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How To Live The Supercar Life In Tokyo

Jalopnik logo Jalopnik 2017-10-11 Ken Saito
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For a city that loves supercars so much, there aren’t really many ways to experience one in Tokyo without owning one yourself. Unlike other large cities in the world, supercar rentals or sharing services are practically non-existent here. There are plenty of companies that offer rentals on Japanese cars, such as Nissan GT-Rs, Honda NSXs, and Mazda RX-7s, but if you want something a little more exotic you’re mostly out of luck. 

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Chalk it up to cultural differences. Japanese people aren’t really big on showing off. Sure, this is the country that gave the world Lambos with flashing LEDs and overfenders on literally everything, but most people aren’t as ready to rent out a supercar for the night as willingly as in say Los Angeles or Dubai.

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That’s where Tokyo Supercars comes in. They only just started shop in June this year and they’ve got 8 supercars in their fleet. They’re not really a “rental car” service as such, but offer a membership to be part of the club which gives you access to the cars for two to eight days a month, depending on the membership level. Think of it as a Japanese take on stuff like the Classic Car Club Manhattan.

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The membership offers a cheaper alternative than owning a supercar yourself in Tokyo. It aims to take away the stress of worrying about things such as parking and maintenance costs while having access to multiple cars. They currently have eight supercars in their fleet but have plans to add more in the future. (Hit them up if you want to know how much it costs to join.)

Tokyo Supercars came about when a group of friends sharing a passion for supercars got an idea.

“After a few circuit events and convoy driving we wanted to share this with the world,” said Romen Barua, co-founder of Tokyo Supercars. “Also by creating an exclusive members club we felt it would be a great platform to connect like-minded people who share the same interests.”

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By like-minded, he means anyone who loves speed, and getting to briefly taste how the fastest one-percenters roll.

The goal of Tokyo Supercars is to “build a community of supercar enthusiasts and educate customers on how to drive safely and vastly improve their driving skills over time especially on a circuit,” Barua told me. The other founding members are Stephen Greenhall, Naeem Iqbal, Vicram Shahani.

The membership side of the business is aimed towards locals and expats. The company makes sense, especially for foreigners in Japan, as it can be hard to “enter” the local car community. However, for tourists or visitors they do offer one-off events and tours such as a Fuji Speedway experience on the Short Circuit and tours around Odaiba and Hakone. All you need is a valid International License and to pass a five minute interview.

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Tokyo Supercars offer the Odaiba Tour as “the distance was perfect to get customers enough time to be excited without traffic or too much stress,” Barua said, adding “the Rainbow Bridge is also an iconic drive especially at night when the city looks incredible.”

Hakone was an obvious one because it’s where the iconic road that is the Mazda Turnpike is located. I joined Tokyo Supercars on a tour to the Turnpike with a group of corporate customers to see what they’re about.

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It was one of the rare occasions where their whole fleet was booked out by a client. I spent the day with Barua and in the lead car. With eight people in the group and eight supercars, everyone spent the day going in and out of the entire fleet.

The day started early at their office in Ebisu, where drivers are given a presentation and briefing on what to expect from the trip. Safety is one of the core principles of Tokyo Supercars—nobody wants to end up on Jalopnik for the wrong reasons. Even the Fuji Speedway experience includes one-on-one tutoring from a professional racing driver.

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After the presentation it’s down to pick up the cars in the car park underneath their office. It was quite a sight seeing eight supercars bark to life at 7:30 a.m. on a weekday morning. Once every one was familiar with the cars they were in it was time to head off onto the motorway.

Getting to the entrance ramp with the convoy of cars plus the support G-Wagen in one line was easier said than done. Most of the clients that day had no experience driving a supercar, let alone driving one in Tokyo before so all the cars needed to stay in one line to avoid splitting up and getting lost.

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During the morning rush hour in Tokyo, that was quite a challenge. It wasn’t so much the traffic on the road as it was the number of pedestrians crossing the road. On the other hand, if you like getting attention, being in a bright orange McLaren 12C Spider on a grey Wednesday morning is one of the best ways to do it.

Miraculously all the cars made it onto the highway only to hit a 40 minute traffic jam caused by a car crash. Luckily, Romen found an alternative route that’d take us around the jam. He’s been in Tokyo for 12 years and has a ton of knowledge of the roads, which came through trial and error.

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Between getting on the motorway to the Turnpike, there were a couple of pit stops to allow the drivers to swap cars. Once we got to the Turnpike, suddenly the timid driving style from the city and motorway driving took a more exciting turn. With the lead car keeping things controlled, everyone was still able to enjoy the cars on the epic roads.

There was a driver change at the first run-off area at the bottom of the Turnpike. The schedule allowed for a couple of laps up and down the Turnpike before going to the lunch stop at Goran Kadan, a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn).

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The route for the Hakone was pretty good, it even went up on the Hakone Turnpike and turned off just before getting on Route 404. It went on some great driving roads as well as sightseeing spots. For tourists, the lunch stop at a ryokan would be a bonus experience.

After lunch, it was one last blast back on the Mazda Turnpike before a driver change for the drive back into Tokyo. It was a shame the motorway on the way back was littered with undercover police cars. Perhaps an alternate motorway back to Tokyo would be something for them to consider in the future.

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It was a great experience, and while companies like Fun2Drive in Hakone offer rentals for Japanese sports cars up the Turnpike, if you wanted something a bit more exotic Tokyo Supercars are pretty much the only ones doing it at the moment.

Call it a treat, or a once in a lifetime experience, but it’s certainly something worth considering for your trip to Japan. I mean as fun as it was driving the MX-5 RF on the Turnpike, there’s also something extra wild about driving a Lamborghini or Aston Martin on these roads.

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