Perfect Shift at Daikoku PA in Japan with GTR behind

My JDM Pilgrimage in the Land of the Rising Sun (Part 1)

━━━ An Incredible Experience of Initial D Touge (垰)

After writing my previous blog "Exploring Initial D Mountain Passes in Real Life", I decided to travel to Japan and experience these legendary locations firsthand.

Embarking on a journey to the birthplace of JDM culture was a dream come true for me. As an avid enthusiast of JDM cars and a die-hard fan of Initial D, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to explore the iconic mountain passes that inspired the legendary anime series. From driving iconic JDM cars and tracing the footsteps of my favorite characters to appreciating the view of Mt Fuji cruising in a GTR, every moment of my trip was infused with excitement and nostalgia.

 Perfect shift team at Mt.Akagi Japan JDM trip

A big thanks to Omoshiro Rent-a-car, we had opportunity to drive some of the coolest JDM cars ever made. From the sleek Evo to powerful GT-R34, each vehicle was a testament to Japan's automotive engineering prowess. As I revved the engines and felt the thrill of acceleration on the way back from the rental cars garage on the Wangan Expressway, I knew that this trip would be nothing short of extraordinary.

My journey took me to some of the most iconic mountain passes in Japan, including Mt. Akina, Mt. Myogi, and Mt. Akagi, immortalised in the Initial D series. Driving through winding roads and hairpin turns, I couldn't help but feel a sense of deja vu as I recalled scenes from the arcade games I used to spend days and nights playing.

Mt. Akina/Mt. Haruna

Tackling Mt. Akina was an adrenaline-fueled rush. We repeated five runs up and down the mountain - in just two days! The excitement was palpable, though somewhat dampened by the numerous bumps along the hairpin bends. It seemed these bumps were strategically placed to deter drifters, adding an unexpected challenge to the thrilling experience.

Mt Akina and Mt Akagi shapshots

Mt. Myogi

Driving to Mt. Myogi provided a refreshing change of pace. The roads were wider with fewer bumps, enhancing the touge adventure. Upon reaching the mountain top, a vast parking area offered breathtaking views of the surrounding ranges, providing a serene moment amidst the exhilarating drive.

Mt. Akagi

Our last-minute visit to Mt. Akagi added a dash of spontaneity to our journey. Unlike Mt. Akina, the roads were wider and smoother - but more hairpin bends = more fun! The snow-capped mountain peak, and the quiet town atop the mountain, though sparsely populated, provided a peaceful atmosphere unexpected from the Takahashi Brothers’ touge circuit homeground!

 

Among the "Three Mountains of Jōmō," Mt. Akina undoubtedly stands as a must-visit for every JDM fanatic. However, if time permits, I highly recommend a visit to Mt. Myogi as well. At the mountain's summit lies the serene Kinoenedaikoku Shrine, a hidden gem where you can offer prayers and purchase omamori, particularly appealing to those seeking fortune and wealth.

 Perfect Shift at Mt.fuji and Japanese shrine

Tips:

  • There is an initiative called ‘Japan Touge Project’ that involves most of mountain passes throughout the country. After experiencing the fun and thrill of driving across the passes, you can purchase stickers and goods at a participating vendor (usually located near their respective mountain pass) to commemorate your visit!
  • Don’t miss out on the Initial-D-themed cafe, D’z Racing Cafe Garage, that is located right at the foothill of Mt Akina. You will find not only Initial-D merchandise but also a few track-tuned RX7s there!

An RX7 FC, Evo, and RX7 FD in front of a cafe under Mt.Akina in Japan

  • Many scenes in Initial-D exist in real life, such as the onsen town Ikaho beneath Mt Akina where Takumi took Natsuki on a date, the Lawson where Takumi and Ryosuke along with their rides stand in the Initial-D Movie. With a little bit of research you can retrace most of the locations visited my Initial-D characters, and pay tribute to the anime!

The Ikaho onsen town in Gunma Prefecture in the Initial-D comic books on the left and the town in real life on the right

  • As mountain passes are public roads, we suggest setting off as early as you can to avoid traffic. You certainly do not want to be blocked by a truck struggling on an uphill climb!
  • When renting a JDM car, be mentally prepared for surprises because you will never know whether the previous renter can safely return the car. Our GTR engine blew right before our booking -lucky for us, the dedicated bossman, staff, and mechanics at Omoren tore through the evening to get the car fixed! Hopefully the crew were sharing our tears of joy when they told us the GTR is finally ready for collection and we didnt have to settle for a Renault hatchback (hey no offense, but we WERE there for the GTR, just sayin’)!!!

 

Conclusion

As I continued my journey, I couldn't help but reflect on how far I have come since I started my JDM dream 10 years ago. What had once been a distant dream was now a reality unfolding before my eyes. And as I soaked in the breathtaking vistas and embraced the thrill of the open road, I knew that this JDM trip would be etched in my memory forever.

There is so much more I would like to share with you beyond this article, feel free to reach out and chat about your JDM pilgrimage :)

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