Mt Akina at night

Exploring Initial D Mountain Passes in Real Life

I’m sure many of you are familiar with Initial D, the Touge (pronounced tou-geh!) battles manga and anime series first released in 1995. With the recent buzz surrounding its sequel, MF Ghost, Japanese cars enthusiasts around the world are reminiscing about the racing legends that made their childhood and teenage years.

In the serialised manga, Takumi navigates different mountain passes and conquers rivals on their respective home turfs in his iconic panda AE86. And in the final stage, during the battle with a racing prodigy in an extremely similar AE86, Takumi blows his Formula Atlantic 4A-GE due to a rare mistake. Regardless of that, his unbeatable myth still continues.

Although the characters and some of the names of the racing passes have been fictionalised, all of the race courses in the manga are based on actual places in Japan! We have picked top 5 locations that are mentioned the most often in the series. Let’s take a look at their actual settings.

Mt. Haruna - 榛名山

Mt. Haruna (also known as Mt. Akina) serves as Takumi’s racing team Speed Stars’ home turf, and a sacred place in every Initial D fan’s heart. Located in Gunma Prefecture, Mt Haruna is renowned for its 5 hairpin bends. It is one of the Jomo Sanzan in Gunma, with Haruna Fuji and Lake Haruna at its summit. The most iconic route spans from the hotspring town Ikaho Onsen to the water tower at the top of Mt. Haruna.

The real life road of Mt Akina

Mt. Akagi - 赤城山

Mt. Akagi is the home course of the Takahashi brothers and their racing team Red Suns, and the very pass where Takumi battles Kyoichi and blows up his AE86’s engine. Another of the Jomo Sanzan in Gunma Prefecture, it is a tourist attraction known for Akagi Shrine and the highest cafe in Japan - Segafredo Coffee.
The real life road of Mt Akagi

Irohazaka - いろは坂

Iroha-zaka belongs to Team Emperor led by Kyoichi Sudo. Located in Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture, Iroha-zaka is renowned for its sharp turns and fabulous vistas during the autumn foliage season. The uphill route leads to popular tourist spots Lake Chuzenji and Kegon Falls.

Nagao Pass - 長尾垰

Located in the Shizuoka and Kanagawa Prefectures, Nagao Pass is only 10-minute drive from the Tomei Expressway Gotemba Interchange. This pass is the home course of the Katagiri Street Racers, led by Kai Kogashiwa and Hideo Minagawa. Visitors can enjoy special pancakes and spectacular views of Mt Fuji and Lake Ashi at Chaya Honjin Hotoriya in Hakone.

The real life road of Nagao pass

Usui Pass - 碓氷峠

Usui Pass is a vital route connecting Gunma Prefecture and Nagano Prefecture, and has served as one of the major transportation routes for centuries. It is the home course of the girl racing team - Impact Blue, the duo partnership between Mako Sato and Sayuki. Not only that, it is also the home course of the real-life drift king, Keiichi Tsuchiya. One of the notable features of the pass is the brick arch bridge named ‘Megano Bridge’ along the way.

Drift king Tsuchiya standing in front of an AE86

While the Initial D anime has only featured a handful of mountain passes in Japan, the country boasts numerous similar passes, such as Mt Myogi in Gunma Prefecture, Sadamine Pass in Saitama Prefecture, and Tsukubasan in Ibaraki Prefecture. For JDM car enthusiasts like ourselves, I highly recommend visiting one or two of them when travelling to Japan. If it's too far from home, why not bring the world of Initial D closer to you with some merch such as our Fujiwara Tofu Shop diorama and Initial D-themed keychains.

And while the anime may have to come to an end after the MFG sequel, the racing dream it ignites in young enthusiasts is far from over!

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