From a distance, Japan might look like a pretty uniform nation. It doesn’t matter what area you visit – everyone pretty much speaks the same language, the buildings and streets look similar, the trains always run on time, and the toilets wow with their high tech features. As with any country though, you look closer you look at Japan, the more differences you see. You begin to pick up on unique distinct language dialects, regional cuisine, and unique customs that vary as you travel the country.
It’s the same with cars. The longer I’ve been exposed to Japanese automotive culture, the more I’ve begun to pick up on these regional variations in motoring habits. And of all these “local flavors”, I don’t think there’s anything more distinct than Osaka’s Kanjo culture.
Once I heard that we’d be running FF-themed stories this month, I immediately knew I wanted to put something together on the Kanjozoku. After all, their primary automobile of choice is one of the greatest front wheel drive cars of all time – the Honda Civic. During my time in Osaka earlier this month I was able to spend some an evening (or is that morning?) with these mysterious fellows and their cars. What resulted was another one of those unforgettable Japan experiences.
To be honest, I’ve never been a particularly big Honda guy. I’ve always had a respect for the brand and the cars, but a Civic has never been on my “must-own” list. It may be surprising then, to hear that these Kanjo machines are some of the most fascinating and exciting automobiles I’ve ever seen.
The cars are interesting yes, and the stories behind them are even more interesting. What’s more important though, is that you won’t ever see this sort of thing outside of the Osaka area. Even in Japan, few outside of the Kansai region are familiar with this distinctively local phenomenon.
Before I move on to the cars, I suppose I should answer the question “What is the Kanjo?”. Well, the Kanjo Loop itself is an elevated section of the Hanshin Expressway that circles the center of Osaka in a clockwise direction.
In this map you can see the loop in the center of the image, cutting through the heart of the city, elevated above the streets below. As you can see, there are both “long” and “short” routes available depending on which path you’d like to take.
It’s only natural to compare the Kanjo to what’s probably Japan’s most famous highway route – the Wangan line in Tokyo and Kanagawa. They really couldn’t be more different. The Wangan is long, wide and straight – making it a favorite among drivers of high powered turbo cars. The Kanjo is shorter, narrower and its straights are linked together with tight corners and abrupt transitions. If the Wangan is about power, the Loop is about agility.
Not surprisingly, info on the history of the Kanjo is hard to come by ,and I’m still trying to learn all I can about the beginnings of this movement. The craze kicked off in earnest in the mid 1980s, and the Honda Civic was the popular choice from the get-go. The third generation Civic Si, known as the “Wonder” Civic in Japan became an early favorite among Kanjozoku with is DOHC powerplant and responsive chassis that was well-suited to the loop’s tight bends. You don’t see too many of the classic Wonder Civics today, but they are still loved and respected on the streets of Osaka.
Today the Kanjo scene isn’t anything like it was at it’s peak. Big crackdowns from law enforcement have lead many to retire from driving the loop, and only the most dedicated (and craziest) can still be found out there these days. But even for those who have moved their action from the street to the circuit, the distinct Kanjo vibe can still be felt in their cars and driving style.
Since the beginning, the Kanjozoku have taken much their inspiration from the motorsport world. In the ’80s and ’90s the Civic established itself as a force in Japanese Group A racing, and the loop runners were right behind employing many of the same tricks in both car setup and styling.
It’s not unlike Japan’s Kaido Racers, who are heavily influenced by what are now historic competition vehicles. This EF9 for example is styled very closely after the famous Idemitsu Group A Civic.
The racing-inspired paintjobs have been a staple of the Kanjo world since the beginning. In order to keep watchful eyes guessing, the paint designs on these cars would be changed regularly. Sometimes as often as once a week.
Other cars would instill confusion by running completely different graphic and color patterns on each side. It’s all part of the game.
I was able to catch a quick glimpse into the elusive Kanjo world during my visit to Osaka last year, but this time I was able to take a much more detailed look at the cars and what goes into them.
While most of these Kanjo machines are built of EF9, EG6, and EK4 Civic SiR models, it’s not uncommon to see the occasional Type R out there. The engine modifications are usually not drastic. Pop the hoods on these cars and in most cases you’ll find moderately tuned NA B-series VTEC motors.
If you were under the impression that these Kanjo runners aren’t the “nicest” cars around, you’d be right. Just like a lots of the world’s race cars, these Hondas are dirty, scuffed, dented, and functional. The interiors are stripped bare and things like engine bay presentation are of no concern to these guys.
The same goes for the wheel and tire setups. Tires are dirty. Wheels are often mismatched and covered in brake dust. The wide fenders on this particular EG6 are unpainted, and they will probably stay like that.
