Amid the parade of Corvettes, Mustangs and other sports cars, one vehicle stood out like a sore thumb at the Silver State Classic Challenge’s car show down Aultman Street on Friday.
A minivan, adorned with a Japanese flag on its side, garnered just as many cheer as any of the souped-up muscle cars. While it wasn’t a part of the race, its driver and passengers have become an established staple of the September race.
“This is my eighth year coming to Ely. I love coming here because the people are so nice, they welcome me and my team back each year with open arms,” Kazuhiko Kono said.
Working with a crew of three other photographers and videographers, Kono and his team made the trek to Ely all the way from their hometown in Yokohama, Japan, to try and capture the sights and sounds of the muscle cars on display as part of the open road race. Their pictures and footage will eventually make it back to Yokohama to be featured in a popular Japanese car magazine called Supercar. As Kono explains, Japanese audiences find the very nature of an “open road” race to be fascinating, which is why he has kept coming back year after year.
“Yokohama, like other Japanese cities, is a very cramped and populated area. It is such a contrast from the vast open spaces of Northern Nevada, and I think that scenic backdrop, mixed with the fast cars, makes for some compelling content for our readers and viewers online,” Kono said.
While Kono came to see cars that “just can’t be seen anywhere in Japan,” his crew was taking in the crisp mountain air and small town culture that Ely has to offer for their very first time. Supercar camera operator Majamitsu Maeda said the entire experience was “amazing.”
“The air is very different here. The drive just from Las Vegas to Ely is amazing to look at because there is so much open space all around for miles,” Maeda said.
The group’s trip consists of a 14-hour flight from Japan to Los Angeles, another flight from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and a four-hour road trip from Sin City to Ely. After spending three days in Ely covering the race, the group will get some extra time in the United States with a week of vacation time split between Las Vegas and Los Angeles before heading back home.