This road trip had been three years in the making. The first time I lived in Japan, I visited a few iconic places like Daikoku & Tatsumi, of course in a rental car. Fast forward a few years to a time when I’m again living in Japan, but this time, with my car! This 3 part article will cover exactly what I did on my 15-day road trip around Honshu (the main island of Japan).
A quick FYI, all photos were taken on my phone camera.
Day 1 – Aug 03 Sat – 1hr 54mins of driving
Travel: Yonago City to Kurayoshi City
I live in a smallish city in the Chugoku Region of Japan. If you take a bus from Osaka and go over the mountains separating the right and left sides of Chugoku, you’ll find 2 of the least populated prefectures in Japan. One being my prefecture (Tottori), and the city I live in (Yonago). If I’m being totally honest, I didn’t have a set itinerary. Although, I knew which cities and places I wanted to visit, but because I didn’t book any accommodation, the roads I got to drive were chosen as I drove them. The first day of the road trip only saw me driving about 2 hours to the next city over (Kurayoshi City) in Tottori Prefecture to visit some good friends and help celebrate one of their birthdays, but also to soak up the summer sun at the beach.
Day 2 – Aug 04 Sun – 11hrs 31mins of driving
Travel: Kurayoshi City to Irumāre Restaurant to Niigata Pref
One of the main points of this road trip was to visit Ebisu Circuit all the way up in Fukushima Prefecture. I’d never been before because it is just so far away, maybe possible with a 3 day weekend, but the tolls would have set me back around 500nzd return. When I heard that my good friend Matt Tasker a.k.a yukaisendomatt and his wife Kathryn were coming over to participate in Summer Matsuri at Ebisu Circuit I knew this might be my only chance to go there.
This day was the day where I drove for the longest period of time. About 11 and a half hours on the road. Some of the trip was along the coast of the Sea of Japan. Absolutely beautiful. The sun was glistening off the blue ocean, I had some chill beats coming from the speakers. A dream drive. I stopped into a restaurant after about 4 or 5 hours of driving for a late lunch. An Italian restaurant right on the beach with big glass windows. I ordered a bacon and wedges pizza which was literally what I got! It was about 9 pm when I hit Toyama, but I didn’t want to wake up in the city because of the morning traffic, so I kept driving for a few more hours.
I parked up at a convenience store a.k.a konbini at around 11 pm. The week before I left my city, I took out the passenger seat, the rear seats, and the rear interior. So on this night, I slept on a futon (Skinny Japanese bed thing) in my car, with shades on all the windows hoping to keep the heat out. It was peak Summer with days reaching 35-40 degrees. I woke up several times that night sweating each time.
Day 3 – Aug 05 Mon – 7hrs 43mins of driving
Travel: Niigata Pref to Bihoku Circuit
Waking up at 6 am and only getting a few hours of sleep wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. After a change of clothes and some breakfast from 7-11, I was back on the road to try and make Ebisu circuit by lunchtime. The morning drive was so nice, another great day of blue skies and uncongested roads. Because I had the time, I actually only used 1 toll road on this whole trip (which I’ll explain later). I used normal country roads for the rest of the trip. It might have taken longer… It most certainly took longer, but the roads and the scenery were fantastic. Compare that to hours and hours of highway walls, no thank you! Plus the ridiculous fee of Japan’s toll roads.
I got to Ebisu Circuit around 1 pm and met up with Matt & Kathyrn for the first time in over 3 years. Ebisu is WOW! More than 5 tracks in one area, a whole day of drifting costs about 100nzd on all the tracks (bar the grip tracks). PLUS there is a safari park right in the middle of all the race tracks with lions, tigers, bears, penguins, and monkeys, etc. A really crazy place that you should see for yourself once in your life if you have any interest in drifting.
It turned out that the car that Matt bought was a bucket of shitballs. We (99% Matt) spent this day fixing lots of stuff on the car and tidying it up a bit. Left the circuit rather late. Got dinner in the town at the bottom of the mountain, and had a chance to relax. I then went to an onsen (hot spring bathhouse) to wash away 2 days of driving, parking up at another konbini, closed up my car, and had another restless night with lots of sweat.
Day 4 – Aug 06 Tue – 1hr 17mins of driving
Travel: Bihoku Circuit
After another hot night sleeping at another 7-11, I got ready for the next day at the circuit. Today we spent the morning getting the car ready for being checked by the staff at P.V. After the big OK, Matt was able to go out on the South course and send it! After a few laps, Matt saw that the oil temp was up REALLY high, and we soon found out that the water temp gauge didn’t work. After he came in, we noticed water leaking out of the rear of the engine… We thought the worst, and only after a few laps of drifting.
Luckily it wasn’t the head gasket. The frost plug (IDK if it was this or not, my memory is shaky haha) was not there. The engine had had a fit and threw it out. We also noticed some leaks in the radiator too… The water-holding capabilities on this car were not good AT ALL.
After another long day at the track fixing problems without much drifting, we headed into the city to find some parts and have a relaxing dinner. Tonight though, I wanted to beat this heat. I drove up the mountain and parked in this cute little onsen town. Had myself a nice hot bath, then slept in my car with the door open high up in the misty mountains. That night was the first good sleep I had in my car since the start of the trip.
Day 5 – Aug 07 Wed – 22mins of driving
Travel: Bihoku Circuit & Mt. Adatara Ropeway
Waking up at 6 am started to become normal after a few days. However, waking up at 6 am without having sweated the night before was just bliss. A quick breakfast at the konbini and then it was off to Ebisu.
The third day at the track was supposed to be the start of the fun times drifting around and whatnot. This didn’t happen though. Matt had to spend a good half of the day filling up the hole where the frost plug used to be AND also filling the holes in the radiator. Matt was hoping that he would only have to spend a day on the 180sx, but when you buy a car unseen, you can never really know what you’re going to get. Thankfully there was a doughnut shop in the city at the bottom of the mountain, so we had a generous serving of doughnuts for lunch to keep our spirits high.
In the afternoon, Matt was able to go up to the North course and start drifting finally. A lap drifting, a cool-down lap, repeat, then come in and hose down the cooling system with water. This was the pattern that Matt kept to throughout the next few days. Finally, after a good few hours of drifting, we were all happy.
That night we headed up Mt. Adatara (which is only a short drive from Ebisu) where there is a ski field and a ropeway to take you to the very top of the mountain. It was heavily lit up, so many lights all over the place, and the added effect of a lightning storm happening right above us made for a leisurely night out.
Stay tuned for part 2 coming soon…
Photos: Shaun Constable | Words: Shaun Constable
Ambition Works 2012 – 2019