48 Hours a Day
Chapter 44: Tokyo Drift XIV
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
The waitress at the breakfast eatery set the food on the table. There was sumptuous tamagoyaki 1, rice, grilled fish, and miso soup.
But none of them picked up their chopsticks. Takeda Tetsuya heaved a heavy sigh under Ameko’s resolute gaze.
He lit a cigarette and said, “What for? You’ll be going to China in two months! Why would you involve yourself in all of this?”
“I want to know the truth about what happened back then. A part of you that still loves mum, right?”
“Feelings are not that important anymore at our age,” Takeda Tetsuya answered hesitantly while taking a drag. “When I was young, I also thought that I could love a woman forever. But the truth is, after so many years, I’ve almost completely forgotten what she looks like.”
There was a pause before he continued, “But whatever it is. I owe the both of you. How is Nanako? Is she well?”
“Mum is doing great, but she still hasn’t forgotten what happened back then. But she told me before that she doesn’t hate you anymore. You just… owe us the truth.”
Takeda Tetsuya grew quiet. He obviously did not want to revisit his past, but he also knew that he couldn’t keep avoiding him forever.
An awkward pause ensued, and just as the cigarette was about to burn his fingers, Takeda Tetsuya finally spoke. “This is all because of a mistake. A mistake that I have regretted, and will regret the rest of my entire life.”
He went on to tell the story he had kept a secret for so many years.
In the 70s and 80s, Japan’s economy was booming. It was in that period that Yosuke Tsuchiya was born into a happy family. Like most people back then, Yosuke Tsuchiya was full of youthful vigor, proud, and opinionated. When the Plaza Accord was signed, the American dollar depreciated against the Japanese yen, and Japanese spending power reached its peak. However, that was followed by a devastating blow to the export industry, propagating Japan’s ‘Lost Decade.’ This massive change sent that generation of people down a very different path.
The immense pressure of being in debt overwhelmed Yosuke Tsuchiya’s parents. After the bank seized their home, the Yosuke couple, in their desperation, decided to end their own life. They suffocated to death by burning charcoal. Soon after receiving the news of their children’s death, Tsuchiya’s grandparents too died of illness. However, these life-changing events did not undo Yosuke Tsuchiya; instead, they forged his fearless character, and in the words of the team manager who later discovered him – was born a fighter.
The word ‘afraid’ was never in his vocabulary.
“Whatever does not kill me makes me stronger.”
Yosuke Tsuchiya welcomed his prime in his twenties, reaping repeated success in European competition, winning second place in the FIA GT Grand Prix in New York. He, however, was sent home after a fallout with his racing team. Not long after, he won first place in the Tokyo D1 Grand Prix. He was a legend in Japan’s drifting world.
At that time, he was already at the top of his game but was never satisfied, always looking out for new challenges. Eventually, he decided to take on the Drift King title, taking him less than a year to unseat the top street racers from 22 wards. This included all special wards in Tokyo except for one: Nerima.
“Nerima’s strongest racer was a guy named Asano Naoto. That guy’s crazy! He invented a death-racing format – he would choose a section of a highway, destroy the guardrails and set up the exit and entrance. At the agreed time, the competing racers would drive against the traffic on the other side of the highway lane. Whoever reaches the finishing line first, and alive, is the winner. Sometimes, to make the competition more exciting, he would even involve the police in the game!”
“That… That’s basically suicide!” Ameko was utterly gobsmacked.
“Asano Naoto believed that only the bravest racer is worthy of victory, and whoever challenges him must accept all of his rules. Even though it seems stupid now, I was young back then – I was only one race away from winning the Drift King title. I was not about to give it up.”
Takeda Tetsuya lit up another cigarette, took in a deep breath, and continued, “We agreed on a time – apart from the two of us, my best friend also joined the competition. He was the best racing driver in Shinjuku – and we chose the course together, 40 kilometers long, three lanes wide. On normal days, there’s moderate traffic. No one would have thought that it would suddenly be covered in fog.”
“Kobayashi suggested we give up the race and choose another time. I could tell that Asano Naoto was going to agree to it. After all, he was just a ruffian who loved to live on the edge. Despite all that, he didn’t really plan to die. Considering the road conditions, the level of danger was way out of his comfort zone. But that asshole didn’t want to give up the chance to taunt us. He knew that I would agree too, so he decided to cast the opposing vote by calling us cowards.”
“I was a very spirited young man. So, in my anger, I voted against delaying the race too. In the end, it was two against one, which meant the competition would go on as planned. I could see Asano Naoto’s face change, but I took no pleasure in that retaliation because the three of us were already up in the gum tree.”
“Everything that happened after that only confirmed how stupid my decision was. That day, the visibility on the highway was only 4-5 meters. We were forced to drive slower than usual, but even then, we were shrouded by the shadow of death. This was no longer a competition about skills anymore, luck seemed to be of the essence.
“We drove like that for 10 minutes, constantly fearing for our lives. On a normal day, we would have already completed the course by then, but we were only a third of the way. I kept honking all the way! Fortunately, the highway was closed off, and there were not a lot of cars coming towards us. Even then, I had to swerve madly to avoid running into oncoming cars a couple of times, not seeing them till the very last second! It felt like I was rubbing shoulders with the grim reaper!”
When the seafood store owner recalled that dangerous time in his life, it was apparent the lingering terror of those moments still haunted him.
“In situations like this, even the most tenacious mind would not be able to keep going. So, Kobayashi and I took turns leading, giving each other time to rest. Asano Naoto, on the other hand, was already out of the game – the supposedly bravest racer in all of Tokyo’s willpower had been completely destroyed, and he was shivering behind us. But then, suddenly, an accident that no one expected took place!
“As we were approaching the halfway point of the course, I heard the sound of a truck’s horn blaring from the road ahead. I was about to change lanes when Asano Naoto’s GT-R suddenly overtook me, forcing me to stay on the left lane. I tried to increase speed, but he kept staying on my right! I could sort of guess what he was thinking at that time – his performance today was horrible; if he loses this race, all that reputation he had built for himself throughout the years would be destroyed, so he had an evil thought…
Asano Naoto was determined to get me killed. He left me with very little time, and I was devastated! I thought that my time was over. Kobayashi rammed his Lexus hard into Asano Naoto’s GT-R! I didn’t see it coming. The next moment, both their cars lost control, and Asano Naoto’s GT-R went under the truck’s chassis, ramming the truck sideways! It then fell on Kobayashi’s Lexus! It was the most gruesome… I didn’t dare look at it. The top of the Lexus had caved in completely, and there was black smoke billowing out the front of the car.”