Gentlemen, Stop Your Engines


Sodegaura Forest Raceway

People rushed into the streets on March 18 after hearing the whining sounds of the transmissions at Sodegaura Forest Raceway in Chiba prefecture, across the bay from Tokyo near Narita International Airport. The area suffered minimal damage from the devastating March 11 earthquake that struck Japan and the subsequent tsunami.

“It’s the racing cars at Sodegaura,” someone shouted from the crowd.

“What! In the middle of a gasoline shortage?”

“Who do they think they are,” shouted another man. “I spent 30 minutes in line for gas yesterday and only got 10 liters.”

“What’s going on?” interjected another. “How dare they? Let’s protest.”

Chiba citizens are well known for their protesting skills. For example, along with others, they were responsible for the long, drawn-out construction of Narita Airport.

Christine Martine, a local veterinarian, was making a house call when she spotted the gathering crowd of townspeople and joined in. “The people were already on edge because of the earthquake when they heard the loud sounds from outside,” she said. “They wondered what was happening now.”

Martine suggested that they call the Kencho Prefecture Office Environmental Section. Then, she picked up her mobile phone and did just that. She explained the situation and held her phone out, so the person on the other end could hear the high-pitched sounds of the racing cars.

The people of Mariyatsu, Kayahashi, and Nishikuniyoshi townships were ready to grab their hatchimaki (headbands) and protest at the prefectural office and raceway.

“The person at the other end of the line, obviously someone who had also spent time in a long line for gas, said they would take care of it right away,” Martine said. “The noise stopped shortly after, which is unusual for bureaucratic Japan.”

Michiko Nishiyama, an employee at Sodegaura Forest Raceway, said she could not comment on the reason for its closure.

The raceway posted this on its homepage: “Fans who were looking forward to sports driving. I am sorry for those who wished to travel — Irassharanai (there is nobody here ). We will be closed on March 22 (Tuesday). On March 24th (Thursday), it will be business as usual.

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