Japanese Drag Racing

A lot of factors contribute to the slow decline and low frequency of the Japanese drag scene on the radars of car enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies. From being one of the sought after adrenaline past time for over 10 years, it has now become just a topic of conversation to let idle time pass. The changing of rules and regulations, the tightening of standards, the downfall of Japan’s economy and the short supply of new cars to tune all contributed to the end of this smoke and fuel-filled excitement. Though drag racing has been replaced, for the lack of a better word, by time attack and drifting as they rise to fame and are now the new fads and talk of the town.

Drag Racing at Fuji Speedway

But there are still some areas, raceway and speedways in Japan that still hold drag meets that hold drag races from time to time and there you again feel the rush that drag racing brings and also you see and feel the joy and excitement on the faces of the participants and the spectators. Another major contributor to the entire feel of drag racing meets like this is the attention to detail of the car owners to reach the proper level of authenticity of their vehicles. Rather than just shoving classic cars with high horse-powered engines with modern technology, the put decade appropriate engines and they try to stick to the original body work aside from the heavily suited body kits. They would rather push the limits of their car in without steering away from the original, and once they get to do this, a sense of pride comes along with it, a sort of satisfaction with oneself that he achieved something without conforming to modern day gadgets and technology.

A car burning out before the start of a race to soften the rubber and increase traction

Although one has to admit, that seeing new car models with stronger, faster, noisier engines send a tingling sensation down your spine. Hearing their wheels burnout before they jet down makes onlookers smile from ear to ear. “Beasts”, as some people call them, attract attention by having the loader engine and sound system and also by having all the newest dings and whistles and fancy gauges and meters inside. Seeing these drag meets happen is very pleasing because you see two different eras of cars and machines side by side, both in it for the same cause, to revive a culture that was once seemed to have been left in the past.

Photos from Thee Classic Motorcycle Days and Drift Japan

Honda

The founder of Honda Motor Co., Soichiro Honda, had always had an interest in automobiles even as a young man growing up. He used to tune cars and enter them in races while he worked as a mechanic at the Art Shokai garage. One of his first ventures in the industry was when he founded Tokai Seiki, a company that worked out of the Art Shokai garage that made piston ring, with the financing help from his acquaintance Kato Shichiro. After many trials and equal errors, Tokai Seiki was able to get a contract to make piston rings for Toyota but lost it the contract due to the low quality of the products that they were able to accomplish. After attending, but not graduating, engineering school, Honda visited factories around Japan until he better understood the quality control processes that Toyota had. In 1941, Honda was able to produce piston rings to the liking of Toyota using an automated process that could make even the least unskilled laborer an employee.

Honda Model D, the first complete motorcycle by Honda

Tokai Seiki was under control of the Ministry of Commerce and Industryr at the start of WWII. Soichiro Honda was now just a managing director instead of being president because Toyota took a 40% stake in the company. Honda also helped in the war by producing propellers. During the war, many of Honda’s plants were destroyed and he was left with little. With only 12 men working in a small shack, Honda and his men built and sold improvised motorized bicycles. The first complete motorcycle made by Honda was the Model D, complete with frame and engine, in 1949. The first production automobile Honda had made was the T360, a mini pick-up truck which went on sale during August 1963. The first production car from Honda was the S500 sports car which was released in October 1963.

Honda’s first automobile, the T360 mini pick-up

Honda continued to expand its product line over the next few decades and has expanded to numerous locations and countries. In 1986 Honda introduced his brand to the American market with the attempt to enter the luxury vehicle market. It was in 1991 when he saw the opportunity to showcase the Honda NSX super car. Following the death of Soichiro Honda in 1991, the company did not know how to handle the competition as things changed and new trends and fads were seen during this time. Honda was caught off-guard and rumors started to circulate that it was of serious risk and a near takeover by Mitsubishi Motors. The heads of Honda acted quickly and bounced back with market-driven products that involved recreational vehicles like the CR-V and the Odyssey, and refocused away from the already vast array of coupes and sedans that Honda already had then.

Photos fromDream Garage and  Curb Side Classic

Lexus

If someone in the mid 80’s told the American car scene that a Japanese brand would take the top spot, they might’ve just brushed the idea away because it would be hilarious to them. They might still find it funny but Japan has definitely proven that it can go toe to toe with the big boys of the United States. This all started with a dream of a certain Eiji Toyoda.

During the year of 1983, Toyota chairman, Eiji Toyoda, and his company executives had a meeting talking about the possibility of starting the development of a luxury line of cars that would eventually, and successfully, compete and beat with the top American brands. They came to brain storming and decided to label the project as project F1, and proved to be one their most worthwhile efforts ever. This resulted to the vehicle that is now better known as the Lexus LS 400.

The LS 400 was a car that took a lot of time and resources to build. It also took extra effort from the heads of Lexus when it came to researching about American luxury-product consumer habits and lifestyles. They even went to the trouble of submerging themselves in the lives of the rich and observed how they lived to have a better understanding of what the consumers needed. Because of this intensive form of research and engineering that was new at the time, the LS 400 was a success.

