Expedition to Gunma: Mt. Haruna (榛名山)

In honor of one of my favorite driving anime (Initial D) winding to an end, I decided to take a day-trip out to Gunma and Tochigi Prefectures in order to visit some of the famous road courses and other iconic locations seen in the animated series.

Initial D really captured my imagination when I was at the start of my driving career, so it would be blasphemous for me to live in Japan and not give this area a visit. It took a bit of research and mapping out the start and end locations for each course but it was worth it in the end. I made it to 5 of the 6 planned locations which included: Mt Haruna (aka Akina), Mt Akagi, Mt Myogi, Usui Pass, and Irohazaka.

I’ll get to the others in later posts but here is what I experienced during my visit to Mount Haruna and the neighboring town. Unfortunately, this was the busiest of the routes and had a bit of traffic. I was surprised to see tour buses around the lake and in the city. At the end of the post is a video for the cruise down the mountain (sorry, no drifting for various reasons).

I'll start off with a map of the area. Aside from Mt Haruna, the other 3 stars are important spots on the road with the center star (near Takane) being the viewing location for the 5 hairpin turns.

I’ll start off with a map of the area. Aside from Mt Haruna, the other 3 stars are important spots on the road with the center star (near Takane) being the viewing location for the 5 hairpin turns.

While en route, I passed this Torii that you could drive under.

While en route, I passed this Torii that you could drive under.

The roads were in amazing condition considering that this is an area that sees a decent amount of snow.

The roads were in amazing condition considering that this is an area that sees a decent amount of snow.

My first planned stop was at Lake Haruna to see if the swan paddle boats in the anime really exist.

My first planned stop was at Lake Haruna to see if the swan paddle boats in the anime really exist.

This is as close as she will get to cruising across the lake.

This is as close as she will get to cruising across the lake.

Next in line was the most important spot to me. The starting line for the Haruna - 榛名山 (Akina - 秋名) downhill stage.

Next in line was the most important spot to me. The starting line for the Haruna – 榛名山 (Akina – 秋名) downhill stage.

This is the parking area and stretch of road where it all began. You can see the famous water tower landmark behind the car.

This is the parking area and stretch of road where it all began. You can see the famous water tower landmark behind the car.

Water tower, starting straight, hakosuka...and me.

Water tower, starting straight, hakosuka…and me.

Approximately halfway down the course is the scenic overlook where you can peek down and see the 5 consecutive hairpin turns.

Approximately halfway down the course is the scenic overlook where you can peek down and see the 5 consecutive hairpin turns.

You actually have to wander off to the left in order to get the right view of the road. Most people are there to look at the city and landscape so the main viewing deck is built to cater to those interests.

You actually have to wander off to the left in order to get the right view of the road. Most people are there to look at the city and landscape so the main viewing deck is built to cater to those interests.

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I didn't take many shots while driving since the Hako has no power steering, so here is a pic of the last corner before the finish line.

I didn’t take many shots while driving since the Hako has no power steering, so here is a pic of the last corner before the finish line.

This is the parking area at the base of the course which is seen a few times in the anime.

This is the parking area at the base of the course which is seen a few times in the anime.

A random stop in town. Looks like the LanEvo team never left...

A random stop in town. Looks like the LanEvo team never left…

After leaving the finish line parking area and driving a couple of minutes into town, you will find the famous steps where Takumi and his friends meet after school.

After leaving the finish line parking area and driving a couple of minutes into town, you will find the famous steps where Takumi and his friends meet after school.

Where are Mogi and Itsuki?

Where are Mogi and Itsuki?

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