Hunting For The True Spirit Of Drifting
Into The Night

It’s pretty interesting having witnessed the evolution of drifting from its humble roots in the mountains of Japan, to our TV and PC screens thanks to various professional series like D1 and FD. We all love seeing the best drivers around destroy tyres as they go against each other in closely fought tsuiso runs. But truth of the matter is – at least for the hardcore guys out there – this isn’t really the essence of drifting. That still very much belongs away from the mainstream, away from the video cameras, right back on those dark and deserted mountain passes and wharfs where the whole element of danger and illegality emphasises it all. There’s no denying the fact that this sort of thing happens less and less, but even so, it’s still very much going on.

I noticed how everyone always seemed to prefer when I headed out to the smaller more amateur drift events in Japan; those grassroots meetings that continue to be the best way to witness and see how the true drift movement continues to progress in Japan.


But, as much fun as those events are, I thought it was about time I brought you some more investigative coverage. I thought that after all these years, I owed it to you. So armed with minimal equipment that’s precisely what I did.


After all, it’s right here in the mountains that drifting still very much lives in Japan. Sure, it might not be quite as widespread as it used to be, but boy does it still happen.


And contrary to popular belief, when guys head out and hit their favourite mountain passes, it’s not a simple case of taking their cars out there and doing some skids. If you have ever spent any amount of time in Japan you would know that meticulous organisation is always at the core of what everyone does – often to the point that foreigners would probably begin to question it.


But when you are planning to do things that would most definitely get you in trouble, preparation and well-thought-out organisation is critical to not only stay under the radar, but to guarantee everyone’s safety as well .


Prior to any touge run, countless phone calls are needed to gather up a group of friends or other club members. The Japanese always make teams no matter if they are into drifting, VIP or anything else. It all comes down to the need to be part of a group and creating camaraderie between people with the same interest.


This quickly becomes a way of life, because as I’ve mentioned many times before, once the Japanese settle on a hobby or something they love, they dedicate their whole time to it. It’s a sort of dedication that to many Westerners would seem maniacal.


But that’s precisely where the ‘otaku‘ word comes from – what you choose to do begins to define you and you embrace everything about it and aren’t afraid to show it.


As friends start to gather up more and more discussions follow; the routes that will taken to reach the final destination where usually a lot more people from other teams will be there waiting with their cars for everyone to show up.


I’ve been to these sort of gatherings in the middle of the night many times and it’s funny how the most exciting memories are all about the time spent getting to the agreed upon locations. Waiting for friends to arrive; the planning and the general hanging around chatting about cars and latest modifications all done while sipping on a can of ice coffee purchased from those oh-so-JDM vending machines that never seem to be too far from where you choose to stop.

The Excitement Builds

Along the way fun is had. Call it a warm up; a final once over to make sure that the car is feeling just right to challenge the night ahead.


The adrenaline may start to flow, but never underestimate the cold bloodedness of the Japanese. No matter the situation, they are always in control. If they drop a couple of gears and clutch-kick the car into a slide it’s because they are 100 per cent sure that it’s safe to do so.


If I had to pinpoint it, I’d definitely have to say that drifting – as the Japanese know it – is the coming together of different people, meeting in remote locations to celebrate their love for the style of driving they have chosen to pursue. Different teams representing different tuning shops all meeting together to share ideas; look at each other’s cars and discuss new styles. This is what keeps the underground culture alive.


And always evolving.


I’ve seen people pull out their iPads at these pre-drift meetings to share drift videos on YouTube. They check out how other drifters do things in other countries and are always right on-point with whatever is happening in the scene. They watch, they learn, they try to emulate – all in the pursuit of driving excellence.


Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But learning from your mistakes is one of the most important aspect of this sport.


Driven by curiosity I often ask the guys that are into street drifting what it’s all about for them – why they do it? The answer seems to always be the same. It’s where they have come from; learning to slide a car on the mountains or at deserted docks at night.


At the same time this is the place where they have made all their friends at, and there is a sense of belonging that you just can’t recreate on a circuit when you are drifting at an organized drift soukoukai or competition.

