I was very sad to be missing our SCCA San Diego National Tour for autocross while I was vacationing in Japan. However, I got my speed fix in by spectating a gymkhana in Takasaki on March 31, 2013.
For the casual tourist, it’s extremely difficult to even find the place since the web site is completely in Japanese & their picture of directions isn’t translatable in Google. Getting there would be another battle: Takasaki doesn’t have a bunch of train stations like Tokyo and is basically a sub-urban area. Traveling by taxi would be extremely expensive & getting back would be another story.
Luckily for me, I had a friend translate and give me some Google information regarding directions & event details. Another friend hooked me up with a couple locals who were able to get me there.
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I took the JR rail from Tokyo to Takasaki (free as part of the JR Rail Pass – SCORE!) and my new friends from Japan picked me up. We arrived at Kanetsu Sports Land after a 20-30 minute drive. The scenery was completely different than Tokyo – a much more rustic/old-school/country feel – I loved it!
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The parking lot was filled with cars, all organized by competition class. It looked like a car show but most cars were actually competing.
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The course map looked nuts, but after seeing several cars run through the course, it made sense. Unlike autocross, the same course is run several times throughout the year, so things should get less confusing for beginners as they get more seat time.
I didn’t compete this time, but I did get to enjoy a few laps at their outdoor karting facility (Kanetsu Kart Land) next door. I’m making it my mission to compete at a gymkhana event next time I’m in Japan!
Ah, I missed the smell of burning rubber and gasoline. It was also very interesting to see cars like Acura Integras, Honda Fits, and Toyota Yaris’ performing J-Turns and Donuts. It was a mix of autocross and drifting; much different than how “gymkhanas” over in the states have been run & less crazy than some of the gymkhana videos I’ve seen on YouTube of people needing to use the Reverse gear going into boxes and parking spots – maybe they save that one for later in the year ;).
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If you are in Japan and want to try to navigate yourself to a gymkhana, the Kanetsu Sports Land web site & Google Map address is below.
Japan, Gunma Prefecture, Takasaki, Yoshiimachi Iwazaki, ２２９７
For the rest of the images from the event, click the gallery link below.
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