An alternative look at life in the Land of the Rising Sun, coming from its southernmost prefecture, the island of Okinawa.
Posted By Dave on July 8th, 2014


Those who have known me a while will know that I just about kept my body shape in control (mainly in Okinawa through sweating generally due to the heat and humidity) or because of walking so much with my car dying.  It definitely wasn’t due to exercise though!  But after a couple of months of being back in England […]


Archive for January, 2012

Come for Drinks After UFC 144!

Posted By Dave on January 27th, 2012

Under 30 days now until UFC 144 hits Saitama Super Arena, and already 12,000 tickets are being reported as sold.  Hopefully they can get another 1,000 or so more and make a really good atmosphere in there.  The fights start on February 26th at 10:00am with the main card starting at midday.  That means by mid-afternoon the last punch will have been thrown and people will start filing out of the arena.  But what better way to finish up than a post-event review over a beer or two?  Not much, that’s what!

Not sure what is around the arena itself, but just a 10 minute train into Saitama, or 20 minute walk (whichever you prefer), is the HUB pub in Omiya.  Pub with a British theme (had to choose it once I spotted it!).  Looks a friendly joint with Bass and Guinness on tap and should be great for a beverage or two.  Any and all are invited to come along, have some drinks and chat about hopefully some great fights.  And if nobody does want to, then I’ll be there having a drink on my own!

Here are some walking and bus directions to HUB from the arena.  Don’t worry – no RSVP needed!  But hopefully I’ll see you at the event and then afterwards.

Google Map directions from Saitama Super Arena to HUB in Omiya: http://g.co/maps/gxrba

My Evo III: Breathing Fire in 5…4…3…

Posted By Dave on January 25th, 2012

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last car update, but things are well and truly kicking on now, and the light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer and closer. My friend thinks the car could be started and be driven away this coming weekend. While I’m not sure about the latter, it could definitely get fired up and an initial test on it carried out.


The good news is that on the topside, the engine is almost complete. It has a turbo on there (Holset HX40 with a .84 Garrett exhaust housing – one of the first to have a setup like that) and has had a custom intake pipe (going just in front of the driver’s wheel well) and an exhaust downpipe made. The downpipe was a huge pain due to clearances, but it looks like even with the heatwrap on there I have about 1/4” space on both sides which is plenty; should give the fans at least a couple of weeks of solid use before they melt! Excellent fabrication work by my buddy Jeremy and a very skilled welder we have found closeby. So the airflow from intake to exhaust is now complete. The turbo is getting oil courtesy of a braided line from Hose Empire (found through Ebay) and just needs a couple of small welds to be finished so we can mount the oil drain line back to the oil pan. The only other mechanical thing needed is for the Apexi Exhaust Control Valve control handle to be routed into the cabin and it’s good to go. Which just leaves my own personal nemesis: the electrics.

Work is slow but steady (I think) at the moment. The boost controller is wired in, and fits into the center console thanks to some beautiful fabrication work by Kris. The centre console air vents came out and this was put in its place. Took a lot of work but looks like it came out of the factory like that… very impressed. The wideband is half-wired in (having to tap into the ECU too for a few extra features), with just power needed for it). So we’ve got that to finish, followed by a Billion VFC-Pro fan controller, and the battery being relocated to the boot (or trunk if you speak Americanish) and the job, as they say, is a good ‘un.


There are other things too that need sorting, like some sort of mount for the upper part of the front bumper (as the original mount was on the crash bar which has been taken out), and the bonnet latches need fitting. But the car could be driveable without those; it’s what zipties were made for, after all! Who knows what will happen when the key is finally turned, but fingers are going to remain firmly crossed it fires up. Once it does, and the laptop is connected, I can finally start to work the little bit of magic that I can do with the ECMLink software, diagnosing problems, making logs, and ensuring the ECU (in essence, its brain) is controlling everything to the best of its ability. Of course, a lot of that all depends on my wiring prowess, so it could very easily all blow up as soon as the starter motor turns! That’s what makes it all so exciting!

