“One Thing Led to Another.." - 2021 In Review
And just like that - we have come to the end of yet another year. Things are a little different now than they were a year ago.
Well, apart from one elephant in the room. Aka a certain pandemic is still amidst us. Though now we are lining up to get vaccines (or boosters to prepare for ‘that’ variant; I myself will need to plan getting mine next month).
If you’re a regular follower of myself or HiddenPalmTree, chances are you have seen what we have been getting up to on our respective socials. Boy: has it been quite a packed and productive year for us.
And when I mean a lot, I mean a lot. Like: a lot of things we’ve done, both involving the blog/brand and outside of our regular automotive content. At least for me, it's to a point by which I’ve been too busy to even write about them here as blog features, as much as I want to describe what exciting things I’ve been up to.
Especially when it involves you cosplaying for the first time ever, while attending the last ACG convention in Hong Kong of the year. Hence, the silence these past few weeks from my end: I'm still recouping after a few back to back weekends.(More on that later..maybe?)
But this being the end of the year, I couldn’t forget to prepare the annual year in review. It is yet another time for us to reflect on what I - Asher - and our still fresh addition Davis have been getting up to for the past twelve months. When you stand back and reflect, despite two of us being unable to travel freely - we have done quite a lot for 2021.
So as we prepare to turn the page to another year, let’s look back at what I, Asher, and Davis have been up to over the past twelve months.
We hit the ground running in January straight out of 2020. Nothing better to start the first weekend of the year than - by combination of sheer coincidence and perfect timing, spending it with some DC2 Integra and JDM owners at Tsim Tsa Tsui. Along with getting to meet some fellow photographers based in Hong Kong.
We barely hit the first weekend of the year when I did the first major change to the A Class (aka Project A200, name still TBC) - bringing to life a project I had been working to bring to life since the previous summer: my dream itasha, and my very first full-on effort at one, to be precise.
Yes: the Girls Frontline ‘MDR’ Merc made its debut, and on the first Wednesday too!
Almost immediately I took it out for every opportunity to showcase it to the world, get photos, or just drive it around. Morning Drives, dinner and Donki runs, any excuse to just get out and drive it.
I even took it to one of the first car events I was able to make it out to and cover (and was planning to write about, had I planned out my content schedule better). The main attention was towards the Mclarens at the annual McLaren Hong Kong parade, especially one of only 106 Speedtails ever produced in the world. But I think I definitely drew some eyes being the only itasha Mercedes Benz in Hong Kong too.
With late January/early February traditionally being Wekfest time for those back on Oahu, and with the 2021 show postponed yet again, I decided to fill in the void left by looking back at the last time Wekfest came to Hawaii - and the last Hawaii car show I would attend for a while, with a look back at Wekfest Hawaii 2020. (We also had a booth there).
Then yet another car joined our HK fleet: the ‘anti-crossover crossover’, aka the BMW 1 Series (E87) that has been serving as the family runabout since February 2021. Not a lot has changed since my introduction post on it (and I had meant to do regular updates journaling my experiences with it, considering I signed off that blog post with ‘Stay tuned for more updates…’)
But happy to report that it is still serving us well and no major issues have come up: yet. It’s gone through some changes last time you saw it on the blog too. A new ‘1M’ style front and rear bumper was installed to replace the bland look of the original LCI bumpers, along with a roof box to add some more utility to this ‘anti-crossover crossover’. I’ll detail more in the one year of ownership writeup, to come next month. Promise.
Spring came around and I kept myself busy: namely by shooting a large group of ZN6s (Toyota GT86/Subaru BRZs) and Toyota SW20s (MR2), and on March 4th, a local gathering of Nissan Skyline R34s celebrating ‘3/4 ’ day. One weekend even saw us gathering at the local Mercedes Benz dealership, when they brought some examples of Stuttgart’s finest to town: in the form of an ‘AMG’ exclusive display for that weekend only.
After all, until you can travel to the Mercedes Benz Museum in Stuttgart itself, where else will you be able to get up close to a CLK DTM, CLK GTR, and C63 AMG Black Series?
A fellow car enthusiast I met through some Morning Drives/car meets, Eason, opened up his new venture for business: CarinLife. Every now and then, I made the trek out to Yuen Long to drop by his shop and check out whatever inventory he had. Every visit brings surprises, considering whatever is in the display always changes up. On the rare occasion, I would also happen to meet fellow enthusiasts to talk story with there as well; the latest being a certain pair of Tobys who run the local YouTube automotive channel 'FlatOut HK'.
As Spring slowly turned into Summer, I also hit an important milestone here on HiddenPalmTree - coordinating and launching my first month-long feature series! ‘Otaku Month’, which had us covering numerous itasha/car/otaku-focused car events that regularly happen in the car culture capital, that is California.
I then hit my official one year anniversary serving as a content contributor for HiddenPalmTree, so I took the opportunity to reflect on my journey so far, and things I learnt in the process; advice I would recommend fellow content creators to take note of, based on my rough patches and mistakes.
We also had a look at one of my many childhood influences - the manga and anime series Initial D, and how it shaped me & many other import fans to this day.
Then…I sort of went on an unexpected hiatus from new feature content. Which was somewhat expected, given new developments in my career and life outside of cars. Which I do apologize once more, for the sudden silence those few months.
But while I was taking a break from regular blog content, I continued work offline to ensure I would be ready for a comeback to blog duties - when the time was right.
For instance: I ran into a meeting of the local Lamborghini club one Sunday morning, and I happened to have my camera with me....
When I had time or wanted to dust off my photography skills, I made it out to a local car meet to at least keep the dust off of my camera. Thanks in part to boredom as we are still unable to travel for leisure, I’ve been joining quite a few car clubs/Facebook & Whatsapp groups; so I am at least in the loop for anything happening should I find myself with nothing to do.
So far I’ve made it out to meets with the Green Car Club, ‘Benz Union HK/A Class Owners Club’, RackRider HK, the SL Owners Club, to name a few. Though I have yet to participate in a meet by ‘The One Club’ [BMW 1 Series club],
We also had a few car festivals/events in town, with one big one in particular taking place at ‘The Boxes’. It was a big one with reason: as the shopping center turned go-to venue for car shows was yet another business forced to shut down this year owing to the lack of business due to the pandemic.
The same also sadly applied to HK’s own ‘Fujiwara Tofu Shop’, as the owner decided this would be the end of his little tribute project after moving from Tai Wai to San Tin (the area where The Boxes was located), and wouldn’t be looking at another site. But at least our car community here didn’t let it leave without one last blast.
Towards Fall and Winter, I got an opportunity to get up close with some of HK’s most exclusive and well-kept treasures. Twice - scratch that, three times in fact. Once at one of the city’s high-end shopping centers (the one with a mix of vanilla and perfume scent in the air that never goes away), another in the middle of the Central business district, and finally: on a golf course green at Clearwater Bay Country Club.) More to come on that as well, keep an eye out.
And ended the year with starting our second back-to-back, month long series: ‘Never Stop Creating’. I originally planned for it to take up the entire month of December as a nice way to wrap up the year; obviously that is not the case now (with everyone busy at the end of the year, along with existing plans for the winter holidays). So a new plan: I’ll schedule it to take up the content schedule for the rest of January and part of February, right before we welcome the Year of the Tiger for Chinese New Year!
But it wasn’t just myself that was busy all over the place throughout 2021! Our main man Asher, was also equally busy Stateside and back in our main base of Hawaii.
Asher managed to make a few trips to California. Chances are if you have been keeping up with his Instagram, you might have seen him getting to shoot with some builds out there, along with meeting up with our Socal rep. Bernard. The two even attended a grassroots drift event out at Apple Valley Speedway! (I hope I can get around to writing about it eventually).
Car events also began to start up again on Oahu midway through the year. Aside from the Cars & Coffee and usual round of park’n’chill meets, HiddenPalmTree was able to cover and attend the two shows that just barely made it into the 2021 Hawaii schedule - or to be precise, the only shows that made up the 2021 Hawaii schedule, considering both island’s Spocom and Wekfest shows have been postponed until 2022.
We discussed the Hawaii-exclusive SubieShowoff, a gathering of Subarus unique to the Hawaii scene. Asher attended, hosted a booth, and covered the return of Hot Import Nights to Honolulu. Not as much action, even for somewhere as small as Hawaii, but it was at least something compared to the lack of any shows in 2020.
And in case you missed the latest news: Asher has recently relocated to the East Coast; specifically New York City for the next few years! So for any one based on the East side of the United States, expect to see some content opportunities on your part of the world come up in 2022!
We also welcomed a new face to the HiddenPalmTree content team, someone to represent us out in the great white north when the snow goes away and things warm up for him again. Davis aka “@carsrickharrison” joined us this year, serving as our first Canadian correspondent in Halifax, Nova Scotia. When the weather warms up again and everyone takes their cars out of storage, hopefully we can start to report on what the Canadian car scene is like.
I should also add that I have been busy myself, outside of delivering content here on HiddenPalmTree. You know from my little update following my return from my break that I finally landed a full-time gig, and as of December 2021: I am officially full time with said gig!
I also served as a consultant and received acknowledgement in a very special project by a fellow content creator and artist based in Hong Kong! I was happy to offer my expertise as an automotive photographer and blogger for shaping ‘AutoToll’ in a written anthology by local artist Sophia Hotung in her book, “The Hong Konger”.
Quite a milestone, ain't it? I’ll aim to detail more about what this exciting project is in its own feature - well deserved of one all to itself if you ask me.
Occasionally, someone from the network of many people I have met during my travels in past years came by Hong Kong; usually on the rare occasion they had to come by town for business and stomach a mandatory 21 day quarantine in a hotel. But I ensured that being holed up inside for that long was worth it by showing them around, and if it worked with our schedules, showed them as much of the car culture here as possible.
The last time Aaron (@aarontsuiphotography) and I met up in London, we were spotting supercars, so I ensured he got to spot a bit of our supercars in town. Calvin (aka @funkygarage) also came by Hong Kong to handle some essential business, and with his stay being a bit longer, we had more time to meet up, attend a local diecast car expo, do a bit of weeb hunting around Mong Kok’s various hobby stores, and best of all: getting to meet up with some fellow itasha owners in HK on a Sunday morning; along with seeing a bit of our tuner car culture works here.
(Traffic inspections included).
And I finally broke out of my shell, and networked with some fellow weebs here in Hong Kong. Yes: I’m beginning to expand my portfolio into more than just shooting cars; get ready to see some cosplayers thrown into the mix. After all, you might have seen me behind the camera at a Hololive [VTuber] Kimono cosplay shoot a few weeks ago.
There was no better way to sign off the year than by also attending my first ever convention. Better late than ever, especially when Kawaii Kon 2020 was my planned debut to the convention scene, but it never happened. (I even attempted my first cosplay, gotta start somewhere right?)
Now: I think that is it, or at least a good record of everything that made up our 2021. It has been such a busy year for all of us, plenty of wins and losses, and many lessons learnt. A lot of experimentation, a lot of reminders to ourselves that “No one else has done it, so why don’t we?, or just going along the ride to see where one thing leads to another.
I think that pretty much summarizes what has kept me going throughout this year, even during the tough times or early mornings trying to play catchup to get content ready for its debut. From conversations I have had with people who follow and support us, to people I reach out to for feature ideas, or just general conversation about what we are doing right here, nothing changes that in the end:
Someone needs to do it…
So as we welcome in a new year, I wanted to say thank you to everyone that has continued to support, follow, or even work with us on content ideas. Thank you to all the great people we have met throughout this year.
From our photoshoots to Asher’s vlogs, or my written feature content, it truly means a lot. You should all be familiar with the saying: “Small actions now, can get you to a lot of places later.” Just imagine what doors can open for us as we continue to do what we do, as HiddenPalmTree.
2021 might not have seen us in many places other than our primary bases, but we definitely were able to get a lot done remotely and what we could within our respective parts of the world (even with conflicting time zones). If anything, this year showed us yet again: that nothing is ever impossible, even if the going gets tough. A reminder to remain fluid, consistent within our workflow, and improvise if necessary.
Until the next feature (which will be coming soon!), we’ll be continuing to find ways to ‘support the locals’.Keep supporting us and tuning in when we drop new features and merch, and keep watching! We’ve got a lot in store for 2022.
Davis Wu (@cars_rick_harrison)
Asher Uchiyama (@asheruchiyama)
Albert Leung (@apic.productions)
ZF Takumi (@takumi_portrait)