In 1989, the LS 400 made its debut in the North American Auto Show and was immediately the talk of the town. Word began to spread that thousands of employees worked on a few hundred prototypes with the help of numerous engineering teams and it cost them around 1 billion dollars in total investments. Also, one of the better moves of Lexus was it was distancing itself from the designs and looks of their Toyota models therefore putting it in a different category when it came to style and aesthetic.

Lexus LX 450

Lexus then started to develop larger cars based on the Toyota Land Cruiser and launched the sport utility vehicle, the LX 450. They also followed up with the RX and RX 450h, a hybrid of the former, which increased the sales of Lexus even more. Everything was going so smoothly for Lexus that by 2007, Lexus had already spread to over 50 countries and it still continues to grow until now; it is definitely being taken seriously by the Americans.

Lexus LX 450h

Photos from Lexus and Auto Mobiles Review

Japanese Drifting Culture

A movie shown in 2006 showcased the car scene in Japan. The movie entitled The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift showed a different kind of racing as compared to the famous Formula 1 which used official tracks. The movie showed cars racing in bare streets even with traffic present. The racing scene is called drifting. “Drifting” is a cornering technique where the front wheels of the car point in the opposite direction turning to the opposite side which then results into a sliding motion, also known as controlled skidding. Drifting was normally used in the motor sport racing and rally car racing but it was through Keiichi Tsuchiya, a young Japanese racer, that drifting was made known. In the movie, the life of a drift racer has been showcased and easily captured the youth’s interest as the events are very much possible to occur in real life. Also, the movie simply showed that the Japanese youth becomes very artistic when it comes to their cars as these could indirectly exhibit their character and personality.

Famous drift cars are Nissan 350Z, Nissan Skyline, Mitsubishi Evolution, and Toyota Supra. There are more to the list of these Japanese cars normally used by teenagers. Cars of these kinds are not only raced as stock. “Stock” means that the cars still have the original specifications when they come out of the factory. It is shown in the movie that the cars raced in the drifting world are customized as engines are tuned up and stock parts are replaced with better parts. These changes are studied by every car enthusiast aiming to know if the changes to be made will fit their cars. After which, testing and re-tuning of their cars will follow. The basic tune-ups for drift cars are the exhaust headers, air intake system, exhaust pipe, and ECU tuning. A good example is a stock car which is around 150 horsepower and when tuned-up, could reach up to 400 horsepower.

In fact, such race was invented because of Japan’s narrow roads. Their tight space for racing led to such race aiming to satisfy the interest of the Japanese people for racing. Also through this racing, drivers are able to maximize their skills as drifting a car is never easy to do. It requires tremendous control aiming to get that enough speed even in the tightest space. Street drifting is now being appreciated by numerous countries such as in USA, UK, and Europe.

Japanese Drifter

Japanese Drifter

Photo from driftjapan

Shinkansen Bullet Train

Japan has been known to be one of the most technologically-advanced countries. Japan has revolutionized the way people live their lives with their technological capabilities. From video games to robots, the country has proven its capability in dominating the stage of technology.

In order to fully harness their edge, Japan has invented yet again a technological marvel which is the Chuo Shinkansen Bullet Train. Estimated to be the world’s fastest magnetic-levitation train or MAGLEV, the said train will be ready by 2027. Travelling at a speed of up to 500 km/h the Chuo Shinkansen Bullet Train holds the speed record for train systems. The technology shows that the train is floating from its tracks giving the passengers a very quiet and smooth ride even at high-speeds. The technology works by lifting the train physically off the tracks in order to achieve a friction-less ride. With the train floating from its tracks, it will be never affected by any kind of adverse weather resulting to its slowing down. A good example would be loose rocks, leafs or even snow.

The economics in building such marvel is very different from the usual wheel and axel type of train. Constructing a train system using the conventional way would entail a lower cost during early stages of construction but due to the fast wear and tear of both the wheels and tracks of the system, maintenance would be costly. As for the MAGLEV system, it may cost more during the early stages of construction but due to it being a friction-less ride, wearing and tearing are less likely to take place thus requiring minimal maintenance, lowering ongoing costs. The train’s route would be spanning from Tokyo to Nagoya, ending in Osaka. Completing the said route will take an hour or less. The only disadvantage of this train system would be its cost since aside from what was stated, existing bullet train systems offer a very high ticket price to its customers.

But with the fast-paced life in Japan, the bullet train is believed to be essential as it doesn’t only cut travel time but through it, travelling is made more convenient. This is one thing that those who simply love to travel will appreciate. Comfortable and efficient are two words that describe the bullet train once its construction is finalized and once its usage is made possible to the public. The increase in cost is definitely compensated through its advanced features and functions.

Shinkansen Bullet Train

Shinkansen Bullet Train

Photo from GoJapan