On the face of it, Daikoku Futo is just a parking area. Some tarmac, painted lines, and a couple of places to rest after a long motorway drive. But it’s so much more than that. Its importance to maintaining Japan’s car culture almost makes it an institution in its own right.
By allowing enthusiasts from the Greater Tokyo area and beyond to gather on a regular basis to share and enjoy their love of cars, it encourages owners to take their cars out more often. Even if it’s only just for the one day a week there’s reason enough to catch up with old friends or meet new ones.
As hilarious and as entertaining as the night meets are (and for sheer entertainment value they’re hard to top), the Sunday morning meets were what made me fall in love with the place. It’s quite a juxtaposition from the crazy and bewildering madness of the nightlife at Daikoku to the more cool, calm, and collected atmosphere you have on a Sunday morning.
When night falls at Daikoku all hell breaks loose. As you would’ve seen previously, nightlife there is all about flash, ridiculousness, and everything uniquely Japanese.
Come Sunday morning and you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a completely different place. The atmosphere, the cars, and the craziness change completely.
Here, it’s all about the diversity. Like the spaghetti strands—or should that be noodles?—of motorways that intersect and converge at this parking area, cars and people from all over the place come together here. Since living in Japan for nearly two years I haven’t been anywhere with as many variety of cars gathered at one place as Daikoku on a Sunday morning.
Sure, you could go to events where there’ll be more exotics or more Japanese cars, but there’s nowhere quite like Daikoku if you like to have a bit of everything. Literally everything. It’s hard to pick the “best” car at Daikoku because all the cars there are so different. You can’t really compare a Bugatti Veyron to an itasha-style kei-car.
Think of the Sunday morning meets at Daikoku as Tokyo’s version of Cars and Coffee meets, minus the crazy crowds, police presence, or much coffee. Unless you consider what passes as “canned coffee” from vending machines here as “coffee.”
This isn’t the first time someone’s talked about the Sunday meets at Daikoku; these have been happening for years. But it does seem like when most people think of Daikoku meets, it’s those crazy night ones. (Also, just to clarify, the photos you see here are from various Sunday morning meets over the last 12 months. It’d be unheard of even by Daikoku’s standards for everything you see here to show up at the same time.)
But generally these are what you’d expect to see on any given day. Like the previous meets, the Sunday morning ones are generally random. The third Sunday of each month are when most classics show up, but other than that most of the time people come and go as they please. Sometimes clubs, owner’s groups, and friends organize to gather at Daikoku but most of the time it’s played by the ear. Social media and word of mouth also play their parts in getting people to go.
Most usually park up and stay for an hour or two, while other just pass through to see what’s there and get on with their Sunday. The meets usually kick off quite early, usually between 7-8 a.m.. I usually try to aim to get there at around 9-10 a.m., though even then you might miss a couple of things. You could potentially stay there the whole day but at around 2-3 p.m. is when most people go back home or get on with their lives.
Most Sundays will almost guarantee seeing something extraordinary but holidays, long weekends, and in particular around New Year are when the good stuff show up. The New Year meet at Daikoku is possibly the largest gathering at the parking area every year. It gets so full cars end up parking on the exit road and beyond.
What makes Daikoku appealing to these enthusiasts, both local and foreign, is the location. Some people stop here on their way to a day out at Fuji Speedway further south for example. Perhaps they’re going back to Tokyo after an early morning drive on the Hakone Turnpike. For some, that’s just the place they go to meet their friends. They’ve done it for years so why stop? You do get regulars there and after a couple of visits you’ll recognize them, or at least their cars.
Like most places in Japan there’s always a friendly and inviting feeling at Daikoku. Despite the language barriers and cultural differences, the shared love of cars is almost like a universal language. The diversity at Daikoku isn’t just with the cars but also the people.
More and more foreigners are taking their rental cars to Daikoku to get a taste of these meets and for good reason. The quality of metal there is insane. Everything from multimillion dollar hypercars to homemade Porsche 935-replica, from a New York Police Department Ford Crown Vic to a Mazda Autozam AZ-1, there’s literally something for everyone to enjoy and appreciate.
As great as it is to see a Ferrari F50 or a Koenigsegg CCX every now and then, some of the more obscure cars have been particular highlights from the meets at Daikoku. Take that BMW Z4 up top, with what appears to be a chimney sticking out of its ass, or the Lexus GS with scissor doors complimented by a pair of dancing teddy bears. Where else would you get that?
You might even see cars you’ve never seen before. Take the yellow Saker, a kit-car from New Zealand. Until it pulled up at Daikoku I never even knew these existed, and I’m from New Zealand. Then there’s the incredible Mitsuoka Le-Seyde, a car that’s meant to resemble the Zimmer Golden Spirit but is actually based on a Nissan S13 Silvia.
You still get some weird and wonderful cars at these morning meets. The Scoot Mazda RX-7 with the fender skirt certainly drew a lot of attention. Almost as much as when a guy rolled up in his crashed Porsche 911. It seemed like he had an accident on his way to Daikoku but nothing was going to stop him from enjoying a Sunday morning meet.
Nothing should stop you from visiting a Sunday morning meet either. If you’re there Saturday night and can’t be bothered going home, why not just spend the night? Okay, that might be a bit extreme but it’d be worth it for one of these meets. Almost. Sort of. Probably not.
As amazing as it is to see the crazy and ridiculous cars we’ve come to expect from the night meets at Daikou, seeing the sort of stuff that show up at these Sunday morning meets will give you a different perspective of the vastly diverse and endlessly surprisingly world of cars in Japan.