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.
Road trip final statistics:
Drove for 15 days
Drove for 65.25 hours
Slept in the S14 for 10 nights
Drove through 20 prefectures
Used 219.18 litres of fuel for a total of 44,284 yen
Visited 7 different race tracks for 18,600 yen
Went to convenience stores 39 times
Used vending machines 19 times
Paid for parking 4 times for 3,600 yen
Paid for only 1 toll road for 1,300 yen
Spent 37,116 yen on food and drinks
Spent 15,936 on misc
Total cost of 120,836 yen, 1768nzd, 1673aud, 1135usd, 1023euro, or 993pounds!
Day 11 – Aug 13 Tue – 6hrs 30mins of driving
Nikko Circuit to Tsukuba Circuit to Akihabara to Shibuya Crossing to Mooneyes to
Daikoku Futo PA to Tatsumi PA to Saitama Pref
Waking up in a double bed, what a treat! The fan’s breeze creeping in the blanket, helping to fight off the hard summer’s heat. I was treated to a homemade breakfast, very Western, with sausages, and fresh bread. I took my time because I knew this was going to be my last bit of luxury on this trip. My first stop today was going to be back at Nikko Circuit to take a hot lap in a very special rotary S15, owned by one of Akaba’s friends. Just like yesterday, the pit was filled with many drift cars, all there for the same reason, to smoke rubber. The hot lap was a great insight into how rotary cars drive, I had just lost my virginity to these old machines.
On the road again, today would be the day that I arrive in Tokyo, but not before one very important stop. Tsukuba Circuit. I’ve spent many hours drifting this track in Forza and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to drive a few laps in real life. Sadly, as you can see from the photos, nobody was home… Another time perhaps.
I couldn’t get into Tsukuba, but I was hoping that Daikoku PA and Tatsumi PA would be a different story. Before visiting the most famous PAs in all of Japan, I needed a good dinner, I’d had enough of konbini bought food. You may have heard of this shop already, Mooneyes. Famous for all things American and pinstripes in Yokohama, and holding many events around the country. Inside their shop, there is also an American spec diner set up selling burgers and shakes to quench your hunger. A perfect stop to wait for night to fall and the car scene to rise.
A Tuesday night, what could I expect from Daikoku and Tatsumi? Not much I was thinking to myself if I can only get a photo of my car I’ll be happy. To my great surprise, many cars were out and about. Filling most of Daikoku, before the inevitable happened and the police closed the car park escorting everyone back onto the toll roads above. It was on to Tatsumi next, a short drive, only 10 minutes or so. Luckily, the cops hadn’t arrived yet so I could take the one photo I needed to take on this trip. The photo with dear I say it, the most iconic nighttime background in the Japanese automotive scene? Right after I took 2 or 3 photos, cops came along to usher everyone back onto the toll road again. I didn’t mind though, I had my photo.
It was still early, about 10 pm, and not wanting to clash with Tokyo morning traffic, I made a run for the neighbouring prefecture of Saitama so I could start the morning traffic-free.
Day 12 – Aug 14 Wed – 5hrs 26mins of driving
Saitama Pref to Honjo Circuit to Ikaho Toy, Doll, and Car Museum to D’z Racing Cafe Garage to Ikaho Onsen to Lake Haruna to Nagano Pref
Going from waking up in a nice spacious bed to waking up in a 7-11 car park with rain throwing itself on your car is a bit of a downgrade. I’m not complaining though, I knew it was going to be a tough gig sleeping in a Silvia for 2 weeks. Today had me heading to Honjo Circuit to meet someone I’d been talking to on social media since I came to Japan, Toby! I’m sure some of you know him. He recommended coming along for a ride, and as it happened, my schedule lined up perfectly. I spent most of my morning here and headed off just after lunch to the next location.
The afternoon would be filled with everything Initial D, yes that’s right. The famous anime that so many people love, I was going to drive along the mountain that Takumi once did. But I had some stops along the way. My first stop was a rather peculiar place, a museum of sorts called Ikaho Toy, Doll, and Car Museum. As you can imagine, it had all of these 3 things plus more. A very strange place indeed, but worth the visit nonetheless. There was even a fake replica tofu shop outside!
After my rather weird experience at this museum, I headed to D’z Racing Cafe Garage just around the corner. It had all things Initial D, like replica cars, memorabilia, racing simulators, gifts, and even a small cafe. I didn’t stay here long though, as the clock was ticking and I still had a couple more places to visit. Just outside Mt Haruna, is a place called Ikaho. Famous for onsens (like 99% of towns in Japan it seems). I found a coin car park and headed up the stairs to the very top of the area. It was hard to see because of the fog, however, the feel of the little town was very anime-esque. I had an outdoor onsen experience at the top of the town, where bears were apparently roaming around, I didn’t see any sadly!
The last thing on today’s agenda was driving to Lake Haruna, the place from Initial D, the one place that everybody needs to visit, and what a day to visit. The roads leading into the lake were breath-taking, just like the anime. I managed to even find the place where all of these races start from, what a treat! It was cold, foggy, and the rain was hitting hard, but that didn’t stop me from getting my shoes wet and walking up to the creepy duck boats lined neatly on the lake. Achievement accomplished I think. I drove a few more hours tonight and again, slept outside a lonely 7-11 somewhere in the mountains.
