Japan | Spring 2018

 

For my second solo trip to Japan I decided to do more than just drifting, which meant exploring many new areas all around the country. I’d like to note that my Japanese language ability is very limited to basic communication, but I am still able to travel the country quite effortlessly. The total length of this trip was 15 days(April 21-May 5), as for a dollar amount, I try to not think of that, though documenting the cost would have been a good idea.

First stop, Osaka (大阪市)!

Osaka was my first stop, mostly because there was a drift event at Meihan Sportsland (名阪スポーツランド) that I was dying to attend. Growing up watching a ton of drift videos there, of team burst especially, made me want to visit. I ended up contacting the guys at Stacked Inc and they told me to meet up at the shop early morning to follow them to the track. After securing those plans I walked around the town of Izumiotsu (泉大津市) for a bit.

As soon as I started walking down the street I heard a distinct exhaust note, got my camera up and snagged a blurry drive by photo. I had barely been on the street for a few minutes and cool cars already started appearing. I used broken Japanese to ask the owner if photos were okay and he kindly said yes.

After snapping these photos, I grabbed some takoyaki & coffee then took the train to Dotonbori

I had watched some videos about where to get food in Osaka and went to this spot suggested by a youtuber, the wait was pretty long but the sushi taste wasn’t as good as I expected. The photo below is the alleyway where the restaurant is, followed by the food I ordered.

There was a plethora of cool cars driving around and it was very hard to get pictures of them since I was using a 50mm lens the entire time.

I felt like it was only right to process these photos of this vintage skyline in b&w

The streets in Dotonbori were so busy and full of life, wandered around for a little while before heading back to my airbnb.

The next morning I met up with Ken (I believe his name was) from Stacked Inc and followed him to Meihan Sportsland, I forget exactly how long the drive was, maybe a hour and a half. I was mind blown when I arrived, took some photos and recorded some driving clips. I also ended up hanging with Jake Kats (ig: kats_44) for a bit and he took me out for some laps!

Red cars first!

Really neat onevia and the driver was performing very well.

This yellow s14 was rippin’ pretty hard too.

A few random shots ~

A shot of Jake Kats followed by the team burst cars

After going hard for so many runs, Naoki Nakamura ended up having a mis shift after a nasty flick and couldn’t recover, thus sending his fresh chassis into the unforgiving wall.

This photo also serves as a reminder of how hard this course bites back

Between being in total shock from excitement the entire time and trying to take decent photos, I was able to take a couple video clips and put them together.

After grabbing some food at the trackside cafe I made the drive up to Kyoto to visit a very popular spot.

The place I visited was Fushimi Inari-Taisha (伏見稲荷大社), I always thought the gates looked so cool in pictures and in person it was beautiful. I had arrived about a hour before sunset so I didn’t have much time to make it to the top. Most people stop at the lower loop of gates for photos but I made sure to hike all the way up. I didn’t know the walk up would be so tiring, step after step after step, and I was wearing jeans… When I made it to the top I admired the different parts of the shrines then headed back down just as the sun was setting. I only took a few photos since I was trying to soak in the peace and serenity.

After getting back down to my rental car, I drove to my airbnb and packed up for my trip to Tokyo the next day. The morning of my departure I saw this clean legacy gt driving by, I never knew these cars were so common in Japan, unlike the US.

I arrived to Tokyo at about 6pm and went straight to my airbnb which was on the top floor of an apartment that offered a decent view and great accessibility. Unfortunately I did not get any photos of my accommodations since the 50mm lens cannot work in such tight spaces. I snapped a photo of this elegant Audi parked outside my apartment then walked around Akihabara.

This place isn’t called “electric town” for no reason, it was actually overwhelming how bright and active everything was. I got dinner at a maid cafe which was a very awkward experience once I realized who the usual crowd was, older men. It seemed cute and funny online but in person it was pretty cringeworthy, especially since I was alone! Hah. No photos from there… But here are some shots from walking around the streets.

I wanted to try the Mario Kart experience but I thought I would save that for a time when I visit with friends. Looks like a fun time!

There was this wrapped R34 parked and I had to dodge traffic to take these photos, worth it.

I’m all about street food so I picked up one of these taiyakis filled with red bean, was a pleasant treat to enjoy while walking the streets. I also got some delicious steak at a standing restaurant and had ramen shortly after but did not take photos.

I saw a few Itasha cars but this was the only one I was able to get a photo of.

The next day I went to pick up my rental R34 from Omoshiro Rental, I had originally reserved the S15 but somebody crashed it. I had the car for 24 hours and it cost $165 if I can remember correctly, was so much different than driving a kei car haha.

It was seriously unreal to be in Japan driving a R34, I stopped a lot just to get out and try to gather myself because I couldn’t believe this was happening. Since Yashio Factory wasn’t too far away I drove there to grab some stickers and a shirt.

Then I started driving to the Initial D Racing Cafe, but on the way I checked if they were open and nope, closed on Tuesdays… So I ate dinner at CoCo’s Ichiban and drove back to Akihabara. I spent like $30 trying to find Tatsumi PA after missing the correct ramp and ended up just calling it a night and went back to my place. The parking in Tokyo is super expensive! I ended up paying about $38 to park less than 12 hours, and the place I parked only accepted membership card or coin. So I walked in the pouring rain to an arcade to collect that much change, fun lol. I drove back to return the car right on time and stopped at a laundromat to dry my shoes and socks, then hopped on the train to Narita Airport for my flight to Aomori (青森市)

I arrived in Aomori late evening and checked into my hotel after having some curry pork cutlet nearby. The hotel I stayed at had a fine selection of food for their complimentary breakfast which fueled me up for the day, they even had a proper onsen. I took the bus into town and then walked to Nebuta Warasse Museum (ねぶたの家 ワ・ラッセ). I swear no matter where you are in Japan, you will see cool cars.