Will report back with news, good or bad, this weekend.

Posted in News

Evo III Project: Almost there!

Posted By Dave on January 13th, 2012

My turbo finally came in! Unfortunately it was not the one I originally ordered, which is still MIA after over 115 days now. But the second replacement one which I ordered just 6 days ago and had shipped by Priority Mail from the US. Yeah… I’ve learned not to go by the cheaper Parcel Post option in the future. Insurance claim is going through though and hopefully it won’t be long until I’m refunded in full.

So with a 6-blade HX-40 with a .84 housing on the backside of it as my centrepiece, I now have pretty much everything I need to complete the car. There are a couple of little extras that I’m waiting on to be delivered, but the main stuff is all ready to be finished or fabricated and put onto the car. Finally there’s an end in sight for this project which has taken a fair bit longer than I envisaged.

Have been up to quite a bit though since the last update. I’d got myself a custom radiator from Winner Racing but was yet to do anything with it. That has now been rectified. I have been able to mount 2 fans onto the radiator as pullers; much more efficient than the pusher fans I was originally thinking I would have to use. Now the fan slots in right where the air conditioning condenser block used to go, which is right under the front horizontal brace (for want of a better term). This meant of course cutting out the bonnet latch, but in doing so brought a lot of weakness to that bar. So to bring back a bit of strength to the front end, brackets in the brace and the front horizontal crossmember were made, and a vertical steel bar cut and bolted in place. It fits perfectly just behind the radiator fans, adds more support than the stock bar ever did, and can easily be unbolted and removed if additional access is needed.


And also at the front end, the intercooler has been bracketed and fitted, and looks pretty nice. And the inlet and outlets have been modified slightly so they fit perfectly with my setup. There’s a little but not too much clearance between the radiator and intercooler, and it’s mounted securely from the bottom and side. Should work very nice.


In other areas of the car, gearshifts have been tightened up with some solid bushings for the shifter forks, and the shifter assembly itself. Fuelling for now should be sorted out with the SARD Fuel pressure regulator I bought, being provided fuel by a Walbro 255 fuel pump.


This car’s gonna go pretty fast so getting it to stop pretty fast is also helpful. While I had already done the brake swap from an FC, I decided to go for a bigger brake master cylinder which will give more push to the bigger brake caliper pistons. Master cylinders from the Evo V-VI GSR (the ones with Brembo brakes) work as a perfect upgrade as they just bolt right on up there.

I hate car electrics and the feeling seems to be mutual. I have made a slight effort though and have been working on a few of the electrical jobs that are ahead of me. I have got myself a Billion VFC-Pro fan controller which will act as both a coolant temperature gauge, and also a trigger to fire those fans into action. Helping with the cooling will also be a HKS oil cooler thermostat, which opens at 75C as opposed to 100C for the stock one. Should start the cooling process a little earlier. My Integral knock meter has been relocated right in front of the speedo and the speaker for it close by. Down near the radio wasn’t visible at all and this meter could be the things that potentially saves the engine if something goes wrong, so I wanted it somewhere I won’t miss it. Things still to do on this front involve finishing wiring up the fans, wiring up the wideband (and tapping into the ECU), and relocating the battery to the boot.

And there are still jobs in the engine bay too. Now the turbo is here we can finish making the exhaust, as well as fabricate the intake pipe and the oil return line from turbo to engine. But fingers crossed it might not be too long until you see a video clip up here of the car starting up and getting ready for action. About time too!

Posted in News

Getting to Saitama Super Arena for UFC 144

Posted By Dave on January 10th, 2012


It’s under 7 weeks now until the UFC hits the shores of Japan for UFC 144 (aka UFC Japan).  On February 26th the Saitama Super Arena will host a main event of Frankie Edgar vs Benson Henderson for the lightweight championship on what looks to be the fight card of the year thus far.

