My breath hung in the cool air as I pulled out my camera and headed for some hot caffeine. The green neon accent lights lining the roofline of the newly restored Niles Flying A service shop shone brighter than the cloudy sky.
The familiar sound of our favorite four firecrackers – and a few six here and there – cut through the crisp morning silence. An excited murmur spread through the growing crowd each time another car buzzed; cars that now filled the overflow lot on the road. Before the sun began to rise above the hills beyond, Niles Boulevard in Fremont, California, was already filled with old-school Japanese cars.
Riko’s meeting was well underway and it was barely 7am.
My camera was pushed beyond its handheld capabilities in the dawn light, and I couldn’t believe how many people lined up before the sun to get a good seat at the Cars rally & Coffee-esque. I don’t know what the exact recipe for a good event is, but Riko’s Meeting had the key ingredients nailed down.
The location was well thought out, with the Niles Flying A providing a fantastic hub for the natural ebb and flow of enthusiasts as they strolled, had coffee or donuts and caught up with friends. Riko rented the space for the matinee, tucked away in the historic Niles neighborhood of Fremont. Old buildings and homes line the wide sidewalks across the street, and the aesthetic is complemented by a few vintage American cars parked out back.
Usually this area is flooded with American muscle, but not today. The semi-organized attendance included only Japanese cars, mostly those produced before the 2000s (just as advertised in pre-event flyers that made the rounds on social media). Riko collaborated with Roger Hernandez, who runs weekly import-focused Cars & Coffee get-togethers in nearby Hayward, to help promote the event and ensure strong attendance for vintage Japanese metal.
A few nice late model builds also slipped in, as did a Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. And a food truck, which had delicious tacos and breakfast burritos, but unfortunately I didn’t try the former until later in the day.
There was also another Volkswagen on site, a pop-up boba tea shop turned bus and located in front of the Flying A.
Parked front and center nearby was Riko’s AE86, with its signature gold finish and an ITB-powered 3S-GE behind a Levin nose. The car has been featured on Speedhunters before – as has its 993 RWB and IMSA-style 240Z for that matter – so I won’t spend much time on it beyond a few photos to remind you how awesome this SEMA Show build is. is wild.
With SEMA just around the corner, it’s great to see that many of these cars actually have a life beyond the Las Vegas Convention Center.
While the venue, cars, drinks and food were great, the people are the glue that holds an enjoyable show like this together. Being a local gathering (a few miles from my front door, in fact), many familiar faces filled the sidewalks at the east end of Niles Boulevard.
But you know how events like this are. It doesn’t matter whether you know someone or not; you can just walk up and start asking them about their wheels, suspension, seats, who rebuilt their carburetors, where they got that Honda sweatshirt, etc.
Although things have started up again here in the US for about a year now, I feel like I am still recovering from over a year of stagnant events and gatherings due to Covid. Since things are back to normal, I’ve been to a number of Cars & Coffee gatherings, but somehow Riko’s reunion was very refreshing.
More than 100 cars – and even more people – took part in the meet, which lasted the full four hours from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., and more. It was the first time in a long time that I had spent more than an hour or two at a competition like this, and it was also the first time in a long time that I had found myself shooting much more than necessary.
There was a bit of everything on display. From all-stock examples to ultra-modified models; of kei cars to off-road machines; from carbureted inline-fours to twin-turbocharged V8s. It’s amazing how many variations can be found in one chassis, not to mention the many different models from different brands that made it to Riko’s meeting.
Before things got out of hand and everyone spent the rest of their weekend, Riko held a raffle filled with small Japanese items, including car magazines, an unopened book Initial D manga set – which I really wish I had won – and an authentic Japanese nudity magazine, among others. Best of all, tickets were free; you just had to show up.
The raffle – and the whole show for that matter – was Riko’s way of contributing to the community and growing base of JDM enthusiasts. Riko explained that although many others his age have switched to Lamborghinis or Ferraris, he has remained true to what he has always loved: old school Japanese cars.
Although I consider the gathering a resounding success, it’s clear that Riko wants more. He mentions events like Pebble Beach or the more recent Velocity Invitational – which took place the same weekend – and notes that there isn’t really a Japanese equivalent in the US.
JCCS in SoCal or brand-specific events like ZCON or NSXPO are the closest I can think of, but they certainly don’t have the prestige or cachet of shows like Pebble or The Quail. The Japanese Automotive Invitational – a sub-event of Pebble Beach – is a good step in the right direction and a sign that Japanese cars are finally being appreciated for the gems that they are.
But for Riko, the sky is the limit, and he wants to do his part to push the scene forward in the United States. So here he is, raising his flag for Japanese car culture. And after? Only time will tell.
Before heading home, I pulled out a ‘3D’ camera I picked up from my good friend John Cirone during Covid times and tried it out for the first time. I can be chastised for downloading such large files (give them a second to load), but enjoy.
I’ll be back soon to shine the spotlight on some of my favorite cars from Riko’s Meeting. Thank you to everyone who showed up and made the event what it was.
Get 3D with this