Published on March 4th, 2014 | by Jos Roder0
Japan Files: Touge Disaster
Spending time in Japan is an adventure, even if you set your sail in the mainstream tourist arenas. Hit the fringes however and for any sub culture, adventure is a default status. This is one such story.
I moved to Japan in August 2006 to teach English and like so many foreigners with an interest in cars, I was well aware of the drifters that frequented touge’s (mountain pass’s) in the dead of night and had seen touge footage via High Performance Imports DVD’s and YouTube.
I soon became friends with a fellow ex pat Aussie living in Osaka who had some first hand experience with the scene and he offered to take me for a ride into the mountains to experience this sub culture first hand, if I could get myself to his nearest train station.
I finished my shift at 9pm that night and headed home on the train before quickly eating dinner. With no car of my own and limited knowledge of the train system I decided to borrow my housemates bicycle and ride across the city. Being new to Japan, I had no idea where I was going and it was a fair distance to his local station. I packed a map and knew how to ask for directions in Japanese so I thought it would be a fun challenge. After an hour and a half and asking for directions from 6 people (not including the old lady who ran away from me when I asked her for help) I finally located his station! By this time it was now midnight and our adventure hadn’t even started. Shortly after my arrival, my friend picked me up in a cool Kei car and we cruised through Osaka before beginning our ascent into the hills.
As we reached the foothills, the lights of the city faded and we were soon plunged into darkness as the buildings gave way for trees, convex mirrors and armco barriers.
Only a few minutes into the winding roads we picked up a faint roar fall in and out of earshot. Slowly the volume of the roar increased and the question of the sound was answered by headlights appearing in the rear vision mirror and quickly closing on our tail. We continued to drive our 660cc monster at a modest pace and it didn’t take long to hear the driver shift down as a blurry AE86 blast past us on a blind left hander.
Within a handful of seconds the car was totally out of sight as it hammered on and deeper into the touge under grip.
That experience seemed to be the perfect entree for what was to come later in the evening, however less than 60 seconds later we rounded a tight corner and were greeted with the following scene.
My first experience of the touge was this sight. The car was upside down in the middle of the road and the 3 people were still trying to get out! “Holy shit!” we said in unison. As we quickly came to a stop in our Kei car to jump out and assist, I quizzically asked my friend “Is this a normal night out at the touge?”
We were the first car to arrive on the scene and apart from the crunch of glass under foot and adrenalin charged conversation in Japanese to get the third occupant out of the car, it was dark and quiet and a truly surreal experience. Despite the situation, my friend was totally pumped he finally got to use one of the flares that JDM cars all come standard with and you can see in the background.
Thankfully, the three occupants all seemed uninjured and were just shaken. They assured us they were ok and did not need medical assistance. We were unsure if they were wearing seat belts, but from the lack of injury, I believe this to be the case.
The car had spent time sliding on its roof before coming to a stop as you can see by the scrape marks. I can’t be sure, but my view was as the car had exited the previous right hander, the rear broke loose and the driver then shut down the throttle and over corrected. This then sent the car into the very step concrete wall on the left hand front. This broke the wheel and popped the tyre and sent the car up the steep wall ramp on to its side and the momentum pushed it onto its roof.
Luckily the car was fitted with a roll cage which I am sure aided in keeping the roof from buckling further. The interior was in typical post accident condition. Shattered glass and loose interior items strewn everywhere.
We spent about an hour directing traffic that occasionally came through. No Police or Ambulance showed up so we assume no call was placed to the authorities by those involved in the accident (perhaps for obvious reasons).
With the scene under control and a tow truck called, we departed the crash and got back under way and headed another 15 mins through the amazingly twisty roads before passing the ‘grip racers area’ (there is designated areas for different activities incredibly) and then finally arriving at the drift area.
After hanging around for 30 minutes with no action, we decided it was time to call it a night and our journey resumed back down the touge that had earlier claimed the AE86.
My friend dropped me back at his station where my bike was parked at around 4.15am. I was still amped up from the night’s vivid memories and enjoyed my ride home amongst a very quiet suburban Osaka . I arrived home around 5am and got to sleep near 6am. Teaching was a struggle the next day as I had to be at work at 10am.
Adventure seemed to follow me while I lived in Japan and there is some more great tales I will enjoy sharing soon.