A creative friendship established in the mountains of Hokkaido. A filmmaker and adventurous handyman sharing a passion for the outdoors. Combining our crafts and love for the environment to create a new type of adventure. This is a documentary film project, about two friends and a truck. Follow our journey, as we convert a Japanese motoring icon into a rolling micro abode.
What’s a Kei Truck?
Japanese Kei vehicles (or keijidōsha “light automobile”) are the smallest highway-legal passenger vehicles with an engine displacement no larger than 660cc.
We will embark on a backcountry snowboarding odyssey throughout central Hokkaido. With nothing more than ourselves and our gear packed tight in our modest moving lodging. Exploring the roadside slack country, misty peaks, all while making new friends along the way. A journey off the beaten path, into the unknown.
We hope our story plants a seed or inspires a trip or even a bigger lifestyle change. Shining a light on human creation and nature that brings us to this corner of the world.
I’m Charlie, filmmaker and photographer from the UK. I’ve spent the best part of the last five years traveling around the world. Most recently working with Go RVing Canada, Burton, Travel Alberta and 4×4 Vehicle Hire Scotland. I’m excited to be back in Hokkaido for my third winter.
I’m Henry, Hack of all trades, although a master of none, with a keen eye for DIY. I grew up in a small town in New Zealand, building backyard mini ramps and snowboarding from the ripe age of four. I have an extensive background in tinkering and self-exploration through handicrafts. Faking my way through many successful carpentry jobs.
How did you come up with this truck concept? What inspired you both?
H: Ever since moving to Japan three years ago, I fell in love with these tiny trucks – I’d never seen them elsewhere in the world. I hatched the idea that one day I would build a camper van on the back and the idea has been brewing since then.
I met Charlie on my first season in Japan and we were linked through mutual friends and the love of snowboarding. We went riding a couple of times and Charlie always had his camera out. After I watched Charlie’s film ‘Koufuku’ for the first time, I saw how much of a talented filmmaker he is and I wanted to work on a project together.
After a short hiatus from Japan, Charlie sent me a message that he would soon be returning and we should catch up. We weren’t actually very good friends at this point, we’d just hung out on the odd occasion. I picked up Charlie from the train station and he ended up staying at my house for a month or so. It was during this time we became better friends discussed working on this project together.
Tell us more about the Kei-trucks, are they the workhorse of Hokkaido?
A vehicle in the Kei class category specifies the smallest highway-legal passenger car in Japan. They have a yellow number plate and have an engine size of no larger than 660cc. They are widely used in agriculture, fisheries, and construction and are a very common sighting on Hokkaido roads.
Hokkaido, famed for its powder snow in winter, relies largely on its agriculture in the warmer months, boasting nearly a quarter of japan’s useable land for plants such as potatoes, wheat, and corn.
The Kei class means that road taxes and all other vehicle expenses are a lot cheaper than a regular vehicle. Making it a smart, convenient and nimble choice for agriculture workers.
What are some hotspots that you’d like to hit?
We have many lines in mind, some kindly shared with us from friends. Some peaks, some roadside spots. But most of all look forward to soup curry from Furanoya.
Aside from riding, what other cultural spots in Japan you haven’t managed to go to before?
We’ve heard of many natural, wild outdoor Onsen around Daisetsu National Park. As obviously, our mobile abode is far too small for bathing facilities, we’ll be searching for as many wild onsens to bath and relax after hiking and riding while exploring new locations.
How long is the trip?
At least 7 days. Extending as we explore further..
Have you done RV camping in the winter before? What have you done to the Van to keep you warm?
C: Whilst spending my previous season in Canada, I had the pleasure of joining my friend Matthew Littlewood capturing an epic week road tripping around the Canadian Rockies for Go RVing Canada and Burton.
H: I have never done RV camping in the winter before. As for heating. Initially, I found the smallest wood stove I could find on Yahoo Auctions and had it shipped up from Honshu. But after discovering our initial design for the camper was too wide and in fact illegal with Japanese road law. We spent numerous days cutting a wall off the already constructed cabin. With this loss of the wall and extra space, the stove can no longer fit, losing all hope of a cozy warm night’s sleep by the fire. We have insulated the whole cabin with recycled wool insulation leftover from friends building projects in the summertime, hoping this insulation and warm sleeping bags will keep us above freeing level 😉 With the last resort of spooning…
Visit Rhythm Base Friday, Feb 21st 2:00pm to check out the Kei truck before they head off on their mission!