28th annual Hot rod custom show – Japon – Yokohama

Becky goes to a Chopper Show, on the other side of the World.

I had a longtime dream to attend the “MoonEyes” Show as we, Westerners, call it. In fact, the number one thing on my bucket list was “Go to Japan, see cool choppers there.” When Revolution Magazine asked me what events I wanted to attend this year, I told them “MoonEyes. Nothing else.” Sure enough, the next e-mail had a plane ticket in it. 

Plus, 2019 was the perfect timing for me to go since one of my best friends painted one of the bikes from America that were invited to the show. There are only 8 “guests of honour” invited bikes that are showcased at Moon Eyes. To say that it’s a big deal is an understatement in the custom motorcycle world. Matt Busby has been in my stories before. He’s a well-known builder and painter from Salinas, California. He had painted a few of Ryan Grossmans (3gknuck) choppers that have been in Born Free and at some of the biggest chopper shows in the world. This year, he had painted the bike of Nick Busby, his 26-year-old nephew. Nick was a part of People’s Champ at last year’s Born Free, throughout the months of voting and then, participated in the live voting at the Cooks Corner venue. His bike won. It’s a 1962 Harley-Davidson Panhead that he named “Double Take.” 

The Busby family is infamous in the custom motorcycle world. They’ve been involved in the build of lots of famous builds in the chopper and lowrider community. This is Nicks first show-bike build and MoonEyes was his goal since day 1.

After 24 hours on planes, trains and automobiles, I landed in Tokyo. The first crew I see at the airport? The Busbys. Their whole family was in tow – Aunts, Uncles, Girlfriends, Daughters, Daughters boyfriends – it was an entire family affair and they brought me right in like I was one of their own. I hopped on the train with them and off we went towards Yokohama. 

The first thing I noticed about Japan was how organized and clean everything was. Their money was never creased or ripped, there was no homeless people to be seen, there was no garbage on the ground and the train system was massive, but very easy to use, even as a foreigner. The country seemed dialed. Even in a city with 11 million people in it, no one seemed stressed or annoyed, no one pushed or was late, someone helped you if you looked lost and no one strayed from walking on the correct side of the sidewalk. It almost seemed like a dream… and man did I feel like a bum. My “vintage” looking clothing, my messy white-blonde hair and ripped jeans did not fit in here. Mostly I just looked like a biker bum compared to the Japanese who are so well put together, on time and just well-rounded. Coming from crazy, rude LA, I realized I needed to just slow it down and be as respectful as I knew how.

The jet lag was setting in but there was no time for sleep during this trip. I went straight to the venue to pick up my press pass and to attend the event pre-party. The venue was huge. It was at a convention centre called the Pacifico at the centre of Yokohama and already there were people lined up to see what was inside. The pre-party wasn’t for everyone though – Just the builders, press and sponsors. When they finally opened the gates to us it was awesome. The room was massive. I’ve seen tons of photos from previous years of the show, but it’s so hard to wrap your mind around just how huge the space really is. The lights were off of half the show so you could only see some of it and only the few “Guest of Honor” bikes and cars. There was free sake, food and a band playing. There were a few familiar American & Canadian faces but mostly everyone was stylish and interesting Japanese biker people. After 100 Sake shots, we wandered over to the “Ramen Museum” with a huge California crew – all of which had been to MoonEyes before and knew the city, the food spots and the bars well. It was safe to say I was going to be well taken care of for the next few days.

Like I said, there was no time for sleep during this trip. We spent all night touring around Yokohama, getting more and more food, jumping around tiny little bars with no shirts on and lingering in the 7-11s (if you’ve been to Japan you know the magic that is Japanese 7-11s) and by 7 am the next morning I was back at the show shooting bikes before anyone else was allowed in. My press pass was a chunk of gold – it allowed me to do everything including go up to the overview lookout that gave me a birds eye view of everything.

Is there anything else the Busby’s are famous for?
Yes. Partying!

