I’ve been a stalwart fan of Japanese sports cars since I was a teenager. So naturally, one of the first things I did upon arriving in Tokyo in 2009 was to seek out the local car scene. It was easy enough to attend car shows or visit Fuji Speedway for a track day, but living in a city where car ownership is prohibitively expensive meant that it was hard to meet other people who shared my automotive passion.
Fortunately, years of wearing that passion on my sleeve finally paid off when Caylon Neely of Davey Japan let me tag along on a trip to Daikoku PA (Parking Area): hallowed ground and gathering spot for car enthusiasts from throughout the Greater Tokyo Metropolitan Area. Read on to learn what it takes to get there, what to do when you arrive, and additional tips for making the most of your experience.
Hitting the Road
Whether you are visiting from abroad or a fellow resident car enthusiast, the first thing you need to know about Daikoku PA is that you’re going to need access to a car to get there. Daikoku PA is located on a manmade islet in Yokohama Bay, isolating it from the city’s train and subway networks. City busses aren’t an option either. They may be able to drop you off nearby, but entry into the parking area on foot is prohibited.
If you can’t rent a car or hitch a ride with a friend, you could try a taxi. Be warned, however, that it might be difficult to hail one for your return trip—especially if you are out late at night.
It’s All About Timing
After figuring out transportation, your next task is to determine the timing of your visit. Since the impromptu displays of automotive wonders of Daikoku PA are not official events, there’s no guarantee of what you’ll find when you arrive.
That being said, tradition dictates that you’ll discover plenty of expensive exotics (Lamborghinis, Ferraris, etc.) on Sunday mornings and sport compacts on Friday and Saturday nights (muscle cars are wild cards). So, plan your trip based on the car scene of your choice.
Once You’re There
The beauty of Daikoku PA is the unspoken, shared appreciation of cars and car culture that permeates the scene. If you see someone beside a nice ride, chances are they are more than willing to explain the ins and outs of what makes their car special. This atmosphere is a refreshing change from the typically reserved culture of Tokyo and Yokohama. Feel free to take pictures to your heart’s content, however, it’s a good idea to ask for permission if you’d like to take extreme close-ups of cars with their owners.
Additional Tips for Making the Most of Your Experience
As excited as you may be to rush out and reenact your favorite scene from Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, remember that Daikoku PA isn’t a tourist attraction. Above all, it exists to serve everyday motorists who need a break from the rigors of the road. Therefore, careful planning is paramount to ensuring that you have a good time while not being a nuisance to the locals.
- Don’t overstay your welcome. Daikoku PA often gets crowded after 9 p.m. or so on the weekends, and the police won’t hesitate to close the entire area down to discourage loitering. Even if you know Japanese it’s hard to understand what they constantly blare through their high-powered megaphones. Just interpret it as “Move along, there’s nothing to see here,” and be on your way.
- Daikoku PA isn’t the only act in town. If Daikoku PA gets shut down, you may still be able to check out cars at either Tatsumi PA or Shibaura PA. These locations are smaller, with fewer amenities, but the cars that you’ll see are just as amazing as what you’d find at Daikoku PA.
- Only park in designated areas. If you happen to be behind the wheel for an evening of car spotting, make sure that you only park in designated parking spaces. This might seem obvious, but smaller locations such as Shibaura PA fill up quickly, which tempts some drivers to park illegally. Save yourself some trouble and simply move on if a lot is full. The last thing you want to be doing on a Friday night is figuring out how to say “Please don’t tow my car” in Japanese.
The Automotive Experience of a Lifetime
If you are courteous and use common sense, you’ll have the time of your life immersing yourself in Tokyo car culture. The language of cars is a global one and never is this more apparent than a night reveling in all things automotive at Daikoku PA.
WillNovember 13, 2022 at 9:02 PM
These were great tips! Thank you for the heads up. I am currently visiting Japan from San Diego California. I am staying in Yokohama until Wednesday and then going to Kyoto for two days and lastly Tokyo for 3. I would love to go and was just curious if the meets only happened in the weekends or during the week as well?
Anthony GriffinNovember 14, 2022 at 3:39 PM
Thanks for checking out the article and for sharing your comment! Always great to hear from a fellow Southern Californian (San Diego is fantastic).
