Gallery>> Jr In Japan @ Ebisu Circuit

The entire time JR has spent in Japan has been a great example of cross-cultural exchange, centred around the common language of drifting. Even if you can’t communicate with words, a simple clutch-kick and smoke of the tyres speaks volumes.

So why is he standing next to a lady in a kimono? You’ll have to read on to find out.

To give JR a bit of much needed rest, we sent the supercharged Mustang on ahead on a truck to give him a bit of time to sleep before driving the 180-odd miles to Ebisu Circuit from Tokyo.

Shino from Shino Kouba garage trucked the Mustang up in the morning, but decided to hang around and check out the action. JR thought that a bit of genuine American beef jerky would be a good way to exchange some more culture. I thought it was pretty tasty too.

Would you feel comfortable getting this close to a wall in a car that isn’t available to the public yet?

Of course, JR kept Mickey busy all day.

Mickey had a bit of a hard time mounting the Mustang’s tires on the Ebisu tire machine, which is usually used with tyres that are small and soft enough to not even need any bead lube.

The main event for Saturday was a video shoot for Option with a group of D1 drivers who were there practicing on the South Circuit for the upcoming first round of D1 to be held there at the end of this month. Unfortunately, because I had driven my Skyline for about 600 miles over the past few days as well as joining JR on his late night street drifting and karaoke adventures, I took the morning off and slept in before leaving Tokyo and missed the action. Our video crews as well as the Option crew were there, so you’ll be able to see it that way. After the shoot, Nomuken asked some of the crowd to help him pull the stickers off his car before it received a new sticker treatment for 2009.

At night, we stayed at the famous 75-year-old Azumakan hot spring hotel in the nearby town of Dake Onsen. Some of the American crew weren’t too keen on the idea of sleeping in a room with four or five people on futons, but I love staying in an onsen, especially when the food is laid out as well as this.

There were over ten courses served, with food like pickled vegetables, sashimi, bamboo shoot rice, rare steak, raw egg in sea urchin nabemono, grilled fish caught in a local frozen lake and stewed pears with mint sauce for dessert.

Hey, this is just how JR rolls!

Somebody (was it me? I’ll never tell!) let it slip to the hotel manager Misako Suzuki that JR was a famous drift driver from America. It turned out that she knew all about drifting due to the popularity of nearby Ebisu Circuit. She returned a few minutes later with a couple of shikishi (Japanese autograph boards) for JR to sign.

Since he was an honoured guest, Ms. Suzuki stayed with us for the rest of dinner and kept JR’s glasses filled with Scotch whiskey and local sake. She asked if it would be possible to come out and visit us at the track the following day and come for a ride! Of course, JR said it was OK.

You wouldn’t think raw shrimp would be very tasty, but in some ways it’s more delicious than the cooked version.

After dinner, we headed down to Nihonmatsu to a local bar where Kumakubo and some of the other D1 guys were hanging out.

After very little convincing, they handed JR a mic, and he belted out his version of “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi

Ebisu Circuit shares the same grounds as the Tohoku Safari Park. Where else in the world can you drift within eyesight of lions? The lions actually seemed to take a great interest in the sound of the Mustang, and whenever JR drove up or away from the enclosures, they would all run to the front and look at the car. It must have been the deep, growling engine note.

Word. “M” for Mustang.

On Sunday, JR headed up to the North Circuit at Ebisu to get some more practice and shoot some more video.

It was great to see him get right into the high-speed corners, especially since the North Circuit has very little run off, or as they say here, “no escape zone”.

Kicking sideways over the blind crest entry is something that most drivers don’t work up the courage to do for quite some time. JR was doing it within a few laps.

Robby Nishida was there too in his Soarer missile to give JR some advice.

Sure enough, Ms. Suzuki showed up right on time in a full kimono! She said she wanted to be the first person in the world to go drifting in a Mustang while wearing a kimono. Do we have any challengers to that record? She even did her hair in a special low style so she could wear a helmet over it!

This photo is so East vs West my head hurts.