Keeping The Thrill Alive

However, one word that everyone never fails to use in their explanations is ‘thrill’.


The sheer excitement and danger is what keeps them all coming back. It’s also at the core of the learning experience. Drifting as we all know is pretty dangerous, but it’s even more so out on these tight mountain roads when drivers are attempting to keep glued to the rear bumper of their friend’s car ahead.


It accelerates the learning curve, and after they’ve picked up the basics and practiced in safer surroundings like at the futo (wharfs/docks), it’s almost like a right of passage.


You have managed to master your driving to the point that you can safely hang with the rest of your crew.


And earning the trust of your crew is a very big deal.


Much like the preparation that goes on before a touge outing, it certainly doesn’t end once the driving starts. Each run is coordinated via the use of CB radios, and usually the leader has one and the last car following has another. Everyone else parks up before a specific set of corners and waits until the road is clear.


Only then is the OK is given and the few minutes of fun begins. Depending on the road this can stretch for a series of corners before drivers hit a safe spot to do a U-turn and head back.


The return run can be drifted too, but a lot of guys choose to cruise; cooling down their engines and mentally preparing themselves for the following climb.


It might sound like complete stupidity to say this, but it never fails to impress me how safety is a big concern for all involved. You might question that give that these guys are drifting on the street, but it’s the truth. The drivers take care not to do stupid things and the guys watching from predetermined vantage points – referred to as gallery – do the same. The drivers are always aware where people are watching from and out of courtesy and respect nobody would place himself or herself in a dangerous spot.


Like in a lot of aspects about Japanese culture, respect is always at the center of it all and it’s precisely what keeps it functioning like a well-oiled machine. You begin to realise this after you have been out there for hours; cars flying by you sideways at speed time and time again. Yet nothing goes wrong; nothing dangerous happens.


The best analogy I can come up with is: ‘If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is there to see it, has the tree really fallen?’ It’s the only way it can work if you think about it. You put nobody in danger, you don’t disturb anyone and you take great respect for what you are doing and nobody aside from the people you are with will ever know what you are up to.


This is what keeps street drifting in Japan alive.


I may be over-romanticizing it all by saying that this is a core component of drift – its heart if you will. But after spending time out in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in Japan, this is the only conclusion I can come up with.

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: speedhunters_dino



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Chris 'Haffy' Hafner

D1 has it's exciting moments, but reading storys like this and watching old Option and Best motoring dvds (and videos!) makes me fall for the original, gritty street drift all over again. Cheers on a great read and pictures Dino! Love the b&w as well, give the piece a unique feel. Sort of old-school.......just with modern cars.


I never usually comment on articles like this, but I had to. Dino, this was a superb read. Obviously your photos are outstanding as always, but I found myself glued to the screen reading this article. Thoroughly an enjoyable, interesting, and valid article indeed.


Epic post.
P.S When is the next project gtr post been a long time since the last one.


Excellent post. I really enjoyed reading this.


Great stroy dino, but I have a question for you, why some japanese licence plates have a red diagonal?



Chris 'Haffy' Hafner

JorgeMoreira1 Temporary rego? I think...


I failed at finding any street drifting during my trip in January.. Hoping to make up for it during my trip in September. Brings back memories of downloading jdm mountain drift video clips on 56k and sharing them with other friends who downloaded the same. We had to physically go back and forth to each others houses to watch them. Kids these days have it made with sending youtube links... haha.


nice guys but on a serious note your night shots while these guys sliding is really amazing wont mind a lesson on night shooting at all ... the way u capture the movement makes me feel like i was there ... good stuff guys and the story are tops !!!!!! keep it up


this is the kind of drifting that attracts me! i think its because its so down to earth and simple. there are no cameras, no huge 1000+hp v8's, no stands, no technical rules; just friends drifting, having fun and hanging out. Don't get me wrong, formula d is great but i can relate to this more because it takes away all of the glits and glamour and keeps the heart of what drifting is about and that's having fun with friends. 

it reminds me of when i was in high school and i would skateboard with my friends everyday after school. when we saw x-games getting huge we just ignored it and kept skating because, although the x games were cool, being with my friends skating was way cooler. i will take with me the memories i have with my friends over some event on tv any day.


