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Written by Dennis Wood
Japan… hardly thought of as 4WD utopias by the outside world. I admit that
I myself was in that camp until Steve (Captain Video), Joe (the travel agent)
and I made the trip over to visit some of our great dealers, and to check out
the off-road world in their neck of the woods.
Right up front I need to say we were blown away by the over-the-top quality treatment we received. Our new friends treated us to some amazing food, showed us all around, took us wheeling and became lifelong friendships. Unforgettable.
Ok, so here is a quick overview and some highlights from our trip.
If you are thinking about invading a country… pass on South Korea. The constant tantrums from next door have the entire country ready for action. It's crazy to see the riverbanks lined with barbed wire and pillboxes. Even as we ran trails in the Jeeps, we came across trenches, old tanks, lookouts, and military draftees (everyone serves for 2 years). Of course, can't forget the troops lobbing shells from 155 Howitzers over our heads as we drove down the highway --- that will get your attention. Peace through strength is the real deal in Korea.
The country is ultra-modern and pro U.S. The People were very friendly and helpful. On several occasions while standing staring at train schedule boards, some random citizen would come up to us, grab our ticket, look at it and point. Awesome people.
The Koreans are blessed with some great areas to wheel. Nasty washes, with KIA sized boulders and tank test tracks just begging for a well-built Jeep to test its metal. Just so happens that there are plenty of “well built” Jeeps around to do just that. I was also surprised to find full on buggies, and buggy-like Jeep builds that were more than able to conquer the trails.
There is no event, trail run, or get-together that does not include food. We ate constantly and well. Korean Jeepers are a community of friends, they love to socialize and wheel - it’s a family activity… I love it.
So then we shot over to Japan. Home of the rising (or is it setting) sun. Korea is clean, but Japan is staggeringly clean. Oh and be prepared to carry out your own trash, there are no trash cans to be found. No cans and no litter, how do they do that?
The Japanese Jeeper has a much more limited area to Jeep in. That is not however a deterrent to building world class Jeeps. They are building an off-road park that was actually a lot of fun, even in its infancy state. By making tight driving courses designed to test the driver and his rig, it made for a fun event. Like Korea, the Japanese love to eat together…. And I’m not talking PB&J, they do it right.
A ride on a 200 mph train brought us to Hiroshima where we visited the site of the atomic blast that ended the war. I don’t think I have ever felt so emotional while visiting a memorial. The city is a witness to the ingenuity, productivity and work ethic of the Japanese people.
It is impossible to convey how well we were treated and how much we enjoyed our stay in Korea and Japan. Did I ever mention that Jeepers the world over Rock?
This is Dennis Wood.