For many of you (myself included) it will probably be your first time to visit the arena, and you might be wondering what the best way is to get there.  I’ve been doing a little research and have come up with some pointers which might help you on your way so you arrive with plenty of time to spare.

While most people will be going by train, there are some I know who will be driving.  Yokosuka Naval base is just south of Tokyo and there will probably be some US service-members making their way across the capital to get there.  Here’s a link to a driving map from the base to the Arena (where I’m reliably informed there is parking): Driving map from Yokosuka to Saitama Super Arena

The majority of you will be heading by there on the wonderful Japanese public transportation system.  While there is a myriad of different train combinations you can take for getting to the Arena, I’ve selected a few of the more common ones.  The train I will probably be taking will be a direct one from Shinjuku (新宿) to Kitayono (北与野) on the Saikyo Line (埼京線), which runs very frequently.  The train also stops at Shibuya (渋谷) and Ikebukero (池袋) either side of Shinjuku.  It takes between 35 and 45 minutes depending on what type of train comes along, and should cost you Y450.  From that station it’s just a 7 minute walk to the Arena.  Train details for Shinjuku (新宿) to Kitayono (北与野) station.

Now there is an alternative to this which I expect a number will also be taking.  From Shinjuku station (新宿) you could take the Saikyo Line (埼京線) to Akabane station (赤羽) and then switch to the JR Keihin Tohoku Line (京浜東北線) which will take you to Saitama Shintoshin station (さいたま新都心), right bang next to the Arena.  Travelling time is about the same in total. The only reason I’m not taking this train is because connecting trains scare me and I’d probably end up in Hokkaido or something before I realised I’d got on the wrong train!  Train details for Shinjuku (新宿) to Saitama Shintoshin station (さいたま新都心).

I haven’t forgotten about you people coming from the east of Tokyo though.  From Ueno station (上野) it’s simple.  You can get a 26 minute train direct to Saitama Shintoshin (さいたま新都心) next to the Arena.  Just get on a train on the JR Takasaki Line (高崎線) heading towards Kagohara (籠原)Train details for Ueno station to Saitama Shintoshin station.

And that should cover the main routes to the Arena.  The fights start at 1000 so don’t be late!  If you want my to post up travel details from elsewhere then leave a comment and I’ll be happy to update this post.  And if any of the information is wrong, please do let me know.  Will hopefully be posting up some details shortly of a bar or izakaya close to the Arena for after the event where anyone’s welcome to drop in, grab a drink and do a bit of post-fight analysis.


Why Dana White Shouldn’t Look to the Past at UFC Japan

Posted By Dave on January 4th, 2012

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to write more articles for the site, and this is a topic which is occupying my mind a lot at the moment so it makes for a good talking topic.  We are now 52 days away from UFC Japan (aka UFC 144) which will take place in the Saitama Super Arena on February 26th.  There is quite a bit of talk (mainly on US-based forums) about how the UFC should present itself when it comes to Japan for the first time in 5 years, and what it should do if it wants to be a big success here.  Got to say though I find myself disagreeing with the majority of the calls I’ve read.

Some people are saying that the card should have more Japanese fighters in the main bouts, and not just stack the preliminary fights with them.  Their reasoning is that this will attract more Japanese fans.  While this is possibly true, it would undoubtedly weaken the card as a whole.  Looking at the next few UFC events, they don’t really hold a candle to the talent that’s in the card scheduled for UFC Japan.  It would be great if a Japanese fighter could be part of the main or co-main fight of the event, but the fact of the matter is that the Japanese fighters are not that strong.  You’ve got Yushin Okami, Takanori Gomi and Yoshihiro Akiyama (the latter of which I think is very overrated, but ironically the only fighter on the main card) and that’s about it.  And I don’t think any of them are the cream of the crop when it comes to their respective weight divisions.  As it is you’ve got Frankie Edgar vs Benson Henderson, two fighters that may not be that well known to the Japanese public, but they should put on a great fight and have got cardio for days.

