Video Vol. 41 at the Kinokuniya Bookstore in San Francisco!

In the legendary Best Motoring Volume 41, Keiichi races an EK9 Civic R and beats it with his AE86 Trueno! I would always chill in San Francisco with my hachiroku friends like Calvin (C.Wan), John and Yves, and we used to sit there and watch AE86 videos all night long, and then go drive Highway 1 from Pacifica to Half Moon Bay. After watching Keiichi’s AE86 beat the EK Civic in those videos, Keiichi became our hero because we despised all those Honda drag guys who used to talk shit about the GT-S Corollas that we loved so much. (We’re friends with the Honda guys now, though… haha)

In honor of Keiichi’s birthday, I thought I should head to the Cipher Garage and dig up my old photo albums from my first Japan trip in January 1999 and share the pics with our readers. I’ll be honest… I used to be a HUGE fan of Keiichi back in the day… until I saw firsthand the way he speaks to and treats D1 drivers. (I was crushed when I experienced those things.)

However, I figured our readers might like to see this blast from the past anyway. Before car forums and blogging were big on the internet, I used to go to car events and take photos using film that I bought cheap from the photo lab I worked at in high school. Back then, I made the Team Cipher website, which had photos of our friends, early import events, and my early experiences with Japanese car culture. I used to spend all my money on film and developing, and sneak away from my desk at work to scan the photos onto 3.5″ floppy disks when nobody was looking! LOL old school!!!

Here are some of my scanned photos from Tokyo Auto Salon 1999, where I came face to face with Keiichi Tsuchiya’s famous TRD AE86 at the K/T Design booth…

I don’t think I’ve ever jocked a car as hard as I did when I first saw Keiichi Tsuchiya’s TRD AE86 in person.I was trippin the hell out on his kouki bumpers, the TRD carbon fiber hood (at the time, 86 guys in the USA didn’t have carbon hoods), and of course, his SSR/Modex Dori Dori wheels.

Keep in mind, I had just bought the Vol.41 video a couple months earlier, and watched it about 300 times. I didn’t even know it was going to be at the Tokyo Auto Salon!!! I was going f*cking bananas! I was definitely a young, stupid fanboy at the time. I just wouldn’t shut up about AE86s and old Toyotas… it was like I thought they were the shit, and all other cars were wack. Man, I must have acted like such a dummy… hahahahaha

On the flight to Japan, I met another Toyota guy, who was sitting next to me on the plane. He was super cool to me, and told me some crazy ass stories about how the local Pennsylvania cops would try to chase his JZA80 Supra, but they could never catch it. His name was Christian Rado, and he was telling that he just learned how to weld, and he was planning to make a rollcage in his drag Integra, and he was also planning to make his JZA80 Supra streetcar crazy fast…

Also on the flight were guys that I saw in Super Street Magazine like RJ DeVera and Stephan Papadakis, although they didn’t know me at the time.

Dayummmmmmmmm. My friends and I have ALL been jocking these wheels for a long, long time. The SSR/Modex Dori Dori wheel, which were made famous by Keiichi Tsuchiya in his Best Motoring videos. Can any hachiroku heads guess the size and offset of this particular set?

I think I stood in front of the car for like an hour, just dumbfounded and genuinely enthralled to be in front of the very car I idolized from the videos. After a while, a very nice English-speaking Japanese guy from Hot Version Video came up to me and asked me if I wanted to see under the hood!

I don’t remember his name, as he didn’t give me a business card… but I will always remember that experience. I just couldn’t believe that someone would go out of their way to talk to me and be sooo nice to me! It was the very first time I had seen a Blacktop 20 valve 4AG engine transplanted into an AE86… I had never seen anything like it before! Just look at the way Sakurai san from Toyota Technocraft (TRD Japan) routed the water lines in the car to the front. There are water line kits available now, but Sakurai’s fab work was the first I had ever seen. The development of this car was MAJOR to the AE86 community. I was trippin the hell out on the individual throttle bodies, and the sound they made when Keiichi drove over the hill at Ebisu East course in the Vol. 41 video at full throttle…

I even asked if I could open the door to shoot a photo inside… the car isn’t super, super clean inside, as this photo shows… but I suppose it’s clean enough. I was going crazy when I saw the TRD Nardi steering wheel on the car, and the TRD reclineable Recaro seats. The guy from Hot Version was just laughing at me…. he said, “Oh! Do you want to meet Keiichi?”

WTFFFFFFFF. My response was obviously YES!

Here’s a photo that my friend Phil took of me showing Keiichi some photos from our late night AE86 meets in the Bay Area. That’s the nice guy from Hot Version standing right next to me. Man… can you believe… this all happened ELEVEN years ago?! How quickly time flies. It’s just crazy. I can’t believe I’ve been taking pictures at car events for that long. And I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon.

I think the text of this story might be a bit longer than most people expected… I’m not sure if Motor Mavens readers like these types of “personal account” stories or not, but I just figured I’d take this time to tell you about the first time I met the Drift King, since it is his birthday today.

