Which automotive events should you go to and where? And what, and HOW?
It has to be the most common thing we get asked: “What automotive events will be taking place while I’m in Japan?”
It’s for this reason that the first and foremost piece of advice we give people is to plan your Japan holiday around a specific automotive event!
Making sure that a large-scale event (the bigger, the better!) is taking place while you’re there is going to guarantee that you’re going to see some amazing cars during your trip. Events like this will not only give you the chance to see some sweet cars in the flesh and get some great photos, but also meet people and hopefully make some friends too.
We truly believe that this is the key to having your dream Japan experience, so if you can help it, we’ve created this guide for you to use alongside our Events Calendar to help aid the process of planning your trip around some of the coolest events taking place in Japan…
Many different car events take place all over Japan on a weekly basis, and although activities do tend to slow down during mid-winter, events ranging from casual meetings and low-key grassroots track days, to professional racing and large-scale organised car shows take place year-round. There’s always something going on, but obviously it’s going to depend on your own personal preferences as to what type of events interest you the most.
PRO TIP: The months of May, June, July, August and September have often been the busiest in our Event Calendar.
We’ve put together an overview of the main ‘types’ of different events taking place in Japan and why you’d want to go to them, as well as information on some larger annual events as follows:
Your first option for attending an event in Japan is checking out a larger scale automotive show such as Tokyo Auto Salon. The advantage to planning your trip around events like this is that they’re often easy to find information on, and they’re always generally held at the same time each year with the date set well in advance. You’ll see an overwhelming amount of cars, meet new people and see a huge variety of stuff, which is fantastic!
The only downside, in our opinion, is that static shows like this can have more of a formal, trade show/convention centre vibe, and generally come with big crowds – which can also make taking photos quite tricky. Seeing incredible cars parked up inside just doesn’t quite compare to the exciting atmosphere of a Japanese race track! Sometimes there’ll be some driving demonstrations that are held outdoors, but it’s just not quite the same. Although as we said, this is totally down to personal preference…
Tokyo Auto Salon – Chiba
Held annually in January.
Tokyo Auto Salon website (click here).
Osaka Auto Messe – Osaka
Held annually in February.
Osaka Auto Messe website (click here).
Tuning Car World Showdown – Nagoya
Formerly the ‘Exciting Car Showdown’, this event takes place yearly, generally in April. The theme is ‘tuner cars’ so here you’ll find various cars modified for various uses – VIP, time attack, drift, drag – a mixed bag.
Tuning Car World website (click here).
Wekfest Japan – Nagoya
A relatively new event, it’s taken place in May for the last few years. Mainly (but not limited to) stance/VIP/show car-orientated cars with a distinct ‘USDM’ influence.
Wekfest website (click here).
PRO TIP: Don’t forget to check out the car park! It’s car enthusiasts that attend these shows after all, and this always makes for an interesting assortment of machinery parked up outside events like this.
Indoor, outdoor, does it really make a difference? We say yes! Generally, car shows that are held outdoors have more of an informal, festival-like vibe, the lighting is generally much better for taking photos and the owners are more likely to be hanging around their cars. There are many big annual car meetings like this; a few of our favourites are:
JCCA New Year Meeting – Tokyo
Japanese classic car meeting held annually at the end of January or start of February. Most years it’s been held in Odaiba, Tokyo, although it’s been held at Fuji Speedway in Shizuoka in the past too.
JCC website (click here).
Mooneyes Street Car Nationals – Tokyo
The annual hot rod & customs meeting has been running for 30 years now, and is generally held in April.
Mooneyes website (click here).
Offset Kings (Fatlace) events
These shows have been running since 2011, formerly under the ‘Hellaflush’ and ‘Slammed Society’ brandnames, and in various locations. In the past there have been events in the Kansai region and at Fuji Speedway, scheduled alongside track events. For 2016 they’re scheduled at two new venues in both Shiga and Fukushima.
Offset Kings event schedule (click here).
Recently these have been held under the ‘G Edition’ name, last year in Tokyo and in Nagasaki. In 2016 another Nagasaki event will be held in April.
StanceNation G Edition on Facebook (click here).
Nismo Festival – Shizuoka
Held annually at Fuji Speedway at the end of the year (November/December). Includes action on track too!
Nismo Festival on Facebook (click here).
PRO TIP: With less formal outdoor meetings, there’ll be some great photo opportunities if you arrive early to watch the cars roll in, or wait around late enough to watch them leaving again. Not only will you get to see and hear them in action, you’ll be able to get some clear photos of them away from the other cars in the show!