Another call is that more former Pride fighters should have been on the card, and not just Rampage Jackson.  Names like the Nogueira brothers, Wanderlei Silva and Josh Barnett have been mentioned.  Both Nogueiras have fought recently, with Antonio being out for a while after a badly broken arm suffered in his match against Frank Mir.  Wanderlei Silva is the same, and Josh Barnett was involved in the professional wrestling fight on New Years Eve.  He seems committed to Japanese wrestling organization IGF so it is doubtful the UFC could get or would want him to fight.  Rampage was a big crowd pleaser in Japan in his Pride days and will be well remembered, but they have a duty to shop the top fighters of today in their fight cards.  And this is what this event will have.

Other such claims are that they should have “PRIDE Crazy Lady” Lenne Hardt doing the ring introductions as she did for Pride events in Japan and does now for the Dream events.  If you haven’t heard her voice then search for her on Youtube.  It goes right through me so will not provide a link myself!  Some people like her though and she obviously still has her support in Japan and beyond.  But if they do that then the UFC will be going against it’s routine formula that has proved to be a success in the US (its primary market by far) and beyond.  If they are changing the ring announcer to her then why not go the whole hog and make the octagon into a standard ring again, and have referees wired up with earpieces to… well whoever they were wired up to?

What I’m getting at is that the UFC can’t, won’t and shouldn’t change their formula for a one-off event in Japan which will gauge their interest.  Dana White is not  trying to make a version of their product that the Japanese fans will like.  He is in Japan to gauge if the Japanese people are ready to accept his product as it stands.  If the reception is good then I can see them coming back in 12-24 months.  If not, then there is very little lost and plenty of other markets with a huge interest (UK, Australia, Brazil etc) that will happily host events.  If it is accepted, it could possibly save Japanese MMA which continues to decline.

I have no idea of ticket sales so far for the February 26th show; the last I heard was around 9,000 by mid-December.  Hopefully this figure will rise significantly as the event comes closer, although even Vince McMahon’s WWE juggernaut has failed to crack the Japanese market so Dana White has a big task on his hands.  Only time will tell but I think everyone with an interest in MMA in Japan is hoping this event is a big success.  If not, it could be the final nail in the coffin for mixed martial arts in Japan

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Dream NYE 2011: Exactly What UFC Japan Should Not Be

Posted By Dave on January 2nd, 2012


Well we’re into 2012 now and my first post is a little look back at the last day of 2011 here in Japan.  It started off with watching UFC 141 live from Las Vegas, from the prelims through to the main event.  And then after a couple of hours break there was a marathon session of fights courtesy of Japanese promotion Dream (9 hours of coverage in total for this event).

First off some very quick comments about UFC 141 and its main event. Alistair Overeem vs Brock Lesner (see pic, right).  Alistair Overeem is a beast!  He always looked big before but looked to have put on a lot of bulk before the Brock Lesner fight.  Arianny Celeste’s (UFC Octagon girl) face when he stepped onto the scales at the weigh-in was quite telling, and rather amusing too (see Youtube link)!  Brock Lesner is just a huge guy in general, but Overeem is probably the most muscular guy in the whole of the UFC (correct me if I’m wrong).  Brock took a knee early on after a failed take-down, and after that didn’t seem keen to try it again.  Once he was resorting to striking with Overeem, there was only going to be one winner.  So Lesner retiring after a short but explosive career in the UFC, and Overeem going on to face Junior dos Santos for the UFC Heavyweight Championship.  Both are strikers and it should be a great fight when it happens.

