Touge – The Birthplace Of Drifting
Touge, also known as the birthplace of drifting, is a Japanese term for drifting through narrow curves up in the mountains, bringing Initial D to reality.
Jump To Section
Common to Japanese car enthusiasts, Tōge, also spelled as touge, is a Japanese word that translates into “pass,” referring to a mountain pass, which is a navigable path through mountains with tight twists and turns, making the entire idea of this Japanese touge racing and drifting more exciting.
When pronouncing touge, just like many people who are unaware of Japanese terminologies, I struggle endlessly with the pronunciation.
The easy way to remember is by breaking down the word into two, pronouncing it as “to:ge” (or, if you want to be blunt – “tow-gay”!)
While others may pronounce it as “tooj”, or any similar variable, this is incorrect.
With that covered, let’s dive into the fun part. As you’ll probably already know, the touge is popular for drifting and street races - think real-world Tokyo Drift.
The driving community has developed a significant interest in routes initially designed to make it easier for commuters (or tofu delivery drivers) and commercial vehicles to move about the country.
These mountain passes have now become a part of the Japanese automotive culture, where these are used for drifting, racing, and roadside car meetups.
To understand touge better, it can be compared to the British B-road, a very British thing to do, exploring the countryside and open lands on less populated roads.
The only difference between the touge and the British back road is the adrenaline rush and huge altitude variables that the touge offers.
Instead of traversing open land, touge winds through mountainous terrains.
Japan is well known for its mountains, and these road links in the mountains were built with various S-bends to help Japan traverse its high terrain.
Nowadays, these roads remain largely unpopulated, allowing some exotic car enthusiasts to bring the infamous Tokyo drift to life!
Passes have long been traversed by roads, and more recently, railroads through mountain passes are becoming a common sight.
To ensure smooth traffic flow all year round, some high, difficult crossings may have tunnels constructed beneath a neighboring slope.
Usually, mountain passes have a small roadside sign with the name of the pass and its elevation above sea level.
With topographical reference, mountain passes, or touge, are identified on a map by contour lines that take the form of an hourglass, denoting a low point between two higher locations in terms of altitude.
A mountain pass is the distance between the mountain and the top 2,000 meters or more in high-altitude mountain ranges.
A drainage split is created by passes frequently situated directly above a river’s source.
A pass could be a few meters long with steep slopes leading to the top, or a lengthy valley with a high point that can only be found through surveying.
The summit of a pass offers a good observation point and is typically the only flat location around.
This makes it a preferred location for buildings in particular circumstances.
If a country’s border runs along a mountain range, there will often be a pass across the range, a border checkpoint, a customs office for border crossings, and perhaps even a military outpost, but that entirely depends on the relationship between the two countries.
In South America, Argentina and Chile have the third-longest international border in the world, with 42 mountain passes.
The boundary follows the Andes mountains from north to south and is 5,300 kilometers long.
With its winding roads and sharp turns, touge racing serves as a genuine test of a driver’s abilities and puts on a great show of handling and spontaneity.
It is a great technique to display driving talent and is used frequently in street racing, drift competitions, and even for driving tests.
At first, vehicles with higher horsepower were used, and with all that power, their tires frequently spun, and counter-steering troubles came forth at each banked curve and tight turn.
Each vehicle’s road grip was the focus since the traction was intentionally kept low in what began as touge racing.
One of the most intriguing aspects of touge racing is the participation of everyday drivers who merely use the route as a means of transportation.
Japan as a nation is renowned for its discipline, and the same display of discipline is reflected in touge racing since it has a set of rules that everyone follows.
When racing on the touge in Japan, the drivers are exceedingly polite to one another, with regular drivers pulling aside to create space for the newbies.
Spotters and spectators frequently warn drivers of approaching traffic from the top and bottom of the mountain pass during drifting, putting up a great display of mutual respect and coherence while keeping the exceptional thrill alive!
Types of Touge Races
While there are few disciplines when it comes to specific races, here are a couple of common options:
Timed races are of two kinds: one in which competitors compete simultaneously and try to finish the track as quickly as possible. Usually, these are initiated by two cars starting side by side.
The second kind is when competitors do not engage in combat simultaneously but are still timed and want to finish the course as quickly as possible, much like how they race in rallies.
Racing enthusiasts often start spontaneous drag races by following another vehicle on the road and flashing their hazard lights to indicate a race.
The driver in front then chooses to let them pass or accept the challenge by also flashing the hazard lights of their car in response.
Cat and Mouse
In a cat-and-mouse race, one car passes ahead of the other just at the starting line. If a car loses control or spins out, it immediately loses the race.
The race’s victory is determined by the presence of a big gap between the lead and the chase cars. The lead and following cars switch positions until a winner is determined.
As far as the history of drifting is concerned, the first introduction to the mainstream was with the Drift King, Keiichi Tsuchiya, who caused controversy by drifting in conventional races.
Although it was used in rally cross racing to maintain an ideal level for the engine RPMs and speeds while entering and leaving sharp corners, the art of perfect drifting was mainly introduced by the drivers participating in touge events – undoubtedly where Tsuchiya’s drifting story began.
Initially, when a handful of people dared to climb Japan’s perilous mountains, they put their driving skills to an extreme test by competing to see who could ascend or descend the mountain the quickest.
Many people initially feared the idea of losing traction because of the common assumption that losing control of the car would inevitably cause an accident.
