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Old 06-26-2006, 10:52 AM   #1
Mach V Dan
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Default Driving in Japan trial by fire: S204

So, here I am in Japan, on my annual pilgramage to check out what's new, meet with suppliers, what-not. I'm at one of the supplier's shops, and we have a nice meeting. At the end, I mention the WRX STI S204 in the parking lot. It's the shop car, come to find out. Through my business agent/translator, the supplier asks, "Can you drive here?" I immediately answer "No." I don't have any international driver's license or anything. My agent says, "Don't you have your U.S. driver's license on you?" Well, yeah..."Then you can." I ponder this. The supplier guy gets the key. "Uh, yeah, sure I can," I say.

The supplier explains that he's got to man the shop, so he won't come with us on the drive. Needless to say, I'm a little nervous about the whole thing. My business associate says, "You've driven on the left side before, right?" I think for a while. Yeah, there was that one time in the Bahamas in college. On a scooter...

The car barely even has break-in miles on it. The back seats still have plastic wrap on them. We pull into suburban Tokyo traffic. I'm really, really concentrating hard on driving. "Okay, stay calm," I tell myself. "You're in a foreign country, on the wrong side of the road, driving the $48,000 brand-new car of someone you barely know. No problem."

But, through the sweat, I manage to few random mental notes: Carbon Recaro seats, great. Very comfortable, perfect fit for my 5'7" frame. My larger buddy has trouble getting in and out of the car, though. Red hazard button, meh, whatever. Rubberized black center stack, not bad. Feels nice to the touch. Same old six-speed shifter as I'm used to, comfortable, not as tough to manage with my left hand as I had feared. A button on the door triggers the electric folding mirrors on both sides. Useful here, I'm sure. Suspension, firm! I had expected a semi-plush ride, based on the reviews that called the car softer than the famous S202. But it's tight and pretty bumpy even on the smooth roads. Exiting the parking lot, the rear axle makes a "thump" noise as the tires get down onto the pavement. It's not as punishing as my Evo, but it feels pretty hard-core compared to the last USDM STi I drove. The ground clearance is enough that nothing drags on the way in or out of the lot, despite that rubber apron around the front lip.

I'm struggling to keep the car positioned correctly in the left lane, and it takes all my concentration to stay to the left when I make a right turn. My passenger cringes as I shy away from the oncoming traffic to MY right. I feel like I'm driving while talking on the cell phone AND adjusting the radio simultaneously -- my entire brain is at work just trying to keep me from pulling into the opposite lane and colliding with oncoming traffic.

I just about lose it when I go to change lanes and trigger the windshield wipers. What the...nobody ever told me that RHD cars have the wipers/turn signals stalks reversed! What idiot comes up with this stuff? At least the gas pedal is in the same spot...

I mostly putter around in first and second gear in typical suburban Tokyo mid-afternoon stop-and-go. But a few times there's open road ahead. I punch it in first and second gears a couple of times. My first reaction is disappointment -- where's the torque? Then I remember, it's a 2.0 engine, and about then the revs hit 5000 or so. Whoa! The tach rockets around and I'm getting ready to shift, but there's another 1000 rpm compared to the 7k redlines I'm used to. It howls up top, and it's just begging me to slot the next gear and keep the throttle planted. Of course, that would put us in the back end of the cement mixer I'm rapidly approaching.

After one such blast -- where I was doing maybe 100 kph in a 50 zone -- I look back and two cars behind is...the po-po! With red lights flashing! Crap! Crap! I start to have visible tremors. I say out loud that I'm sure he's just, uh, making sure nobody crashes into him, or something. I'm thinking, doesn't the guy behind me have to pull over? I mean, if the cops are behind you with your lights on, you pull over, right? But if they're two cars back, you wait for the guy behind YOU to pull over, and THEN you pull over. So...we all keep driving, and eventually more cars get between me and the long arm of the Japanese law, and I go about my business. Maybe I'm just paranoid. I try to shake the tension out of my hands.

I ask my partner again, "Are you SURE you don't want to drive?" He declines, says something like, "I'm not nuts," and I drive back to the lot without incident. I breathe a BIG sigh of relief that the car is unscathed.

So there you have it, my RHD driving trial by fire. I would have preferred to lose my virginity on a closed course, maybe in something like a Kei car. And I can't say I completely enjoyed this drive, as the anxiety pretty much swamped the feelings of giddy excitement. But hey, I figured, at least I'll have a heck of a story to tell.



