The underground culture of Kanjozoku street cars and racers in Osaka, Japan is mysterious but so legendary. The word “Kanjo” means “little to more”; this may reflect the cars themselves, especially the Honda Civics, being pushed to the limit. The origins of Kanjozoku remain relatively unknown, but it is believed to have started around three decades ago.
Honda enthusiasts have a long history of racing on elevated freeways in Osaka, Japan. The most famous of these highways was the “Kanjo Loop”: an infamous highway where roads connected in a clockwise loop. After a few hours, once night fell, the runners came to play.
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Nowadays, the Kanjozoku exclusively uses Civics for racing on the Kanjo Loop. They gather in random and unspecified places to race and test their skills to the limit. Keep in mind that the roads are not empty in these strange hours, nor closed for them, so there are civilians and cops on the streets when they are racing. The goal of ‘Kanjo Racers’, or rather ‘Kanjozoku’, is not to let anything get in their way; dodge whatever is thrown at them. This, as you can guess, is completely illegal and extremely dangerous.
Kanjozoku is often compared to the most famous “Midnight Club” in the world and can be compared to Wangan. However, where the Wangan has wide, straight, and long roads, the Kanjo has narrow and shorter routes than the Wangan. Kanjo has narrow corners. The Wangan is home to ridiculously powerful cars geared towards top speed, while the Kanjo is perfect for vehicles with exceptional handling and agility. Now their choice of automobile is exclusively one of the best front-wheel drive cars of all time, the Honda Civic.
In an interview with Car Throttle, an anonymous member of Kanjozoku was asked: “Why only the Honda Civic EF9, EG6 and EK4 from the 80s and 90s?
“The Kanjo is full of regular drivers, so to squeeze through traffic a Civic does the job,” he replied,
Kanjozoku have always been inspired by the world of professional motorsport. During the ’80s and’ 90s, the Civic found immense popularity in the Japanese Group A racing scene. Loop racers used the same tricks in their cars, starting with styling, engine setup, tuning. , etc. Engine mods and tuning are generally not heavy, and in most scenarios, this is a moderately tuned NA B-series VTEC engine. Interiors are generally stripped down, and things like the layout of the engine bay mean nothing to these guys as long as the car is fully functional.
The same goes for the configuration of tires and wheels; the wheels will often be mismatched and will mostly use tires like the Advan AO48 or high grip racing tires. Cars may not shine like show cars mainly because they are designed to show the intentions of car owners or just for racing. The cars of the vehicles and the identities of the owners are often left anonymous with a hinge or fake license plate and usually with mosquito nets or owners wearing a mask.
At one point Kanjo racing became such a big problem for the Japanese people that law enforcement started cracking down on illegal racing, Kanjozoku members were arrested, some had their cars confiscated though. -liked and the Kanjo loop has been locked. Many runners quit the hobby, some moved on to the racetrack, and others simply left the group or retired because they couldn’t find that thrill anymore; the rivalry between the Kanjo auto clubs died out and what remains of Kanjozoku has remained united, battling law enforcement while preserving their JDM traditions. But even for those who have moved their racing around the track, the distinct Kanjo vibe can still be felt in their cars and driving style.
These days, races on Kanjo are unusually rare, and people who have stuck with their traditional JDM business do so only to maintain a long-standing tradition. Any existing information on Kanjo’s races is incredibly difficult to find and skeptical at best. Much of it is hearsay and rumors perpetrated by those who would like them to come full circle.