The parts might not shine like on show cars, but the choice of modifications is all you need to know about the owner’s intentions. I don’t think I encountered a single car, for example, that wasn’t wearing Advan A048s or some other high grip race tire.
For me, it’s that grittiness that makes these cars so damn interesting. Seeing functional battle-scarred Hondas is not uncommon at track days in Japan, but to see them prowling the street together is completely different.
Another common element among the Kanjozoku is the use of window nets. As you might have gathered by now, these are used less as a safety item and more as a clever way to conceal the driver’s identity.
It’s just one of the many tricks that the Kanjozoku have picked up during their decades of experience on the loop…
But for all the fascinating aspects of Kanjo culture, I think it’s the tribal nature of it all that best defines this underground world. You won’t find many lone wolves on the loop.
The family ties run deep here, and many of the teams have history that goes back to a time before many of us were even born.
The shadowy, often masked figures that build and drive these cars prefer to be identified as team members rather than individuals. As is often the case in Japan, the group comes before the self.
You can sense this when you eye the team logos that cover the windows and bodies of the cars. Temple, Trick, Loose Racing, Pandemic, TOPGUN, Law Break – meaningless names to some, but legendary to those in this circle.
The members of No Good Racing!! (who assembled specifically to help me make this story) have been in the game since 1985. To think I was hardly a year old at that time…
Just being around these guys, it’s easy to pick up the on the fact they’ve been doing this for a long time. All of these guys lead normal lives outside of the Kanjo, but it’s obvious that this is their place.
And for all the mystery and notoriety that surrounds them, when they emerge from their cars these guys are as humble and easy going as it gets. They chat, laugh, and smoke cigarettes just like anyone else…
What is it that draws me toward the Kanjozoku? It’s hard to put my finger on it, but I think it has to do with the unusual contrast. How can something be so chaotic, yet so structured? So completely serious, yet so playful?
It goes beyond being just about cars. You could not know a thing about the Honda Civic (or any car for that matter) and still be amazed by this scene.The Kanjo culture is just so uniquely Japanese. So uniquely Osaka.
Even with all I’ve been able to learn so far, I want to know more. I’m hooked.
I’d like to extend some major thanks to both Tactical Art and No Good Racing!! for their assistance with this story. Without their help and connections it would have been impossible to get this sort of access, and more importantly the insight that helps fill in the story behind this fascinating world.
Speaking of Tactical Art, I’ll be back tomorrow with a peek into their operations.
Hope they all crash and kill themselves. Fucking retards.
That kind of comment makes you no better.
@Frozzy One mans garbage, is another mans Treasure.
@LetsPhunk I'm not the one who's endangering innocent lives by illegally street racing my economy car.
Oh ok... so its right wish someone or a group of people death ?
@LetsPhunk Then stop trolling here ang GTFO!
@JDM_Honda how am i trolling ?
@LetsPhunk sorry it was for jake
@LetsPhunk @Frozzy agree with Frozzy
@LetsPhunk @Frozzy i agree with Phunk lmao
@LetsPhunk When they are criminals who endanger the lives of innocent people, then yes. I see no issue with that. Better them than a family who's driving home minding their own business.
@LetsPhunk @Frozzy How can you find any treasure in this? These people are criminals and Speedhunters is essentially advocating this lifestyle by painting such a rosy picture and making them look like these super cool rebels instead of the scumbags they are.
1) This is a car forum .... appreciate the cars.
@Frozzy We are here to appreciate cars not to judge their drivers.
Lest we forget that even Keiichi Tsuchiya and Nobuteru Taniguchi began racing on public roads, although not on expressways, but the touge.
Wow lots of haters. I love these cars although not as much as Touge racers. Battle tested cars > Show cars. Everytime.
@LetsPhunk A family driving home at 1 am? Quite rare, especially there.
@Zeke Majors @LetsPhunk The point stands.
These expressway shots remind me of Tokyo Extreme Racer 1&2 Every time...Still one of my favoritest racing games from my past just because of its purity. You flashed your headlights to race and small corrections and momentum was key. Still makes me want an Altezza or even an FTO. I'm not GT turd who flips over "crash realism" er any of that shiz. The gearing you could modify and your setup did matter and it was easy to get a grip on. ...anyhoo Civics aren't bad cars to do this sort of thing with they're light and can change lanes quickly...plus Highway showoffs are how most people here in the states prove their cars any damn way, for better or worse. With that said I've seen the JDM Insider video's of these guys and I'm not sure I'll ever be cool with people weaving in and out of civilian traffic at highspeeds regardless of their prep or skill level. "In racing something can ALWAYS go wrong" yadda yadda and other such cliché lecturing..
