TOKYO — I’ve long been a fan of Japanese cars, particularly modded ones. And even before I had this job, that enthusiasm drove some of my travels. When I was 12, my family had an amazing opportunity to visit Japan for a couple of weeks, and at the top of my list of things to do was to visit the Mazda museum and factory in Hiroshima (and yes, I was already angling for a Miata or RX-7 hopefully as my first car in a few years). Then in college, I had some time and money that let me go to the Tokyo Auto Salon. There are still plenty of things to tick off my Japanese automotive bucket list. And thanks to the generosity of a friend in the area, I’ve made it to another key destination: Daikoku Parking Area, commonly shorted to Daikoku PA.

Daikoku PA is literally a highway rest stop. It’s nestled among spiraling ramps and not far from ports where all variety of goods are loaded onto ships (we saw lots full of Civic Type Rs waiting to take their voyages). Granted, it’s a little better appointed than a lot of American rest stops thanks to more food and shopping options. But over many years, it’s become a popular weekend location for car enthusiasts of all types to hang out and hold impromptu car shows. It’s much like weekend cruising on Woodward Avenue here in metro Detroit, even down to police occasionally chasing people off when things get too busy late at night. According to my friend and a few travel sites, Friday and Saturday nights, along with Sunday mornings, are the best times to visit, and usually when the weather is decent.

If you happen to be in Tokyo, and have the ability to visit, you absolutely should. It’s not easy to get there, as there’s no way to walk in from a train; you have to get there by car. So you’ll need to rent a ride, find a friend (as I did), or possibly take a taxi, though I’ve seen mentions that taxis and ride-shares don’t like going or picking up there. I have heard there are some people who offer “tours” to drive people out there. But if you can make it, you’ll find a wonderful mix of all sorts of cars including luxury minivans, classic Japanese sports cars, unique European machines, and even a handful of American cars and SUVs. It feels casual and relaxed, and it’s a great way to kill a couple of hours just watching vehicles come and go. Of course if you do go, please be respectful and wary; it’s a functioning rest area for cars and semis. I know that I’ll definitely try to get back sometime in the future. In the meantime, take a little virtual tour with the gallery above.

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