QotW: What car would you drive across Japan?

From Hokkaido to Kagoshima, Japan has some of the coolest highways and mountain passes known to man. We live vicariously through Skorj’s Grand Touring stories, in which he travels across Japan looking for nostalgic cars “in the wild.” Though he owns a Honda S800 it is unfortunately not the most practical steed. So on his excursions he takes a late-model Honda CR-V instead, which begs the question:

What car would you drive across Japan?

What say you, dear reader? As always, the most entertaining or inspiring comment by next Monday will receive a random toy. Click through to see the winner from last week’s question, “Which nostalgic car makes the perfect daily driver?”  

There were a great many excellent answers this week, but the winner was J.A.C.K., who sayeth:

The AE86 hatch. It pains me to say this as an AE86 coupe driver (COUPES RULE!!!), due to our silly rivalry with hatch drivers (Initial D fan boys, all of them) but the hatch is much more functional than the [coupe] when it comes to daily driving simply for… it’s very versatile configuration of the rear end section. From the B-pillars forward, there’s little to no difference, but with the hatch and fold down seats you could turn your little 4 seater into a grocery getter and swing by the track and partake on foolish endeavors all in the same afternoon. Aaarrrgh…

Please note, I never wrote this… some Initial D fanboy must have hacked my account.

Omedetou! Your prize from the JNC gashapon is a Choro-Q Special Edition TE27 Toyota Corolla Levin!

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44 Responses to QotW: What car would you drive across Japan?

  1. ylee says:

    I have to say (i question myself saying this), an Honda Civic. preferably the EF model. they’re just so good on gas and rides so well. Or, any year toyota camry or corolla. Those three cars are unbeatable when it comes to practicality.

  2. Nigel says:

    R30 Skyline four door !
    Lots of room to carry stuff and people, also room in the trunk to stow any cool 1/24 model kits.

  3. dankan says:

    Among non-Nostalgics, I would like to do a (very) backroad tour of Japan in a BRZ, MX-5, Capuccino or Beat. Among Nostalgics, an 86 would be best, for it’s quintessential combination of practicality (it IS a Corolla) and fun. It’s a small package, but so is Japan, and a backroad tour of Japan would therefore be a very good thing in a small package, which is the appeal of Japanese cars in general…

  4. Ben E. says:

    Well, I’d have to tour with my RA64 Celica. (not to be a little arrogant) Not unlike the last week’s winner, the liftback is just so dang practical. It does burn a bit more fuel that newer models and smaller engines, but I have toured this province extensively with it, and it will hold any reasonably sized souvenir in the trunk. And if it breaks down it can likely be fixed with a rubber band and a paper clip. Also it can still give just about any newer car a decent run for it’s money on the freeway. Providing it doesn’t have more than 4 cylinders, a turbo, or any cheats like that.

  5. RdS says:

    Would have to be a Supercharged, Targa-Top, Automatic, 1986-9 AW11 MR2.
    Economical, easy to drive, and bloody fun.
    Small enough to get down tight back-roads, enough torque to happily cruise on the freeways, A design that would forever even keep me entertained in traffic, great visibility out the Targa’s, large glasshouse, and slim pillars; and a chassis and steering that is a joy to punt around.
    What a great tourer it would be.

    brb.. off to order plane tickets..

  6. unionmine says:

    Bj 40 land cruiser with the top off. open air baby you can travel the main roads or hit some dirt ones. With a Cruiser you can see it all you get to blaze the true back roads the ones with out pavement. you get to see The japan most don’t ever get to see.
    Top less give you the ability to take in all the smells even the one you would rather have missed. And with a cruiser you will always make it back.

  7. jivecom says:

    an exact carbon copy of the JNC wagon

  8. Nathaniel says:

    For me, among non-nostalgics, I would drive my 2006 350Z, what better car is there to drive across a country with so much history, than one among the family of cars that is the most recognized and most historical sports car to come out of Japan? Sure, there isn’t much room… but grab a close friend, some snacks, and some other basic essentials, find some backroads, rev high, downshift, and enjoy it all with someone special.

    Among nostalgics, I would pick a 1972 4-door family flier, the Bluebird 510. Plenty of room for you and your friends, a trunk space for food and other essentials, and fuel economy to travel across the country. How can you say no to that?

  9. Danny says:

    One of the best things about road trips is meeting cool people on the way. With that in mind,. I’d have to drive an RX-3 with a mild port and free-flowing exhaust, that sound would attract the right kind of attention from the right kind of locals. The RX-3 would have to be a wagon, dropped low on staggered SSR Formula Meshies.. The wagon configuration is necessary for practicality, not for space to stash car models or rare parts, but to provide roomy comfort for pretty local girls. When you’re blasting up Mt. Akina, wagons pull the bijins.

