As “Project GT-R” continues its slow but steady evolution, I spent most of the last few weeks organizing the next round of modifications. A few cool upgrades are on their way but apart from that nothing was really installed or changed since fitting the new Takata Harnesses in February. So for my monthly update I thought I’d do something a little different and actually take the car out for a drive.
I felt a little night time urban excursion through the streets of Tokyo would be fun, and something I haven’t really done in a while. I headed out of the house a little before 10 pm the other night in the hope that the roads would be clear from their usual congestion. A quick stop at the local gas station for some hi-oku and off I was down towards the entrance of the metropolitan highway system called Shutoko.
Thanks to a variety of videogames this has to probably be the most well known highway in the world, a place where up until ten or so years ago illegal racing was still pretty common. These days that sort of thing no longer happens, people preferring to head to race tracks for “stress relief.” Still, on a clear night the center loop – or C1 – is still a very pleasant drive as it takes you through the center of Tokyo in its roller coaster like layout. The C1 is at the very heart of the city and from it spans out a variety of numbered “lines” that take you to different corners of the city and then on to connect up with other highways. A usual entrances to the “high roads” look like the ramp above. This is Ebara on “Meguro-sen” or Line number 2, where I jumped on. Each entrance usually has a digital sign warning drivers of the major traffic jams, as well as an Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) sensor, which will make your ETC set up in the car beep to not only record where you entered but also to check if your card is inserted or not.
Number 2 is one of the shortest of the 11 total lines, so after snaking through neighborhoods like Meguro and Hiroo at a height of 3-4 stories…
…you arrive at the junction with the C1. Here, depending on where you want to go or which highway you want to connect to you are able to select if you want to go clockwise – towards Shinjuku – or counterclockwise – towards Ginza. Here you can also notice the sound-absorbing barriers that are used throughout the Shutoko, attempting to at least soak up the majority of the traffic noise so that those with a bedroom window next to the highway can sleep a little better!
Here is the outline of the C1 and the areas of Tokyo it passes through.
I chose to rotate around the C1 clockwise so after joining at Ichinohashi Junction (一ノ橋 JCT) it was straight down into a tunnel. Most sections of the C1 are actually the oldest of the whole Shutoko, built in the sixties especially for the Tokyo Olympics. In some areas it really does show its age. First available exit after jumping on towards Shinjuku is route number 3, which will branch off and take you down past Shibuya and on to Yoga where it connects onto the Tomei Expressway – the highway you need if you want to go to Fuji Speedway and on to Nagoya for example.
I stayed on of course and continued my journey…
…as the two storey road passes through massive buildings and hotels. If you’re travelling in the opposite direction you would be on the higher level. Pretty wild uh?
On the way, I drove by Kasumigaseki exit, which is where all the parliament buildings are located as well as, a bit further along, the Imperial Palace.
Yet more tunnels as you actually drive under and next to the Imperial gardens…
…and eventually you get to the number 4 branch off. If you want to go towards Shinjuku this is where you need to head on to. Eventually “the 4″ connects to the Chuo Expressway which will allow you to reach the lovely Prefecture of Yamanashi and then on towards Nagano or Aiichi depending on the routes you take.
More tunnels and a lot more corners with plenty of varying cambers followed. If you think it looks fun you are right, it is, especially when you lower the window and drop down a gear or three and floor it! There is no fast or slow lane as on ramps and off ramps can be on either side of the two main lanes…
…so it’s always quite a lot of fun to snake through traffic, while sticking to the speed limit of course!
One loop of the C1 is pretty short – just over 14 km (8.9 miles) – so you can probably understand the attraction for those pesky C1 racers back in the eighties and nineties! A little further on, close by Ikebukuo is the branch off to number 5. This will take you up towards Omiya in Saitama Prefecture and allow you to connect to either the C2 (a larger more external loop) the Gaikan and the Tohoku Expressway, the latter taking you all the way up to Fukushima (Ebisu Circuit), Sendai and beyond. I stayed to the right…
…and continued on…
…moving over to the left side at Kandabashi Junction, passing the exit for Shinbashi and continuing towards Ginza.
From here the C1 rises to probably its highest point…
…before looping around again…
…and pointing you towards Ginza and the very oldest part of the C1 itself.
This section is one of the widest of the whole loop and also the lowest, sunken down well below normal road level. You pass yet more exits, either on the right…
…or this one on the left for Ginza.
I kept on going of course…
…entering the “fart tunnel,” at least that’s what I call it. They’ve had some pretty evident gas or sewer leaks in here for well over a decade and it smells absolutely fowl, so before passing through I always shut all windows, hit the recirculation button on the A/C and take a deep breath until I’m safely out!
When you pop exit are presented with the final branch out, the one that will take you on to ether number 1, past Kawasaki and down towards Yokohama. Here you also have the chance to jump on the Rainbow bridge that connects up to the Bayshore Route, or in Japanese – the Wangan.
I stayed to the right and took the final turn…
…towards Shibakoen and past a very dark and sad looking Tokyo Tower. In an effort to save electricity all the Tower’s light are switched off at 10 pm on weekdays.