Great photos Dino, I love black and white photos.
Well done!
Ciao e complimenti!


i love this article has to be one of the best ones ive read. I love the culture of drifting and how everything is calculated and smart. instead of drifting blind corners and putting someone at danger. thank you for sharing this with the world.
ig: @ucatchmydrift


What body kit is on the S15? It's the exact kit I've been looking for, wide fenders and all!!


@tom Agree. But there are some people that feel the need to see who is the BEST. And thats where competition starts. And the escalation that is the professional focus and world.
I love watching FD and D1 and ADGP and D1NZ and the other pros. But there is also a reason I live at the base of the mountains :)


Chris 'Haffy' Hafner Thanks, very happy to hear you liked it :)


David Daze Cooper Thanks David Daze Cooper


@yolo Once I get back to Japan :) Car has been sitting awaiting parts


palmer_sndrsn :)


Chris 'Haffy' Hafner JorgeMoreira1 Yeah it's an insured temporary license place that allows you to move cars legally on the street to get them worked on and theoretically ready to pass the shaken.


CP9A Will Yeah well it's not as easy to find as it once was, but as you see above it still very much goes on.  Good luck on your next trip to Japan :)


ZeusEdwards Thanks man :)


@tom I agree


@Superpern Grazie :D


SmokinTiresxD Glad it went down well. Will definitely be attempting to do another one


What exactly do you mean my minimal equipment? What did you take with you when shooting this? Curious.


AWESOME FEATURE DINO!!!!! More of this!


Such a huge difference between these grassroots drifting with your friends and Vaughn JR trying to kill Fredric Aasbo in FD. What I would prefer to watch? Really? I really do think that the fans of FD are different kind of fans that these grassroots events have. I guess that there are many more fans who wants big budget drivers trying to make a show at any cost than people into motorsport fun




grassroot drifting is the best type of drifting imo


Black and white and grainy, just the way I like it. You surely came through this time speedhunters_dino.

Chris 'Haffy' Hafner

And what shutter speed, it looks slooowwww.


I really enjoyed this, the grassroots style and pretty much all in black and white really gives a cool feeling. Reminds me almost of the early fast and furious movies.. Somehow...


TeroK speedhunters_dino Thanks :)


LouisSoon And Halloween


Thank you Dino for a beautifully worded and documented piece.


greenroadster Two very different things. You watch the high end championship for entertainment value, the street & grassroots stuff for the love of the sport


ChristianSchmidt Thank you ChristianSchmidt :D


LouisYio 1D/5D & couple of lenses


Chris 'Haffy' Hafner No choice really...


@Benjamin Kaine Not sure but I can find out :)


...i am not even into drifting, but this is a masterpiece!


this is by far the best thing I've ever read on Speedhunters, you're a true speedhunter, who goes behind the border of legality, to show us the true essence of japanese car culture... well, epic sums this up nicely.
I'm just amazed by the preparations they make, that what they do is safe and that stuff, I would love to participate as a watcher at one of those events, must be an unique atmosphere to be up in the mountains, watching people drifting their cars uphill, knowing exactly what they are doing.


"Our love is still on the streets"
Best article ever!


True words spoken Mr Carbonare-san.

I have to say, with caution, it never happended of course, but when I witnessed the trees swaying side by side, it was a beautiful thing, the best in Nihon.

catch you up @ Nikko if you're going for driftwired (^^)


spectacular, more stories like this

Brandon Staten

Feels like some real initial D stuff right here. I love it.


Dino great story and superb photo's!

Black and white, high noise and slow shutter speed you gives it so much atmosphere. Great Job! Got myself new wallpapers now.


malymato Thanks dude:)


jdmRob I aim to please hihi :D


@NickT :)


Roughsmoke Arigatougozaimasu!


Brandon Staten I will try :)


daveylad Was hard choice to go with B&W or not, glad so many of you like it


awesome... make me remember about inital d and tokyo drift... great article speedhunters_dino...

