The difference between the Kanjo and what you might call traditional street racing is that regular street racing is done despite being illegal. Kanjo racing, from my personal findings is done because it’s illegal. I’m quite convinced that if the police and the general public were ok with it – they wouldn’t do it. It’s a game. A highly illegal and dangerous one, but a game nonetheless.
Unlike the image of the street racer that loves and cherishes his car to no end – the Honda Civics driven by the Kanjozoku are treated more like battered weapons. They almost have a disposable feeling to them. In fact, sometimes the cars are literally abandoned on the highway as their drivers escape on foot from the police. Most of the real Kanjo cars have no VINs or license plates so it’s not like the confiscated car will be of much use to the cops.
Even the way the racers get to the loop has lots of gamesmanship in it. A lot of these guys live on the outskirts of the city, so it’s not like they can get in their unregistered, non street-legal cars and casually cruise out to meet their buddies on the Kanjo. Instead, many of them will “hide” their cars in various garages and workshops in the city and use other more inconspicuous forms of transportation to reach their machines.
The encounters that most people have with the real Kanjo racers are brief and sometimes scary. They last mere seconds. It could be a truck driver fearfully watching the Civics swerve around his rig before they disappear into the night. It could be a police officer helplessly trying to catch the elusive tribe of highway outlaws. They are gone as soon as you see them, and that’s helped contribute to their mysterious nature.
While you might expect the guys who drive these cars to be tough-talking gangsters who strike fear into everyone around them, that isn’t the case. Out of the car, today’s Kanjo racers are mostly an older crowd, goofing off making jokes and generally not taking themselves too seriously. Even when they get in their cars – there’s a somehow playful nature to what they do. It would almost be quaint if it wasn’t so dangerous.
There’s a chaotic yet strangely organized nature to what the Kanjo racers do. Before they even head out, they will often dispatch scout cars to check the loop and see what sort of law enforcement presence there is. If the cops are present, they will send out decoy racers to distract the police while the main group assembles elsewhere.
While I’m not entirely sure if what we saw on this night is standard procedure or if the racers were putting on a special show for our cameras – the ride from the meeting spot in the harbor to the middle of the city was anything but relaxed. It was a parade of noise and insanity as we made our way through the deserted city.