However, as time passed, the idea of drifting or power sliding was discovered by touge drivers. They were used as a technique to demonstrate controlled driving.
The idea of losing traction in the mountains grew in popularity as touge drifting gained some popularity.
Many people accepted that losing traction and then counter-steering to regain it was a brilliant driving technique.
The idea of drifting became so popular that drivers started to be judged based on their drifts.
Drivers were regarded with great respect if their slide lasted longer. In fact, the longer the drifts, the better the driver’s reputation.
Nowadays, the youth find drifting very attractive and full of adrenaline.
The once secretive sport of drifting, emerging from the mountains of Japan, has become so popular that racers participate in drifting competitions held annually at different locations.
Newcomers to the drift world are eager to participate in the activities by driving up into the mountains in their freshly purchased drift cars because drifting has recently drawn tremendous attention.
The same people accelerate up and down the mountainside, applying hand brakes, electronic brakes, or pitching the car at dangerous angles to get their cars to drift.
Much-respected videos like Option Drift show these exciting drifts.
However, when drivers exceed their limits, cars spiral out of control, resulting in terrible accidents and endangering other people’s lives.
The drifting community faces backlash due to the nuisance of beginners. Newbies who have no idea about driving, controlling a car, following a racing line, or maneuvering a controlled drift.
The problem is that these people think they know about all these things by watching videos or attending a handful of drift competitions.
In an interview, Mr. L. Toguchi, a well-known drifter and event participant, also confessed that he used to go touge drifting but stopped going ever since more official track competitions started taking place.
And he’s certainly just one of many pro-level drifters whose story began on the twisty mountain roads.
The reason he gave was that the number of young children attempting to impersonate great drifters over there would put the lives of other participants at risk.
He added that those folks were simply unaware that with every reckless move, they put their lives, as well as the lives of their passengers and other drivers on the road, all at risk.
How Do Touge Battles Work?
In case you’re wondering how touge battles work without having a regulatory body, they work on great mutual respect and some unwritten rules.
Firstly, the spot where the touge battle will be taking place is never disclosed publicly, and the touge group is kept as small as possible.
Having two lanes open simultaneously or crossing into another driver’s lane is strictly prohibited. All drivers are advised to clearly understand their limits and stick to them, keeping their egos out of the touge battle and realizing there will be someone faster than them.
Passing isn’t allowed, and all drivers should leave enough margin between cars when in a group.
Drivers are also advised to watch out for any wildfires. All participants must ensure that they stay alert and don’t have any distractions around them that might affect their runs. Tire pressure, alignment, and brakes must all be checked and be in perfect working order before the race starts.
Cinema, including movies, TV shows, documentaries, and even cartoons, all play a great role in shaping any nation’s cultural attitudes, customs, and traditions.
The audience usually adopts the style and attitude of their favorite characters that they watch on screen.
They also adapt the things or hobbies that those characters might be displaying. Content creators may use their videos or movies to influence certain cultural attitudes toward social issues or influence people to adopt certain things.
Similarly, Japanese cinema has played a vital role in the rise of touge’s popularity. One of the main influences on touge is the Japanese manga series “Initial D” by Shuichi Shigeno, which became one of the most-watched animes.
Although it was founded on existing techniques, Initial D popularized touge racing and drifting in the automotive world.
The nature of touge roads took advantage of the multiple uphill and downhill conflicts in the manga and anime. The enthusiasm for drifting was fully displayed for everyone to see through the S bends and altitude changes.
Another show named Best Motoring featured videos distinguished by unconventional races and challenges, such as touge battles, in which one automobile attempts to outrun another on a winding mountain pass.
The drivers competed in the top racing competitions in Japan. The original AE86 drift master, Keiichi Tsuchiya, participated in numerous stunts on the touge roads for the show.
he Japanese version of Best Motoring covered mostly non-tuned stock cars, while the more popular edition was the bimonthly video series primarily testing tuned cars.
Best Cars for Touge
Although you can use any type of car for touge racing, generally, rear-wheel-drive cars are better at drifting. Most racers who know touge racing well prefer cars like the Nissan Skyline, Nissan 240SX, Toyota MR2, Toyota AE86, or Honda S2000.
Due to its affordability, the Nissan S-Chassis is a great RWD car for touge because of its lightweight design and highly tunable engine. All these factors make it one of the most popular RWD vehicles on the market. We have a full guide on how to build your own drift car if that seems interesting.
Contrary to popular belief, the Toyota AE86 was popular, mostly in Japan. Before the show, Initial D got famous, it was the most affordable front-engine rear-wheel drive car available at the time.
Additionally, it had a 50/50 weight distribution, a strong engine that was easy to tune, and incredibly lightweight.
The Nissan Skyline GT-R also has a great story. The R32 GT-R entered Australian races thanks to a rule modification from the 1980s that allowed non-V8 vehicles to compete.
The R32 won the 1992 Bathurst 1000 by defeating all V8 muscle cars, earning gold medals all around, and it ended up with the name “Godzilla.”
Whether you are a motorsport enthusiast or not, it is safe to say that the idea of touge racing sounds fun.
As interesting as it may sound, one thing must be kept in mind: touge racing is illegal, just like any other race off the track.
The police are usually on the lookout for such events; hence, they are always kept low.
Unfortunately, being an enthusiast, watching a few videos, and attending a few drift events won’t make you a good driver (as much as we wish it did!) Therefore, racing must be limited to racetracks only.