Hiroshima is a tranquil melting pot of the past and present, as picturesque olden-day trams cruise streets that are lined with modern buildings and bright neon lights. This city is without a doubt is one of my favourite places to visit in Japan, and it’s also the home of Mazda, okonomiyaki, and Bad Quality.

Mazda certainly needs no introduction, okonomiyaki is quite possibly the best Japanese food ever, and Bad Quality is just the local street-drifting crew, or so I thought. Iconic cars such as the Bad Quality 180SX of Nakagawa-san are for me the prime example of pure badassery, so I was just a wee bit excited to be inducted into the Hiroshima car scene by the Bad Quality crew, led by Shuichi Nakagawa, and Keigo Igi. It was 10am, I’d been told to meet them in front of Hiroshima train station, a black Ford Explorer pulled up, and off I went with three close friends who had joined me for an adventure.

I was expecting to be taken out to a workshop in the suburbs where the iconic cars are kept, but when Igi-san’s first line was ‘our first stop is my shop’, I realised that Bad Quality was a lot bigger than I had first realized. We were en route to Show Up Shift, a body and tuning shop. 

Igi-san is a dab hand when it comes to paint and panel work, his own R33 harlequin drift car serving as evidence of this. Even a little old lady and her toy poodle were guilty of having a good look as the R33 slowly idled up the street, and stopped just off the main road. Peeking in the doors of the workshop, we saw the Bad Quality S2000 was ready to have its kit applied, and the famous 180SX of Nakagawa-san was just off to the side. It wasn’t quite how I remembered it though, stripped right back to a shell ready for the rebirth that is coming soon!

After a canned coffee and some chocolate, it was off to the next stop. While in the car I was curious about how the name came about, and what exactly it meant? “Bad Quality doesn’t mean that our cars are dangerous, it means that we have quality-built cars which aren’t most people’s idea of perfect in appearance,” Nakagawa explained. Many see stanced cars as something that can’t be drifted, but this group of guys and gals put that old wives’ tale to rest. “My 180SX was so low that I ground off most of my front lip drifting it,” he said, laughing.

Soon enough we were at the next shop, and this time it was Ultrabox, the creator of the wild JDM-inspired BMW 2002 from NZPC No. 228. As the car was rolled out the front of the shop so we could all get a good look at it, I was quietly sitting back watching the interaction. This was a wide, diverse group of people, young and old, all interlinked by the Bad Quality name.

Whether their preferred ride was a slammed 180SX, or an immaculate 2002, everyone was bound by one common theme —  their love of building and driving cars. While sitting back admiring the details of the 2002, Nakagawa-san asked, “Do you like old-school cars? I have some other friends with traditional-style Japanese cars, I will invite them to meet us later.” The day was just getting better and better!

All the excitement had me working up a big appetite, so in true Hiroshima fashion, it was time for some okonomiyaki. You can eat this all across Japan, but if you are a stickler for proper food, Hiroshima is the only place to enjoy it. As the Bad Quality crew kept reminding us —  okonomiyaki outside Hiroshima isn’t true okonomiyaki. After stuffing ourselves full, the crew divided up the guests’ portion of the bill among themselves, the hospitality of our Japanese hosts was just amazing.

Now that it was dark, a few friends had been called up for an impromptu car meet in a small shopping-mall car park. Humble little Hachi-roku, Silvias, RX-7s, Skylines, and even slammed kei cars were there. Drizzly rain had set in, but that wasn’t going to deter anyone from having a good time. Just then, the silent evening air was pierced by the sound of raw, unmuffled exhaust notes. “Ah, they are here,” Nakagawa-san exclaimed, and out of the darkness a Kenmeri and a C210 came cruising into the car park. Bad Quality might be the name these guys and gals run by, but the quality of the cars and the super-friendly people driving them was excellent. 

As the hours rolled on, and stories were shared, it was time for a bit of a drive. A medley of drift cars, classic bosozoku and cruisers took over the highway and headed out to a classic haunt for many of the members, a parking area off the road which is steeped in tradition. “All the guys who have gone before us used this parking area as a base for highway racing,” Nakagawa-san explained. In the eerie night sky, the drizzle still lingering and illuminated by the bright-orange streetlights, you could feel the ghosts of the past hanging in the air.

By the time we had snapped off a few more photos it was already 4am, and time to head off.
A mere 18 hours before, all the people I’d met throughout the day had just been names, though now it felt as if we had been friends for years. It quickly hit me on the predawn drive home that once again the automotive scene had shown me the importance of the people over the machines. I can’t imagine where the tuning scene would be today without that handful of straight-up, genuine, down-to-earth people with a true passion for what they do. Let’s face it, friends like Bad Quality make life a lot more fun. 

This article was originally published in NZ Performance Car Issue No. 230. You can pick up a print copy or a digital copy of the magazine below:

Aaron Mai

I am proud to be associated with NZV8 and NZ Performance Car, shooting in both New Zealand and Japan. Brought up as a rallying fanatic, at 15 I started taking photos of airborne stones with a point-and-shoot camera at the Rally New Zealand. While overseas I took up photography again to try and document the amazing places I was going and the things I was seeing. I enjoyed it much more than I expected to and it has turned into a real passion. Most of my recent photography has been done in Japan, based around the local tuners spread from Tokyo to Hiroshima. It is great being able to shoot everything from time attack machines at a freezing cold Tsukuba Circuit to tubbed drag cars in the hot Masterton summer sun. It is awesome getting to shoot these impressive works of art, but equally as much fun getting to know the people behind them.