Inside the infamous Kanjozoku car culture

The underground Kanjozoku street car culture and racers of Osaka, Japan, is mysterious yet so legendary. The word 'Kanjo' means 'small to the most'; this may reflect the cars themselves, specifically Honda Civics, being pushed to the limit. The origins of the Kanjozoku remain relatively unknown but it is believed to have started around three decades ago.

Honda enthusiasts have been racing on elevated highways in Osaka, Japan for a long time. The most famous of these highways was the 'Kanjo Loop': an infamous expressway where the roadways connected in a looping clockwise position. After hours, after the night had settled, the racers came to play.

Nowadays, the Kanjozoku exclusively uses Civics for races on the Kanjo Loop. They gather at random, undetermined locations to race and test their skills to the limit. Keep in mind that the roads are not empty in these eerie hours, nor is it closed for them, so there are civilians and cops on the street when they race. The goal of the 'Kanjo Racers', or rather 'the Kanjozoku', is not to let anything stand in their way; dodge anything that is thrown at them. This, as you might guess, is entirely illegal and extremely dangerous.

The Kanjozoku is often compared to the world's most notorious 'Midnight Club' and can be compared to the Wangan. However, where the Wangan has wide, straight, and long roads, the Kanjo has tight, shorter routes than the Wangan. Kanjo has narrow corners. The Wangan is home to ridiculously high-powered cars geared towards top speed, while the Kanjo is perfect for vehicles with mind-blowing 0-60 times and outstanding 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 EF9, EG6, and EK4 Honda Civics from the 80s and 90s?"

"The Kanjo is full of ordinary drivers, so to weave through the traffic, a Civic gets the job done," he answered,

The Kanjozoku have always derived inspiration from the professional motorsport world. During the 80s-90s, the Civic found immense popularity in the Japanese Group-A racing scene. The loop runners were utilizing the same tricks in their cars, starting from styling, engine setup, tuning, etc. The engine mods and tuning are usually not heavy, and in most scenarios, it is a moderately tuned NA B-series VTEC motor. The interiors are generally stripped bare, and things like engine bay presentation don't mean anything to these guys as long as the car is perfectly functional.

The same goes for the tyre and wheel set up; wheels will often be mismatched, and they'll mostly use tires like Advan AO48s or high grip racing tires. The cars may not shine like show cars, mainly because it's designed to show the car owners' intentions or just for racing. The vehicles' cars and owners' identities are often left anonymous with a hinge or dummy license plate and usually with window nets or owners wearing a mask.

At one point, Kanjo racing became such a massive issue for the Japanese people that law enforcement began crackdowns on illegal racing, members of Kanjozoku were arrested, some had their beloved car's taken away, and the Kanjo loop was locked down. Many racers left the hobby, some moved to the racetrack, and others just left the group or retired because they didn't find that thrill anymore; the rivalry between the Kanjo car clubs died down and what's left of Kanjozoku stood united, battling law enforcement while keeping their JDM traditions alive. But even for those who have moved their racing to the racetrack, the distinct Kanjo vibe can still be felt in their cars and driving style.

These days, racing on the Kanjo is unusually rare, and people who have stayed loyal to their traditional JDM activity only do so to keep up a longstanding tradition. Any information on Kanjo racing that exists is unbelievably hard to find and skeptical at best. A lot of it is hearsay and rumors perpetrated by those that wish they were running the loop.



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