I would like to know more about all aspects of car culture in Japan (i.e. race series, street racing, popular cars, typical body styling, all makes of cars, drifting, and anything else.) Any information would be appreciated.
Heh... that's a pretty open-ended question if ever there was one. Just the kind I like. I can't really say i'm an expert on such things but it is where I first got turned on to the whole JDM scene (Japan Domestic Market). From my experience, no other place in the world has a more intense car culture than Japan. Sure, SoCal and the Bay Area (California) are huge... but that's a pretty tightknit local scene imho and most of those guys/gals know each other and network constantly. At least the ones who have been around for some time, whereas the "scene" in Japan so to speak, is dominant in every major city/metropolitan area (Tokyo most notably of course).
Engineering wise, although known for it's sleek stylistic lines coupled with power, Japan really shines in top notch performance parts and upgrades (think TRD, Greddy, Veilside, etc. etc.). There is no shortage of tuner shops, garages, and the like that cater to every car enthusiast's needs (if you know where to look). Factory showrooms in Japan are also incredibly popular for those wishing to check out the latest models firsthand, as well as the annual Tokyo Auto Show which draws thousands every year.
Re: the racing scene, there are several different types. The zero-yon is akin to the traditional drag racing you are probably familiar with (0-400m standing start drag test). I prefer the rolling start myself as my car is more geared for that type of racing or wangan style as opposed to drift and touge.
Something I found to be really interesting in Japan is that like so many young women who get caught up in the latest fashion trends (toiling away at work to buy that ultra-expensive Prada accessory for instance), a lot of the guys I ran into were the same way with their cars. These guys were true enthuisiasts and their cars were labors of love with thousands invested into each. Sure, they held down regular day jobs just like everybody else, but once the sun went down... you get the picture.
On another note, you don't really see a whole lot of messed up cars either, as most tend to look or be pretty new wherever you go, although shakken has more to do with that than anything else I guess. Shakken is a tax you must pay every two years and consists of:
(1) A two year base insurance policy (rate varies a little). In addition to this, you will have to buy a supplemental insurance policy.
(2) A standard inspection fee of $300 (30,000 yen).
(3) The cost of any repairs needed to bring the car up to standard (if there aren't any, they will some... trust me 8-p).
Expect to pay anywhere near $1-2,000 (100,000-200,000) yen or more for shakken.
Anyways, these are just a few of my thoughts on the subject. If you would like to know more, please feel free to ask away.
Btw, check out the following links when you get a chance. I have included a couple that you may find interesting:
I'm at the Daikoku futo almost every friday. Every weekend I accompany my friend as he picks people to race against on the Shutoko and Wangan expressways. Saturday nights are for drifting in Hakone. God I love it out here....
Tokyo is for the pretty boy showoffs. Osaka is for the hardcore racers.