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    The always excellent Japan Car Blog reviews the latest episode of Top Gear where Jeremy Clarkson raced a Bullet train across Japan. The Hamster and James May were in the bullet train and their journey also included a shuttle bus, another train, a ferry, and a ____________ (can’t say, don’t want to spoil the surprise or the great soundtrack that plays during it). Jeremy got the GT-R and a 400-mile route to follow from western Japan thru Tokyo and across the bay to the finish.


    Top Gear Japan: Nissan GT-R vs Bullet Train


    Their blog includes low-res segments of the race: http://japancarblog.com/2008/07/top-gear-clarksons-ego-in-gt-r-vs-bullet-train/ (suggest <right click> and <open in new tab>) or the entire episode is available via torrent sites. They also correctly point out that some of Jeremy’s comments are culturally offensive. Actually the entire cast makes more than a few gaffes, and they all look tired and glad to get it over with. James May looks particularly worn out, or perhaps he is just tired of Jeremy Clarkson. Jeremy’s GT-R was fabulous, although his navigation system was entirely in Japanese – which causes some issues when he accidentally turns it off and immediately gets lost.


    There is some controversy… both teams end up at the finish only 3 minutes apart. Many forums and some news articles suggest the “race” wasn’t actually one. Decide for yourself, but despite the obvious choreography this is certainly the best segment this year.


    The scenery along the route is beautiful, the shrine where the race ends is going on my list of places to visit, and there are enough details shown that the trip could be duplicated.


    The episode was particularly meaningful to us because we want to take a similar drive across Japan and have been looking over navigation options. Ideally, we need a Microsoft Streets & Trips of Japan, in English. Unfortunately, there is no such thing since the Japanese have apparently all moved to phone-based GPS years ago. While we certainly won’t be able to get a GT-R rental car, we will need a rental car with a navigation system. We’ll need to figure out the sequence of buttons that bring up an overhead map, which we will have to follow along the best we can without any ability to actually read Japanese. This may not be as tough as it sounds… we’ll supplement it with paper maps that we can mark up ahead of time and the nav system will at least keep us going in the right direction.


    Why not a tour bus? Because the greatest feudal castles, shrines, and other historical sites across Japan can’t all be reached by subway or bus, or even by tour companies. And the automotive places we’d want to visit such as Twin Ring Motegi and the Honda museum can’t be reached by train without spending an inordinate amount of money on taxis at the other end. And our planned trip to the largest AutoBacs dealer, while it can be reached by subway, would be impractical considering the amount of “souvenirs” we’re planning to cart out of there.


    The Japan Car Blog – one of my daily reads: