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The Bongo Chronicles: An Epic Gathering of DIY Van Aficionados

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TEXT: 奥村純一(OKUMURA Junichi)  PHOTO: 奥村純一(OKUMURA Junichi)

  • Mao's favorite car, a 2004 Mazda Bongo
  • Mao's favorite car, a 2004 Mazda Bongo
  • Mao's favorite car, a 2004 Mazda Bongo
  • Mao's favorite car, a 2004 Mazda Bongo
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Bongo and his friends gathered at
  • Mao's favorite car, a 2004 Mazda Bongo

 “We gathered the most DIY Bongos in Japan in Minano Town in Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture”

On 6-7 April 2024, the “We gathered the most DIY bongos in Japan in Minano Town in Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture” (official name undecided) was held at the “Bokurano Minano Base” campsite in Saitama Prefecture. Of course, ‘Bongo’ refers to Mazda’s one-box car, and this time not only the Bongo series, but also its OEM counterparts, the Nissan Vanette and Mitsubishi Delica, were allowed to participate. It was.

Van camp coordinator and influencer

“Just looking at everyone’s bongos and smiling and watching everyone who got together get to know each other, I was excited all by myself, like ‘wow, this is awesome!”

said Mao Henmi (Mao-kun), a self-confessed “Bongo Super Lovers” who called this camping event, which brought together the Mazda Bongo and its family members.

He is a young man known in the world of outdoor goods and DIY vans as a van camping co-ordinator and influencer, who is affectionately known as Mao-kun across generations. His lifestyle has attracted a lot of attention and he has been the subject of feature articles and many magazines in the outdoor-oriented media.

Of course, he also actively participates in real places and goes to events all over Japan.

He has held workshops at events such as the Fuji Rock Festival and Van Camp is My Jam, and you may recognize his smile.

At the age of 30, he met Bongo, who became a turning point in his life

Mao started his van life thinking that he could pack whatever he wanted and go wherever he wanted if he stayed overnight in his van.

“When I decided to buy a Bongo in the summer of 2020 and DIY it to Vanlife specifications, I got a lot of so-so people saying, ‘What? A Bongo? Why not a Hiace? It looks like a contractor, doesn’t it?” But as we started making and distributing videos of the exterior color change and then continued to show how the car was being converted to overnight stay specifications, the number of people who recognized us gradually increased, and the number of people playing with the Bongo increased. I’m so happy that so many people have gathered here today!

Holding the event in his hometown also contributes to the development of the local community

From as far away as Tohoku and as far away as Kansai, 17 Bongos and Bongo families gathered at “Bokurano Minano Base” campsite in Mao’s hometown of Minano, Chichibu County, Saitama Prefecture. Minano Town, where this campsite is located, is sandwiched between Chichibu City and Nagatoro Town, two of Saitama Prefecture’s most popular tourist destinations, but was not well known and lacked tourism resources.

Mao, who was born and raised in Minano, was delighted that the event was held at “Our Minano Base”, a campsite opened by Yuya Matsufuji, who was active as a “regional development cooperative” in Minano, a town known as a disadvantaged area under the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, to reaffirm the town’s appeal and revitalize it. Mao, who was born and raised in the town, must have been particularly happy.

“We all drive the same car, we’re brothers, sisters, and family now. I’m grateful to all the people who gathered here. But I know many Bongolians around the country still are ‘Hidden Bongo Super Lovers’. We’ll do the next one, so wait and see!”

Bongolians across the country, look forward to the second edition.

translated by DeepL

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