We all watched Fast and furious, with mostly no qualms about it.
We've all spent hours on YouTube looking at videos of public racing,
I'm sure 99.99999999% of everyone who visits this site has broken the speed limit, participated in spirited driving on public roads, etc.
According to some logic, we're all 'fucking retards' and should 'crash and kill ourselves', etc.
What an amazing car scene I would love to see more on these guys on here info on them can be so hard to find! Awsome article!
@miksfield Couldent agree more
guys, jake laird is the new JDMized
Although I don't condone racing on city streets or highways...I think I'd rather see a Kanjo racer pass me in the early morning hours than the road ragers I see every morning on my way to work!
Nice read Mike!
one of the article tags is "Tactical Art" ...haha! awesome
Such a fantastic post! I have a love for the Kanjo that runs deep. I'm with you on the mystery of it. I just want to see more, read more, know more history etc... . I love this stuff and the fact that Speedhunters makes it possible for us across the Earth to experience this unique world.
@GraysonParker Jake Laird is entitle to his opinion. You are entitle to yours and I'm entitle to mine! So STFU!
@Frozzy How are they super rice when they are modified to race and to race only..
@JDMized @GraysonParker welll grayson has his opinion also; so don't shut him up.
@JDMized sorry I offended you, master.
Wanna know more about what they actually do, do they race other groups? Do they have competitions? We all know they race the ring and what they drive and they've been doing it for a long time but the mystery is why.
@Frozzy That is the fastest, most fantastically driven rice you will ever see. These are civics in Japan, not in America after the F&F craze.
I don't think I can post the link, but just search for a kanjo bit done by the JDM Insider crew. Mind Will Equal=Blown.
Honda Japan don't sell Civic anymore, but like in Asterix and Obelix, but they are an irreducible town who continue to drive(race) civic.
awesome coverage mike! Kanjo cars are my favorite!!
Yup. It's official, SH supports innocent bystanders getting killed. Theses fuckers are no better than the street racers in the USA.
Do it on the track.
And I do like the cars, but SH encourages this sort of lifestyle and I find it absolutely disgusting. Please don't give me a lazy BS excuse like "We are here to appreciate cars not to judge their drivers."
Also, SH could have just chosen to display these cars. But no, SH chose to idolize criminals.
Doing pulls on a straight empty straight is one thing.
Weaving/cutting in and out of heavy traffic is another. Nuff said
PERSONALLY, this is one of the memorable post that I will remember. I hardly came across a detail post of this type of illegal(?) street racing and Mike, you did it very well covering this. We got to see the good side of racing and now we got to see other side of it. Fairly interesting to me.Thumbs up for you.
Doing pulls on an empty straight is one thing.
Cutting/weaving in and out of heavy traffic is another. Nuff said...
PERSONALLY, this is one of the memorable post that I will remember. I hardly came across a detail post of this type of illegal street racing and Mike, you did it very well covering this. We got to see the good side of racing and now we got to see other side of it. Fairly interesting to me.Thumbs up for you.
Oh wow is that a prelude!!?? This was a good write up two thumbs up
Oh wow is that a prelude!!?? This was a good write up two thumbs up
@somebodysb2 ....by that measure, everyone who has actively observed a street race enjoyed it even the slightest bit "supports innocent bystanders getting killed". Straw man much?How does SH encourage this sort of lifestyle? Mr. Garrett didn't go on about how awesome Kanjo racing is; he just waxed poetic about the atmosphere of what they do. Unless you wanted a post that was bland as a soda cracker, I think he did a fine job.
Have you ever exceeded the speed limit? If so, do you support the killing of innocent bystanders?
When Dino goes for a spirited drive in a press car on Hakone, is he supporting the killing of innocent bystanders?
Where did drifting start?
Where did NASCAR come from?
Speedhunters covers CAR CULTURE, and part of CAR CULTURE is illicit racing, whether you like it or not. I visit this site because I love seeing street oriented automotive coverage and motorsport coverage in the same place.
@Frozzy In context of this article, all we can rely on are the pictures provided to us. That is what a clueless person who happens to stumble upon this post would see. According to the pictures, there is barely any traffic (2 cars, from what I saw). Heavy traffic usually doesn't happen in the wee hours of the morning.
@LetsPhunk @Frozzy this article really only focussed on the cars and the poeople, not the act of racing on the streets. Think about it....you want this website to NEVER AGAIN feature anything relating to speed that isn't on a track?
@Mike Garrett @izzy_ortiz So glad you snapped a pic of it, everyone in the US immediately thought BIG MIKE!!!!!