Tanjoubi omedetou, Dori Dori. Hope you have a happy birthday. Sell me your AE86!

:: Antonio Alvendia

PS: I wonder if anyone wants to see some of my fanboy collection of Dorikin related stuff I have in my collection… if so, LMK.

Karl Alexander’s post about Keiichi Tsuchiya’s Birthday on Hachiroku.Com.Au

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42 Responses

  1. Fantastic post! Your personal history reminds me a lot of mine, though I grew up in San Diego and my personal ride was a Miata instead of a Corolla. I too grew up watching “Best Motoring” in high school and college though, and my friends and I always shied away from the drag racing and “poser” crowd as well.

    Import Showoff, HIN, import drag racing, FF Squad, and “Best Motoring” videotapes all seem like such a very, very long time ago!

  2. Tom

    “… I used to be a HUGE fan of Keiichi back in the day… until I saw firsthand the way he speaks to and treats D1 drivers. I was crushed when I experienced those things…”

    Is this addressed in another MM archived post, or care to elaborate? Can’t ever fault the man for what he’s done, but it’s always nice to get a real perspective on past or current individuals we may have looked up to.

    Thanks for the wonderful story, however. I love reading heart-felt, real stories from people about wonderful times in their past! Made for a great read, especially with the OG pictures!

  3. Ian

    I would definetely like to see your “fanboy” collection. anything ae86 related, is good!! haha. post it up!

  4. Oh man, looks like you got some very nice memories from the car scene! I enjoy reading people’s personal history, I guess its must be nice to shoot car photos for so long! Really enjoy looking at your drift photos~ mad respect!

    Initial D also got me into cars during early 2000s when the anime vcds are out here in Canada..

  5. Antonio.. you’re old lol. Haven’t heard from you in a hot minute! Hit me up, we need to catchup. It feels weird being out of the car scene yet refreshing lol. I don’t know how you did it man.. over a decade of automotive journalism excellence. That truly is an accomplishment. Hit me up sometime man!

  6. .: jover :.

    Blast from the Past! Antonio, you don’t even know. That Vol 41 video tape made it’s rounds! I think I first saw it from Yasin! Which got his copy from Mac Dale, and from then I think Mac got that video from you.

  7. Great story Antonio, I love seeing the 35mm archive being put to good use :)

    Sucks to hear that the Drift King isn’t as friendly and cool as he seems in the Best Motoring vids though. I always thought he was the coolest-old-man alive, guess my dad can keep that award to himself after all haha

  8. maybe a hachiroku section of motormavens would be ideal

    then you can go all out!
    oh and when will you get around to reprinting those cipher garage stickers?

  9. Frey

    damn. you have some HISTORY there. i had no idea your background was that crazy. you were actually GOING to japan and DOING drift related stuff a long time before most people caught on to it stateside. crazy.

  10. Kid Karola

    Great stuff Antonio. AE86 Life. I could watch Best MOTORing 41 & 42 all day long 😉
    The Trueno was like a whole new level then & the hardcore N2 by TRD left me in awe!

    I forgot all about K/T Design! Do you recall the TIOS cars Tsuchiya did with Iida, Orido and Suga? Although not featuring K.T. Option2 #32 was another old VHS tape I thrashed to death 😛

    ps. The Dori Dori’s 15x7J off-2

  11. christoff

    Great post Antonio. I don’t remember seeing any Corolla’s at InNOut or across the street at Best Buy in the mid-to-late 1990’s – haha! I was too busy jocking any MR2’s that would show up I guess. I agree with you on that crowd – I tried not to talk to any of them. But it’s OK; most of them moved on to bikes when that became trendy at the end of the 90’s / early 00’s.

    And any old fanboy stuff you want to show would be fun to see for everyone I’m sure.

  12. Thanks so much for all your awesome comments guys! I’m glad you guys dig this stuff… it seems that when I was shooting and writing for Speedhunters, the readers weren’t really into the “personal” stories and stuff that I posted.

    @Derek Kreindler: We should talk soon man. We have something in the works that we can probably get you involved with! =)

    @Christoff: dope! you’re from the bay too! I was jocking the hell out of MR2s as well! Especially AW11 Supercharged and SW20 Turbo! I used to work right on McCarthy, in that technology park next to Lucent Technologies. I think it’s Cisco Systems now? I dunno.

    @KidKarola: dayummmm!!! ur droppin KNOWLEDGE!!! I LOVE that Vol 32 video!!! So awesome you mentioned TIOS too… I didn’t like that silver Trueno as much as I liked the white/black kouki hatch, but yeah much respect to you for knowing about that! Hmm… maybe I should put some pics of that up sometime too.

    @AllenChu: yeah dude you kinda dropped off the map! hope all’s going well at school!

    @Phillip: AWESOME man so glad you liked it! I have soooooooooo many pics to scan. sheesh it takes FOREVER dude.