After a quick strap-in JR headed out.

She was laughing and waving to the camera crew the whole time.

Maybe this third-generation manager of a respected hot spring hotel has a secret streetracing past that we don’t know about?

Ms. Suzuki said that it was a little bit scary, but JR seemed like a very skilled driver, so she wasn’t worried.

JR won’t like me saying this, but he’s actually bowing like a girl. Guys are supposed to keep their necks straight and put their hands on the side of their thighs, but we’ll just let that slide this one time.

After a quick BBQ beef and rice lunch from the Safari Park restaurant, JR got back down to business.

2008 D1 Grand Prix Champion Daigo Saito is switching from his JZX100 Mark II to a Mustang for this year’s competition, so JR was keen to see what he thought of the new 2010 model.

At first, we didn’t know if he’d be able to get the hang of the reasonably standard Mustang…

…but he had absolutely no trouble on the small School Course track…

…and seemed to enjoy it a lot.

JR even managed to get Yoshinori Koguchi’s opinion of the Mustang. The unanimous descision of everyone? It’s a whole lot of fun to drive.

So, that’s it for my coverage of JR’s trip to Japan. I look forward to watching the video version! Hopefully, there’s not too much of our karaoke sessions in there…

-Alexi Smith

JR’s 2010 Mustang Japan tour coverage on Speedhunters



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jr is having the time of his life over there

this is great stuff!!


Nice work man, you'll be a great addition to the crew ;)


That looks like so much fun!!! We need some footage of Koguchi drifting the mustang! I'm digging the mustang more and more.


Loving this feature, really good reads!


Love it. Cant wait for the video version ^^


Thanks, this was one of the coolest blogs yet. I love that this white boy could mix it up in Japan, get respect and give respect. Just a cool car and human story. Love it!


the bow picture and the comment for it made me laugh. hehe. ^_^

awesome coverage as usual.

and the monkey pic is pretty amusing as well. XD

kudos guys!


Wow, amazing stories here. Alexi, you and JR are both lucky as hell. I've wanted to just VISIT Japan for years, but to not only visit but totally thrash the forthcoming 2010 ' jealous. (^_^ )


i need a desktop of the gangster monkey pic!


all the posts about the trip are so nice.

Good work



imagine if the whole DA crew did this with their competition cars, that would be awsome


Wow, this is legendary.

Aussie dude hanging out with an American guy in Japan, while meeting famous drivers and drifting on Japan's best drifting tracks. Amazing, thanks for this one Alexi.

It's also amazing that JR's Mustang changed colors twice during his Ebisu trip! LOL.

And yeah, we can't wait for the video version! A video of the karaoke sessions with JR singing versus Alexi versus Kuma etc. would make us happy! Who knows, Alexi is one of the best karaoke performers in Australia. LOL.


We need a link to the high res versions of all of the photos!



Suzuki-san sure knows how to have fun, huh? ^_^

Man, this just rocks *almost* too much.


KOguchi??? he is my hero.

But is very cool his 2010 Mustang.

Have greats days.


Forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but Mr. Gittin is not universally famous enough to be recognizable with a one word name, like Madonna or Sting. And certainly not recognizable as JR or Junior. At first glance, this entire series has a title indicating coverage of the JR chassis Piazza. At second glance, possibly about the JR Japan Rail train service. Last possibility maybe Junior Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr.,, or some other genuinely famous person with the name Junior. Not to take away from Mr. Gittin's accomplishments, but every person viewing this website did not just finish reading the latest issue of whatever drift magazine remains in print, and the choice of "JR in Japan", does more to confuse than anything else.


Awsome post! Love the JR in Japan coverage, and can' wait for the full video. I need to see Saito ripping it up with the Stang.


One of the best posts ever


JR Who? said:

"reading the latest issue of whatever drift magazine remains in print"

Tons of them are in print they flourish dickhead go troll somewhere else. I almost took you seriously about your corrections until i read that bit, your clearly a hater; most likely a NASCAR fan.