--Dan
Mach V
FastWRX.com
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Old 06-26-2006, 10:59 AM   #2
Migo
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Whoa.... the trial that I both want to do and not do. Sounds like you had a blast!
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Old 06-26-2006, 11:00 AM   #3
RBelcher00
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Amazing!!!
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Old 06-26-2006, 11:03 AM   #4
Mach V Dan
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--Dan
Mach V
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Old 06-26-2006, 11:23 AM   #5
eurospek
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Only one pic?
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Old 06-26-2006, 11:25 AM   #6
Draven235
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reading this I felt like I was right there with ya.....not sure that I woulda done much better!!

Eff'in sweet tho!!
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Old 06-26-2006, 11:30 AM   #7
Poseur2000
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Nice write up.
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Old 06-26-2006, 11:36 AM   #8
kyosho
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pretty funny story Dan....

I probably would have done the same thing
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Old 06-26-2006, 11:43 AM   #9
sandwi54
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pretty realistic story. while reading it i could feel the intense moments too.
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Old 06-26-2006, 11:44 AM   #10
MoJack
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Lol Great write up. I dont know if I would have been able to do it. On a closed course or way open road hell yeah.

































What am I saying of course I would have drove that thing.
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Old 06-26-2006, 11:48 AM   #11
SilverSubaab
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.... At this point,
even I have lost track.

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Awesome! Simply awesome...
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Old 06-26-2006, 11:49 AM   #12
ekw
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well played!
i have sincere doubts that i could shift left handed.
is the pattern the same, or mirror image?
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Old 06-26-2006, 12:03 PM   #13
Migo
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ekw
well played!
i have sincere doubts that i could shift left handed.
is the pattern the same, or mirror image?
Pattern is identical. If you had a LHD passenger, he could easily shift for you.
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Old 06-26-2006, 12:07 PM   #14
garface
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ekw
well played!
i have sincere doubts that i could shift left handed.
is the pattern the same, or mirror image?
Same. It's like shifting from the passenger side of your US car.
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Old 06-26-2006, 12:14 PM   #15
Bobalouy
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Man thats awsome. I drove a LHD jeep in the virgin islands for a few days. I almost turned into oncoming traffic a few times.
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Old 06-26-2006, 12:20 PM   #16
zer0_thirteen
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Dan, great story! I hope you enjoy your visit to Japan!
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Old 06-26-2006, 12:41 PM   #17
hayasa
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Dan-san,

Just remember this phrase if you get pulled over.

"Gaikokujin da kara, supiido ga shirinakatta desu. Bukkake agemashoo ka?"

It wil get you out of trouble for sure.
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Old 06-26-2006, 12:49 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hayasa
Dan-san,

Just remember this phrase if you get pulled over.

"Gaikokujin da kara, supiido ga shirinakatta desu. Bukkake agemashoo ka?"

It wil get you out of trouble for sure.
:devil. Congrats on driving through Tokyo Dan.
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Old 06-26-2006, 01:03 PM   #19
ghibli99
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Great write-up! Better than reading Penthouse Letters.

And yeah, I'm jealous of those seats...
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Old 06-26-2006, 01:47 PM   #20
CatfaceType-R
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ghibli99
Great write-up! Better than reading Penthouse Letters.

ha, i was going to say something of that nature


i was born in thailand and actually learned to drive a stick with rhd...so i could probably pick it up again if i ever needed to. Then again, i was 12 years old then
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Old 06-26-2006, 02:14 PM   #21
mobilezen
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I read somewhere that if the police in Japan know you're driving a very fast car, there is no reason to go chasing you so they just let you go...kinda odd but probably safer in one way or another.
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Old 06-26-2006, 02:33 PM   #22
ChrisL2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mach V Dan
I just about lose it when I go to change lanes and trigger the windshield wipers. What the...nobody ever told me that RHD cars have the wipers/turn signals stalks reversed! What idiot comes up with this stuff?
Ya, the classic wiper check. We can tell when we get the new drivers in the Japan. I used to do that all the time.

Also, I find it easier to drive a RHD car then LHD. It feels more natural for some reason, especially when shifting.
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Old 06-26-2006, 02:34 PM   #23
ThisizBrian
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sweeeet! dan fought the law and won!
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Old 06-26-2006, 02:36 PM   #24
Mopho
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I had a similar experience driving for the first time in Japan, it was an in Jan of 01 before we got the WRX here, I walked into a dealer and took a bugeye STI out for a spin. Had the salesman in the car with me and my GF (now wife) screaming at me in Japanese to slow down. The salesman just laughed.

Now when I am in Japan, I get put to work by my father-in-law driving a small truck making strawberry deliveries all over Osaka
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Old 06-26-2006, 02:40 PM   #25
CatfaceType-R
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mobilezen
I read somewhere that if the police in Japan know you're driving a very fast car, there is no reason to go chasing you so they just let you go...kinda odd but probably safer in one way or another.

hmm...maybe i should try this technique in california


=loss/death
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