The museum was simply amazing, the big structures contrasted nicely against the dark interior paint.

I believe it was Chris from the youtube channel, AbroadInJapan, who mentioned in one of his videos that Aomori was the apple capital of Japan. So of course I had to try some apple ice cream and an apple. They were both so delicious, my mouth is watering as I type this! The apple ice cream had the perfect level of sweetness and the apple taste was just right. The apple itself had a great crunch and snap to it while also tasting delightful.

After enjoying that snack I went to find another place recommended by Chris called Nokkedon. This place is a fish market where you buy tickets and then walk around to hand pick the items you want with those tickets. The sushi here definitely made up for the lacking sushi I had while in Osaka. The seating down stairs was quite limited but I found a spot after doing a couple laps.

After lunch I walked around and had snacks from various shops, then hung out at a park to relax for a bit. I decided to walk back to my hotel instead of taking the bus so I could get a better view of the city. Along the way I stopped at a historical museum where I learned about the surrounding area. While continuing my walk back to my hotel I spotted a handful of cool cars and took some photos.

My stay in Aomori felt pretty short since I really only had one full day to explore, but it was still worth it. The next day I caught a short flight up to Sapporo (札幌市) where I stayed for a couple nights. When I arrived here the first thing on my mind was the Sapporo beer museum, so I walked along the river to get there. After reading about the history I made it down to the bar one minute before last call to get my little beer tray that came with nuts.

I forget what blends they were but they were professionally poured and pleasant to drink.

The next morning I wandered around a lot then found this neat place to get some pancakes and tea, it was called ‘Sapporo Pancake & Parfait Last Mint’. I ordered some mint tea along with matcha pancakes with red bean, the two items paired together flawlessly. It was a shame that I had to disassemble the pretty pancakes.

Then as usual I wandered around aimlessly until I found this cool street side market, which is where I was greeted by a R34 GTR.

When I crossed over to the market side I paced up and down the street until I found a couple of spots that peaked my interest. First one being a place that specialized in crab, it was a pretty light dish but the quality was spot on. I found it difficult to grab just the right amount of wasabi for each bite but I made it work.

Conveniently located right next door was a place that served uni (live sea urchin), it didn’t look so appetizing but I HAD to try it. I am glad I did, the texture was a little strange but the taste was so rich and creamy with a drop of sweetness. I called my mother on FaceTime for this one since it was so bizarre.

I love cherry blossoms and even though they weren’t in mid bloom, there were still a couple trees displaying the mesmerizing palette of colors.

After walking around some more I built up an appetite and looked up a place to get dinner, it wasn’t too far so I just walked about 20 minutes and saw some cool cars on the way.

I can’t remember the name of the place where I had dinner but it was pretty average, though it had a nice view over the city. The meal was arranged in a bento box and I had a sangria type drink to go with it, the drink was strong!

When the sun went down I went to Sapporo TV Tower to see the city lit up, the view was astonishing but the tower felt like a tourist trap. Maybe I’m just bitter that I got tricked into buying a picture, lesson learned I suppose. I saw some awesome lowriders around Sapporo but I wasn’t able to get any photos. That night I went back to my hotel early so I could get enough rest for my travel the next day to Sendai (仙台) and ultimately Nihonmatsu (二本松市). So I flew into Sendai and a shuttle took me to my rental car, loaded up and started driving to Nihonmastu. On the way there I stopped at a couple upgarages to pick up some parts, since I damaged some suspension components on my silvia last spring matsuri. I bought DMAX tension rods, tie rods and tie rod spacers to replace the mismatched front pieces I had installed last year post crash. Prior to arriving in Japan I shipped a box full of my tools, including my milwaukee 1/2″ impact, super glad I did that since using that gun saves so much time. The first day at Ebisu Circuit I designated as maintenance day, so there would be no pressure to get out on track. Install new parts, oil change, inspection and confidence test drive.

I also picked up some ramps from upgarage to make jacking up my car easier since low pro jacks aren’t really a thing there.

This matsuri I really focused on seat time versus taking photos and video, but my driving ability skyrocketed because of it. I spent less time on north course and touge and focused on nailing school course, learning higashi, toying with nishi and playing with the minami hump while it was wet and empty. I’m really glad it rained because it cleared out a lot of people from the track and I was able to have infinite hp on courses like higashi and minami. But since it was raining and my car has no air condition the windshield fogged up bad and rendered most my gopro footage useless. I will still try to scrape together a video with some gopro clips and some videos from other people. But yet again I had the time of my life driving Ebisu Matsuri!

This guy was alone and reminded me of myself, calm, collect and having a blast.

This S13 looked real menacing in the thick fog, too bad my camera couldn’t capture the level of thiCCness.

On the last day I joined in on the nishi-short mad tandem fun, the tandem trains were sometimes 20 cars deep. I have never been a part of something like that before, so I had to join in! Tipping the car over the crest with somebody right in front and behind you is so intimidating but once I got comfortable I kept going harder and harder. The tandems got closer and somebody ahead of the guy in front of me made a mistake so we kind of stacked up for light contact. No real damage was dealt but my door got a little dent and the driver who I bumped lost his corner light. My car also got a slight hit of pink from rubbing his gram lights.

When the track went cold I parked on the north course straight for some post carnage and farewell photos, always a bittersweet moment.

Shortly after taking these photos I packed up my pit setup and reluctantly made the sad drive back down to the Power Vehicles lot, where it was time to say goodbye. It honestly took me a moment to muster up the strength to drive down, it’s really hard to walk away from a moment in your life that was merely a dream growing up. After my second Ebisu drift matsuri, I still can’t believe I made a wild dream come true.

 

Till next time ~

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