News Culture

Trespassing Tourists Are Killing Japan’s Iconic Daikoku Parking Area Car Meets

Yokohama's Daikoku Parking Area is a world-famous car meet spot, which seems to be making it a liability for locals.
The Daikoku PA as captured in a Gran Turismo scape by Adam Ismail. Adam Ismail, Sony Interactive Entertainment

Even if you don’t know it by name or have never been to Japan, I bet most of you will recognize the Daikoku Parking Area. This Yokohama rest area, an island parking lot clutched in canyons of elevated expressways, has been a major IYKYK spot in Japanese car culture for decades. Now it’s gone mainstream and seems to be slipping away.

Many of us millennial-aged and older car nerds first started hearing about Daikoku PA as one of the meeting points of Japan’s infamous Mid Night Club—street racers who were tuning and tearing up highways before social media or The Fast and The Furious and all the Hollywoodification of the car scene that came with it.

Daikoku PA, and fictionalized versions of it, have since been featured in shows, video games, and more Japanese car culture stories than Google can index.

Now that you’ve got the context and read the headline, you can see where this is going: Daikoku has basically gotten too big for its own good. Over the years, the hoodlum hangout evolved into a hipster one, then the hashtags brought in hoards and now it’s an unofficial tourist attraction.

Google Maps screenshot

Public interest seems to have brought in idiocy, and police are finally getting fed up with people climbing highway fences to get into the parking lot, only to be stuck there because taxis and buses don’t stop there. The official X/Twitter account of Shuto Expressway posted this oddly jazzy little video (seriously, unmute) explaining the situation pretty well. Click here if the embed doesn’t work.

We got turned on to the situation by Sam Lucas, who runs the YouTube channel Sammit which covers a lot of JDM car/drift stuff from Tokyo. Lucas rounded up a bunch of reports of police crackdowns at Daikoku and posted this on his Instagram page @sammit01:

Daikoku is no longer safe for car enthusiasts. Last night Fuji TV blew it up on national news. I have warned about the illegal tours to the PA for a while but now it’s made it all over the news & the police are making moves and the general public is putting pressure on now. This was a special part of japanese car culture that has essentially been ruined now by money & greed. It’s disappointing it has gotten so bad & I get people just want to see it too but the only right way is to go hire a car. It’s a PA/ SA and only those that use the highway & pay the tolls can visit it. Stop breaking the rules, stop trying to climb the fence & for the love of God be on your best behaviour. You’re not in your own country. Everyday it feels like I apologise to Japanese people for foreigners being disrespectful. Please don’t ruin this. I guess it’s already too late…

@sammit01/Instagram

We shot him a message on IG, but as I write this it’s like 3 a.m. in Japan, so we may or may not get in touch. The referenced Fuji TV segment is certainly not the only catalyst of the spot blowing up (the secret’s long out—it comes up as “popular pitstop for car enthusiasts” rather than “toll-enforced rest area” on Google Maps after all) but there does seem to be an uptick in Daikoku drama going on right now.

Here’s a story from a year ago about people being unable to use EV chargers because of, I’m paraphrasing but, too many hot bois posted up and posing.

But this post from this month on Japanese outlet Vehicle News also calls out people climbing walls to check out cars, citing Daikoku PA’s popularity with tourists as an increasingly inconvenient feature of the area. And this video from just over a week ago on the Cruising Japan YouTube channel shows a blockade of police checking cars and keeping fun from being had at the parking area:

So, what’s the future of Daikoku PA look like? Best-case scenario, from a car enthusiast’s perspective, is that the looming panopticon of public safety enforcement keeps out the worst actors (literal fence-climbers) so meets and photoshoots can continue at this iconic spot. But a lot of the venue’s appeal is its historic ties to the underground car scene, and it’ll be tough to keep that energy alive if cops decide to make that a focal point for compliance checks and skull-cracking. At this point, it looks like the vibes are in shambles, and Daikoku PA is in serious danger of being loved to death.

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