Osaka desu! PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, tell me you got an extra NGR decal for me!!!
Kanjo course is scary to drive, some bad crashes sometimes.
Kanjo course is pretty scary to drive, some big crashes sometimes.
Mike did you get to see any keisatsu play? whaha
@Dawsaurus because its kanjo circuit ! it is like a race track but cost less
@Mike Garrett @JSequoia awesome! thank you!
@Mike Garrett What wheel and tyre sizes were they running on the EK's? They look like 15's??
More wallpapers PLEASE!!!
"...one of the greatest front wheel drive cars of all time – the Honda Civic."
Thanks for admitting that.
"To be honest, I’ve never been a particularly big Honda guy. I’ve always had a respect for the brand and the cars, but a Civic has never been on my “must-own” list. It may be surprising then, to hear that these Kanjo machines are some of the most fascinating and exciting automobiles I’ve ever seen."
Now you begin to understand why we, Honda heads and FF aficionados, love these cars...and that's just the tip of an iceberg.
"If the Wangan is about power, the Loop is about agility."
The first thing that people (er, I mean RWD fanboys) will tell you is that FFs can't handle turns, citing understeer like it doesn't exist in RWDs.
"The craze kicked off in earnest in the mid 1980s..."
Yet most people can't see the history behind FF Hondas past the rice epidemic of late '90s...what a shame.
"Even with all I’ve been able to learn so far, I want to know more."
I wish more people took the time to really appreciate them, and not brush them off as simply FF cars...that's like painting Nissan's S-chassis as drift machines and nothing more.
"The value of life can be measured by how many times your soul has been deeply stirred." - Soichiro Honda
Thanks for the article, Mike...imho you really outdid yourself this time.
@somebodysb2 You are either trolling or really have no idea what you're talking about.
@Mike Garrett @Ryan Lucky dog(s).
@Mike Garrett @Dawsaurus And keep it that way. Let the photos speak for themselves, there will be people who will understand and hold dear to them, and those who won't.
@Paizuri_4g63 Tokyo Xtreme Racer 3 had parts of Hanshin Expressway, including the Kanjo Loop, but no Hondas. Some say it was because Honda didn't want the "negative" publicity...
@Zeke Majors @LetsPhunk It doesn't.
Thanks for posting Kanjo ! Why there are so many "haters" ? I love street racing and street drifting ! And then ? I fell in love with Japan car culture seeing videos of mountain drifting as many !
More people are killed by passive smoking than street racing, but I don't hear anyone bitch and moan about smoking....
yes! been checking every hour the past week for this post! thanks Mike!
I love the window nets for obscurity. All I know of Japanese roads I learned from Top Gear mostly, so do they wear helmets and masks to hide their faces from the traffic cameras or are there not really any cameras on the stretch they use? I can see they've got trick license plates, or none at all, what else do they do to hide their identity?
Fun article Mike.
@GraysonParker But worse.
As a Civic owner it is cool to see this article.
(Had, EF hatch then a EK hatch and now own a EK 4 door.)
The EF was a autocross and time attack car on weekends.
Search for Kanjo race in youtube you get to see some great action of them on track
One of the best clip: Osaka EF beatting GTR on track
Great story!Get's the Honda heart beating faster
How Hondas should be! Great story and pics!
Man, this makes me want to dig out my PS2 and play some Tokyo Xtreme Racer.
Some raw race preped machines hitting the streets. Pretty sweet. Looks like these guys just left a championship!
@Mike Garrett @FunctionFirst Creepy.. But awesome.
@Mike Garrett @jzx81 They certainly have their charm. I love my Integra.
I like that youve omitted faces, plates and any other identifiers. respect+
@Mike Garrett @jzx81 ive had a few cars. i currently drive a Z33. i still have a pile of early 90s honda parts in the attic in case i do pull the trigger on one. I dont have any nissan, toyota or mazda parts still laying around... that has to say something..
@JunKit People don't realize what these cars are capable of, the only FFs (as in majority) to take on the big boys.
@jzx81 EFs are beasts if setup right...whether you stick with the D16A6 (the best SOHC 4-cylinder ever made? Bisimoto comes to mind) or decide to swap it for a more potent powerplant.
@Ben Scales Same here. I've geeking out ever since.
@180sx0 @somebodysb2 Right...
Awesome article! At last some nice info about the Kanjo racers!!
I come for the photos, but I stay for articles like this. Details like the window nets make the story for me. Very clever to explain so much about the people without having to show them. Great work.
@MangoZerox Agreed. This post reminds me of when I first read about Mid Nite. It opened my eyes, and this did too.