The lineup outside the show was insane. There were hundreds of people waiting to get in. When they opened the gates, I escaped the crowds by going into the back gates where the Guests of Honour were getting their bikes shined up to ride into the show. Right at 9 am, the few invited car and bike builders would ride their bikes into a roped off the path, completely engulfed by thousands of fans and spectators, people from the press as well as the general public. 

Hawke Lawshe
Nick Busby

The vibe back there was heavy and nerve-racking. If these guys’ bikes don’t fire up, they’d need to walk them into the show. The Busbys were all there, checking tire pressure, wiping down every inch of “Double Take” and making sure everything was perfect. Nick was nervous as hell, as anyone would be if they were about to ride into hoards of people, in a foreign country, jet lagged and hung over as hell, with thousands of cameras pointing right at you. I honestly think I would totally just forget how to ride a motorcycle at that point… Or just crash into a person because I would psych myself out so hard.

Some of the other bike owners that were invited to ride into the Mooneyes show this year were my good friend Ben “The Boog” Zales, who brought his 1963 Panhead “Blue Crush”, Hawke Lawshe who won first place at Born Free with his 1981 Exposed Shovelhead “Azureus”, and my fellow “Ride with Norman Reedus” TV show guest, Yaniv Evan, the owner of Powerplant Motorcycles who built a 1991 FXR that he did a burn-out on right before ripping it through the crowd.

Yaniv Evan / Powerplant
Ben “The Boog” Zales

Max Schaff and the Stopnicks (Cycle Zombies) were there helping get their buddies’ bikes ready to go, and giving them some experienced advice. Right at the last moment, Ben the Boogs’ Panhead just stopped running. I had watched him first kick it and ride it back and forth down the alley before his turn to go into the show and right before the gate opened for him, it died out. Max helped him give it a couple of last-shot kicks but in the end, he ended up having to push it through the doors. Nick’s bike, on the other hand, was confidently fired up. Although this is the first bike he ever owned with a foot clutch, the kid was a natural. You’d never know he was nervous as hell but when those gates opened, he rode in like he’d done it 1000 times.

Nick’s bike was a hit. It was set up right besides Hawks show-stopping long bike and you couldn’t walk into the show without literally doing a “Double-Take.” The bike was given that name because if you didn’t “double take” the bike, you’d miss everything. The more you look the more details you’ll find: the hydraulic foot clutch that was made identical to the rear hydraulic brake, the double drum brakes, the flames under the bike near the transmission, the metal moulding on the chrome frame and even the paint being red in the sunlight and black when it’s dark. If you know the Busbys, you also know how much love and craziness probably went into this build. The whole family is custom fanatics and they know what is cool. Everyone in the California chopper/lowrider community knows who they are, and it wasn’t a big surprise that one of their bikes was front and centre at MoonEyes 2019.

“Double Take” –Mini-interview with MoonEyes ‘Guest of Honour’ Nick Busby

Becky: Why are you in Japan!? 

Nick:“Cus’ I somehow built a show bike that got invited here,” he laughs, “It’s amazing that other people enjoy my work.”

Becky:It must have been a ton of work to end up here!

Nick:“I never thought this bike was going to be this. My goal for ever was to go to Japan. Before this I built a 1974 Sportster when I was 21 years old. I learned a lot about fabricating and electrical from my job and that build. It slowly progressed because of what Matt [Busby] knows about show bikes. I got the bike super cheap. I originally got this thing for $6,000. When I was building it, my uncle [Matt Busby] would tell me something that’s a standard of what makes a bike “show quality” and I’d just say, well if I’m going to take it that far, why don’t I just take it even further? I ended up adding like an extra 60 hours to my original project. I dug myself in so far but I enjoyed it all.”

Becky: What’s your favourite part of the bike?

