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Kagoshima and Back, the story of the T78 RB26 powered drift missile: The Drive back (part 2)

First things first, I was going to be relying on my laptop to navigate my way around back to Nagano, so I needed to find a power inverter to use the car’s cigarette lighter to power it. As nice as the weather was the day before, from nowhere came torrential rain and savage lightning. Without any working air conditioner, the windows fogged up extremely quickly in the conditions to the point I was having to manually wipe a small area of the windscreen every minute or 2 just to see anything. The tint on the side windows wasn’t too bad initially, but with the fog, it made it impossible to see out of. I pulled over and ripped the tint off and went on driving, still driving almost blind, but without an option, I couldn’t do anything but keep driving. This was my first experience of driving on Japanese roads, their roads, their rules, their signs, their traffic, all in a foreign high performance car, in torrential rain, with next to no visibility out the windows.

Just before the storm:
r32 rb26 missile

After a quick drive around, I came to the realisation that I had no idea how to use the Japanese parking system around the city. Fortunately right next to a big shopping centre with a BIC Camera, which is a big electronics store, there was a Softbank (mobile phone store) where I managed to con them into letting me leave my car there after convincing them I was going to walk to another Softbank down the road to “see if they had the phone I was after” after finding out their didn’t.

Anyway, long story short, a few hours later I was out of luck, but after dealing with about 5 different people at BIC Camera, one spent about 15 minutes getting directions and printing out a map to the nearest Autobacs.

It was then I got my first taste of navigating around Japan, and how truly bad I am at it. I spent roughly 2 hours, driving up and down, pulling into service station after service station trying to get directions; for what should have been a 20 minute drive directly there. I even found myself at the docks, surrounded by trucks and shipping containers. To this day I don’t know how I ended up there for what was meant to be a search for a store in the middle of a city.

In the end I made it, and thankfully they had the power inverter I was looking for. Things were looking up, but by this stage I was nearing 4pm in the afternoon. Google maps told me the drive was around 30 hours long skipping toll roads, which considering they would cost me in excess of $300 for that trip, I thought was worth it compared to the 20 hours with tolls. The biggest issue I had was that this was all assuming everything went smoothly, and after my initial struggles, I was extremely doubtful this was going to be the case. I had no idea how right I was.

The problem was, it was 4pm monday afternoon, and I had to be back working at 7:30am on wednesday morning. To save you the maths, it was less than 40 hours until I needed to be back home getting ready for work. 10 hours buffer for food and piss stops, sleep, navigation issues, car issues, road works, fuel stops and any other possible issue you could fall into, which really was not a great deal.

As I left autobacs and plugged the power inverter in, then my laptop into the inverter, I was feeling pretty confident, I had a basic map, basic directions, so I set off.

It should be noted here, I worked as a pizza delivery driver for a few years, in general, when it comes to navigation, i’m pretty good, I have never been so fucking confused looking at a map in my life. Words cannot describe how lost I became in the next few hours as I tried to find my way out of Kagoshima, I stopped into just about every Lawson Station (common convenience store in Japan) in Kagoshima asking for directions, asking where I was. I found myself looping a few times, It was doing my head in. The biggest issue is, the directions indicate street names in Japanese, as that’s how they are meant to be signed, however at that point I didn’t know which signs were for the road name, and in general, I know now that Japanese roads are signed very poorly, and I still struggle. The directions also didn’t correspond with the actual roads, or so I thought, roads which were meant to be in places just weren’t, the descriptions just weren’t precise enough to figure out exactly what road they were talking about, and the map wasn’t zoomed in far enough to a level which showed all roads.

I eventually got out into more open road, I had never been more relieved as it meant the end of complex directions, and it allowed me to befriend the Japanese route system, more specifically, the route which will always be special to me, route 3. Once I was on route 3 it was a very simple task of following the signs and going everywhere it told me to go. For a while I was very confident, it was seeming all too easy. I even stopped off on the coast I was following for a while to grab a few pictures, the weather was still quite shit, but the view was still worth stopping off for a few minutes for.

R32 rb26 japan
R32 rb26 japan
R32 rb26 japan

At one of the first stops, I measured how long Google predicted it would take me to get along a certain leg of route 3, where I wasn’t able to make any navigational errors, it came down purely to car speed. Although I wasn’t in any heavy traffic, the prediction Google had made was roughly 1/2 of what it had actually taken me. At this stage worry set in, how accurate was the prediction of 30 hours if so far it’s already taken me double to cover a few hundred k’s, than what Google had predicted?

There wasn’t anything to do but to keep going, so back on the road I went. After maybe 5 hours into the journey, my computer started to make low battery noises. I figured the connection had slipped out, but after playing with every connection, and looking for every issue, I came to the conclusion a fuse had gone on the inverter. Thankfully it came with one, but after replacing it and it still not responding, I decided to look at the R32’s fuses. After pulling out every fuse in the ‘single’ row of fuses I saw, and every one being ok, I started to get a little worried. I pulled into a large service station where I was met with I think the most enthusiastic servers I’ve seen, even to this day. They ran from the store, and I had 3, maybe 4 servers yelling at me all flinging their arms around in an attempt to direct me, they followed me every step of the way up to bowser, they were excited, I was the only customer around, and to their knowledge I was about to buy their fuel. Much to their surprise I kept driving through and parked off to the side, I almost didn’t have the heart to tell them I just wanted to borrow a screw driver and that I’d in fact just filled up not long ago. I needed the screw driver to pull the inverter apart, see if there was any visible reason for the inverter not working. There wasn’t.