After driving past the number 2, where I entered the C1 from, I took the first exit at Iikura, automatically paid my ¥900 via the ETC system…
…and exited back into Tokyo’s normal “low roads.”
Iikura takes you out right onto Roppongi’s main street and the reason I headed out there was because I wanted to go to a little business district near by…
…and grab a few exterior shots of the GT-R. It’s not often I take pictures of my car, but seeing I was in the very heart of Tokyo’s glitzy area…
…I had some pretty unique backdrops at my disposal.
Right around the corner however was this beautiful little road, lined with cherry trees in full bloom – the famous Japanese sakura.
The sort of videogame theme the whole night seemed to have developed, just got a whole lot stronger!
And what a fun and relaxing night it turned out to be combining three of my biggest passions, driving, photography…and my GT-R.
-Dino Dalle Carbonare
Photo By Dino Dalle Carbonare
Photo By Dino Dalle Carbonare
Photo By Dino Dalle Carbonare
Photo By Dino Dalle Carbonare
Photo By Dino Dalle Carbonare
my friend seems to think that on photo 12 you use some kind of black and white while keeping certain aspects colored. I don't think that's the case, could you tell me if the tunnels are actually that white and if you applied some kind of effect like that?
by the way, this has got to be one of my favorite articles, next to the Hakone article. I hope you do more dream drives like that!
i wish need for speed will have a new game in the future and the setting will be in(of course)tokyo...
At the end of the pics,I was reaching for the passenger dr handle,when I realized I was sitting on my couch. Thanks for taking me along.
Just wanted to say I think those Volk RE30 wheels are a perfect match for your GT-R! Thumbs freakin UP!
Those desktop shots are gorgeous! Very video game, indeed.
- Also, looks like you got owned by that Prius in the parliament district. LOL
Dino there in Downtown Tokyo is the sakura pic taken? I live in northern Japan and I want to take a pic like this when I visit Tokyo in a couple of months. BTW I love this article.
Great pics- would be nice to see this "in motion": when I'm off to Japan I'll definitely will take a cam and drive the road- just hope the view will be as clean as yours. Thanx for sharing!
Question: Did u see people racing on the C1? XD cuz theres game like Tokyo Extreme Racer and WanGan Midnight arcades game that based on japanese highways!
I'm totally nerding out right now!! I want to go fire up "Tokyo Extreme Racer 3" and have a go on the C1! So nobody was waiting on the side of the highway for an impromptu highway run? As much as I don't condone street racing, the thought of blasting through the Shutoku sounds like the ultimate thrill!
How come you didn't stop by the rest stop on the upper deck? Last time I was there, there were lots of tuned cars parked. Also if you get a chance hit up c2 in Chiba with top secret for some shots
Great article: interesting to see the roads that have inspired so much and its always good to see some decent Skyline photos!
Surprised how much of this actually looks like Tokyo Xtreme Racer. Even waaaaaaay back when, Genki seemed to get the details right.
I prefer these articles so much over car features. Love it when the focus is brought back to people who enjoy driving, and not just people who enjoy cars.
great photos dino! not just the photos, as well as the pristine GTR :D mad props and thank you for sharing :)
Amazing post, absolutely love it! Looks like I found several new wallpapers. It would be utterly sick though if you mounted a camera inside and did a timelapse or a video of a whole late-night excursion!
Very. F'ing. Amazing. Post. I really want to drive the C1 in the future, and I love the scenery of the last 5 photos. Holy crap I wanna move out to Japan as soon as possible!! Thank you Dino for this awesome post!
First, I recognize all of those roads from Tokyo Xtreme Racer which is awesome. Second, beautifully done Skyline. Third, this is more of a question. Why is Tokyo so clean and pretty compared to all of the U.S. disgusting big cities?
Dude, I sooooooo envy you. I still play Tokyo Xtreme Racer all the time and some of those sights are really familiar. Even for an American who has never actually been there. Not to mention the GT-R. Makes my first gen TSX look like a Camry, ha! Happy Motoring!!!
Driving on the Wangan at night in GTR is one the awesomest you can do...That is one of the best posts on speedhunters... 10x DinoBTW how fast did you go? I have a feeling you didn't stick to the speed limit all the time... (:
I personally don't get the significance of these roads, but awesome photos and car! Those trees sure do make for a nice backdrop...
I love this type of article! So good to actually see the country that gives birth to all these cars we obsess over. The mother land. Thanks for the new desktops and enjoyable read Dino! Great Work!
Every post on every car site that talks about wangan racing always says that in years past you would see all kinds of racers flying around at high speed but now its all gone. The thing they never talk about is what killed the racing. What ended all the racing down the wangan? Was it the fatal accident that disbanded Team Mid Night or was it something more mundane like better speed cameras, increased police or higher toll fees? Does anyone know?
so so so jealous. you make sure you know how lucky you are driving an r34 around those awesome streets.the shots of the cherry blossoms(right?) compliments the car so well, just beautiful.