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The Japanese Culture of Drift

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 2672 words Published: 11th Jul 2018

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In this paper, I will do a topic about a movie Initial D which release on 2005, produced by Andrew Lau (Osmond, 2006). Initial D is a movie based on the Japanese anime, Initial D. It is about a son of tofu seller known as Takumi Fujiwara. He is a high school boy that take over his father’s job to deliver the tofu every morning to the customer. It had been a routine for him to take the same route to deliver their tofu by went through Mount Akina. The story background is based on Gunma province, in the Kanto region. A very popular place for drift street racing. Even though Initial D is Japanese based story, it was produced by Media Asia Films, Hong Kong company. Moreover, the crews and actors were also a Chinese themselves. It is quite interesting so the perspective of Chinese people on Japanese drift culture. Thus, in this essay, I want to write about one of the famous Japanese culture known by the worldwide that is drift culture.

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A driving technique

What is drift? The definition of drift from the Merriam-Webster dictionary is the act of driving something along. Conceptually, drifting is a driving technique when the car oversteers due to loss of traction usually on the rear wheels or sometimes all wheels (Stallwood, 2016). This is done to maintaining such smooth control when taking a corner. For example, from the movie of Initial D, Takumi always perform drifting for every corner he passes through on the Mount Akina. Also, in some scene, Takumi perform the drift action without spill any water in his cup. Shows that he already masters the drift technique. There were many arguments about the origin of drift driving technique, but for surely it was popularized by the Japanese. When drifting is done, the direction of front wheels must be opposite to the direction of the turn. This is to give the car some balance by introducing counter-steering also known as opposite lock. This action is quite intuitive as the direction of a front tire does not move along with the direction of the turn. Although it takes a lot of times of practice to master it properly, but it is not hard to grasp the drift concept. From the film, it is shown that the drivers can still drive fast in the corner when performed the drifting technique. Due to this, it becomes very popular Japanese culture that known by worldwide. To prove it, the third franchise of The Fast and the Furious, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift feature drift racing in every scene of their movie. On professional drift racer eye, a good drift technique can be performing when the driver oversteers at an optimal angle while able to maintain a high speed (Nausbaum, 2013). From that, they able to judge a good style of drifting just from the tires lines on every corner.

The Drift King

The drift driving technique is popularized first in the motoring sport. Kunimitsu Takahashi a motorcycling legend is the one who introduced the drift technique in motorsport (Patrascu, 2009). The technique of drifting gives him many advantages. This technique earned him several championships. Not long after that, the driving technique introduces by Kunimitsu Takahashi catch the attention of Keiichi Tsuchiya, known as the “Drift King” or Dorikin in the Japanese language (Tom, 2007). He learned that drifting style will give him several advantages during a race despite the enjoyments of the car oversteers but still under control when taking a corner. What made him earned that title because the use of drifting in non-drifting racing such as in National championship, Le Mans, and NASCAR (Tom, 2007). Even though he did not win many titles but he did popularize the drifting technique into international level. Thus, he becomes a hit and inspired many professional drifting drivers till today. Also, several popular magazines and tuning car garage produce a video of his drifting skill. In was an act to shown the greatness of drift and fun in it despite people can learn from it.

From the movie of Initial D, it showed that Takumi began practicing drift on the Mount Akina. Similarly, to Keiichi Tsuchiya, he began to practicing his driver skill on the mountains road. The reason why is the mountain because the road on the mountains has relatively many corners compare to normal land and city road. They constructed the road like that because instead of cutting down the mountain, it is better to go around that less cost and no harm to nature. Back into the movie, the creator of Initial D made Takumi to resemble Kunimitsu Takahashi, but he more a lot to Keiichi Tsuchiya. Not just Takumi practice drift on the mountain, he also used the same car, Trueno AE86.