If you’re interested in watching a bit of sideways action on track, Japan is of course the place for it! While low-key amateur drift days give you a more personal experience without the hordes of spectators, there’s definitely something to be said for the bustling, high-energy atmosphere of a big drift comp round, such as D1GP at Ebisu Circuit’s Stadium/Minami Course or the Kansai All Star event at Meihan Sportsland. If you love drifting and can make it along to one of these, you’ll have the time of your life!
Any of the D1 Grand Prix rounds are worth checking out, but the Ebisu round is definitely our favourite after attending it last summer. The intense humidity and the packed grandstands with the judges screaming at everything with such over-the-top enthusiasm will have you completely mind-blown!
D1GP website (click here).
The Drift Muscle series
Although D1GP was started by Keiichi Tsuchiya and Daijiro Inada, they left the series to found The Drift Muscle back in 2011. Like D1GP, it hosts 5 rounds at different circuits around the country.
The Drift Muscle website (click here).
Kansai All Star Drift GP – Nara
A one-day annual drift tournament featuring the region’s top drifters. The 2016 event date was Sunday the 14th of August. Historically this event has always been held on the same Sunday each August.
NOTE: As a spectator at pro drift events in Japan, you’ll generally find that you’ll have better all-round access to the cars, especially at some of the smaller venues – often the pits are open, and you’ll have a better vantage point to the track.
For such a small space, Japan has an impressive amount of race tracks and circuits dotted throughout its various islands, so there are always plenty of different grassroots track days taking place throughout the year. Grip or drift or sometimes both, these range from small private days to full-on club events with racing with podium finishes, and are definitely worth checking out! Some larger events are:
Idlers Games at Tsukuba – Ibaraki
Club track day with an exciting mix of wild RWB Porsches, historic racers, AE86s, Zs and more. For the past few years this has also included drift classes – the photo featured in the title image was taken at one of these! It’s also been held at different times of the year.
Idlers Club website (click here).
HKS Premium Day – Shizuoka
A petrolhead’s paradise, this annual event has been running since 2009. Taking place at Fuji Speedway, it features time attack racing and plenty of impressive tuner cars on show.
HKS Premium Day English website (click here).
Black Mark Day – Tochigi
Run by Gunma-based bodyshop N-Style, this annual soukoukai is popular with JZXs and old Corollas. Cool cars, cool drifting, cool style.
Black Mark Day on Facebook (click here).
JCCA Tsukuba Summer Meeting – Ibaraki
This track event takes place in early July. Plenty of cool nostalgic machines tackling Tsukuba Circuit.
JCCA website (click here).
Ebisu Drift Matsuri – Fukushima
Triannual drift festival held in Spring, Summer and Autumn at Ebisu Circuit. All seven tracks open up for a two-day period, and drivers fly in from around the world to attend. 2017 dates are now in our Event Calendar!
More info on the Power Vehicles website (click here).
PRO TIP: If you’re wanting to check out some casual, low-key track days (and perhaps you’ve only got a specific day that you’re able to drive out to a race track during the week), the best way to find out what’s happening and when is to pick up some magazines and get translating! Magazines like Drift Tengoku feature a list of upcoming casual track days, but yes, they’ll be in Japanese, so you’ll just have to get handy with Google translate to figure them out!
Professional racing events.
If you’re into more traditional motorsports, why not head along to a round of Super GT (grand touring) or Super Taikyu, aka. ‘Super Edurance’ racing? These are held at various circuits around the country, while the annual Japanese Grand Prix is held at Suzuka Circuit in Mie Prefecture.
With such a massive and diverse car scene, casual meet-ups between friends are common, although these are pretty hard to find out information on for that exact reason – they’re simply groups of friends catching up together! So if you’re wanting to get in on some of this action you’re going to have to put your networking hat on and get practicing your Japanese and talk to some locals!
Alternatively there are many ‘themed meetings’ which are based around certain car models and always take place on the same day of the same month each year. So if you’ve got a car, try hitting up popular spots like Daikoku PA on…
The 3rd day of the 3rd month (3rd of March for Skyline ‘R33 day’).
The 4th day of the 3rd month (4th of March for Skyline ‘R34 day’).
The 7th day of the 7th month (7th of July for Mazda RX- ‘7s day’).
OR the 6th day of the 8th month (6th of August for Toyota ’86 day’).
NOTE: If these dates seem ‘mixed up’ to you (this is going to depend what country you’re from!), it’s because in Japanese you read the month first, then the day. These themed days usually coincide with track events too, taking place throughout the country as a big celebration!
Online information and Facebook pages.
Information on automotive events doesn’t always make it to the internet, but it’s becoming more and more common now for events to have pages and information available online, with posters and even Facebook pages!
Whatever events interest you, we’d strongly recommend doing as much research as possible before planning your trip – find out as much as you possibly can beforehand.