On this particular night there seems to be just one patrol car on the loop – and unlike the American police cruisers that often lay in hiding, this black and white Toyota Crown can be seen from miles away with its red lights constantly flashing. The groups of racers pass the cop car numerous times, paying little notice to it. There’s no doubt the police car wants to catch these guys. He knows exactly what they are here to do, but he seems helpless to do anything.

This is where the dramatic difference between law enforcement in Japan and the United States comes into play. I can’t speak for other countries around the world, but I can say that there’s no way these guys would be able to get away with this kind of thing in America. It may take backup, helicopters and other measures, but if cops in the states want to catch you, you can damn well bet they will. Where I live, you’d have to be insane or have a death wish to go out and play games with the cops like this. I’m sure this can be chalked up to Japan’s low level of crime compared to the US, but it’s unbelievable to see this sort of thing play out before your eyes.

Tales from the Kanjo: Loop Games

Photo by Mike Garrett

The surreal craziness reaches its peak just before dawn. We’ve finished up our shooting and we are having one final gathering with the racers on the side of the highway, asking some last minute questions and a few final photos. Suddenly, everyone bolts for their cars. Red lights are approaching.

“Oh shit”, I say as I hear the police siren getting closer. We were just about done and now the cops have finally made their big move. Will the racers be arrested? Will I be taken in for questioning? Nope. Turns out it’s just the same lone patrol car from earlier, trying to make one last futile stand.

From our minivan, we see the cop car speed ahead in pursuit of three escaping Civics, ordering the drivers to stop through his loudspeaker. By this point I expect the Civics to punch it and run away in evasion of the police car, but what happens next is completely off the wall. The three racers slow down letting the big Toyota catch up to them, and for a moment I thought they may have actually surrendered to the cop’s orders.

Tales from the Kanjo: Loop Games

Photo by Mike Garrett

Not a chance in hell. Instead, the racers swarm around the patrol car – gunning their engines and circling the patrol car like a pack of wolves hunting prey No doubt this infuriates the officer behind the wheel. The police cruiser has been boxed in and I’ve forgotten who is supposed to be chasing who.

This continues for a short time before the three Civics slow to a crawl, bringing the policeman to a stop with them. Then the Kanjozoku jump on the throttle and make a quick last minute merge off the loop to the east, where the sun will soon be rising from above the mountains. That’s the last that we, or the police see of them.

The mysterious, nocturnal outlaws of Osaka highway have retreated, seemingly victorious in tonight’s high stakes game. Whether you consider these guys righteous rebels, an annoying public nuisance, dangerous criminals, or just old timers trying to keep the flame burning for a vanishing lifestyle – this is Kanjo in 2014.

Tales from the Kanjo: Loop Games

Photo by Mike Garrett

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