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

To celebrate its 70th anniversary, Ferrari threw a bunch of parties around the globe last week. I’m biased, but I think one of the better ones is here in Japan, where the Ferrari 70th Japan Exclusive Rally was held over the course of two days. The starting point was a the famed sumo stadium where a cavalcade of 70 Ferraris set off on a wet morning in Tokyo. I tagged along for the ride.

The Japan Exclusive Rally was not only a way of celebrating Ferrari’s Anniversary with some of their top customers in Japan, it was also how they said thanks to their supporters and fans in Japan. By making the locations public, fans willing to deal with rain got to see a pretty impressive parade.

The Ferrari faithful and other car aficionados lined the streets as the cars left Japan’s capital heading south towards Mt. Fuji. The first stop was at Nippondaira Hotel in Shizuoka Prefecture 180 kilometers south of Tokyo. On a clear day Mt. Fuji can be seen in the background, but it was hidden behind rain clouds when the Ferraris showed up.

It took about two and a half hours to get to the hotel from the starting point, a lot of it was highway driving. Luckily the rally didn’t encounter too much traffic and the views and weather weren’t too bad. The roads off the motorway towards the hotel provided some entertaining drives, if only for a brief moment.

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It was pretty amazing to see people lining up along the roads leading up to the hotel waiting to see the Ferraris drive by. In a rally with as many cars as this and each one setting off at different times, it took a while for the entire rally to arrive at the hotel for their lunch stop.

Eventually all 70 cars made it without any issues. This was the first time I’d seen all of them together, and it was quite a spectacular sight. The various colors, shapes, and liveries brought such life and vibrance to an otherwise grey and dull parking lot.

The owner of the Rosso Dino F12tdf drove it only on the first day

While the Ferraris regrouped for lunch, we decided to head straight to Nagoya City to catch them coming in. The cars received a warm welcome in Japan’s third largest city. There was even an entire lane closed off on a main road in the central business district for the rally to reach their goal—far more fanfare here in the city than in the countryside.

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Staff were handing out yellow “Ferrari 70" flags, photographers were lined up on all sides of the road waiting to get the shot, and the normal Friday night rush hour traffic became even more chaotic.

The first day had finished and the rally had covered more than 400 kilometers. Most of it was on long stretches of smooth Japanese highway, but the hard part was over.

Day two and the final day of the rally started a little earlier than planned. By that I mean we missed the first batch of cars leaving their hotel in central Nagoya. Even at 9 a.m. on yet another wet day people were still scattered throughout the main roads from the hotel to the entrance of the motorway taking photos of the cars. It was a great sight see.

Perhaps because it was a shorter drive or perhaps because it was due to a good night’s rest but the driving style on the second day was a lot more hectic than the first. Cars were zigzagging through traffic, driving far more aggressively than yesterday.

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The first stop was at Matsusaka City in Mie Prefecture, a small traditional-style town around 100 kilometers south of Nagoya. It would be the lunch stop before heading towards the Ise Shrine about 40 minutes further south.

It took more than an hour for the whole rally to arrive at this lunch stop. The cars were spread out over three parking spaces each one guarded by suited up security staff. This was still a Ferrari event, after all.

Luckily, the drive from Nagoya to the lunch stop wasn’t a wet one. There were grey clouds looming over the roads but only a few drops of rain fell on us. It was only after leaving the lunch stop at Matsusaka City did it start to get a little less appropriate to have the roof off on some cars.

Fortunately for the various Spiders such as the Scuderia 16M, 488, and 458 Speciale Apertas, their automatic folding roofs weren’t an issue. For the LaFerrari Apertas with the manually removable carbon fibre roof, those were less easy to stow away. In fact there’s no space in the car to keep them, so they had to be stashed in a support vehicle instead. However, neither of the two LaFerarri Apertas dared to take their roofs off once. What a shame.

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The next stop was at Isuzu Park. Well, the parking lot at Isuzu Park. I’m not sure if Ferrari Japan knew there’d be a school sports day happening at the same time but there were a lot of really excited high school kids cheering the Ferraris on, some taking photos most picking their jaws off from the ground.

I guess for most of them it was the first time seeing a Ferrari in their hometown, let alone 70 of them.

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The cars were left at the car park—chained off from the spectators of course—while the owners were put on buses to go pray at the Ise Grand Shrine, a shrine built more than 2,000 years ago. After the ceremony was finished there it was time to to the final stop at the Jingu Museum, 10 minutes away from Isuzu Park.

The architecture there was closer to the classic European style than traditional Japanese buildings, which seemed appropriate given the circumstances. The Ferraris first went around a very well kept garden in front of the museum itself before driving down towards the final goal post.

After over 500 kilometers of driving spanning two days and several cities, the Ferrari Japan Exclusive Rally had come to an end. Cars that had come from across Japan were packed away into transporter trucks while some of the local cars that lived nearby simply went home. The rest of the owners went to various hotels before going to a final dinner party at by the shrine.

It was easily one of the best and most epic road trips I’ve been on celebrating cars that are clearly beloved in this country. If people are worried the love of cars in Japan is dying among young people, it’s things like this that keep it alive.

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Going from the response of the public through various towns and cities the rally passed through, cars can still bring a smile to people’s faces.

Speaking of smiles, I couldn’t have done this Ferrari rally without one of the best chase cars I could’ve asked for; a 2017 Nissan GT-R Nismo. You’ll read about that next time.

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It’s not a 355, it’s a 365. It’s been modified by Iding Power, a Japanese tuning shop
This was the service truck following the yellow LaFerrari Apart

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Ken Okuyama, ex-Pininfarina designer, drove his 612 Scaglietti on the rally
The owner of the Rosso Dino F12tdf swapped it for his silver LaFerrari on the second day