Saturday, November 30, 2019

Exploring Sagami Bay

Touring Japan in my Fairlady Z Nismo Version has quickly become one of my favorite weekend activities; there is simply too much to see, too many roads to drive and local food to eat to stay home!

Few weeks ago I took advantage of a late autumn Saturday to set my alarm nice and early, just before sunrise. This time my goal was to explore the eastern part of the Izu peninsula and visit a renown seafood restaurant in Manazuru in the Sagami Province.

While waking up early on a Saturday morning is far from ideal, sneaking out of Tokyo at sunrise and beating the weekend traffic is highly satisfying, especially in a car like the Fairlady.

A bit over one hour of smoothly cruising on the expressway and I found myself on top of Hakone Turnpike, sipping on my morning coffee and in good company of a R35 GT-R and Mt. Fuji in the background. This car was an early model one, probably around 2007-2008, so exactly same age as my Z!

The view on top is worth the trip alone, but this time I took just a short break as I had much more driving to do.

First off I headed towards the Izu Skyline: I have now driven on it several times and it’s always enjoyable, however the autumn foliage and occasional wet areas do require extra attention, especially early in the morning where the road surface is still cold.

The aftermath of the huge typhoon Hagibis that hit Japan just few weeks prior was still visible on the mountain roads, with portion of the Skyline closed due to fallen trees. This called for a detour from the ideal route and I found myself in Yuguawara, a small town renown for its onsen and traditional ryokans.

I decided to take a little break and explore some of the temples around the main central road.

The local soba shops, the lack of acoustic pollution and the little details, like this small taxi service area where you can observe drivers take a cigarette break, make the contrast between Tokyo and the countryside even starker.

However, this area is surrounded by some of the best driving roads in the Kantō area, and the quiet of the mountains is frequently interrupted by the sound of engines, like this Lancia Delta. Time to get back on the road.

After another 30 minutes of squeezing the Z around twisty and narrow secondary roads, I finally reached my destination - Manazuru.

Manazuru is a small coastal fishing town on the east side of the Izu Peninsula. It’s a small little gem, filled with beautiful temples, history and fantastic food.

After wandering around for a while I decided to park and head to Uni-sei, a famous seafood restaurant just on the tipping point of the peninsula.

The lunch set was quite expensive (3,500¥), but the experience was absolutely worth it.

After lunch I decided to visit the cape of the peninsula and its small national park. This was another unexpected surprise and I got lost a couple of times before reaching my destination. Some of the roads were very narrow and the Fairlady could just make it through.

Descend down the coast and you’re rewarded with Mitsuishi beach and its twin rocks united by traditional shimenawa sacred ropes.

This was definitely one of the best day trips I had so far with the Z - the more I drive it the more I feel connected to it. Even after living in Japan for 12 years trips like this are a sensory overload that cement that man-machine bond faster than one can imagine.

As I recently wrote to a friend, comparing the Fairlady with the GT-R is a bit pointless: they are two different philosophies that produce two different outcomes equally compelling in their own ways. Simply put, the Z delivers a honest grand touring experience that, like with most Japanese cars, is amplified tenfold when driven in its natural habitat.

The drive back home was incredibly smooth and the contrast of speeding through Tokyo skyline after a day spent away from the city delivers a very 90's videogame kind of vibe that never gets old. Looking forward to the next adventure.

Until next time.

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