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XK in the Land of the Rising Sun - Part One

Philip and Yvonne Haslam are long time Twyford Moors customers having had their XK120 restored by us over ten years ago. Since then they have taken their trusty Jaguar on many trips around the world. Here's an update from their latest journey to Japan.

 

Jaguar XK120 DHC in Japan"Hello, or, as they say in these parts, Konnichiwa.

The XK was serviced, cleaned and generally pampered in Christchurch,  before being unceremoniously dumped in a filthy container,  and shipped to Yokohama, arriving at couple of days before we did.

We have enjoyed a week or two in the UK,  where Yvonne has caught up on the washing and ironing, I have lovingly tended our lawns, and we have both celebrated our football team being promoted up a division !

Lufthansa flew us in great style into Japan, with friends Keith and Norah,  and Shaun and Eleanor, where our first challenge was to attempt to extract the car from the Japanese customs. We were initially rebuffed by the fact that it was a Bank Holiday when we arrived, which lost us a day, then got caught up in the almost impenetrable paperwork required to persuade the inscrutable officials to release the cars. Imagine, if you would, the thoughts that galloped through my mind when I received a call to say that there was a 'problem'.  Apparently one set of papers said the car weight was one figure, whilst another gave a significantly larger figure.  It was only after a mild panic when it dawned on me that maybe the difference related to either kilograms or pounds. Sadly, the customs official had never heard of a 'pound', and it took well over an hour , with the aid of Mr. GOOGLE and a calculator, to convince him that there was such a thing. Nevertheless,  having started at 8.30am, we were able to drive away from the docks at 2.15am - with 750 miles ahead of us to achieve in a day and a bit. As it transpired, despite torrential rain for most of the journey, we comfortably made it on time.

Japanese ToiletWe have inevitably experienced an abrupt change in culture - no more so than our first encounter with the Japanese toilet. Each loo offers a fascinating combination of options , covering 'douche';  'anal wash' ;  'deorderisation '  ;  'full inspection ' ;  and heated seat with large variation of temperatures. These also came with a warning of the possibility of ' low temperature  burn '.!!!!!!!   For a chap from Yorkshire who has only recently came to terms with the heated steering wheel, this has been a little overwhelming. 

Then we have the beds, which appear to have been fashioned from large , but neatly carved rocks, complete with matching pillows filled with a mixture of curiously shaped pebbles.

Mealtimes also bring their own special challenge. Menus generally don't have any English language,  so the only option seems to be to go to the front window and select your choice from the selection of plastic models on display.  It begs the question of what the sequence is here. Does the restauranteur buy the models in, then attempt to make a dish that replicates it ? Whatever, the system now works for us, albeit we have had some fascinating combinations.

We now have a fascination with the etiquette of bowing. Everyone bows to everyone else, but the difficulty is establishing the hierarchy.  Mostly there is a slight forward flexing of the shoulders, but it then increases to a full 90 degree bend, which we think is just reserved for if you happen to bump into the Emperor.  We had a priest bless the rally at the start, and his bow was about 85 degrees. Try it  -  it's almost impossible ! However, we noticed that the trick is to wear incredibly heavy , thick soled shoes, that act as a counter balance. Even the road repairers bow as we pass by  -  I just hope we don't get too used to this, as our expectations might be too high when we return to the UK !

So, we arrived in Fukuoka - the rally start. Great meeting up with old friends from previous events, but, equally so, embarrassing,  for all those people who appear to know you extremely well, but of whom we have no memory. Anno Dominii strikes again.

The weather turned to be quite superb.  Blue skies and mild temperatures brings the very best out in people, and it was with enormous enthusiasm that we all set out on the first morning. It's cherry blossom time here in Japan, and the trees everywhere are laden with every shade of pink imaginable  - perfect photo opportunities 

The first regularity produces the first problems. Everyone is ring rusty, needing to get their 'systems' working, but the whole affair was thrown into disarray when the organisers found that their stop watches had 2 different times logged in. Confusion reigned, but we are assured that our results will be 'adjusted'.

A huge highlight was the visit to the Honda Circuit, where we had 5 flat out laps with which to try out our skills. An interesting introduction was the use of coefficients, where your time was multiplied by a cunning factor,  relating to the age of the car  -  a clever attempt to narrow margins.

It was a little disappointing to see how many cars were struggling with various ailments, largely due, I suspect to having been locked up in containers on the high seas for a couple of months. Many had the inevitable electrical  issues, but we also had dynamos fail, cylinder head gaskets go, fuel pumps not pumping, alternators pack in and a gearbox fail..........and we are only on day 2 for heavens sake.

Talking of pernickerty customs officers, one competitor had taken along an umbrella in his car, which he hadn't declared, and was fined 5 Yen  -  there are 136 to £1, so work that one out for yourselves !

So, that's it for now. Breakfast awaits us in the morning, and we shall , yet again have to make those fascinating decisions as to what sort of dead fish heads to consume. Mr. Kellog clearly didn't extend his cereal empire this far east.

Phillip and Yvonne.

PS. Good fortune to all those of you who are taking part in the forthcoming London  -  Lisbon."

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