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Saturday, November 12, 2016

Paying Homage To The Hardcore Hashiriya. (Photos: Saadiq Barnes | Words: Imraan Gallo)

Before we get into the details. This is not your average car feature showings mods and upgrades, instead it's a little window, just a pin holes' amount of light into the unseen, the inexplicable, the heritage and the culture of underground street racing dating back to the early 80's. Of course street racing is something we've probably all done, be it reality or virtual, and without a doubt, what attracts us to it is the thrill of pushing your car to the limit and hoping you don't get caught. As a student of automotive culture, it's not so much the car that intrigues me but rather the almost untold nature of the Kanjozoku.

It was not until late 2014 that locals started styling their civics in this nature, perhaps their might have been a couple of civics although hidden from the public eye, but how much of this Kanjo culture is really understood by those who have gone in this direction. During 2016, all sorts of  Honda Civics and even some ballades were adopting this track style livery for street use. One minor but very significant detail is the fact that we have no loop and certainly no Kanjozoku here in Cape Town.

The car pictured above may not be a top shelf civic, and I'll continue to leave those details out as is not the focus of this read. What I do appreciate is the idea that certain Honda civic owners have taken it upon themselves to want to be closer to the Civic heritage which lies deep in the early hours of the morning, on a 7.68KM stretch of highway, in the prefecture of Osaka, known simply as The Loop.

If you've watched any YouTube videos or read some online threads, one common phrase that you pickup, is that the loop is simply a playground for these Hashiriya (native Japanese term for street racer). We are all fascinated by the car scene in Japan, however, the Japanese are very secretive about such things and the organising of it. What most think is JDM, isn't actually JDM, It's more USDM with diluted references to JDM. With the states having a huge import industry and flogging the internet with photos it's easy to be lead in the wrong direction thinking that what we see is true JDM.

While in the past, racers on the loop have driven cars of other manufacturers, the weapon of choice has become the Honda civic, which is as much part of the Kanjo culture as the infamous loop itself. Described by some as "having a unique charm" and  I'm sure civic owners can attest to that statement. In short, it's expressed as the best car for the Kanjo.

Apart from the racing, the exterior is what we most identify with Kanjo styling. So how did this all come about?. The root of this lies with the fact that Suzuka circuit is situated relatively close to Osaka. Back in the day they had a race class of vehicles of the same make and these Hashiriya brought that mentality to the loop. It's safe to say that no matter where in Japan you look, Osaka is where you'll find Civic dominance. 

This brings me to a more detailed discussion of the term JDM. In general is related to automotives and styling coming out of Japan but there is a more cultural meaning to the Kanjozoku. We are lead to believe that Osaka is the birthplace or rather the origin of real JDM. It's been there all along simply because the Kanjo style hasn't changed.

Sure we can pay homage to the exterior styling with livery and vinyl's, but if one were to stay true to the culture of "Kanjo" running a light modded or even no mods at all on a B-series would be very much accepted. For a civic owner, the culture of Kanjo racing is to be respected, even though miles from the origin. We can but dare to dream of running such organised, yet illegal games, as it said to be in Japan, here in South Africa.

Essentially it's a game of cat-n-mouse where the law is concerned and with traffic on the road, it's dodge anything that comes your way. Most street racing all over the world is done regardless of the illegal aspect, Kanjo racing seems to be done purely because it's illegal, if it was not, they wouldn't do it. If we were to try and gather a few Honda civics, plan a route and run it, without a doubt the infamous "ghost squad" in Cape Town would end up catching most of the drivers, and I'd challenge anyone who begs to differ with that statement.

Kanjo racing and the styling of its related cars, is a culture, sacred to Osaka and not Japan in general. We can all but only appreciate their (Kanjo racers) stubbornness of keeping the said culture alive. when Soichiro Honda stated that "without racing there is no Honda", I strongly believe that he didn't include drag racing, as its roots lie deep in American car culture, but each to his own I suppose, racing is racing after all, I guess.

In no way am I saying that this type of racing should be done, or all hondas should display track-like liveries, but it's the difference between culture and lifestyle that I write these words of appreciation to the Kanjozoku. In all honesty, we don't have the balls to do what they do. Instead we agree to the municipal law of having sanctioned "illegal-to-legal" form types of racing, but that's what we HAVE TO DO in order to still enjoy that thrill of competing without certain competition aspects like timing. 

The crux of this little insight is basically to say that you may find Honda civics all over the world and even in other parts of Japan, but it's ONLY in Osaka where the civic carries this infamous outlaw image, which I personally believe should be highly respected when deciding to delve into this type of styling and not have a loose, it's just for show, attitude. These hashiriya or loop soldiers as they are more commonly known risk everything to enjoy their agile little civics, the least we can do is respect the culture that has given rise to a specific make and model of car to become a cult classic.   

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