Benjamin Kaine

Hey Dino! Thanks for getting back, that would be awesome!! Thanks so much! I appreciate it!


I love those BW photos, its like Initial D came alive. (even tho its the other way around)


The romance of the streets.
This article is so inspiring from every point of view.I cannot thank you enough,when my skills in photography improve I wish to travel and make awesome stories like yours.


incredible article Dino!


It's good to see that the grassroots drifting from long ago is still around, maybe not as huge but still definitely there. I wonder if every now and then people take to the Wangan at night and relive the high power, high speed days.
Maybe I've given you some ideas for for another article Mr. Carbonare :)

Seriously good article though, I enjoyed it.


Thank you Dino! Very authentic and immersive ..probably as close one can get until taking a trip to Japan. Please keep doing write ups like this.


speedhunters_dino greenroadster 
Dino, that is the simplest, most direct and true statement i've ever heard in the whole drifting argument. Kudos sir. I love both, follow both, but for different reasons entirely, while loving drifting the whole time.


RMutt Will do, Kanjo next me thinks...


sonic2896 Sure they do! Not sure a lot of those that do that sort of stuff would be as willing to get themselves and cars immortalised in shots....


importfan Thank you!


TasosPapazahariou Thanks dude, means a lot seeing so much great feedback from this piece :)


JoshuaDantz speedhunters_dino lol


AdamBezzegh :D


It's pretty cool that there is some truth to "Initial D", in that people actually use radios to coordinate these things...
I loled at the sticker on the windshield that said "The Breast". The guy/girl that drives that car must be a real boob...
... Or perhaps s/he's just a bosom enthusiast.

Side note: what kind of pedantic limey are you guys employing as your copy editor? I've been seeing "tires" changing to "tyres" in every article lately, but the stuff that /actually/ doesn't make sense is left in... For example, "You might question that give that these guys are drifting on the street". Wtf?


finally!!!!! best article on SH in ages, thanks Dino!!!!!!

I know nothing about photography but the pics you take look unreal, almost as romantic as the article :)

keep it up


Hahaha...Great article Dino! B&W makes it even more underground.


you caught it EXACTLY how it was for me in the Nagano togue for me last year, an hour from anywhere, Boss coffee, big crew, lots of spectators, CBs at each end of the "course"and in the cars, tyres and jacks stashed a couple kms down the road out of sight, D1SL cas coming out, locals offering us "Gaijin" rides, was truly amazing!!


ae70 Exciting isn't it :)


oz_eight6 Awesome, thanks!


koko san That was what I was trying to do, sounds like it may have worked :)


Great to read, exciting and interesting.


Finally. A real world perspective on why RESPECT is important. It keeps everybody safe, and keeps everybody progressing, and keeps what car guys do alive. Something the recent generations could stand to learn from a bit.


@Benjamin Kaine speedhunters_dino - I would say given the ''tree'' that drives this car, and that mid-south style, my money is on Origin Labo!

Could be wrong, so apologies if so. But I'm putting my yen down on it...


Great article, wish i could experience "The True Spirit of Drifting" myself :)


Dino, i think you deserve your very own "biography" post :D im sure everyone here would love to hear a little about your car past, involvment, and so on!


Dino,your articles are the best ! I Visit SH only because of them.The problem is,they're making me want to live in Japan too much.


This is a great article, man. As someone who doesn't really consider himself into drifting outside of an interest more at the "gallery" level, so to speak, I really admire the respect this article has given the whole scene. Very cool.


thank you so much for sharing this. This is the car culture i love the most


So many great articles lately! Really love what you've done here Dino! It's interesting to see this is still going on. The amount of care and respect and responsibility that is taken by these people needs to spread throughout the world more. All the late night drag racing and freeway blasting the "kids" do these days could really use it.


Best article in a very long time. Not to say the others aren't great, but this was fantastic. I love the grittiness of street drifting.


Please Mr. Carbonare. Please give us more. Please dive more into the underground roots of Japanese tuning culture. Please show us more

BTW loving the B/W with the grain, gives it a real authentic feel to the photos.


