A Car Nerd's Guide To JapanAn insider look at car culture in Japan.  

Obviously when you’ve rented a JDM hero car for a few days over the weekend, it’s tempting to spend the whole time driving a mountain road, or several. But there are plenty of other things you can do while you’ve got a car in Tokyo. If you want to check out the local car scene, having your own transportation helps, and having something awesome means you can contribute to the scenery too.

I picked my rental Honda Civic Type R from Omoshiro Rentacar on a Friday afternoon. The pickup location was next to Narita Airport, which handy if you’ve just landed That meant being able to go to the Friday night meet at Tatsumi Parking Area.

It’s always good to check out this parking area at night as it’s different every weekend. There’s plenty of variety too. The night I went there were tons of different styles, from from bosozoku to supercars.

Being that this is Japan, you’re never too far away from another Type R and it was cool to compare the new FK8 shape Type R with my decade-old FD2. There were a couple of exotics too, most notably a Ferrari 599 GTO with an aftermarket pink stripe across the bonnet, because Japan. Next to that and matching the stripe was a lovely Honda City Cabriolet with truly period-correct rims.

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Over on the other side of the parking area where some rowdy locals. It’s not often bosozoku cars show up to Tatsumi anymore but when they do it’s hard to miss them with their loud revs and crazy tall bodywork. Among all the bosozoku cars were a couple of eye-catching RX-7s.

Rounding off everything was a near showroom condition W140 Mercedes Benz S60 AMG. This was a proper old-school AMG that you just know has some stories to tell. It’s spent most of its life in Kobe until the current owner bought it only three weeks ago.

Cars come and go throughout the night. Some head out onto the C1 loop, others head off to other parking areas such as Daikoku and Shibaura for other meets. There’s never a dull moment at Tatsumi and in a place like this it’s much more interesting to show up in a car a local would drive than in a generic rental. Who knows, you might meet someone with the same car as yours.

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I spent Saturday driving to the Hakone Turnpike for a blast on a mountain road. You could go to any of the other driving roads I’ve covered previously on this series too. I chose to go back to the Hakone Turnpike because it’s the most famous one, and where most of these rental cars will probably be driven on. You could spend a whole day there and not get bored. If you’re lucky you might even get to see Mount Fuji on a clear day.

Hakone is the road that keeps on giving too. While there’s the main turnpike road, there are also several other roads and skylines adjacent to the the Turnpike which are just as fun, if not more. In a car like the Civic Type R you can have a lot of fun on the twisty and narrow mountain roads without ridiculous speeds. These cars were made for roads like these. You’d certainly have more fun in a rental like this than in a Prius.

On the way back to Tokyo it’s a good idea to drop a meet by Daikoku or Tatsumi Parking Area—if the police haven’t shut those down already.

Sunday is the big party. Start the morning off at one of the famous Sunday Morning meets at Daikoku Parking Area. You’ll need to get up early for this. I got there at 8:30 a.m. and there were already people there, if you can get there earlier the better.

You can find the Type R down the end beyond all the Beats

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As I’ve said before, it’s not an organized meet by any means. There’s no theme and people come and go as they please, though it usually dies down after lunch. It’s just sort of the place where people gather to share their passion for cars, like the seven or so Honda Beats on the day I went.

There’s no discrimination here—just respect. You’ll sometimes see similar cars parked together but most of the time it’s all random. Daikoku is the place where you’ll have the best chance to see some of the craziest and most unique cars in Japan casually. The morning I went there were more clean ’90s Japanese cars than usual, like a rare Autech Skyline GT-R Sedan, a Mitsubishi GTO (aka 3000GT) and a Honda Prelude in the unusual Sparkle Yellow paint.

My visit with the Type R also coincided with the third Sunday of the month, the day where more classics show up. There’s usually something really rare and badass, like the white Mazda Cosmo or Toyota 2000GT that show up every now and then. This time it was the Cosmo. You’ll also get a nice variety of weird European cars like Lotus Europas, TVR Sagaris, and even an itasha Alfa Romeo GT.

Inside the Cosmo

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After a couple hours at Daikoku it’s time to head over to that ever popular location for any big motoring event near Tokyo: Fuji Speedway. It doesn’t matter how many times I go, there’s something about this place that’s special. There’s always something happening here at any given time of the year. Whether it’s a Super GT race, a motorsports festival, or a track day, Fuji is worth visiting any time of the year.

Even if there’s nothing going on just being able to visit one of Japan’s best race circuits is enough to ignite those Gran Turismo memories. This weekend was slightly better than normal. By the grandstands was some sort of Porsche Classic event which I didn’t even know was happening, while on the main circuit McLaren Automobile Japan had their annual track event.

This year coincided with the debut of the first Senna deliveries in Japan so they were the main attraction. There were also four P1s and a few 675LTs. Around 100 McLarens from all over Japan descended upon Fuji Speedway and throughout the day took turns on the circuit. On a “Sports Run”, a customer 720S managed to set a lap time of 1:46 on road tires. Not bad.

But the MVP of the day was the owner of the silver P1. He was out basically every session and was pushing the car to its limits and beyond. He spun out at least once every session, but was also probably having more fun than everyone else. A lot of other exotic owners could take a page from his book, as he’s constantly attending these track events and driving his car to the extreme. If you’re gonna get a car that expensive and crazy, you may as well enjoy it as much as you can.

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Gran Turismo vibes

The Civic Type R was the perfect car to take me to all these hot spots. There’s enough space for four adults, a big trunk for luggage, and the ride wasn’t that uncomfortable. Yes, it was a bit bouncy and tiring but for the amount of fun it delivered the ride was a small price to pay. As is the actual rental price of the Civic Type R, which was around $123 for 24 hours, or roughly the same as renting a Prius.

I know what I’d rather show up to Tatsumi and Daikoku in.

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