  10. Emilio says:

    It’s almost a nostalgic, so I’d go with the R32 Skyline GT-R V-Spec. With the ATTESA E-TS all wheel drive system, and a minimum(!) of 280 PS, you’ve got more than enough to tackle the Iroha-Zaka pass. And my God, in gunmetal grey, you’d make the everyone on the streets of Shinjuku jealous, even at cruising speeds. Bone stock, the car is an absolute monster, with refined looks to match. It’s the best looking of the late-model GT-R’s and I surely wouldn’t mind driving around the Satoyama countryside with a special somebody in the passnger seat. Because, come on, the R32 just oozes cool from it’s tailpipe to it’s headlights, and your chances of picking up a girl (or girls, because come on, who wouldn’t want a ride in one?) are increased tenfold. Finally, a few passes through the “Togue” roads on Mt. Fuji and running a few laps at the GT-R’s legendary birthplace, Fuji Speedway, should make the experience nothing short of mechanical nirvana. Oh and who doesn’t want to be rolling in the leader of the Myogi NightKids car?

  11. Mike says:

    For non-nostalgic I’d say a Y34 Cedric/Cima with the VQ30DET, just so much power and torque available, and a comfortable ride for touring. Possibly a Y34 4WD with the RB25DET if I was going in winter…..

    And nostalgic, of course it’d be my ’82 Celica XX 2.8GT. Ample power and torque, great seats to keep you comfortable, and a reasonable ride without being too blobby. Add in that large hatchback for plenty of luggage space and you’ve got a winner.

  12. Brandon says:

    I believe I would take an AE86 even though I love Mazdas. It just fits perfectly, you can have a blast when you are on the back mountain roads. It’s not the fastest car on the highway, but I bet it would still be fun. Even better, if your driving the hatch you’ll have plenty of room to carry any souvenirs you pick up along the way.

  13. Tyler says:

    Hands down, a left hand drive AMC Eagle Landau Coupe lifted on mud tires and painted baby poop brown metallic.

    Just for the looks.

  14. IMO says:

    I lightly modded 180 would be my ideal car, with a gutted hatch and possibly no back seats it would be very spacious. Also it would be a fun car to take on to the tracks out there, and if something breaks, well at least parts would be plentiful. Just IMO, I love S Chassis. ORR A 1j powered Cressida wagon. Oh how much I love Cressida wagons.

  15. bert says:

    I’d have to say Jay Leno already gave us an answer the other day! (Toyoda AA test drive) Seriously, though, what better way to cruise around the country that brought us our favorite cars, than one of the first cars they ever made? Even the Japanese don’t have that! Would be a great reminder, that even though there was that little argument we had with them back in the forties, a lot of the world sees Japan as a cool country. And as us Mericans know, there’s no better way to see a cool country than in an old Domestic.

  16. Nakazoto says:

    This is less of a question and more of a reality for me as I drove my old 1986 AE86 Levin from Kitami, Hokkaido to Nagoya, Japan without using the highways and hitting Aomori, Sendai, Haruna Yama, Myogi Yama and Suwako up on the way.

    (careful, it’s 17 minutes long and terrible… sound track is good though, haha)

    • dankan says:

      See, my idea was right! 😛

      Thanks for the video, that looks like a blast. You should try doing the next half (Nagoya to Kagoshima)…

  17. Danny says:

    I’d drive a Nissan BNR32 with its AWD system and inline six turbo-charged engine I think it’d be perfect to drive all around Japan. Stock everything minus a nice set of wheels and a clean suspension (still comfy enough to drive) nothing fancy and over the top

  18. Victor says:

    Many cars come to mind as a choice for the greatest roadtrip through Japan. One that came to mind was a Midnight Blue Twin Turbo S30 240Z capable of 300KMH (thanks for posting that link to Wangan Midnight, I’ve been watching the anime after I saw the movie. =P ) Another car that came to mind was a R34 GTR, but both of these cars lack some rotary, and as I’ve shown many times I’m a major fan of Dr. Wankel’s gift to the world, because of this my #1 choice would be a Mazda Cosmo Sport, but not just any Cosmo, I would drive Jay Leno’s Cosmo Sport. Leno’s Cosmo makes up for the ultimate Mazda fans roadtrip machine to tour through Japan. The main reason I would pick Leno’s Cosmo over any other Cosmo is that his car has what most feel is a sin with a Cosmo, a ported 12A instead of a factory 10A. I believe that this set up would make for a great driver on both the highway and the countryside. Now if Jay would let me drive his car through Japan is quite improbable, but I can dream, and that would be a hellofa dream to live if it ever came true.

  19. benny_blanco says:

    I would have to say a HR30 2000GT-E X coupe without a doubt.

    Just imagine how boss you would feel driving one of japans greatest looking grand tourers down a coastal highway, wearing a Hawaiian shirt / black Ray Bans looking at your own reflection in those stylish HR30 fender mirrors, listening to some cheesy montage style 80’s J-Pop.

    It may not be as loved and as fun to drive as its sister car the DR30, but it makes one elegant looking grand tourer.