Nick: “Well this bike’s got STD heads; the frame is a straight-leg V-Twin frame that I heavily modified and cleaned up before chroming. It’s got 3D flames on the tank/oil tank/ fender, a hydraulic foot clutch (which has never been done before)… I made all the oil lines. There’s nothing on this bike that I didn’t alter. I love the whole bike, the whole finished product. I’ve been thinking about this build for years. Finally, seeing it completed is what I enjoy the most about the whole thing.”

Becky: What’s it like having your bike here in Japan at MoonEyes?

Nick: “Seeing the quality of bikes that are here in Japan and understanding the number of hours people have put into their work to show them here, whether they were meant to be show bikes or not, the details are flawless. Everything is so clean. These people have such a high expectation of themselves and their work. I was already thinking like 90% of these bikes should have been ridden in over mine. They don’t cut corners. Japan is just dialed. Their level in quality even in life is just so high.”

Becky:How is your family involved in this build?

Nick:“Me building this bike with my family made it a big deal for a lot of people. My Grandpa has been building bikes forever, my dad and my uncle have been racing dirt track bikes since they were 2 years old. My Dad handed me a Sportster when I was a kid and was like, I put a down payment on this but you gotta pay for the rest of it. A fire was lit under me to start building things. My uncle painted other bikes that have been invited to Japan and Born Free. I’ve got a good team.”

Once the anticipation of the ride in and Nick’s “surprise speech” was over, we all took a breather and looked around the show. I realized that I had a whole bunch of adventuring to do. I had already spent an hour walking around but had only seen about 20% of what there was to see. Every single vehicle in that building was insane. There was so much to look at and so many things I had never seen before. I go to a lot of custom shows and usually it’s a whole lot of the same bikes being flown around, but this was an entirely different breed of show. Some of my favourite displays were by the Japanese crews that I have followed on Instagram for years. A lot of them buy engines and parts from my California friends, so it’s always cool to watch what they do with them. Taka Yashiro “Blue Groove” had an amazing display with a bunch of his bikes and his truck around piles of leaves and rocks and “Hawgholic” had a huge space with his fair share of old Indian Chiefs and Knucklheads. The Vise Clothing guys had some crazy choppers by their booth and were selling everything under the sun that could possibly have flames on it. There were tons of Japanese and international vendors –lots that sold vintage clothing, paintings, motorcycle gear and little knick knacks. The Cycle Zombies were signing autographs, Imogene from The Great Frog was hustling the collaboration ring she made with the MoonEyes brand. The lineup for the custom MoonEyes Vans shoe was all the way around the entire show and so was the line to get into the MoonEyes Merch booth! There was so much going on. Max Schaff had a whole booth that almost looked like an apartment, the Busbys were selling their merch by the pound, awards and speeches were happening so often that I couldn’t even keep up, and the lineup to get into the 7-11 that was attached to the show was like a mile long. 

I’m more of a bike nerd than a car person but it was still amazing to see the paint, the upkeep on the vintage cars and the creative custom details that the Japanese people take the time to do. They respect their work in every part of their lives and at this show, you really start understanding that. Their culture is very specific and their work isn’t done until everything is perfect. Also, to have the majority of these cars and bikes and the parts shipped to Japan and then worked on in Japan is not cheap. It’s a huge commitment for someone in this country to do a build, whether it’s a bike or a car so there’s a lot to appreciate.

MoonEyes lasts only one day, and no matter how hard I tried, I didn’t see the whole show. I just couldn’t walk down every isle, there was too much. It would take me an hour just to see one corner. By the time the show was over, I needed a nap. But as one of the Busbys reminded me, there’s no time to sleep in Japan. So, off I went with the Cali crew that somehow just ends up altogether every evening, and we headed straight for the bar.

