Hello, and welcome to another jam-packed edition of The Hot Seat. In case you missed last month's story, each month we take a person who has been a vital part, a mentor, or made some significant impact in the scene, and expose him or her and make them blush for your reading enjoyment.
So sit back, light a match, do a courtesy flush, and enjoy this month's installment.
* If you have an idea for someone you want to see in The Hot Seat, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions, questions, or comments, and maybe your favorite person will be our next victim!
This month, we bring you Makoto Okamura from Truck Trends Japan. If you don't know him yet, you're about to know it all! For this special feature, we left some of the language unedited for your enjoyment.
Full Name: Makoto Okamura (some calls me Mark)
Age: Biggest secret!
Place of Birth: Tokyo, Japan
Current Residence: Inagi-city, Tokyo, Japan
Daily Driver: 1996 Honda Accord Wagon
Who are you?: Editor of two magazines that represent America's car culture to Japan. One named Truck Trends while the other is Cruisin'. Also first member of Severed Ties Japan Chapter.
Q: What is in your Toilet Tower/Lavatory Library? Be honest, not the obvious ones like Mini Truckin', we want to know about the US Weekly, the Better Homes & Gardens and the Luscious Large Woman mags.
A: None, because Japanese style toilet is way different from ones you sit on in US so we have no hands to grab magazines, I just hover and make it quick. (see pic)
Q: Tell us one thing people either don't know about you or would be very surprised to hear?
A: I really love to travel all over U.S. so I always drive anywhere I can go by myself. Where Mike Alexander and I first met was not So-Cal, it was actually in Salem, Oregon where I drove from LAX! I can go anywhere without GPS, just let me know your address so I can get you soon.
Q: What is your favorite show of all time?
A: Truck runs like Drop Zone, TexMex, and West Coast Nationals are my favorite. I miss Drop Zone!
Q: What got you into the minitruck scene?
A: American-style customs got into Japan in middle of '80s so younger guys started to drive minitrucks. I used to drive wagon with back on Monroe air shocks at that time, then I sold wagon to buy my own minitruck in 1987.
Q: Now the fun stuff! We heard a rumor that when you were petitioning Severed Ties the Texas ST boys were kind enough to order you a present for the last Reso show? Tell us about it!
A: Oh you want me to talk about my worst nightmare? Okay, I was asked to step forward to stand in front of big crowd of ST members. Then I took an order from them to go into a tent. Then what I saw in that tent was a "large" girl who was waiting for me... And that was the worst present any petitioner ever got!
Q: You worked hard to get a Severed Ties Japan chapter. What's your proudest moment as a member of Severed Ties? Worst moment?
A: I really love atmosphere when we're working to get everything ready to show in the morning, like unlock tie-down belts to roll trucks off trailers, help members clean up their rides, work to set up booth. I love everything I do at shows, even help show staff cleanup huge fairgrounds after people had left show. Worst moment was, yes, needless to say, my "not so happy ending" at Reso show nightmare I told you before!
Q: Many people know you as the "Barracho from Japan" thanks to Lowlife Video. But you're actually quite a serious guy, right? As the head Editor for two Japanese magazines your workload demands a lot from you, so what do you do to relax?
A: Yes, I play like American kids when I'm in U.S but I work like Japanese business man when I'm in Japan. Big difference! I used to go fishing to relax because I'm an old guy. I sometimes go fishing to Tokyo bay at midnight.
Q: You're really good friends of the Mini Truckin' magazine staff and host us on our Japan visits. What's your favorite memory from the trips? What's your worst memory?
A: How come you think I have any good memories? There are too many worst memories when you, crazy American guys are in Japan. Worst one is yes, fire extinguisher happening that you saw on Lowlife Video! Elevator in the building for my office is too small so six of us couldn't fit at once. So big mistake to leave Ernie, Mike Venegas, and Josh Freeman to come up last. We heard big noise at third floor where we were and got huge white smoke. The explosion was fire extinguisher that Ernie did in my work building! He still owes me $150 that I paid to clean up building!
Q: Do you have any pets? Don't Lie, we know the truth!
A: Yes, my two cats! I love cats very much (insert homo joke here).
Q: You Japanese guys all look really young, but you're probably what, 35 or so?
A: Yeah many of Japanese looks very young so easy to pretend I'm 35 years old. You should add 5 to 7 more years than you might think and that's the real age!
Q: What got you interested in the magazine business? When did you make the transition to custom trucks?
A: I started my career as a magazine guy in middle of '80s. First one was a motorcycle magazine for younger kids. But I gave up work as magazine guy to work as air-cooled Volkswagen mechanic. Then I once again started to work for one custom car magazine named Cal-Magazine in 1998. They covered any kind of custom cars like bugs, trucks, American cars, and lowriders so I could learn many kind of custom cars. Minitruck is my most favorite of all time since middle of '80s.
Q: What is your favorite part of your job? Favorite place you have traveled? Any regrets?
A: Most favorite part is I don't have to buy expensive air tickets to get to U.S. if I could run good coverage for my magazine. My best trip of all time is the trip to Greenville, Mississippi, where Showfest was held at, very awesome times! I never have any regrets of course!
Q: What are you most scared of?
A: Big dogs, big girls, and big boobies.
Q: Who do you look up to in the truck scene? Who are some of your inspirations and why?
A: Takuji Murayama at No Regrets is the first guy who had started to represent today's minitrucker scene to Japan. Not only did he start America's club No Regrets here, but his truck is first 5-inch body-dropped one in Japan. The other very important person to me is Shige Suganuma, president of both Mooneyes U.S.A. and Mooneyes Japan. He brought us American custom car culture. He had thrown very first car show in Japan that named Street Car Nationals in 1987. I'm sure that year was the dawn of Custom Car Culture in Japan. We all saw muscle cars, vans, trucks, lowriders, hotrods, and swapmeets there first. That show is still alive, biggest outdoor show with more than 700 vehicles and 10,000 spectators and is going on its 24th annual show this year.
Q. Finally enough of the embarrassment, thanks for being such a good sport! Any plugs and/or thank you's worth mentioning?
A: Oh, It's too hard to make such a long list of my friends whom I saw at any shows when I visit in these five years. I could spend very good times at any shows because of their great hospitality to me from friends like Mike Alexander, all of Severed Ties, Ernie, No Regrets, Mike and Lowlife Video, and many more! I'll keep attending shows as much as possible till the day I die so feel free to say hi to me anywhere you could see me. Keep on truckin', peace!