    @MikeYee: damnnn I wanna make new Cipher Garage stickers so bad. I’m just all tapped out at the moment; all my money/effort goes into the development of this site. I’ll figure it out, I definitely wanna reprint our old stickers and make some new ones too!

    @Robert: MAN!!! SD is so dope. The SD guys had a lot of sick cars ON LOCK even back in the 90s. Pan Motorsports or Pan Auto or something..? Much respect for the Sick one nine. I need to head down there again.

  13. pholife

    finally an article worth reading…please dont write in first person because it makes this a personal blog (if that was your intent go for it) :) …salamat!

  14. Cameron

    this post is going to favorited and saved!!! For a lot of us who didn’t start in the car game until later on, you guys that were there and saw the import/drift movement blossum are our history. Your accounts let us know the true history about where the movement started, how it got bigger, and who all was involved & connected.(Sometimes the connections are the craziest part a.k.a “…On the flight to Japan, I met another Toyota guy, who was sitting next to me on the plane. He was super cool to me, and told me some crazy ass stories about how the local Pennsylvania cops would try to chase his JZA80 Supra, but they could never catch it. His name was Christian Rado…”) Not te mention, it’s just cool to hear stories from and about the people that have shaped my passion! Anyways, the comment is to just say the personal accounts are appreciated! You are true asset to the scene! To boot, you seem like a pretty down to earth guy. That modesty is more appreciated than anything because the big name guys in this industry sometimes don’t understand how crushing it can be, when a fan finds out that they are nothing more than a big headed, waste of God given talent or opportunity! Cheers Antonio, I can def. drink to this post!

    P.S sorry it’s so long, you struck a nerve

  15. Marcos Davila

    hey antonio great stuff i love this stories , and me being a hachiroku driver and 86 fan , just loved all the pics !! would really be great to see some more dorikin stuff

  16. Thanks Antonio! Thats was a great right up. Your story is a classic one of new experiences in Japan. It amazing how many new experiences you can have and be influenced by in Japan. Pure Nirvana!

  17. Awesome write up Antonio! I loved your “personal” stories on Speedhunters and I still do on MotorMavens. It’s far more entertaining to hear about personal experiences than the tech specs of cars all the time. It stinks to hear that Tsuchiya isn’t as nice as he seems on the Option videos. Anyway, keep up the awesome work!


  18. HA! I like you and your writings even more Antonio! It is really nice to read that you are ex-Celica owner :-) Celicas are way better than Civics (and even more nicer). Cheers man! Love the story too :-)

  19. ProTree

    haha you brought it back with the Milpitas In N Out piece. and the Remix twins? hahahaha. remember the speedonline.com models and how the rumor was Qbert dated the finest out of all of them? hahahahaa memories!! the team cipher site was one of the few sites that i used to visit back then. remember wilsons import racing mix website(zteamyossi)? hahaaha dayymnnnn!!!

  20. Great to hear you had a Celica. Most underestimated car in the world. I love it :-) Yea, and Hatchi too. Keep postin your personal stories, they’re great to read. It’s always nice to read words written from the heart.

  21. Peter of A.

    Actually, I kinda like this kind of lifestory post. Even if I’m not a big fan of Tsuchiya, it was really interesting to read. Keep it up !

    – Peter

  22. Hey Antonio, thanks a lot for that personal account. I still am a fanboy. But I sorta do and don’t want to know how he was treating D1 drivers….was he just really cocky or something?

    I still idolize Tsuchiya as a grip driver, for me though, the first video I cherished was the Skyline vs BOSS and TRD ae86. Tsuchiya’s foot work was amazing, and I tried to learn all of it.

    O yeah, I “met” Yves on the phone a while back. He was telling me about all the crazy drives you guys used to do!

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  24. AWD ATTK

    this is exactly why I’ve strayed away from Speedhunters. A great, inspirational and personal blog Antonio, thanks!

  25. Venice Motor

    wait… people still read Speedhunters?

    that site is like the tin man in wizard of oz. it dont have HEART.

  26. Hubert

    Hella good shit Antonio! Yea, remember those In-N-Out days at Milpitas when people use to put food trays in the rear tires of their integers and civics and slid around the parking lot? I used to refer those people as dumb because I was never with the Honda camp. I used to be a Mitsubishi guy driving a Turbo AWD Eagle Talon. Yea, man, just like you, I thought we were the shit and the Honda guys were dumb… well, most of them were but not until later I developed a respect for them (only those who mod their cars the right way so the car handles right…).

    Then the VHS tapes!!! And then we started going to the Canyons. I think I might have met you there when you came out with Calvin. Good old days man!


  27. Antonio…Good ‘ish man!!! I too can admit was a fan boy…hell, I still am. I watch the Initial D vids every now and then. I went to this years TAS and stayed at the same hotel Tsuchiya was at (New Otani). My friends went to the bar on the top on night and the night I decide to just head to my room early is when Tsuchiya is up there. I was kinda disappointed but hopefully I can make it out to TAS again next year. Thanks for sharing your memories with us. Happy belated bday to Tsuchiya-san!!!

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