SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — A local “car nerd” is using his unique Japanese fire truck in a surprising way: spreading holiday cheer across the city.
If you’re out and about in San Francisco and happen to see a Teeny Tiny Fire Truck drive by while playing Christmas music out of its siren, you’re in luck. The fire truck’s name is Kiri, and it’s a 1990 Daihatsu Hijet from Kirigamine, a small town in the mountains of Japan.
Kiri’s newest owner, Todd Lappin, lives in the city with his partner and daughter. Lappin, who has long had a love for Japanese culture, people and, of course, cars, originally purchased the fire truck in 2020 as a pandemic project. Though the truck is 30 years old, Lappin says it didn’t need much work because it was so well maintained.
“It needed its fire bits. It didn’t have those items. So that was a fun little treasure hunt,” Lappin told KRON4. Lappin’s hope was that the truck would look like it did when it was serving back in Kirigamine. Now that Kiri is finished, the truck often takes people by surprise.
“When I meet Japanese people here they are grinning and blinking and wondering what blue ray of light dropped it down,” Lappin said. Japanese folks aren’t the only ones happy to see Kiri out and about; Lappin notes that the truck draws a ton of positive attention no matter where he takes it.
“It really is like driving a puppy,” Lappin said. For him, the best part of taking on the Kiri project was the truck’s ability to connect people and bring them together.
“The thing I love about Kiri is she acts like a bridge between SF and Japan,” Lappin said. In October 2021, Lappin was able to travel to Kiri’s hometown in Japan to meet her previous driver.
Kiri isn’t just building bridges across the Pacific, the truck is also bringing people together right here at home in San Francisco. In October, Lappin planned a get together with other Japanese car owners. The group got together for photos, and they also spent time getting to know each other.
Lappin and his partner also created a yearly calendar featuring Kiri. The pair sells their calendar to benefit local fire departments. Proceeds from sales of this year’s Kiri calendar will benefit the CalFire Benevolent Association and the volunteer fire department, Kirigamine Self-Defense Fire Brigade, in Kiri’s hometown.