Earlier this year I found out about an event that would be taking place during the dates I was planning to be in Japan, and it sounded like it was going to be pretty crazy. I wasn’t exactly sure what it was, to be honest, but I took a gamble and decided to swap my schedule around so that I could make it along.
I'm so, SO glad that I did!
Apart from a horrendous backlog of traffic trying to get into the venue, an expensive entry fee and some crazy wet and windy weather, it was by far one of the coolest events I’ve attended in Japan. We’d planned to arrive at 9am, but it was noon by the time we finally made it through the main gates. Even before we got out of our car, our ears were assaulted by the deafening sound of hundreds of engines being bounced off their limiters, and live rock ‘n’ roll music being sung in Japanese could be heard vaguely amongst all the revving...
The Cannonball Festival isn’t really a secret as such, it’s just not solely a car show; it’s actually a Japanese Rock ‘n’ Roll and motorbike festival! It’s also divided into two parts, an event in Hiroshima that took place a month earlier, and then a ‘Chiba edition’ which took place in mid-April. Inside the venue was a stage with live music and a number of cool cars and motorcycles on display.
Speaking of motorbikes, they took up a good half of the parking lot too. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many cool old bikes in one place like this before! Some bikes showed pretty obvious signs of having bōsōzoku connections, but as a foreigner and someone not all that familiar with bike gangs in Japan, it’s hard to know exactly ‘who’s who’. Still, there were plenty of stickers with well-known gang logos like Specter and Black Emperor floating around.
Bōsōzoku culture peaked in the ’80s and many teams hailed from the Chiba area, where this event was held. There’s no doubt that some of these guys once got up to some dodgy stuff when they were younger, but considering members would leave the gangs before the age of 20 and most of these guys were older, now they’re just groups of old friends with families who still enjoy bikes and cars together.
I mean, you certainly wouldn’t want to piss off the wrong person, but the general atmosphere of the event was pretty friendly and there were heaps of kids there, although I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t get stared at, a lot! On the few occasions I tried to get a photo taken in front of some cars, I’d somehow end up with other people in it!
C10 Skylines are rare these days and have skyrocketed in price in recent years, (especially the 2-door coupe version!) but at big kyusha meets in Japan you’d never have guessed it. There are always so, so many of them and they’re often modified in this style. This one was sporting a beautiful deep glossy red paint paint job and super wide SSR Mk3 wheels. Headlamp covers are a must, too.
One super-low Hakosuka with a race-inspired livery and rare Japanese wheels is cool enough, but how about five? Each of these cars had ‘Prince’ + their location sign-written on their rear quarter in Japanese, and some of these guys had come as far as Nagasaki, which is basically at the very bottom of Japan in Kyushu! This might explain why they started leaving just as I took this image – but I did manage to get a quick photo on my phone with them all in it.
It’s not uncommon for these sorts of events to have just as much cool stuff to look at in the parking lot, but inside the venue were even more cool cars parked up.
This crazy sparkly 4-door C110 Skyline with its ultra-desirable Hayashi Yayoi wheels is a favourite of mine and I’ve been lucky enough to see it in person twice now. The owner had also travelled all the way from Shikoku for the event!
I loved this 4-door Gloria 230. Unlike most of the cars there, it didn’t have overfenders so you could really appreciate the natural lines of the body shape. The front chin spoiler and rear wing really made it for me.
This Z had to be my favourite car of the show. At first I wasn’t sure about the blacked-out chrome, but somehow it works and that red was just so incredibly stunning. I was dying to see under the bonnet, but didn’t want to interrupt the owners having a conversation inside the car. Also, notice how the fender actually covers the front side marker? Insane stuff.
The Cannonball Festival was such a crazy showcase of Japanese automotive culture, and it was so cool that people had travelled from all over Japan to meet up for it. It’s not too often that large meetings like this are held, but if you know when and where, and if you arrive early enough you’ll be treated generously!
Taryn Kelly | www.JapanCarCulture.com
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