「Enchanted by the Osaka Kanjo Loop」On January 1st 1983, Street Racers Swarm the 6.5 Mile Kanjo【Play Back The OPTION】
Street Outlaws Challenge the Famed 10.4km (6.5mi) long loop!
The time: New Year’s Day, 1983. The place, Osaka’s Kanjo ring.
Though the Osaka Metropolitan Kanjo highway loop that became a circuit by night for illegal street racers is now famous among Japanese tuning fans worldwide, many aren’t aware that it actually hit peak activity in the 1980s. Long before the infamous ranks of race tuned Honda Civics did battle here, droves of unnamed teams ran wildly, leading to eventual challengers and rival teams joining their ranks into the late 80s. The Osaka Kanjo loop became a lawless zone at night, resulting in a number of fatal accidents during years of peak activity. That boom declined rapidly at the end of that era, due to multiple factors including a widespread police crackdown and the burst of Japan’s bubble economy.
OPTION covered this topic many times during the heyday of the Kanjo racers, but this article in particular has proven to be the most memorable. Here, let’s take a look back at that article’s contents, showing some page scans of that nostalgic story from New Years Day 1983!
The once-a-year chance on New Year’s Day for street racers to run wild.
During the New Year holidays in Japan, three days of rest for the nation are observed, resulting in a dramatic drop in traffic volume on usually overcrowded freeways. During these three days each year, most people are at home relaxing with their families, but those interested in a leisurely drive are treated to wide open lanes with no traffic jams in sight. This situation proves to be somewhat different however, in the big city of Osaka…
Racing Fever is Alive and Well！ Central Japan’s Street Racing Heyday!
1982 was a tough year for street racers in Tokyo. News reports disparaging the dangers of drag racing, cannonballing, and Tokyo metropolitan highway loop illegal street racing ran rampant in TV and newspapers. At this time, the police focused efforts on putting such activity to an end and restore an image of road safety to the public eye.
「The Osaka Kanjo on New Years is Paradise」was said among street racers nationwide. This became a tradition for many to take to the highways during this opportunity.
「This is our chance to see legendary machines that only come out once a year!」many said, and word brought racers from far and wide.
【A short report of the happening】
On January 1st as the clock struck midnight, every gave a 「Happy New Year!」greeting and racers took this as cue to start their engines. By 12:30am, the loop was a fast moving connected train of headlights. This was a total departure from the quiet, completely deserted highways that existed just one hour earlier.
「Lots of cars have come here before on New Year’s, but I’ve never seen anything like this 」said people making note of how many cars from out of town had come to run. The entire 10.4km long loop was filled with racers lapping the circuit at speed. 「All the Osaka locals have known for years, but to see this many out of towners in crazy!」said others.
＜It’s New Year’s Day. We’ll clean our machines up nicely and add the traditional New Year’s wreath to the front. Hey, there’s your excuse to hide your number plate from cops!＞
Even though it was New Year’s Day, a time of rest, prefectural police knew of previous years shenanigans and put a check system in place. They narrowed the entrances to the loop line and deliberately caused congestion at those points. But still, cars equipped with racing slicks and masked number plates hid amongst the congestion, cleverly breaking through into the loop.
「Now is our chance, so let’s make 1983 a year we will always remember!」･･･said some Osaka Kanjo runners.
By the way, on this first night of 1983 the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway was completely jammed up from the accident of a general motorist crash, totally erasing racers chances of making a run there.
Instead, the Osaka Kanjo became the world of the street racer. Though “Kanjo-zoku” have now become a household name, at least in tuning circles, it all began here and hit its peak on that storied night. Captured only in photos and the pages of OPTION, the legendary ghosts who lapped the 10.4km Kanjo loop left their mark on street racing culture and made a huge impact on where it would head in the years after.
[from OPTION March 1983 Issue]