The Significance of AE86 in the film

The AE86 car has a great influence in Initial D movie. Due to the Toyota Sprinter Trueno GT-V AE86 Super Street Version was used by Keiichi Tsuchiya (Tom, 2007). Therefore, the creator of Initial D thinks that AE86 has its own class compare to other race cars out there. He thinks that it was ideal to featuring AE86 alongside with the anime hero, Takumi Fujiwara. In the movie, Takumi uses his father car AE86 Trueno apex hatchback both for racing and deliver tofu. Also, Itsuki Takeuchi drives an AE85 that he mistakenly though the AE86. To show how big the influence of AE86 in Initial D, in the anime series Shinji Inui the compete head-to-head with Takumi drive the Notchback coupe version of AE86. Since the AE86 was made introduced by Toyota in 1983, the specifications of the car cannot beat the current generation cars featuring in the movie. The AE86 non-modified car has a 4 cylinder twin cam 1587 cc. It came with 5-speed manual gearbox (Initiald.wikia.com, n.d.). Thus, like the “Drift King”, in the Initial D movie, Takumi’s father a formerly experienced racer modified and tuned in the car to his own liking and optimal level. By this, even an old car like AE86 can give a great competition to a newer car. Takumi able to beat Nissan Skyline GT-R driven by Takeshi Nakazato with just the AE86. If the AE86 not modified it is nowhere near to beat a current generation car. Takumi that seems already a master of driving technique can feel something is different when he drives a non-tuned in the car from a scene when he drives Itsuki AE85. Itsuki car without a doubt is a cheap car that designed not for race. It is also the same case for AE86.

Even though a non-race car has a limit if compare to a race car. The significant different is the engine. For AE86 able to catch up a fast car like Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IV, it needs to work more than normal load. After it reaches its own limit the engine will die eventually. Takumi car died even before he able to catch up the Mitsubishi drive by Emperor Team’s racer. Thus, for the racing event, it is ideal to race using a race car. However, the creator of Initial D wants to stick with the Japanese tradition and honor the AE86 driven by Drift King himself. The creator took a very big step, he embedded a race car engine into the AE86. This is an illegal way of modifications since AE86 is for conventional use not for race. However, to make it fair an AE86 need a great engine. So, then Takumi can fight other racers with his full potential.

In Japan, this car was sold as Corolla Levin or Sprinter Trueno (Dennis, 2008). Due to its popularity, the AE86 was imported to other countries. For example, in North America, it sold as the Corolla GT-S. The car has also been featuring in many motorsports outside of Japan. The AE86 was entered in the European Touring Car Championship, showroom, rallying and circuit race. In is no way to deny it after people still choose the older car to compete against the modern and more powerful car.

Drift not just on circuits

In Japan, there is secret illegal drift scene. The fabulous driving technique has also attracted many people to try by their own. In Gunma province, in the Kanto region, on Friday night it is time to experience firsthand Japan’s secretive illegal drift scene (Stallwood, 2016). In is also the same region where Initial D movie based on. Usually, the start to gather around the hill side at 2 am. It is the best time for them since there is unlikely interruption from the public cars. Like in the film of Initial D, they use the fully operating road as their race track. The outlaw street racers also are known as hashiriya came from many different backgrounds. Some of them are young rich kids that snuck money from their parents to invest in their car. Middle-aged guys also involve in this arena. Even though they are different in many aspects, but they have something in common, to get the outmost excitement by performing a drift. Of course, there is still some that find their own limit and challenge the others to race. Like Takeshi came to Gunma to challenge the Ghost of Mount Akina. However, most of the racer does not like to show off who is the best. Even though drift is the most amazing form of motorsport. Japanese is well known for their modesty and humility. For the racers, they believe in kenson: skill before swagger. Unlike the drift race scene is shown in the Tokyo Drift movie, the place was a full bunch of people with their modified car. There is no background hip-hop music, models to wave flags. When the race started, there would be a crowd formed in corners to see the hasyiriya skill. Also, there is might old generation racer to watch how fast the new generation.

The Hashiriya

In the end of the film, Takumi decided to become a racer himself after he caught his girlfriend cheating on him. Also, we know that Takumi father is a former racer. In not just because of he found out about Natsuki but it is also part of Japanese culture. A lot of younger drivers inherit their love in drifting and machinery from their fathers. Future drivers have the sense to carry on their family legacy. In not just to honor their family but to make the older generation proud of them. Takumi interest to become a racer not shown obviously but it can be seen from the film he enjoys drifting. Takumi has a very good talent himself as his father blood flow in him. However, he needs to decide whether he want to become a serious racer since he falls in love with Natsuki. After he knew that Natsuki cheats on him, he already knows what he wants to become next. He called back Ryosuke to confirm that he wants to join his team.

