To nearly everyone, the idea of shipping your car halfway across the world for a three-week holiday would seem insane. But for a group of four Australians, that crazy mindset is exactly what landed them the trip of a lifetime in Japan.
Luckily for me, these four Australians also happen to be my friends, so I’ve had the chance to live this dream vicariously through them, all whilst capturing some of the best moments to share here.
No good trip starts without a headache, and for Jake, it came right after leaving the port when his KE70 Toyota Corolla was sideswiped by a truck while driving to the hotel. Fortunately, with a few hours’ work and some very helpful locals with spare parts, Jake was quickly back in action and ready to continue.
Along with the KE, the group consists of Ben’s Z30 Toyota Soarer and Jake and Chris’s S13 Nissan Silvias. The cars are all different, but have one thing in common: they’re drift-spec all-rounders.
After a few days spent coming to the reality they were in Japan with their cars, a trip up Mt. Hakone was a bucket list moment everyone wanted to check off. Having shot numerous local cars here over the years, it felt crazy to be doing it with Australian-registered cars that I shot in Sydney almost two years ago.
Not only is Hakone home to some of the best driving roads in the world, it’s also right next to Mt. Fuji. It was the perfect place to shoot some photos worth showing everyone back at home who thought the whole idea was next to impossible.
On that note, you’ve probably got a bunch of questions about how something like this is even possible, and why anyone would even consider doing it in the first place. But it can be summed up pretty easily.
How? Official documents. The general scheme falls under the Carnet de Passage agreement between countries in order to temporarily import your car and use it whilst you’re there. These documents are often used by a slightly different side of the car enthusiast world, with supercars and hypercars the most common vehicles to cross continents or be shipped or flown around the globe so they can be driven in different countries. WRC rally cars and team support vehicles also use the Carnet de Passage scheme.
Of course, alongside the documents is a whole other pile of (very expensive) pieces to the puzzle. This includes the shipping, loading and unloading, logistics, port fees and more.
So, ‘why?’ Well, for this Australian group, restrictions around drifting in their home state of New South Wales (and other parts of Australia too) have resulted in few opportunities to go drifting legally. Only two drift-friendly venues remain in NSW – one costing the equivalent of around US$250 for a four-hour night session (when they actually happen), and the other a go-kart track around five hours’ drive from Sydney. With limitations like that, it begins to make sense why they decided to ship their cars to Japan for an extended stay. Nikko, Sportsland Yamanashi, Ebisu and Mobara are all within a reasonable driving distance from Tokyo, and entry fees are comparably low.
But the main ‘why?’ is why not? Who wouldn’t want to ship their Japanese drift car to drifting’s motherland? The memories made on this adventure are sure to last a lifetime, and for the two Jakes, Ben and Chris, that makes it money well spent.
Our story doesn’t end here. We’ll pick things back up shortly at one of the many track days these cars made it to during their time in Japan.