It’s easy to become desensitised to a lot of the events I get to go to here in Japan, but every now and then I catch myself being completely blown away. This is one of those rare times.
First let’s set the scene. Dori Dore happens just few times a year, but only once at the iconic Okuibuki Motor Park. This year it happened to be the day after Wekfest Japan, which is just a few hours’ drive away. I always see post-event coverage and wish I went, so while I was in Nagoya for Wekfest, I didn’t hesitate to splash out on an expensive mid-Golden Week hotel room for the night so I could check out Dori Dore the following day.
I just so happened to check into the same hotel as a one of the cars entering the event, which gave me a good taste of what to expect. The following morning, I bumped into another entrant at the local petrol station. Anticipation was at an all-time high as I made my way out to the venue.
Arriving at Okuibuki right as the gates opened at 8:00am allowed me to catch some of the cars unloading and coming in. It was hard to believe some of these cars would be drifting, as many had a show-like quality to them. I could already tell it was going to be a day of aero kit destruction.
Okuibuki is tucked into the picturesque mountains of Shiga Prefecture. This is a dual-purpose facility – in the winter it’s the Okuibuki Ski Resort; in the summer the parking area transforms into the Okuibuki Motor Park. For the latter, the main area is an open multipurpose course, but there’s also a touge section.
Being dropped on a mountainside creates a steep elevation change, making Okuibuki perfect for spectators and drawing bigger crowds year on year.
Photos like this are why I love to spend so much time in the pits.
Whilst I love the drifting, my favourite part of these events to shoot is the pits in the early morning. The ambience of the venue as the cars arrive and get ready for the day, whilst the sun still sits low enough to create that vibrant Japan glow, sets the scene for some of my favourite photos. I often find myself hanging around the pits even throughout the event, capturing the organised chaos.
With around 10 minutes until the drifting started, most cars made their way over to the entrance of the track. This is where the event started to differ from a typical drift day. Hundreds of spectators began to flock to the track’s edge, cheering on the cars as made a symphony of mostly SR, RB and JZ goodness. This part was much more reminiscent of bosozoku culture, and I was all for it.
As it is with many events, the rules around media access on track can be quite lenient in Japan compared to other countries. This was nothing short of that, allowing us to set up right in the thick of it, in the centre of the track.
You know you’ve got a good spot to shoot when your 35mm lens has enough reach to get close action shots of the cars.
I’ve shot Negi-san and Leina-san’s twin 180SXs in the past at Nikko Circuit. It was great to see them back out again at Okuibuki.
Dori Dore is much more about putting on a show than the driving itself. Being in Nagoya, many of the entrants will make their way from Tokyo or Osaka to join and drive the event with friends. The crowd around the track didn’t subside at all throughout the day, and I tried to capture photos that highlight the atmosphere of the event as much as the driving.
After a morning of drifting on the multipurpose course, it was time for the highly anticipated touge run at the bottom of the mountain. This course has almost no room for error, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from the drivers.
Of course, I was not disappointed; there was no hesitation to throw the cars in at ten tenths. This did however end in a few 4×4 adventures, cutting touge time short. I’m glad I managed to get down there for the first of the runs to grab these photos.
For the remainder of my time at Okuibuki, I planted myself back in the middle of the multipurpose course. The crowd only continued to grow towards the end of the day, and there was even an announcement that the venue had reached capacity.
Dori Dore Okuibuki 2023 was by far the best event I’ve been to in Japan yet. The combination of scenery, the crowd and the cars make it a must-do for anyone that ever finds themselves in Nagoya around Wekfest time.