Let’s Drinking and Driving

Kyosho (http://www.kyosho.com/) opened another “circuit bar” location in Akihabara’s new Akiba Tolim building last month. Kyosho Corporation manufacturers and distributes a wide assortment of both radio controlled and die-cast metal vehicles. Ferrari, Nissan, Cadillac, VW, helicopters, boats, construction machinery, bipedal athlete robots – it’s not choice, but choosing that proves problematic. Sizes range from 1/8 to 1/64 scale. Though Kyosho offers an assortment of products sold at various shops across the country, truth be told they only have two official shops. Both are in Tokyo, bordering the East and West sides of the Yamanote loop, a train line that circles around central Tokyo.

In addition to product showrooms, both Kyosho Omotesando and Kyosho Akihabara offer two special features. The first is racing courses: either bring your own vehicle or rent one out. The second is a bar and lounge: sit around and throw ‘em back, waiting for your turn at the remote. Though they may be encouraging drinking and driving, I couldn’t think of a better arena. The staff kindly corrects all accidents. In the Akihabara location, there are three total tracks – two of which have digital monitors displaing lap time. The third track seemed more like a test drive track, created mainly for staff to play around during off-peak hours and to attract potential customers.

When we decided to try our hand at the wheel, the staff was too busy playing around to help us. Nevertheless, we figured out the system with relative ease. The two types of cars available for rental were the 1/47 scale dNaNo and 1/27 scale Mini Z; a 15 minute rental course was 500 yen. Those who own or purchase cars receive Kyosho Memberships and can lease the track for 1 hour at 1,000 yen or 15 minutes and 300 yen. After deciding on our display names, we paid the fees and spent our wait time snapping photos. The staff even offered to assist.

Track A, on which we were racing, was a long winding course with one straightaway to display true speed. Having never wielded an RC car, one of the staff showed us the way and raced with us for a while until we got the hang of it. In no time at all, I had little control of my car but was still able smash my opponent derby-style, which offered a consoling vengeance if not victory. It was heartening to have the staff laugh around with us even though we were intentionally crashing their product. Indeed, it showed how serious they were at having fun.

Even other beginners on the course were treated with empathy and respect. The staff went out of their way to make sure everyone could control their car, and even when they couldn’t, staff corrected collisions and wrong turns. One salary-man gentleman who appeared in his late 30s remarked, “It’s like I’m driving drunk,” while jostling in an uncontrollable laughter. Another racer responded, “It’s OK, I don’t have insurance.”

Akiba Tolim, created with the intent to bring more female consumers to Akihabara, is filled with restaurants, sweets shops, hosiery, and other products more popular with the ladies. The addition of Kyosho Akihabra (lol) to the basement floor thus makes it a popular venue for couples as well as stray buisness men, as the basement also connects to the Tsukuba Express train line. Many couples, salary men, and even the stray foreigner were to be seen on our visit.

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