☆★Ebisu Autumn Drift Festival Day 1★☆
A few hours before my planned departure, my ride called and let me know that tires were taking up too much room. No room, okay. “Now what?” I thought to myself. Well, right after reading that text I rushed out to the living room to inquire with my room mates about the Shinkansen. I had packed about half of my gear earlier in the morning, so by this point I was just about done. I figured out where to take the Shinkansen from and headed out the door. I made sure to grab a few extra pieces of clothing in anticipation of the cold in Fukushima.
Luckily, there is a Bic Camera at one of the stops along the way, so I paused my journey quickly and hurried to the bottom floor to pick up some rolls of film and a new filter. I saved a bunch of money with my point card, like a boss…and then scrambled back onto the train platform to catch the short jump up to Tokyo Station.
At Tokyo Station I bought a reasonably sized BLT from Beck’s Coffee. I think the cute girl behind the counter gave me an extra big portion. Stoked on the meal, I sat in the waiting zone and chowed for 30 minutes until it was time to get on the Hayabusa Shinkansen. It’s the greenish one with a bubbly looking nose. Side note: Hayabusa means falcon in Japanese.
I took a window seat on the train, even though it was dark, and relaxed a little. I think it is the possibility that I might see something that attracts me to the window seats. At the second stop my aisle seat was taken by an older man, who I found out later had a hobby for flying gliders. He had been to America to fly them and spoke a little English, however, we talked mostly in Japanese. After what ended up being around two hours, I arrived at Koriyama station. A new town, and I had plenty of time. For starters I walked to the nearest convenience store to find a rain overcoat just in case the slight drizzle turned for the worst.
It was around 11:30 a.m., and I spent the next hour and a half wandering around searching for a family restaurant to relax in, or something hospitable. Turns out Mr. Donuts doesn’t stay open 24 hours, so that was a no go. I wasn’t expecting my ride to pick me up until four or five in the morning, so becoming a little desperate I turned to a stranger and asked for a recommendation of a place to rest until the early hours of the morning. The guy I asked turned out to be super cool. He told me about a place and even offered to walk with me to the place, which turned out to be a massive manga cafe. He helped me register and we parted our ways.
I slept on the couch in my cubicle until 4:30 a.m.. Larger manga cafes have areas where you can rent a small cubicle with internet and Tv, there usually is a drink bar which you have full access to and thousands upon thousands of manga to choose from. If you are ballin’ in a budget while traveling in Japan this is definitely one way to get some rest for around 15 bucks per night. Might not be the most comfortable but enough to get a wink of sleep. I woke with a slightly kinked neck (as mentioned, not always so comfortable depending on where you go) and headed to get a bite to eat at local 24 hour beef bowl chain restaurant.
After walking back to the station I checked to find my stop at Nihonmatsu and went and sat down in the train. In smaller towns the trains are different. They aren’t as long, you have to open the doors yourself with small buttons, and they come approximately every hour. Oh, and you get to sit in a booth booth style facing each other, which is a lot nicer in my opinion.
The train ride up to Nihonmatsu was very beautiful–a blur of open areas covered in orange and green. As I rode the train, the sun rose up from the east and provided a spectacular view. The difference in feelings from urban to rural in Japan are very different, but I like them equally. Or you could say I’m slightly in favor of the city, but it was a real treat to experience that feeling.
On arrival at Nihonmatsu I promptly dropped a pin on my map and sent off a text to my friends who were on their way. Before meeting them, I snagged some hot gyoza from 7-Eleven and started walking. 30 minutes or so passed, and then in the distance I heard the smooth sound of a 1J. Yahoo!
After hopping into the car we continued on our way to Ebisu. I rolled down the windows and enjoyed the view from the backseats. A brisk 6 degrees struck my face as I hung my head out of the car. Man, it felt refreshing.
As we neared the entrance of Ebisu I started to get super excited. It all passed pretty quickly unfortunately because we had to zig zag through the cars staggered in front of the entrance. Next time I hope I can stand outside in front for a while and shoot a few pictures.
Originally, the crew I was rolling with planned on setting up camp at Minami course, but they were kicked out as I arrived because where they had parked was apparently reserved before hand. It was time to find another place to set up camp.
After about an hour, we decided on a spot just behind Daigo Saito and his friends at Nishi course. Kind of ironic seeing him at Ebisu in Japan when just earlier this year I talked to him at the first event of Formula Drift in Long Beach California.
I wandered around the paddock and discovered a few cool cars. Group K was also stationed a little ways up the hill, and their Boso styled Cresta was one of the first out on the track at 8 a.m.