  20. Ace says:

    It would have to be between an AE86 and a CRX (ef). Both very lightweight cars with very little in between you and the road. For straight up driving and enjoying the drive its nice to not have electronically assisted anything, just you the car and the roads. Sure they may not go like stink on the highway but around the bends is where they shine and are both guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

    The newer cars are nice and provide more creature comforts but are far too equipped with modern soul crushing gadgetry, something that both these cars lack but are all the better for it. To me, these cars represent Toyota and Honda catching lightning in a bottle. So much soul and so much feel in such a small package. Everything you need and nothing you don’t!

  21. Censport says:

    I would drive whatever is available. For example, when I was there in September, I drove a borrowed Renault Kangoo from Adachi-ku to Odaiba, crossing the Rainbow Bridge.

    Because Japan.

  22. kelly says:

    An MZ20 Soarer Aerocabin. Flying across the country in your rare piece of 80’s nostalgia. Top down, realizing why the boso like the 1g so much (because it sounds fucking amazing) and having no end of car conversation from strangers wherever you go. Oh, and with the top up, the trunk can still manage at least two dead hookers (or some luggage if you don’t party like that I guess).

    • kelly says:

      my bad, the aerocabin came with the 7m… still, it sounds pretty cool, and you’d certainly make some friends when the headgasket inevitably let you down. 😉

  23. Cherry X1R says:

    I would drive my favorite classic Japanese ride, the E10 1973 Nissan cherry X-1-R with the A12T 1.2 liter twin carb 4. such a great an unique automotive masterpiece. the sound of that engine, the curves of that body, the huge round taillights and stock fender flares, just gets me yearning to take it for a spin on the nippon country roads and switchbacks screamin through all the gears with all 83 hp singing it’s heavenly song. oh boy, that would be heaven on wheels. I never would have thought a engine that small could make such a beautiful engine note. It is by far one of the most interesting sports models made by Nissan in my book.

  24. 47hako says:

    By definition I would consider this a “Grand Tour” of Japan. The term Grand Tour derives from the Italian phrase Gran Turismo, homage to the tradition of the European grand tour from country to country. In Japan it would be from Prefecture to Prefecture, island to island.

    Automobiles regarded as grand tourers are able to make long-distance, high-speed journeys in both comfort and style. Thus I quote: “A grand tourer (GT) is a high-performance luxury automobile designed for long-distance driving. The most common format is a two-door coupé with either a two-seat or a 2+2 arrangement.”

    I’ve driven as far east to the old world spender of Kyoto, as far west as chic Yokohama, as far inland as the grasslands of Mt Haruna, as high as Mt Fuji, and through the tightest streets of downtown Tokyo…

    With this in mind, without a doubt, based on what I have seen and driven in Japan. I would insist on a “true” Japanese GT car, something on par with the likes of a Aston Martin DB9 or Porsche 911. As cliche as it may be a Millennium Jade, 2002 (R34) Nissan Skyline M-Spec Nur. As far as Nostalgics, of course the grandest of Japanese purpose built GT’s, a white, 1970 Toyota 2000GT.

  25. Max says:

    Being that I, too, would consider this a grand tour of Japan, and that I subsequently would be getting a JDM car, I’d go for a Subaru Alcyone XT VX, just to throw some variety in there.

  26. Max says:

    With full-time AWD, and a manual transmission of course. That’s the VX, the one that came with the N/A Boxer 6, not the turbo 4.

  27. Wagoneer says:

    So obviously I appear to be one of the freaks in this forum with a serious case of Kei car addiction. One of my flickr contacts actually travels around Japan in the perfect vehicle combination for getting into every nook and cranny of this beautiful country. You need something that can cruise, carry a ton of stuff and maybe be used to sleep in, but still be able to navigate tiny single track roads and tight right angle corners. SO…. I would have to choose the 1999 Suzuki Carry Van with a Honda CY 50cc motorcycle stashed in the back to go exploring. And it has to be this exact car:


  28. Diego says:

    Am i the only crazy one here? Id rock a 2013 Ford Raptor! (i will be touring Puerto Rico next year in one) One its a crazy mean truck, it would gather attention anywhere it goes. I could pull any car and hit any old road. Load up some engines and take them back to port. It be the ultimate beast.. But for JNC sake, it would have to be a stock rx3.

    • Kuroneko says:

      > and hit any old road

      Except any road in Japan, where you would get wedged between lamp posts & road furniture in town, fall off the sides in the country into the rice fields, and ground on every level crossing. Seriously, anything larger than a Kei outside of the cities is a serious compromise, hence the reason 50% of cars sold in Japan being Kei…

  29. james says:

    I would do it in a ’74 Mazda Luce RE(RX-4).I would’ve said Savanna, but I was beaten to the punch.That would be a wonderful trip.

  30. Drive510 says:

    Alphard or a Vellfire would be nice.

    Old school – I would say a Bluebird 510

  31. long says:

    A delorean

    To take me back in time when japan was alive with illegal street and mountain drifting, high speed wangan racing, skylines, supras, rx7s, silvias and nsxs.

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