Since car-related gatherings are unofficial, it’s hard to say how things will be on a weekday or weeknight. My guess is that Friday nights and weekends are popular simply because people are off of work.
So, if experiencing the Daikoku PA scene is your only goal, I can’t promise that you’ll be able to see a lot of cars during the week. However, if you happen to be in the area and don’t mind the highway tolls, you might as well stop by and see what happens. Happy hunting!
Zack MaddalenaApril 19, 2023 at 10:43 PM
Is there a place in Tokyo where you can meet contacts or sport car fans, like a bar, club or street?
Great article by the way.
Anthony GriffinMay 2, 2023 at 4:07 PM
Thank you, Zack! You bring up an excellent question. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet fellow car fans through work, life, and business as a long-term resident. Beyond that, hanging out at places where car fans gather (such Daikoku and the other parking areas) are your best bet.
You may also be able to strike up conversations with the enthusiasts who show off their cars along Jingu Gaien Ginko Avenue on Saturday and Sunday mornings. I’m not aware of any car-related clubs or bars, but you may want to consider timing your trip to coincide with events where car fans gather (Tokyo Motor Show and Tokyo Auto Salon). Lastly, although it’s unlikely you’ll be able to interact with other drivers, the staff is always talkative at the Nissan Gallery in Ginza and the Nissan Global HQ Showroom in Yokohama.
Hope this helps–happy hunting!
RolandoJanuary 4, 2023 at 12:57 PM
Great writing Anthony!thanks a lot o every tip you put it in.
I’m planning to go this year to Japan, I’m from Zapopan, Mexico and cars are one of my biggest motivations and passion. (Also baseball).
so I want to ask for recommendations, about
what’s the best time of the year to plan my trip? advices in how to save money when it’s possibl, any kind of advice it’s greatly welcome.
Anthony GriffinJanuary 5, 2023 at 6:00 AM
Thanks for the compliments on the article! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Regarding your questions, individual tastes vary, but most people prefer to visit Japan in the spring or the fall. The weather is generally pleasant, and if you time it right, you may see cherry blossoms (spring) or beautiful fall colors. As far as saving money goes, we have couple articles on this website about that topic, however they are more focused on living here. For travelers, I recommend Tokyo Cheapo, for starters (https://tokyocheapo.com/).
I hope this helps. Enjoy your trip!
JJanuary 19, 2023 at 10:09 AM
I was wondering if the car meets usually happen every weekend or is it seasonal? We have a tripped booked for November time and wanted to surprise my partner by taking him here on a Friday or Saturday night. Which of the 2 days would you also say is better? And will November be a good time?
Anthony GriffinJanuary 19, 2023 at 2:45 PM
Thanks for your question! Since the car meets are unofficial and spontaneous, it’s hard to say for sure when you can catch one. A safe bet would be to treat it like any other outdoor activity and assume that more people will be out when the weather is comfortable. Therefore, November should be OK–chilly but not too cold yet. I haven’t heard of any notable differences between Friday or Saturday–either should work out well. For the record, the pictures in this article were taken on a Friday in August. Happy hunting!
LaiFebruary 28, 2023 at 12:34 AM
Hello! Loved reading this, very useful and informative. I’ve been informed by a driver that it’d be best to go Friday nights.
I’ll probably be following his advice and going then, but I’m not sure if their ride is expensive or not. Around 175 USD. Does this sound fair? I’ll be going in July so I’ve got some time to decide.
Anthony GriffinFebruary 28, 2023 at 5:22 PM
Thank you for reading this article and for your kind words! Friday night at Daikoku PA should be fun, with people showing up after they finish work.
As Daikoku PA isn’t an official tourist attraction, I haven’t looked into booking rides there. So, it’s hard to say whether 175 USD is reasonable. What I can say, however, is do make sure that you are dealing with a reputable guide/business.
If you can verify the legitimacy of your driver and there’s no other way for you to reach Daikoku PA, then whether 175 USD is worth it depends on how valuable this experience will be for you.
For reference, a one way-taxi ride from Shinjuku to Daikoku PA would cost well over 10,000 yen, so depending on where your hotel is, 175 USD might be a good deal. And, you certainly wouldn’t want to rely on a taxi, as you may not be able to find one for your return trip.
I hope this helps, and I wish you all the best in July!