This question pops up all the time on the internet by people keen to head to the mecca of speed, Daikoku Parking Area (PA). For those who don't know, Daikoku PA is a highway rest stop on Daikoku Futo, a man-made island near Yokohama. The rest stop sits on a stretch of the infamous Wangan Bayshore route, known for it's highway racing. The entrance to the PA is off the toll-road, so although it is possible to be dropped here by a taxi, you will be extremely hard pressed trying to find one back out! Because of this, the only real way to get there is to hire a car.
Our hire car, a Toyota Vitz
Hiring a car is a simple process. We used Toyota Car Rental (https://rent.toyota.co.jp/eng/), which we found to be one of the cheapest and easiest. After finding the closest shop to your hotel, simply choose your vehicle, enter your pick-up time and drop off time. As most rental shops close at 11pm, we opted to hire the car overnight and park it in a car park once we got home, as most of the action at Daikoku is from 9-11pm. To hire the car from 8pm to 9am the next morning cost 6,400 yen ($80AUD). Make sure you get an ETC card from the car rental agency, as this makes tolls a breeze.
We were staying in Ueno, which is right in the heart of Tokyo and a decent drive from Daikoku. We could of avoided toll roads to get down to Yokohama, but after seeing the commute length difference (32mins compared to 1 hour and 45mins!) we decided to jump on the expressway. With an ETC card all you have to do is approach the purple or green/purple gates on the toll booth at 20km/h. The gate will automatically detect your card and open the gate for you. Drive through and Bob's your uncle! If you don't have an ETC card you must go to one of the green gates and either pay the attendant the required fee or sometimes there's a machine similar to a parking meter.
To actually get to Daikoku PA, enter this address into Google maps: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Daikoku+Parking+Areaemail@example.com,139.6805084,15z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0xf526152a55b3d3a6!8m2!3d35.4619386!4d139.6805084
The important thing is to remember to follow the big "P" sign to actually enter the parking area. If you miss this you will go off the toll road and will need to re-enter. The sign is very hard to miss, and a lot of the time you will even follow a nice JDM ride into the car park!
From here, simply follow the circling road down into the car park. The experience of entering this place is like nothing else, and is truly a must-do for any car enthusiast! The sight that greets you when you enter is staggering!
The PA is an astonishing place. It's a melting pot of all different kinds of automotive culture, from VIP, to muscle, to drift and stance. Everything is represented here, and the atmosphere is that of fun, laid-back vibes. If you're lucky, you might even get to catch a member of the Mid Night Club stopping for a coffee break before heading back out onto the Wangan.
There is noting quite like standing in the middle of this Colosseum of speed while "Hashiriya" send a deafening rasp of screaming engines down from the winding road surrounding the PA. I'd strongly recommend bringing a tripod if you are into your photography, as taking photos in the low light proved nearly impossible!
After spending far too long here (we left at 2am), it was time to head home. The return journey was simply the reverse of the way we had came, with an exit of the Expressway literally 50m from our hotel. Once there we needed to find a suitable car park. Although there is a myth that parking in Tokyo is near impossible, this is far from the truth. There are hundreds of tiny secure car spots dotted around the city, and finding one is as simple as cruising around near your hotel finding one that is good value. We found one about 200m from our hotel that charged a flat rate of 500yen ($6AUD) from 10pm to 8am, with an additional 100yen per 30mins after 8am. To use it, just reverse your car into the park until your back wheel touches the stopper rail. Then, exit your car and after 5 minutes a rail will pop up automatically to prevent you from leaving the space without paying. To leave, just type your number into the computer, enter the required amount, and the rail will go down.
After you have picked up your car in the morning, make sure to fill it up before dropping it back to the rental agent. Most fuel station attendants will speak enough English to get by, and filling up is as simple as pulling into the service station, winding down your window, saying mantan (full), then waiting for the receipt. Pay the balance and off you go! You might even get your window cleaned and ash-tray emptied if you're lucky!
Here is a cost breakdown of getting to Daikoku PA. We shared this cost between 3 people, which made it significantly cheaper.
Hire car: 6,400 yen ($80AUD)
Tolls: 1,200 yen ($14.50AUD)
Fuel: 600 yen ($7.25AUD)
Parking: 600 yen ($7.25AUD)
Total: 8,800 yen ($106AUD)
If you want to learn even more about Japanese car culture and traveling in Japan, check out our Gaijin Guide to Japan here:
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