TOUHOKU TRIP, DAY 8: Mt. Akagi Initial D Touge & Return to Tokyo

After 7 days, 8 prefectures and covering 1500km, I would finally arrived back home in Yokohama at the end of the day. But before that happens, I was still going to climb Mt. Akagi (赤城山) in Gunma prefecture – a mountain that is famous for being prominently features in the popular manga and anime “Initial D” (頭文字D).

Initial D hillclimb!

Initial D hillclimb!

This is the left side of the Mt. Akagi pass on a map. This half of the mountain pass is the one that is often used by Initial D because it is wider so higher speeds can be reached. The manga takes place in Gunma prefecture due to its many mountain roads, which spawned a youth sub culture of gearheads who drift up and down mountains at night. Nowadays, the popularity of drifting is probably influenced by Initial D itself, as many young drifters of today grew up reading the manga and watching the anime series.

Check out the skidmarks from all the drifting that happens on this track:

Day 8 - 3Day 8 - 2 Day 8 - 1
I took these screencaps from my Mt. Akagi Initial D Special video on YouTube. Check it out to watch the entire hillclimb 🙂

Once at the top at 1400m, one can see over the entire Maebashi valley. It was a bit foggy that day, so the view wasn’t quite as breathtaking as it could have been, but that’s ok for me. I was there just for Touge (峠 = mountain pass) action!

Top of Mt. Akagi

Top of Mt. Akagi

View from Mt. Akagi

View from Mt. Akagi

Lake in the Volcano crater

Lake in the Volcano crater

The peak is also the site of a historic cog railway, that was running up and down Mt. Akagi from the 1930s until the early 1970s. The old station remains as a museum, and I took some pictures. I know that my former English teacher in Germany would’ve loved these, so if you read this, Herr Eichberg, this is your section 🙂

This little cog railway went all the way up to the peak until the 1970s, when it was demolished.  This picture shows how the two cars would pass each other on a bridge.

This little cog railway went all the way up to the peak until the 1970s, when it was demolished. This picture shows how the two cars would pass each other on a bridge.

The old railway station.

The old railway station.

The way back down. Wow...

The way back down. Wow…

The way down is actually even more spectacular than the way up, although I cannot imagine that a lot of Initial D action happens there. That’s because the roads are way too narrow and cars would have to break down to 5-10kph all the time. Also, the corners were so incredibly steep that I think the lowered and stanced drift cars would probably just grind around them solely on their diffusers and fenders. Not flat enough for a stanced 280x!

It was probably the steepest downhill I had ever done. The map gives you a preview of how intense it was, and of course I filmed the entire ride! You can look forward to a Downhill-Video in all its glory very soon 🙂 Until then, some impressions:

The crest of the mountain!!

The crest of the mountain!!

Very steep cornering with zero sight of what's ahead

Very steep cornering with zero sight of what’s ahead

Very narrow way back down!

Very narrow way back down!

Stanced cars would just slide into the bushes here :P Too tilted!

Stanced cars would just slide into the bushes here 😛 Too tilted!

Yet, beautiful.

Yet, beautiful.

After Mt. Akagi, I just went straight to Tokyo. This was a good idea, as I had again underestimated the absolutely insane traffic in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area at 5pm on a Friday. Tokyo is an absolutely gigantic city that stretches out into suburbs almost 200km in diameter. I came from the North, so I had around 100km in city traffic ahead of me that would take me almost 4 hours to get through, thanks to the countless traffic lights.

Around 50km to Tokyo!

Around 50km to Tokyo!

Glimpse of Tokyo's Highway Madness

Glimpse of Tokyo’s Highway Madness

Concluding my Touhoku-Trip, I can say that this was probably the reason why I bought a bike in Japan. I could not imagine a different way (other than a car, or being very good at riding a bike) to experience the far out countryside regions, the hard to access mountain areas, and hop on a ferry to the beautiful island of Sado. It was truly a unique experience, and even though to this day (9 days after return) my neck is still sore from carrying a 50 pound backpack on the bike for 10 hours a day, this is going to be one of the most memorable experiences of my exchange.

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