JR Who? - You're getting confused. Its not JR = Junior, Its JAY ARR. JR is the most famous and best US drifter hands down. It seems you're not "in the know" with the drift scene as most of us are. Most of us completely understand what "JR in Japan" means. I would suggest reading up a bit on the drift culture before trying to correct people that are in tune with whats happening in this scene. Good luck, with that.

Gunner, Saitos car is the previous version. I saw it at TAS, its pretty nice! Would be awesome to see Saito and JR do some Tandem runs!

Love these stories man! JR kickin it with so many big names in the game! This is truly epic, I hope we get to see some video coverage of this.


JR who does have an interesting point though.....


Ha ha gotta love saito big smile on his face are raping JR's mustang,

actually is Saitos 2009 D1 Mustang a 2010 model?


Amazing Jr could sneak the beef jerky past customs. American beef is banned in Japan.


Great post!! I have really enjoyed following JR in Japan. Keep up the good work guys!!


Alexi great way to start up on speedhunters!!!

I've really enjoyed reading this coverage of VGJr trip to Japan.

Keep it up!!!


@ Section09:

I'm reading the tags at the top of the article, and it says "Vaughn Gittin Jr.". I may not have enjoyed grade school reading class, but by any estimation of the English language, the man's first name is "Vaughn", and his last name is "Gittin", and "Jr" has nothing to do with "JAY ARR", but is in fact short for Junior. Before telling us how much an expert on the drifting world that you are, please fill us in on your reading proficiency.

American drifters? Who was that Rhys fellow?

But thanks for illustrating that NFS is spending far too much band width on drifting and far too little on Super GT, LeMans, and other motorsports that do not award "style points".

@ F3NT

Way to open up with an obscenity and an insult, making the rest of your comment totally irrelevant, because if you had any points, you would reveal them without the use of obscenities and insults.

Perhaps I should read the April 2009 issue of Sport Compact Car Magazine to find out more about Mr. Gittin? Wait, that magazine folded. Perhaps there is an article in the April 2009 issue of Turbo Magazine? No, that magazine folded too. Neither did a wonderful job covering the import car world, but they were the only publications widely available that covered drifting.

Nascar fan? How many Nascar fans know anything about JR chassis Piazzas or Japan Rail? But Nascar fans seem to be the only ones embracing the use of "Junior" as a proper name, just not for Mr. Gittin.


rock on JR! i totally miss japan, kaeritai


awesome post alexi!!!


@ Alexi:

onsen stands for "hot springs", while those classic Japanese "Inn" are named ryokan.

JR should learn a bit of Japanese customs. When a male bows, he should keep his arms on his side.

When a women bows, she keeps her arms on her vagina (for lack of words), covering it.


C'mon "JR who?", why won't you let JR have some fun. Why won't you let him be great? Just respect the man, a few people ever get the chance to do what he is doing now.


@ Alexi

Did every Japanese driver you talked to know who "JR" was without mentioning the rest of his name? They would have probably responded "JR Ewing? Dallas kara? So desu.". But the Japanese remember the 80's more fondly than Americans, and that is probably the only person named "JR" that is well known in Japan.

Your example was to ask them who Vaughn Gittin was, not "JR". Perhaps if you treated the readers here with the same respect you treated the Japanese drivers you spoke with, and used the man's name, this wouldn;t be an issue.


@JR Who?

I overheard a fashion conversation the other day, and someone said "pea coat".

I had no idea what that was, and had to look it up.

I didn't expect them to say "heavy, double-breasted, broad collared woollen coat, based on that worn by officers of the European navies" for my sake.

Now I know what a pea-coat is. Get me?

For what it's worth, every Japanese driver I talked to over here knew who "Ban Gitton" was.

@ Alex

It actually was an onsenkan. Only me and DA video guy Andy ended up going downstairs and sitting in the rotenburo though. Everyone else missed out!


@ JR Who? - lol, take it easy man, I'm not attacking you or nothing (lol, some of you guys just get gangster on the keyboard huh?! haha). I'm just informing you that a lot people refer to him with the letters J and R. Honestly, name doesnt matter anyway but yea guy has real mad skills.

