Japan is known for its incredible array of street racing subcultures, but those of us in the western world have probably never heard of Roulettezoku.
According to Albo, who’s been living in Japan for the past few years diving deep into the street racing scene, Roulettezoku translates to “Roulette Tribe”. Basically, it refers to street races who run the inner city highways of Tokyo, specifically the C1 Loop and Wangan Line.
The term is used by the Japanese police to describe those specific street racers, more generally known as hashiriya. This isn’t the drifting scene you might be familiar with from pop culture, or even races down togue, the twisty mountain roads that capture our imagination.
Instead, Roulettezoku evolved firmly in the city, starting as drag races from traffic lights and races down abandoned late-night highways.
And it’s a pastime that speaks to people of all ages, from all backgrounds. You’re as likely to find an older businessman cruising around in an exotic as you are a younger twenty-something hitting the road in a Honda.
Interestingly, there’s something of a mutual respect between the Roulettezoku and the local police. Drivers are hardly ever busted for going too fast because the cops usually leave them alone unless they’re worried about an illegal modification.
That’s because the racers generally keep to themselves. They only hit the highway when it’s unlikely other people will be out and about, and if they do come across some Regular Joe going about his midnight business, their race is over. It’s a way to keep everyone safe, racers and normal drivers alike.
It’s an awesome scene for those who are unfamiliar with it. For a deeper look, check out some videos from Aldo and his friend Norm as they give you a firsthand look at the scene you’ve never heard of.