So it was a bit of lunch for me and then settling down to watch the Dream Fights from the Saitama Super Arena, the same place that UFC Japan will be taking place in on February 26th (54 days away).  I didn’t know too much about the fightcard before turning on the TV, which is a good thing as if I had done I probably wouldn’t have tuned in at all.  The current state of Japanese MMA is pretty dire, and has been on a huge downward spiral since the collapse of Pride back in 2007.  In an attempt to get the maximum amount of interest as possible, the event tried to cater to everyone.  There were MMA events, kickboxing events, and depressingly, professional wrestling (see WWE) events.  While I have plenty of respect for professional wrestlers and their athleticism and performances, they really shouldn’t be taking part in a real fight card.  Even more sad to see was that big names (Jerome LeBanner, Peter Aerts, Josh Barnett) were taking part in these “fights” when they really should be on a full fight car doing what they do best.

A few of the fights were entertaining and then we came to a mixed rules fight (1st round kickboxing, 2nd round DREAM rules) between Katsunori Kikuno and Yuichiro Nagashima.  Not heard of either of them but that’s fine, it might be a good match.  Kikuno enters the ring first and gets ready for his opponent to enter.  And then the lights go out and the music starts for Nagashima.  And he appears.  And he’s wearing a schoolgirl’s outfit.  What in the name of all things sacred???

A quick search revealed that Nagashima is a huge cosplay fan, and often enters the ring as his favourite (invariably female) character of the moment.  Grudgingly, you can see an example of this to the left.  Now whether he is a good fighter or not I no longer care, you do not come into the ring wearing a Japanese schoolgirl’s outfit.  I then listen and look, and see that the 25,000-strong crowd and the commentators are all lapping this up and saying how great it is.  And that’s when I realised the task that Dana White and the UFC have ahead of them when trying to win over the Japanese public.

The UFC is a very professional organization, trying to bring MMA into the mainstream, and in 2012 they will have fights shown on Fox, FX and Fuel in the States, and on ESPN in the UK.  Progress is being made and they are working hard to transform the stereotypical image that some have about mixed martial arts.  The problem is that Japan doesn’t seem ready for something as professional and mature as the UFC is.  The UFC has Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan covering every single event, being able to offer analysis and insight into the fighters, their strengths and weaknesses, and excellent play-by-play commentary.  The televised events in Japan will have two or three male commentators who don’t really seem clued in to any of the fighters, their strengths & weaknesses etc.  And then they’ll have about 6-8 female “talents” (models who appear on TV shows regularly) there for… well I’m not quite sure, and who they go to between fights and who will coo about how strong someone looked in the fight, with one making a comment and then everyone else in unison muttering an agreement.  Yes the UFC has it’s very visually appealing Octagon girls, but at least I imagine they have a fair idea about the UFC and its fighters.

Between the fights the UFC will have interviews with fighters or videos showing training and a very routine but well made preview of the next fight.  In the Dream event, between one fight you had former Japanese pro-wrestling promoter Antonio Inoki come out dressed in white carrying a huge crucifix.  My first thought was that it reminded me of Kimo’s ring entrance before he faced Royce Gracie in UFC 3, but then it got even more bizarre.  The guy got into the ring and started talking about how the economy and Japan in general was pretty poor at the moment.  This went on for what seemed like an eternity until it was broken up by 2 other former pro-wrestlers from the 80s who came down to the ring dressed as… well as far as I can see they were dressed up as Middle Eastern terrorists armed with swords.  One of them proceeded to hit Inoki on the head with a Singapore cane before the other guy broke them up.  The 2 “terrorists” then left and went back up the ram, and that was the end of the segment.  I think it’s safe to say nobody had any clue what was going on.

I managed to force myself through a few more fights but they was getting close to committing hara kiri myself so had to switch off.  But the fans that packed into the Saitama Super Arena are the ones that the UFC has to convince to come watch their product.  What they don’t need to do though is try to cater for the Japanese audience, and I’m sure it’s not something that Dana White would want as it would go against everything the UFC has built up.  More about that in my next UFC Japan post.

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