I've enjoyed reading about these guys since they were featured in magazines last year.
Oh yeah, and I often GREATLY EXCEED the posted speed limit, but always in a SAFE manner.
A non judging story, with great information, you can't read of watching movies online of them.
@Mike Garrett @jzx81 Do a 'lude bigger VTEC engine, better options, and they look great too
@Mike Garrett @Dawsaurus
Damnit! haha I'll have to do some snooping then.
@Mike Garrett Thanks Mike. Really enjoyed this article. Cool, purpose built cars with only what they need to go fast. And safely too.
What a great story! I'm often fascinated by underground racing: the symbioses it has with the professional sport in form of techniques, drivers and technology, the uniqueness of the groups that partake on it (the touge drifters, the wangan drivers with their insane HPs, this Kanjo group, and this is talking about Japan alone), but most of all the passion of the drivers. These are all people with normal lives and jobs, but who at the same time give 110% towards their passion. I'm constantly torn at the subject, concerning the illegality and the risks involved, but every time I see this amount of passion I can't help but understand it and smile. After all, I'm an auto enthusiast as much as they are. Taking that in consideration, your article had me smile from ear to ear, well done Mike!
@Mike Garrett @Gerben aka Suburuuh Well mission accomplished man!
MAkes me want an old gen Civic
great article thx ^_^
While I understand the logical side of the comment regarding street racing, the fact remains that its an intrinsic part of car culture all over the world. From the Touge videos that Best Motoring records (on public roads, albeit closed off), to the poetic tales in the US about PCH, Tail of the Dragon, Dead Mans Curve or, closer to my home, Francis Lewis Blvd, it's always been there and it always will. I guess it depends on how you view it. Recording something for the sake of posterity is different from glorification. Every single person knows street racing is dangerous and illegal. Viewing this article is not going to entice a gang of 17 year olds to try out their own Wangan run. They are going to do it anyway. It's no mystery that it goes on all over the world.
With that said, yes of course the track is the right place. And thankfully more and more track days (road race at least) exist than ever before. What would really benefit young drivers in particular is for groups like NASA, SCCA and others to get together on a local, regional level, and coordinate with high school Drivers Ed programs and local DMV's to help educate and organize track days for this specific group. As everyone knows, you can treat the symptom, or you can strike at the root cause of the illness. Not only would this increase the ranks and membership of these track day groups, it would increase general awareness through the communities.
No words about actual racing the Loop...or the police.... :)))
No words about actual racing the Loop...or the police.... :)))
@apex_DNA I'll back this up with the following thoughts:
Over the years I have found that people who write-off FF cars in motorsport are the same sort of people who constantly feel like they need to be better than the next guy. If someone is a true fan of motorsport they appreciate the many forms of racing and activity that exist. And if they insist that FF is not pure enough for them it is very easy to counter their argument by asking what they drive. Is it an FR? How cute. The most pure form of performance car is a MR, and certainly not one based on a production car! Folks are certainly entitled to their opinions but too many people base their ritualized, self-ingratiating opinions on something they read but are not fully capable of comprehending.
Too fucking sick!
That really is one of the best articles on speedhunters...Thanks for this Mike...
And make them better drivers.
Best article ever read in any blog, webpage or magazine. Thanks for this!
Because of TRA Kyoto and Car Craft Boon, everytime I drove on the highway, I'll say, Osaka! Thanks for the insights!
The green and red EF9 became an instant favorite when I saw it.
Damn, now I want one.
Best Story at Speedhunters i have ever read... maybe even the best Automotive Story i ever read!
More Stuff like this!
Best article ever made, I lived in Japan and reading this acrticle took me back and makes me want to back so bad. Thank you again and please do more articles like this one.
Surely we in motorsport scenes need more article like this.. Indeed we are searching article like this from time to time.. Goodjob!
Brilliantly written, incredible story. This really is the kind of culture that inspires people to get into automotive enthusiasm.
"...the group comes before the self."
Yup now im gonna get a eg civic hatchback, with a b18 engine in it...... just for fun
Sugoi! Very well written! Thanks a lot for this. Japanese Culture is indeed very interesting. I am glad i could save a little bit of this culture with my old Nissan i got from Japan.
Ihr lappen! Lasst treffen Straßenrennen Berlin Mitte dieses Wochenende!!
What are the tire size that they use?
I would like to know whether these fellows allow the tourist to engage in there race and how we can get a car for it
Any idea how to order some ‚real‘ No Good Racing door stickers?
This is still my favourite SH article of all time.
All ive seen them do is drive like complete idiots while endangering others on public roads. Their cars are super rice too.