My opinion is that JR is the best. He's the only American that can beat the Japanese at their own game (twice), in an American car to boot! If you don't think so, thats your opinion.

I'm glad NFS is spending money on this. Its really interesting! JR is the face of US drifting to the Japanese. Thats why he's the best. I dont wanna get started on Rhys Millen, there's been enough talk of him on this site. I'll just say that JR is the first american drifter I've seen invited to participate in filming an option and hotversion video along side the Drift King himself. That says a lot. I dont think it wouldve been the same if we saw an aussie repping the US drift scene in a Korean car.

I do agree that I would love to see some more Super GT here.


Section 09: Best Motoring International Vol 19 Japan vs USA Drift Off

Check it out, the M5 superbattle is quite cool.


I agree, this whole Japan drift tour is awesome. Would be better if there's more video coverage too!


Wow.. intersting coments in here.... but rather than start a cyber fight... how bout instead someone (im looking at you Mr. Chong) start a Speedhunters Readers Trackday/ Race. And then we can seperate the men from the complainers.


whos the aussie in the Hyundai?

why do people get NZ and aus mixed up????


I'm glad the majority of you enjoyed my trip!!! Of course it wouldnt be the internet if there werent a few haters right?? It was the most insane trip I could ever imagine! it was such a great Cultural exchange and I am very proud to have been able to share it with everyone. I made some great friends and was able to learn more about some that were only acquaintances prior to the trip. Don't worry more videos are coming!!! if you missed some check out\vgittin

@JR Who- I have been called JR since I was 1. It is a nick name that has stuck- as much as I request to be reffered to as Vaughn Gittin Jr. everyone still knows and refers to me as JR. I gave up on trying to control it and I really don't care as both work just the same. JR is a bit more personal and Vaughn is more "official". I have blooged on this site going on 2 years and most of the readers know me on more of a personal level so JR works for most esspecially those not wanting to just cause some rukus in the midst of some cool coverage by Alexi... Hope that gives you some insight.

@Alex- Thanks for the note on Bowing. This was my first time ever doing anything more then a head nod. As you might or might not know my culture is more of a hand shake or a Hi-5. maybe next time I can impress you....

keep an eye out on they will have some content up soon!!


even though I'm not a real drift guy, I can appreciate the sport and the insane amount of car control it requires, and there's no doubt that it's entertaining. Baltimore, MD is my hometown and it does me proud to have a local out there at this level in the sport. It also figures that a guy from Glen Burnie would become famous while drifting a Mustang, haha! Not that there's anything wrong with it, we all know what the Richie Highway 500 is all about. Mustangs and more Mustangs =)


hahah..I was actually raised in the Annapolis area and moved to the Burnie at age 20. Im in Joppa now as I could'nt handle it there anymore. Thanks man!


hehe, nice! Annapolis is most definitely not Glen Burnie. Looks like the Japan trip was a blast, good luck with the 09 season man!


Excellent coverage! This was a great read and I have really enjoyed following the trip. I was impressed by the hole thing and I know the video is going to be amazing. Thanks again!


Wow JR, this trip is the best bro! Keep it coming, I love the coverage, photos, vids, everything. Someday I have to go there, specially now, after seing your trip ;)


That Is A Great Car i Hope U Will Do More Action With It


@ Chris M - Man, totally forgot about this!


Cracker that's living the dream :)


Piazza, Dallas, Madonna, Sting... they were old when I was young and I am old so maybe time to throw out some of the cassettes and get with the 90's JR Who...

Ebisu is awesome, next time bring the proper car JR!


Man, this website used to be AWESOME with great comments. Now it has totally turned into troll heaven. I feel like I'm on Ziptied or HondaTech.

Don't hate....Congratulate!

Nice work VAUGHN.


Word up Jay ARRRRR...Hey Maybe we need to give "Jr Who" a pair of EFF DEE tickets.. And throw him in a ride along....