Daikoku Sundays: The World's Greatest Pop-Up Car Meet
It’s midday on a beautiful day warm Sunday in May, and we are at a parking lot in the middle of Tokyo Bay not far from the port of Yokohama. Sitting directly in front of you is Mazda RX-7 that's parked among a group of rotary-powered Mazdas. This one has had some serious money put into it, with sticky tires, wide body panels and a sizable turbocharger affixed to its rotary engine. It’s the exact type of car you might imagine when you think of the tuner machines that loop Tokyo’s highways by night and racing circuits by day.
Before you can even take in the Mazda, you look over and see a gleaming Chevrolet Impala dripping candy paint, riding low and rolling on a set of immaculate Dayton wires, the sound of G-funk music coming out of its high end audio system. It heads over to another area of the parking lot where a massive group of lowriders has formed, and on this day they've gathered to cruise in memory of one of a fellow club member who passed away.
Then the sound of the music is drowned out by something completely different—the scream of a free-flowing Italian V12 firing to life a few spaces down. That’s when you see the bright red Lamborghini Diablo SV emerge from behind a parked big rig and roll by with several other exotics following behind.
You stare at the brightly colored machinery as it rolls by, but then once again your ear catches something different. First faint, and then louder you hear the unmistakable sound of a carbureted straight six downshifting as it circles down from the highway above you. A few moments later the unmistakable shape of a Hakosuka Skyline appears, with the lope of its performance cam making itself known as the car idles toward you.
It's Not a Dream
It all sounds pretty amazing right? Like the stuff you’d see at a once in a life time car show or maybe just a dream your head. Only this isn’t a fantasy or an unprecedented type of new car show. It’s just another Sunday at Daikoku Parking Area.
These sights and sounds are repeated at Daikoku week after week, all year round with only the wettest or most bitterly cold days keeping people at home. In a country with no shortage of car culture to experience, Daikoku Sundays might just be the best way to catch it all.
Daikoku Parking area is no secret of course, both when it comes to people in Japan and those who admire the country's automotive happenings from afar. The highway rest area on the manmade island might have become legendary for its late night meets, where one could find serious Wangan racers, VIP sedans, wild vans packed with stereo equipment and other custom creations.
Only in the Sunday Sun
Unfortunately, it looks like the era of those nighttime Daikoku meets might be coming to an end. In an effort to cut down on noise pollution, illegally modified vehicles, loitering and other "nuisances" ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Daikoku Parking Area often gets closed to all vehicles on Friday and Saturday nights. So if you happen to be visiting Japan and try to head to Daikoku on a weekend evening, you'll probably get turned away.
That's why the locals will tell you to forget about going to Daikoku at night and instead go on a Sunday during the day. If you do, you'll be treated to one of the greatest car meets anywhere in the world.
It's not even a "meet" in the traditional sense where someone organizes a huge gathering that everyone goes to. It's just that Daikoku is the defacto rendezvous point or drive destination for car enthusiasts from across the Kanto region and beyond.
Every Kind of Car
Mixed among the cargo trucks, express buses and weekend road trippers, you'll find representatives from every genre of car culture passing through Daikoku on your typical Sunday. Some are here specifically to meet up with like-minded owners and friends, while others simply stop by on their way to or from any number of driving destinations or events.
Head to Daikoku on a typical Sunday morning or afternoon and there's really no telling what you might see. It could be something contemporary like this air-bagged Liberty Walk GT-R.
It could be something highly unusual like this rare station wagon version of the classic Hakosuka Skyline (which was parked alongside coupe and sedan versions of the same model).
It could be something rare and exotic like this Lexus LFA...
...or the equally high end Mercedes SLR McLaren—and what's that strange thing lurking in the background?
Oh you know, it's just a 1962 Dodge done in authentic super stock drag style with a wicked, lopey V8 rumble that could be heard from across the entire place.
No matter what the crowd is, you'll find them hanging out Daikoku—whether it's the aforementioned lowriders who are always out in big numbers...
...or the Kaido Racers and Kyushakai motorcycle riders, who often roll into Daikoku with their engines screaming and musical horns serenading. Wild machines like the Hell's Racing Toyota Mark II are regular sights around here.
Representing the more subdued side of the automotive hobby, you've got the "gentlemen" drivers out for a Sunday drive in their favorite vintage sports cars—in this case a Honda S800.
Or how about going in another direction entirely with this lifted K5 Chevy Blazer?
That's all before you get to the seemingly endless stream of more traditional modified street cars: the Imprezas, Civic Type Rs, M3s, Silvias and so forth. Whatever your taste is, you can find it at Daikoku.
The Best in the World
After spending time on two different Sundays at Daikoku Parking Area, we struggled to think of another spot in the world where you'll see as many cool, interesting and sometimes incredible cars on a regular basis. Hanging out around the Nürburgring in Germany might come close, but you won't see too many non-track-oriented cars there.
The only thing that really comes close would be the original Irvine Cars & Coffee events, but without those around anymore we can't really think of another spot that can compare. The fact that everything is so casual at Daikoku makes it that much more enjoyable.
One could easily spend the entire day just hanging out and being wowed by the machinery that comes through Daikoku on the typical Sunday. If there's one negative to the whole thing, it is that access without a car can be quite difficult. Unlike many spots in Japan, Daikoku Parking area is a part of the expressway system and can't really be reached by mass transit. Arranging a taxi ride is technically possible, but it would be a very unusual request.
Our suggestion is to either a rent a car somewhere in Tokyo or Yokohama and simply drive there, or to reach out on social media ahead of time and see if someone might be able to give you a ride out. We've found Japanese car enthusiasts to be very hospitable and happy to share the hobby with visitors.
Whatever means you use to get there, a visit to Daikoku Parking Area on a Sunday should be a bucket list item for anyone visiting Japan. For those who haven't had a chance to go, you can do the next best thing and enjoy the gallery of images below.