NoLabelNo1 There's much more out there that needs exploring :)


CarlLawhon Thanks!


jhnosko Glad you liked it. Respect is at the core of everything in Japan, something that many out there should learn to use more


DanielPavunchev Haha thanks man:D


CharlesChris15 There's one floating around from back in 2009 :)


@Captain Kart Well said


This adequately describes something I have wondered about. Wonderful piece Mr. Carbonare, next time I get to Japan maybe I can catch one of these going down..


Fantastic article Sir!  That word Respect sums up much about Japan and is the reason why I love that country so much. This respect also includes not putting down others for liking something you may not be interested in yourself.  People can express themselves there, openly, without (much) fear.   As long it it doesn't harm or affect anyone else negatively, go for it!
Its also about being inclusive.  There's no "you're not good enough to hang with us"  It's more like, "ok, you're interested in doing this with us, so please start here and learn and enjoy"
This is what the rest of the world looks at Japan in envy.  I hope this positive attitude catches on more around the world.  
The video 'Outsiders Japan', briefly touched on the Respect and Inclusivity aspect of Japan, but I think your article sums it up almost perfectly.
I'm traveling there next year again.  I hope its ok if I touch base with you to arrange me getting to some meetings like this.

PS.  could you please do some articles on some of the GT300 tuners?  People like Goodsmile Racing and Gainer would be fun. An article on Studie in Yokohama would be very interesting!  (Yes, I'm a BMW nut!!!)

Thanks again for a great article.


Great coverage of such an important side of motor sport and automotive culture. Also beautiful photos and nice story. Thanks Speedhunters.


i loved this article, it was something different than what i always read and it provided me with an interesting insight on what i didn't know. i agree with the other comments, we need more articles like this one. =D


nissan power!!


That is why I visit SH :D


FD7KiD I'll do my best to bring you guys more of this stuff:)


Ronnie_B GT300 teams, yeah could yield nice stories but most are usually pretty secretive about their cars


SmithG23 Thanks!


MatejOgrinec :D


Awesome! I was hearing the noises echoing through the mountains while looking at the pics... Saria beo che le girasse anca in Suman!


One of the best post I've ever read on SH......I've always wanted to see the roots of drifting in detail and this article was basically that......makes me want to move to Japan soon bad lol. Great Post anyway....we need more of this!!!!


One of the best post I've ever read on SH........this article went deep down into all the details of where drifting really came from and explained a lot of stuff I really wanted to know........makes me want to pack up and move to Japan soon bad lol. Great Post anyways....we need more post like this!!!!!!!!


Miata_Mike I think Japan will get an unexpected number of immigrants soon lol


Andrea1234 Massa strete le stradine del Suman!


speedhunters_dino Andrea1234 Te ghè rason! Xe che ntel costo i tende... ;) Btw, are there ever any problems with the police or the locals?


Yup! Finally :)

You killed it, sir. A great companion to Mr Garrett's piece on the Kanjo racers, too.


long live the under ground!!!


Great article as always! (though it's a "rite" of passage, not a "right" of passage!) :P


really wish I could do all these when I go to Japan. Not sure how many foreigners have the chance to hang out with all these "hashiriyas" but back here in Malaysia we have something similar on our touge as well. Instead of using Nissan or any FR cars, we prefer to use FF cars and mostly use Proton Satria/Satria Neo or certain FF cars like Honda or Daihatsu. But yeah, I know what you mean... its really fun when you think about it. :)


Oh Dino, please stop it. Stop, just stop. You're gonna make me throw everything away and move to Japan! I wish so badly that I could live something like the guys in these pictures... :(


This post was fantastic and is the exact reason I come here, awesome article dino!


Oh I so love this.


this article was freaking awesome!


This Article is really great. Respect is everything. But if you're not grown up there i imagine it would be very hard to change your way of being, so it would fit to the japanese way of being respectful. But it will always be the destination in my life to be such respectful.


this is really spot on to the style and culture i like. great job!