If you’ve got a license to ride, follow the old Koshu Kaido (Route 20) out of Tokyo. Blast through Kanagawa, Yamanashi and Nagano prefectures with the wind in your face, embracing the freedom that riding on two wheels can bring. Even better, evoke the Easy Rider spirit and do so on a classic machine tuned to perfection, be it an American Harley-Davidson chopper or a timeless piece of Japanese Honda power.
Conveniently, along Kannana-Dori between Shin-Daita Station and an intersection of the Koshu Kaido (Route 4) in Setagaya Ward, there is a cluster of classic motorcycle shops offering such sweet rides for your purchasing pleasure, plus services to keep your dream machine going the distance all the while turning heads along the way.
Japan has forged a reputation over generations of being the king of customization and there’s no better place to pick up a set of wheels with a personal touch than at Spice Motorcycles. The crew have been modding bikes in this location since the mid-noughties, with Harley-Davidsons being a particular favorite for both the mechanics and their customers.
Vintage rides sit lined up outside the garage while inside, the grungy, well lived-in premises helps encapsulate the nostalgic ambience. Whether you’re looking to replace bodywork, handlebars, dampers, exhausts, chains or any other part, they’ve got you covered. On top of that, the team’s paint service means that whatever you’ve got in mind to make your ride stand out, they can work with you to get it done.
A little further down the road and a little newer to the scene is the one-man operation, Classic Cycle Tokyo. Here you’ll find a collection of lovingly repaired and restored ‘60s and ‘70s machinery that focuses more on major Japanese manufacturers such as Honda, Kawasaki and Yamaha, as well as British classics such as Triumph.
If you happen to be in possession of a Kawasaki W series in need of repair, then you’re in luck. The shop’s friendly soft-spoken owner, Tatsuya Goto, is particularly fond of these machines and keeping them running in tip-top condition is a specialty of his.
Last of the bunch is the repair and tuning shop, Hangout. Not much bigger than a one-car garage, packed with old bikes, parts and tools, its compactness is more than made up for by the wealth of knowledge and expertise of its owner, Takashi Inoue. Minibikes, scooters, ’90s superbikes, there’s nothing on two wheels that he isn’t capable of finding the best setup for, thanks to his years of experience working for top teams in the All Japan Road Race Championship. Inoue has an endearing enthusiasm for bikes and it’s well worth stopping by here to just, well, hang out and chat.
Born To Be Wild
While in the area, there’s more retro goodness to discover that isn’t just motorbikes. Located just a short walk away from Kannana-Dori is Chi-Chi’s, a small psychedelic time hole back to the swinging sixties. Hippy culture advocate and Grateful Dead aficionado Takashi Sakamoto sells his own line of colorful tie-dye tees in the store alongside an array of American-sourced vintage apparel and accessories.
A former biker himself, these days you’re more likely to see him behind the wheel of that quintessential symbol of peace, love and freedom, the Volkswagen Type 2 Kombi van, which can be found parked up outside the store decked out in a dazzling array of stickers and hand-painted motifs.
Finally, no visit to the neighborhood would be complete without getting a belly-full of delicious spicy broth from Bassanova Ramen. This popular little restaurant has plenty of unconventional offerings that will keep you coming back to try them all. The Thai green curry ramen (a blend of fish-based broth and Thai spices) might be its signature dish, but don’t overlook the Kyushu-style tondaku wadashi soba or the fiery tom-yum soba to keep your internal engine running for hours on end.
Photos by Stephan Jarvis