Day 13 – Aug 15 Thu – 9hrs of driving
Nagano Pref to Lake Suwa to YZ Circuit East Course to 31 House to Liberty Walk to
Super Autobacs to Mie Pref
To Nagoya we go, getting closer back home day by day. I woke up rather refreshed as I was still covered by the chill of the mountains and trees. Had a konbini breakfast, then made my way to Lake Suwa. It was only a 1-hour drive from where I had slept, which was good because I was in desperate need of a shower. The cheapest one on the trip, only 300 yen, and probably one of the more authentic onsens I’ve used so far.
A quick stop at the lake, and I was back on the road, to a circuit just outside of Nagoya. The circuit was very hidden in the mountains, it nearly looked abandoned. I paid a 500 yen entry fee and watched a few cars drift around the quiet track for about an hour. It was super chill, with only 8 people or so walking around. Not sure how places like this afford to stay open, overheads must be very low!
Have you ever been a tourist in Nagoya? That was my next plan. To visit R31 House, and see their graveyard of R31 Skylines, sadly they were closed on this day… I thought, oh well, and made my way to the next site of Liberty Walk, who was also closed! Oh gosh, not having much luck now. The rain started to pour down as the sun set, and a typhoon was approaching Nagoya. I took shelter in Super Autobacs around the ports while I waited for a friend. We went to a popular spot in Nagoya to take some photos despite the typhoon. There was so much rain and wind that nothing was possible, so I got out of my car, took one photo, then ran back inside fully soaked.
After taking this tragic photo, I again drove out of the city centre for about an hour so I wouldn’t meet any morning traffic. It was a rough night of not much sleep as my car was constantly rocked by the typhoon with the addition of its angry roar.
Day 14 – Aug 16 Fri – 5hrs 29mins of driving
Mie Pref to Suzuka Circuit to Namba (Osaka) to Hyogo Pref
The 2nd to last day of my epic road trip. It was nearly finished, but there was still so much on the agenda. I stopped in at a very generic onsen for my morning shower, then headed towards Osaka. Before I would arrive in Osaka, I had to visit Suzuka Circuit, one of the more famous tracks in Japan. I’d been here before about 5 years ago during my first stay in Japan, but it was regrettable closed. Today, however, it wasn’t!
I bought my car park ticket, then my regular ticket, as well as the ticket to go go-karting! It was great fun racing around the track, but as usual, the go-karts were just a tad too slow. Once finished, I headed to the main straight to watch some cars and bikes race around the monster of a track for an hour or two before heading back to my car.
Osaka was going to be my last night, so I had to make it worth it. I met up with a friend visiting from the U.S.A who used to live here and one of my Japanese photographer friends. We grabbed some delicious rolled ice cream and headed towards the river. Coincidentally, the Taskers were also in Osaka this night! After meeting up on the bridge it was off to Yama-chan to devour endless plates of chicken wings. What a night.
As the key to my car gave the engine life, I knew it was time. I was going to drive around Osaka for a little bit and show off my car to all the wandering tourists. I felt 16 again, and when they saw a white guy behind the wheel, it sure made the experience of hearing the tsu tsu tsu even better.
Day 15 – Aug 17 Sat – 8hrs 7mins of driving
Hyogo Pref to Himeji Castle to Okayama International Circuit to Miyoshi Racing Paddock to
Ki Castle to Yonago City
The last day, 15 days on the road in a tiny sports car. I still had 8 hours of driving to do before I got home, it was going to be a long one! Today I woke up a little later, around 8 am, a very bad idea. The sun had been out for 2 hours longer than usual, and I could feel it. I woke up sweating with a massive headache. Luckily there was a McDs close by, so I refreshed there and ate some breakfast.
The day had me first heading to Himeji Castle in Himeji City just outside of Osaka. I wanted to get a photo in front of the famous white castle on the main road. Police cars were constantly patrolling the busy streets so I had to time it well. Just as I pulled over and took a quick snap with my phone, a police car did a U-turn towards me. No time to get the big camera out so on I went.
Next on the list was Okayama International Circuit, only a short few hours drive from my house, but I’d still never been. It was busy, many different cars driving around the track. Some good entertainment for a couple of hours before I had to head off to the next location. Not taking any toll roads on this trip was fantastic. Non toll roads do take A LOT longer, but you just miss so much stuff using the toll roads. You don’t get to enjoy the countryside view, the winding roads, the rivers that you drive beside, and the old grandparents hunched over their rice fields.
Racing Paddock Miyoshi. One of the biggest rotary workshops in western Japan. I’d met the owner a few times at events around Japan, and seen their cars multiple times at Bihoku Circuit, so I thought I better go and visit HQ while I was around. SO many unique cars sitting in this car park. Some finished, some waiting to be restored, and some for sale. A very cool place for rotary gear heads.
Here we go, the last stop before home. Ki Castle. A little lookout, high up in the mountains. Somewhere where I’d like to say no tourist has gone before. You’re not getting here without a car. The road is windy, steep, and uneven. But the reward at the top is breathtaking. I suggest renting a car for a day if you’re in Hiroshima and making a day trip. As I got back in my car, I felt a little bit sad, relieved, happy, exhausted, and ready for my bed.
The last 3-hour drive back home to Yonago. Right past Bihoku Circuit, but it was already night by that time. I got home around 8 or 9 pm and went straight to bed.
That was the greatest sleep I’ve had for a while.
If you’d like to know anything not covered in this 3 part article about my road trip around Japan. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll reply to any questions. Thanks for reading!
Photos: Shaun Constable | Words: Shaun Constable
Ambition Works 2012 – 2019