One of my favorite experiences of the trip was escaping the city and heading to the countryside of Japan where we spent the day in Hakone. Here in Hakone we got to drive a 1999 Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R up the one & only, Hakone Turnpike.
Hakone is a small town in Japan that is west of Tokyo. It’s known for it’s gorgeous greenery, hot springs, & views of Mt. Fuji as well as Lake Ashi. We took a bus from Shibuya to Hakone & it was about a 2 hour trip. Some might dread the thought of a long bus ride but it’s really an eye opener for tourists who haven’t seen past Tokyo. Tokyo’s modern city landscape often covers Japan’s beautiful agriculture. Tokyo does offer many parks and shrines for you to get a glimpse at their natural landscape though. However, there is a more satisfying aesthetic that comes with the authentic and raw scenery of the countryside. It’s so green & there are so many mountains! It reminds me of Jurassic Park. It was easy to fall in love with the city of Tokyo but this scenic bus ride made me fall in love with Japan as a whole.
My friend rented the car from a place called Fun2Drive, it’s a car rental service that specializes in JDM (Japanese Domestic Market). They have a good amount of cars that you can choose from and the staff is so nice! Yoshi is the one that handled everything for my friend & I, I’m pretty sure he’s the owner.
Before we began our drive, Yoshi let us know all the rules & regulations. In order to even take the car out for the rented three hours my friend had to pass the driving assessment test which is nothing major, just simple driving standards. The only problem is, my friend can barely drive stick. We get out to the car & he can’t even get it started. Time after time he keeps stalling. Eventually, he can manage to get it to go a little bit but then he doesn’t know how to brake or reverse. At this point I’m getting pretty concerned, I have a feeling that Yoshi isn’t going to let him drive at all. I’m really hoping that my friend can pull through because this was a big part of the trip for him and he’s wanted to be able to drive this car for a long time.
Before I go on any further, let me explain why this car is such a big deal. First off, this car got put on the mainstream map thanks to the movie series The Fast & The Furious (if you haven’t already noticed, that’s where I got the inspiration for the title of this post). In the series, the dreamy Paul Walker drives this same exact model my friend rented; a 1999 Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R. Being that Paul Walker is the star of the movie, this car got a lot of attention. Not to mention that it’s just a badass car with or without Paul Walker. It’s an AWD 6 speed transmission that has a top speed of 156 mph. It can even reach 0-60 mph within 4.6 seconds and it’s torque measures at 289lb-ft @ 4400rpm. Did I forget to mention that it’s illegal in the US?
Now that you know all that, it’s a pretty big deal that my friend doesn’t mess this up. You can definitely see the stress on both of their faces. There’s another staff member outside of the car who is dying of laughter at us, probably thinking about how gaijin my friend looks right now. With a little bit of practice, my friend was able to take the assessment test but it was still not a good experience. When we returned to the office, Yoshi took the keys & went inside. I knew that my friend wasn’t going to pass.
However, with much surprise, Yoshi still let my friend drive the car! This is how you know the Japanese are nice and patient people, there is no way in hell that he would’ve been able to drive the car that day if it was an American in charge. Yoshi made a deal with my friend that included Yoshi driving the difficult parts of the drive and my friend driving the more laid back areas. So I put my earphones in, blasted White Iverson, & we were off to the Hakone Turnpike.
When you get to the Hakone Turnpike, you have to pay a small toll & then you’re allowed up. Yoshi said it was about a three hour drive but it didn’t feel that way to me. Once again I was introduced to new and beautiful scenery. I got to see Lake Ashi and even part of the ocean I think. It was gloomy that day so Mt. Fuji was hidden but eventually the clouds cleared and I got to see the beautiful mountain for myself. Japan is so pretty! Don’t underestimate it!
The Hakone Turnpike is full of twists and turns as you drive up, it definitely makes for a fun ride. Eventually my friend had no problem driving stick which made the ride a lot more enjoyable, Yoshi was so proud (lol). Even though my friend got the hang of it, I enjoyed it the most when Yoshi drove (I like to think of him as my Japanese dad). It’s a scenic drive so you’ll see cars of all types. However the road is mostly dedicated to JDM cars and bikes so there isn’t really a limit to what you can do. Of course everyone drives safe naturally but it’s definitely a more exhilarating experience than speeding on the freeway. I think we got up to about 90 mph which is pretty fast considering how curvy the road is. It’s definitely every drifter’s dream.
When you reach the top, there is a spot to stop & take break. Here you can find restrooms and even some food. As well as vending machines, of course. Another thing that can be found here is cars & bikes of all kinds. If you’re a speed junkie, you’ll definitely be wowed by all the different motors that surround you. Another thing you’ll be wowed by is the great view of Mt. Fuji and surrounding scenery. After we ate some food and took some pictures, we were on our way back down the mountain headed toward the office.
I personally like driving and have always had a love for car rides so I really enjoyed this experience. It was something different and a small break from Tokyo. I can’t imagine my trip to Japan without this day! I’m so thankful that I got to see that part of Japan & experience that drive. To some people it may not mean much but it was really a “once-in-a-lifetime” type of thing for me.