The life of a racer is different compare to Bosozoku. Bosozoku just a bunch of high school delinquent that want to enjoy their life in a very dangerous way. By driving at very high speed on the road, it not just danger their life but also the public people around it. In contract, hasyiriya not a delinquent or yakuza, the drifters are friendly (Stallwood, 2016). They also race during midnight around mountain area to avoid any traffic. In the Initial D, there is a scene where an informant told the three drivers to slow down as there is a car approaching from the front. Drift racers concern about the safety of the others people. It not just because they don’t want any trouble, it also because they come there for fun in drifting. Life of racer portrayed in the film need to travel around Japan to compete well know racer before they can become the ‘King’. Thus, if Takumi wants to build a family with Natsuki, the life of racer would not be good for both Natsuki and Takumi. Also, in the film showed Takumi’s father quit his racer life when he married his wife.


In conclusion, the drift culture in Initial D is firstly popularized by Drift King. The influence of Drift King in drift arena brought back AE86 in the Film. In the movie, it shows many times the AE 86 car. Drift have a great future for Japanese youths. While young people around the world drunk on Friday night to have fun. The drift racers have other definition of having fun. Also, the life of racer has many glorious moments but it is not an easy decision.

2074 words


Agunday, A. (n.d.). Drift Hunter: Japan’s Underground Drifting Scene. Retrieved from indiegogo.com: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/drift-hunter-japan-s-underground-drifting-scene#/

Dennis, C. K. (2008). Toyota. Wesport: Greenwood.

MacWilliams, M. W. (2008). Japanese Visual Culture. Taylor and Francis.

Nausbaum, D. (2013). Catching drift at Grand Prix: Long Beach race looks to gain traction with new fans on the slide. Los Angeles Business Journal, 1.

Osmond, A. (2006). Initial D Drift Racer. Sight & Sound, 56-57.

Stallwood, O. (2016, December 1). An Inside Look at Japan’s Secret Illegal Drift Scene. Retrieved from highsnobiety.com: http://www.highsnobiety.com/2016/12/01/japan-drift-scene/

Annotated bibliography

  • Osmond, A. (2006). Initial D Drift Racer. Sight & Sound, 56-57.

This article gives me a short synopsis about Initial D. The author also give a little description about the movie directed by Andrew Lau. Since it is a Japanese based story, the film is quite controversial when featuring non-Japanese actors and crews. However, the authors able to describe even though it is not made by the Japanese but them director made a very good cinematic that represent Japanese Anime. For the director to work very hard on that, probably the drifting element motivates him. So, that it can appeal Japanese audience. This gives a thought that drift culture in Japanese is well respected and known over the world.

  • Dennis, C. K. (2008). Toyota. Wesport: Greenwood.

This book written by Chambers is about the company of Toyota. Toyota was the maker of AE86. From the book, I help me to learn about the history of Toyota and their technology. They able to beat the western company cars after with their strategic business plan. So, it is important to learn about the AE86 from the book. The AE86 is less powerful compare to the western car, but it able to compete with the others car in many championships. Also, I learned about Toyota enter the western market and sold many cars in there. It not just cheaper but also high in quality.

  • Nausbaum, D. (2013). Catching drift at Grand Prix: Long Beach race looks to gain traction with new fans on the slide. Los Angeles Business Journal, 1.

From this article, the writer helps me learned about the drift Grand Prix hosted by Toyota. It might be a coincidence that Toyota involves in drift since AE86 so popular in drift arena. Drift race is an extreme motorsport popularized in Japan. To attract more people joining the drift championship, they offer a good prize for the winner, car show, and concert. In the Grand Prix, the winner will be judged on their speed, angle, and line taken through the course. Drifting firstly was introduced by Kunimitsu Takahashi in motorsport. Thus, to maintain the drifting technique in motorsport arena, many championships are hosted.

  • MacWilliams, M. W. (2008). Japanese Visual Culture. Taylor and Francis.

Even though this book does not compose of Initial, it helps me learned about the Japanese culture in Japanese Anime. Initial D movie is based on the Japanese anime. It has many influences from Japanese culture such the obvious one is drift culture. This book gave me an insight how to tackle the Japanese culture through their history and place. This book describes how the Japanese culture shaped the narration and values of the anime. Since Initial D movie made directed by Andrew Lau, it is very good idea to find the relationship of that movie with the anime based on the other’s perspective.


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