The sun peaked through clouds and provided some awesome light. Until around 10 o’clock, most of the morning was dedicated to testing and setting up. Not much chatter could be heard through the echoing screeches of drifting throughout the mountains.
The Yokosuka crew and I traveled around hitting up a few different courses during the day, and we went to watch some action at the Short Course with some of the crazy Australians in attendance charging in their missile cars.
Flying around the course hands out the window with the GoPro and getting their buddys riled up. Trying to ride each others door as much as possible. Here’s a link to the video of these guys going hard in their missiles at Ebisu. (Link) Right above the view from this shot I looked up to see remnants of the earthquake last year in March.
What you don’t notice in a lot of the coverage that comes out of Ebisu is the terrain. You might see the beautiful colors and all the abundance of plant life but after spending a few hours scooting from place to place you realize how crazy the varying altitudes of the tracks are. The shot of this mountain side is from the small short course and it is sunken into a small valley. Below the short course is Minami and the access roads from above short course to Minami are quite steep. It made for some fun trunk sitting runs through the race grounds.
I stayed and watched for a while. This was my very first encounter with Nakamura. Seeing his car in person and watching him get super gung hoe about sliding with some of the crazy Aussies that were out there was pretty unreal.
After most of the missiles exited the track some of the nicer cars, with less sledge hammer dent marks came on and put down some solid laps. They had some small drift trains going, it was pretty cool to watch from up close at the barricade.
We moved on to Minami for a few runs to just check up on the cars because it was less crowded down there. Nakamura-san had also come down before us and was show casing his usual insane entry flying over the jump and drifting almost to the tire wall until finally laying his foot into the gas peddle and shooting around the corner. Nothing really beats watching the Youtube videos more than seeing it in person.
On our way back to Nishi for new tires, we passed by one of Britly’s friends whose missile was in incredible shape. I think the only moving parts where the wheels and the engine. All the doors were probably bent and mangled so badly they were immovable. For added protection he added a fail safe mesh window out of duct tape!
Back at Nishi course most of the earlier people to take to the tracks were taking a break and checking up on their cars. Making sure everything was in working order.
Some of the guys seemed to be using the Autumn Festival as a “Test and Tune” to just work out the kinks like this guy who was constantly back and forth between the track and his parking spot.
On the other hand, there are guys like these crazy fellas just getting so fired up as their buddy roars by on the straight away. Group K, is a small bunch of guys from Tokyo that are just so much fun to be around.
I don’t speak the greatest Japanese but they were more than happy to have a conversation with me and let me watch. I spent a lot of time during my breaks from shooting on the track chatting with them while they worked. I offered to help but they liked the fact that I was taking pictures.
During one of their excursions up to North course Shou-san’s midnight purple Cefiero and the Cresta had some minor contact and I hung around as they went to work straightening his door with some small 2×4’s.
For a small chunk of the day the officials ran short Nishi and had a small break after to clean the track up a bit and then a bunch of the big boys stepped out on the track to catch some alone time.
Pretty much the entire time we were at Ebisu Daigo was in and out of the pits. He was continually talking with his mechanic and at one time all we could hear down the whole strip of pit lane was the three of them playing with his blow off valve revving the engine insanely high for extended periods of time and then blowing all the pressure.
After he got it working a bit better he headed out for some fun with his girlfriend in the passenger seat.
This Forester also showed up at Nishi and surprised the hell out of a lot of people. A bunch of heads turned as he ebrake initiated into the corner way faster and sooner than we were all expecting him to. I love the uniqueness about this. It’s what I strive for when ever I have my mind set on building a car.
Yonekura-san headed back out in his Alteza 4 banger swapped Corolla and lit up some tires entering at speeds up to 220k. It was a marvelous site. Super lonely out there in his Ae86 up against so many guys rockin’ newer and bigger sedans. But, with the addition of the mint color and his insanely loud exhaust; he stuck out and drew people to the wall as he came flying through the sweeper.
I don’t know the story behind this guy, or the fact that he didn’t seem to be a D1 driver but he sure was happy to be in the car sitting behind the wheel. He wasn’t half bad either for having access to this Verossa with monster steering angle.
Nearing the end of day one the mountains of Fukushima provided a spectacular view as the cars zoomed by on the straight. You can still see Daigo’s mechanic working away on his car. Something was definitely very wrong that day. A bummer because he didn’t get much seat time. Hope to see him kill it some day soon though.
Ebisu has this raw aura, I think it is something every drifter should do at least once in their life. Like a pilgrimage for drifters.
Day two coming soon. Stay tuned.