We decided we were hungry at some point in the night. We all crammed into four big vans and trekked to the other side of Yokohama and ate at this Japanese chicken wing and sushi spot. It was super weird. Grant who puts on Born Free shared a table with me and ordered us some weird-ass raw squid legs, some funky-looking salad, some other raw-looking indescribable fishy mush, and about 100 chicken wings. Even though the food in Japan was “weird”, everything always tasted so good. Japanese food is amazing: ramen, sushi, fish etc. Honestly, if I could only eat one more type of food for the rest of my life, it’d be Japanese (even if my Mom and Dad literally have to tell me to stop sending them photos of my food or they’re gonna barf).

One thousand sake shots and Japanese beers later, I woke up tired and kinda dead. Sunday was the “Thank You” Party at the MoonEyes store. I brought myself back to life with a bowl of ramen soup and a weird coffee drink I bought from a vending machine, and I took a city bus to the party. I was proud as hell of myself and pretending I was a local at all means necessary. The “Thank You party” was for all the Guests of Honour, the press and the vendors. It was really cool and felt really heart felt. Their store is packed with all sorts of bikes and branded knickknacks for sale. I picked up some 8 Ball valve covers for the Sportster Chopper I’m building back home.

Outside they had free beers, a big free BBQ, some custom hot rods and a few bikes from the show. Even though it was a rainy day, the place was packed and everyone was still fired up even at the end of a long weekend of partying, looking at cool shit and eating our faces off.

When I woke up the next day, I just felt like Japan was my home now. I still had six days to kill in this country and I felt confident and ready for it. I packed up my stuff and got on the train as if I knew exactlywhat I was doing. Thirty minutes later, I was totally lost, my phone stopped working and I had lost all my luggage at a locker in the station because I had no idea where it was. But you know what!!? It was beer time and I had absolutely nothing to do for six whole days so it was time to start being the biggest darn tourist you had ever seen. I started in Shibuya, a trendy part of Tokyo close to my Airbnb where I chose a bar that led me down a weird staircase into a cigarette-smoke-filled room. I accidentally ordered 13 beers because of their foreign computer ordering system and with every beer you order here, you get a whole fried fish. Safe to say, it was a solid start to my day.

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An hour of searching for my luggage, getting to my Airbnb and figuring out how to get into it later, I was at my new home in Tokyo, ready to take on everything the city had to offer for the next six days.

This trip could be made into a novel but Pascal only gave me 3,500 words sooo here’s a bullet-point list of things I did over those days:

  • Went up into the tallest tower in the world which is over 2,000 feet high
  • Ate raw tuna right out of the fish
  • Karaoked 1000 Taylor Swift songs with Japanese locals
  • Ate 100 bowls of ramen
  • Ate 10000 plates of sushi at a conveyor belt sushi spot
  • Went to a bar that only had room for 3 people
  • Went to a cat cafe to pet cats
  • Visited Deus, the Tokyo version of the motorcycle cafe
  • Learnt how to squat to pee in a hole in the bathroom
  • Smoked some Japanese cigarettes
  • Went to a weird-ass casino where they use metal marbles instead of money
  • Had dinner with some local Japanese chopper builders who insisted on drawing all over me with permanent markers
  • Went to the Shibuya Scramble, the largest street crossing in the world
  • Went to the Tokyo fish market and ate some squid
  • Ate way too much food at the 7-11s (so gooood)
  • And pretty much just did whatever people on my Instagram were telling me to do!

By the end of the trip, my feet hurt so badly and my socks all had holes in them, and I think I lost like 30 pounds. My phone told me that I walked an average of 10 km each day. It’s hard work being the biggest tourist in Tokyo!

Japan was probably the coolest place I have ever travelled too. It was very easy to go alone as a woman. There wasn’t one instance where I felt unsafe or in a bad part of town. I don’t think those parts even exist in all of Japan. To go during MoonEyes was honestly just a plus. Although the show is held in December, Japan wasn’t very cold. Next time you’re thinking of doing a trip, consider this country and if you’re into bikes and/or cars even the slightest bit, you’ve got to check out MoonEyes. It was the best custom show I have ever been to. Next year, I will be dragging my friends along with me to the other side of the world. Until then, see ya in Japan!

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