With the residual battery left in the laptop, I shut the lid and saved it for very small amounts of time where I’d need to check directions. Back on the road, I thankfully didn’t need to use it much for the next few hours as I kept following route 3. Although my best source of directions was mostly gone, I was still relatively confident, following route 3 was relatively easy at that point, even finding myself driving through some of the major cities, as long as I stuck to the particular route, it wasn’t too hard to keep yourself on the right track. At this point I started enjoying the drive, every 100km’s or so I’d hit a major city, a lot of which I’d never heard of before, but would still dwarf even Australia’s biggest cities. I was getting a taste of one of the reasons I’d bought this car in the first place, absolute freedom, I didn’t have to worry about being pulled over in my highly modified car, sure it stood out, sure it was bloody fast, but ultimately, this didn’t matter to police. It had been so long since I’d driven a modified car around as a daily since my R32 at home was taken off the road for track only use, but even so I’d never been able to relax like I was here and properly enjoy the experience, at least in between remembering that I was on a brutal deadline, in a car self-proclaimed by the previous owner that it wasn’t going to make the journey and without any decent directions.

Between the cities were a variety of different roads, some leading through smaller towns, some quite straight, but my spirits always lifted when I reached some windy roads through the hills. Mountain roads in Japan are like nothing in Australia and even when you’re sharing them with other road users they still get your heart pumping a bit. As I came into near Fukuoka, the directions got a little more complex as I had to say goodbye to my friend; route 3; for now at least. The RB26 wasn’t too bad on fuel, but as you passed 8-9pm you had to be on your toes looking out for 24hr servos once you reach 1/3 of a tank, as they really aren’t too common. I was getting quite lost by this stage, I ended up on a toll highway to take me roughly in the direction I needed to go as I just couldn’t find any signage via the low roads (toll free). I spent a long time going to several convenience stores, with my laptop and charger in hand, finding power points (thank god every convenience store in Japan has an electric kettle) and charging for a few minutes whilst I tried to find where the hell I was from my partially loaded maps cached from the last wireless hotspot I was lucky enough to come across. I finally found the way through Fukuoka on the map, and the way to the main island of Honshu.

Just before the entry to the underwater tunnel that was going to take me from Kyushu to Honshu, by this time it was about 3-4am, I had been looking for a long time for a fuel station, nothing was open. I spent quite a bit of time hunting through the ghost town-like streets of Shimonoseki, I remember thinking I hadn’t seen a town so deserted in a long time, that alone should have told me there would be nothing open. But I was desperate, the fuel light had been on for quite a while, and at the time, driving through the near 4km tunnel on vapours left in the tank didn’t seem like an option. Unfortunately there was nothing, I could either camp there the night and wait for a fuel station to open in another 4-5 hours, or risk it and drive through the tunnel. There really couldn’t have been a worse place to run out of fuel, remember this isn’t like Australia where you call RAA and have them bring out a jerry can of fuel, at the time I didn’t have a phone or communication device of any type, and I doubt even if i did it wouldn’t have even worked in a tunnel under the ocean. It also wasn’t like a typical tunnel through a mountain of underground; it was extremely narrow with nowhere to push a car to the side.

The prospect of breaking down in the middle of an Ocean at 3am wasn’t too attractive, but neither was losing 4-5 hours, so I entered through the toll gates, and began the drive down. The biggest shame was there was not a soul about anywhere, I was in this long tunnel to myself, and I had a T78 turbo’d RB26 R32 with external gate and screamer to my resources, which I couldn’t use fully as I was in fuel save mode. For the first part I was conservative with my throttle as it was downhill, until I realised that what goes down must come up. So I gathered some speed, I can’t remember what the speed limit was, but by this point I’d learnt the ways of the Japanese people and come to disrespect the speed limits as much as they did, but I figured even if I was going to run out of fuel, I was going to make sure I had enough speed to make it up the other side.


  1. Peter
    Posted August 24, 2011 at 5:32 am | #

    Arghhh, I feel like I’m watching a TV series with you stopping the story without telling us what happened in the tunnel!!!! hahaha.

    Always keen for updates!

    • Stewy Bryant
      Posted August 29, 2011 at 3:48 pm | #

      haha, it’s just so much to remember it takes a while to get the whole story out.

  2. jacob
    Posted August 24, 2011 at 9:10 am | #

    awesome write up bud keep ’em coming!

  3. Posted April 7, 2012 at 7:34 am | #

    YOU CANT STOP THERE!!!! lol aw man this sounds like a hell of a drive!! 😀

  4. Daniel
    Posted June 17, 2012 at 4:48 am | #

    Such a good read! Now to find the rest of the story!!

  5. Posted September 11, 2012 at 9:36 pm | #

    Awesome reading! i want the next part now now now!

  6. Sam
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 9:43 am | #

    Hey mate! We want the end of the story 😀

    • Stewy Bryant
      Posted April 17, 2013 at 12:27 pm | #

      Soon mate!

  7. Jess
    Posted October 21, 2013 at 8:53 am | #

    Time to finish this story, slacker!

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