In Tokyo, one of the largest cities in the world, there are endless places to race. There are drag spots, drift spots and highway circuits where you can race for hours around the city. And there are insanely fast cars everywhere. Supras, Skylines, Silvias and Chasers, even the occasional American muscle car.
The cops? They don't seem to care as long as the racing stops when they come by. "Show them that respect," says Tatsu over the Chaser's built 2JZ, "and the racing can continue all night."
This is Tokyo, and it's one of the best places in the world for illegal street racing.
The Meeting SpotOur night began hours earlier in Yokohama Bay on a tiny manmade island called Daikokufuto. It serves as a customs yard and a freeway bypass around the congestion of Yokohama city. In the middle of the island is a highway rest stop (or just "Pakingu" in Japanese) where racers of all sorts come to meet up before they head out for the night to tear up the streets.
Around 9 p.m. we pulled into Daikokufuto to find it packed like Wal-Mart on Christmas, only with highly modified cars. It's huge, about the size of a football field, and the cars seem to be arranged for a movie shoot. Neat and tidy in the Japanese tradition. It's here that we meet Tatsu, a 25-year-old graphic artist who has been coming to the Tokyo street races for years.
We're not sure what's worse, his English or our Japanese, but his Hachiroku is pulled apart for stitch welding and a new 4AGE, so he's playing tour guide instead of racer.
Next to the VIP cars are the K cars (tiny 660cc-engine cars, "keijidosha" literally meaning light automobile) blasting hyperactive Japanese pop. It's painful on the eardrums, and not just because of how loud it's playing. Girls dressed in kinky costumes are jumping up and down to the beat. They seem to like it.Skylines DominateThe rest of the lot is filled with some of the wildest sports cars on the streets of Tokyo. Skylines dominate the parking lot by far. There are at least 50 GT-Rs all organized according to model. R32s over here. R33s over there. Lancers and Imprezas are lined up, too, but opposite each other like they're about to wrestle. The owners stand next to their cars, eyeballing their rivals. It's all very "mine is bigger than yours."
Scattered around are other smaller crews of BMW Z3s and Z4s, Mazda Miatas and RX-7s and the occasional Nissan Z. These guys seem to know their place in the pecking order. They're less aggressive than the Skyline and VIP crews.
Drags in ChibaNow it's well after midnight, and the Chiba drags are beginning to pick up steam. A crew of six Skylines appears and they look like they're ready to rumble. A blue R34 GT-R pulls up, revs the engine and foot-long flames pop off the back. His RB26 is rumored to have a single turbo conversion. He dumps the clutch and takes off. Someone says he's gotta be running in the 11s at least. Before he even gets back from his run, the 20-something guy running the show is talking to the driver of the white turbo Chaser.
The race is set up. When the Skyline returns, the Chaser is ready and waiting. They line up and the negotiator, who is wearing an Iron Maiden T-shirt and speaks perfect English, raises his hands and drops 'em. The Skyline launches so hard, the pavement beneath it seems to ripple. It doesn't look like the Chaser has a chance in hell, but the Toyota finally hooks up and its oversize turbo makes it close. The GT-R wins, but barely.
12:30 a.m.: A second-generation MR2 with a built 3SGTE lines up with an R32 GT-R from the Skyline crew. The MR2 is wearing the most ridiculous massive slicks, but the GT-R is all-wheel drive. Ichi-ni-san (1-2-3), they are off and the MR2's slicks actually get it out ahead of the R32. A few seconds later and BANG, the Skyline's tranny explodes in a huge ball of sparks and smoke. He's done for the night and so is his crew.
1:59 a.m.: We arrive at the Yokohama Bay Side Club, a dance club where all the drifters hang out. "This is where we meet up first before tearing up the street," says Toshi between slugs of Red Bull. "We'll go drift in a few hours."It's like a scene outta The Fast and the Furious. It's overflowing with drift cars parked in crazy positions, all trying to squeeze in the lot. It's like an amateur D1 Grand Prix event escaped to the real world. The cars are plastered with stickers, and hoods are up. Girls parading around in skimpy little outfits generally go unnoticed, as many of the guys are making last-minute tweaks to their cars.Toshi knows his stuff; he's a regular and his S15 has been in several Japanese car mags. At 3:45 a.m., everyone jumps in their cars and takes off as if they have just received a "start drifting" signal telepathically.
3:59 a.m.: Back at Daikokufuto we arrive to the sound of screeching tires. A group of two Chasers and two S14 Silvias, one packing an RB25 out of a Skyline GT-S, fly through the intersection sideways in perfect sync. When they hit the first stoplight they all bust 180s and line up again and wait for the light to turn green. As soon as the light turns, the crew is off drifting back and forth down the street until they hit the corner for the last big powerslide. All four corners are packed with people watching and screaming as the cars come dangerously close to them. This crew continues drifting back and forth through the course for about 45 minutes.
As soon as that crew breaks out, another crew seamlessly jumps into the action. Immediately after one group stops, another one rotates in. It looks like they worked out a schedule beforehand.
Game Over5:24 a.m.: The cops arrive with their red lights flashing and everyone scatters to make their escape. Amazingly, no one gets a ticket. Apparently there was a bit of playing on the drifters' part. We find out that these guys have figured out when the police change shifts and know the safe times to race.
The sun is coming up. We're exhausted and starving. Our ears are ringing and the high-octane fumes have stung our noses. This is street racing in Tokyo and it'll be here again next weekend. We call it a night. Time to head out to get a beef bowl.