Japan is home to some of the most respected and reputable vehicles in the car scene. With ferocious rear wheel drive beasts that contain horsepower we could only get a sniff at in our dreams; the Japanese do not lack when it comes to their cars. Moreover, it is also the home of the most famous sports driving manoeuvre in the world. ‘Drifting’. The action of oversteering round corners and keeping control via throttling and braking has seen a worldwide surge of popularity over the past 30 years or so. But, what does this mean for the car scene in Tokyo today? Has too much popularity ruined drifting for racers in the Japanese metropolis? I took to the internet to research and find the exact answer!
So, is drifting illegal in Tokyo? Street drifting in Tokyo, much like any other country, is definitely illegal. You can expect imprisonment of up to 2 years or a hefty fine of ¥500,000. However, track drifting is extremely legal and Tokyo even has its own Drifting Grand Prix which people can watch from the stands.
Drifting is known worldwide and there is no doubt that Japan takes the title for ‘the creator’. But, just because street drifting is illegal, that’s not to say that people still don’t do it. Also, if you are a Fast & Furious phanatic, then what’s the best way for you to get a taste of that burning rubber? I have put together this article for you, so that you know exactly how you can best experience the birthplace of drifting!
Is It Legal To Drift In Japan?
I knew that street drifting in Tokyo would be illegal or frowned upon by law initially. However, for the sake of this article I wanted to make sure I was giving information that is 100% accurate. Therefore, I got in touch with the Sumikawa Law Office who thankfully gave me the information I needed. They directed me to an insurance website that claims drifting on the streets is illegal and you can receive prison time for up to 2 years, or you can face a fine of ¥500,000! They even state on the article on its own separate line to “Never do it.”
As previously mentioned, street drifting, just like street racing; is undoubtedly illegal. That’s the case for pretty much anywhere else in the world. I know, we were all thinking that Tokyo would be the exception based on our viewing of Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift. However, the unfortunate truth is that it is Hollywood striking again with their over the top stunts and situations. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the movie and it is in my opinion the best from the franchise. Pretty much anyone in the car scene when asked, will say that they have seen this film. It’s iconic!
But, that’s not to say it’s accurate. Much like the gear shifting in the movies(where the vehicles seem to have 100 gears), many, and if not, all of the scenes are extremely exaggerated. For example, this scene below shows Han’s RX7 zooming past the police at 180 KM/h.
As cool as this scene is, it’s not very accurate at all. You would definitely get caught by the police at some point and face hefty consequences.
Let’s not get too distracted by the street racing aspect though…
Drifting is loved by the Japanese and people all over the world, and there are definitely ways that you can experience it legally. And while I don’t encourage taking part, there is still a heavy underground scene that will take part in drifting illegally. However, even this is not done on the streets. Car enthusiasts take to the windy mountain roads at early hours of the morning to avoid collisions or anyone getting hurt who was not involved. The car enthusiasts of Tokyo are very thoughtful in the way they do things!
Drifting like this is not as popular as it once was with the Japanese, but there is still a large number of people who love to take part in the activity almost every single day.
Can You Drift In Japan/Tokyo?
As I’m sure you have gathered by now, you won’t be doing it on the streets though. If you want a taste of drifting in the capital of Japan, you’ll have to take it to the track.
There are companies and tracks out there that will allow you to rent a drift car and then you are free to take the corners as you wish! However, my preferred option for any beginners out there like me; would be to take a drifting school or crash course. My personal go to would be The Sideways Experience which teaches its students at the infamous Ebisu Circuit about three hours from Tokyo.
Additionally, if you would like a more in-depth look at drifting in Japan, then Drift Academy has an amazing video that you should check out!
However, for those of you who don’t feel comfortable enough to drift yourself, fear not! You can also experience it. By this, I mean that you can go to certain events that will allow you to sit in the passenger seat while a professional driver takes you round the track sideways!
Where Can I Drift In Japan?
Drifting in Tokyo itself is not very common. There is not much room in the bustling city for drift tracks, so it tends to not happen. Not legally anyway. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t drift in Japan if you are staying in Tokyo.
Japan is home to the most reputable and famous drift tracks in the whole world. After all, it is the home of drifting, so this should be expected!
I have put together my recommendations for where you should drift or observe drifting when visiting Japan. I am no expert on this, but after some research I have a general ideas of which tracks I would prefer to visit.
Fukushima stands as the world’s best and most famous drift course to ever exist. With 7 different tracks at the circuit, Ebisu not only specializes in drifting. You are free to drift on the tracks as long as there are no current events going on or it is not overbooked. This circuit is located around just over 3 hours North of Tokyo and can be fairly easy to get to.
Visit the circuit on the right day, and you may be lucky enough to witness a D1 Grand Prix race. Imagine that…
Unfortunately, the circuit had a landslide disaster caused by an earthquake in early 2021. This landslide sadly affected several of the tracks. At the time of writing this article, the Ebisu Circuit are taking donations to help for repairs to the tracks. Make sure you check the situation of the circuit before planning a visit!
This circuit is the closest drift circuit to the city, being only an hour’s drive north of Central Tokyo. This track compared to others in the country can be seen as very small, but it does not lack in quality! It is known as the home of ‘time attack’ and is one of the most popular tracks in Japan.
However, if you were planning to watch some high quality drifting or championships, it would be best to choose another circuit to visit as Tsukuba rarely hosts these events.
For a truly unique drifting experience that you will not receive anywhere else in the world, Fuji Speedway is the track to go to. The track was created back in 1960 and stands at the bottom of Mt Fuji providing one of the most beautiful scenes any type of racing track in the world has ever seen!
The track is about an hour and a half drive away from the city of Tokyo and is undoubtedly an experience you will never forget.