After being an avid spectator at drift events as a kid, Kenshi Otake knew from the beginning he wanted to drift. With no car or driver's license though, it all seemed like a distant pipedream. It would take a great deal of patience to wait until the legal age of 18 to complete driver's ed and take the big driver's test—a test that wouldn't come easy, as Japan has one of the hardest curriculums in the world. The written exam is around 100 questions and if you want to lawfully drive a stick shift, well, there's a much more rigorous course to pass. But practice and hard work paid off as Kenshi earned his manual driver's license—something many teens in Japan today aren't as inclined to get; however, for Kenshi, there was no other option. The only thing left for him was figuring out where to get his first project car, the coveted Nissan R34 Skyline.
It should come as no mystery that the going price of pre-owned R34 GT-Rs has been skyrocketing over the last few years. Its high price tag—plus having to sacrifice its AWD drivetrain, which would be considered sacrilege—makes it one of the least common platforms used in drifting. Kenshi had a plan, though, and being that he was still in his late teens, he opted for the less expensive rear-wheel-drive ER34 GTT over the BNR34 GT-R. This saved him at least $30K, plus the headaches and ridicule of forgoing the four-wheel ATTESSA ET-S Pro system.
Kenshi turned 21 this year and is still a young gun in our eyes; however, his R34 has come a long way in only a couple years. We must get a disclaimer out of the way first, though: Not all of the parts on Kenshi's Skyline are real. As a reminder, he's still fresh out of school, works at an entry-level office job, and saves up every penny he makes to put toward his hobby. When you're in your early 20s, sometimes having top-notch JDM parts doesn't quite make sense, especially if you plan to beat the shit out of a car drifting. With that said, Kenshi did his best to piece together the vehicle he had always wanted using a mash-up of authentic and replica components. The front fenders and front bumper take cues from the NISMO Z-Tune, while the rear is transformed to look slightly more aggressive than the stock-body GT-R. According to Kenshi, the wider rear fenders were the most difficult parts to install, taking a lot of test fitting and careful cutting to make them fit the way they do now.
The new fenders allowed for a wider footprint and more aggressive stance. Kenshi is tucking a set of 18-inch Stance Magic wheels. We noticed that he slapped some SSR decals onto them, which is considered criminal by most. When asked about it, he told us it was just a joke and that he was making fun of himself. He loves SSR wheels and hopes to own a set in the future; however, for now he can't justify spending the money. For him, his wages are better spent on tires, gas, and seat time. We can't knock that.
Motorland Mikawa is just a short drive from Kenshi's hometown of Toyohashi. He regularly attends open drift days whens he's not stuck behind a desk, at minimum once a month. On the day we followed him, there were only four cars practicing, which basically meant he was at the mercy of his car and tires. We witnessed no hiccups, and even with a drizzle of rain he smoked the rear tires and bounced off the rev limiter of his twin-cam turbocharged RB25 from morning until night.
Although he's been frequenting the track for two years now, Kenshi explains that he still needs more practice. Eventually, he wants to be allowed to drive in one of his favorite events called Drift Dressup, also held at Motorland Mikawa. When we asked him about it, you could hear the awe in his voice in regards to the cars participating. They were some of the region's best-looking show cars but could also slide like the pros. Kenshi's R34 might not be anywhere near some of the more established drifters in Japan, but he's well on his way to their level. He's set reasonable expectations, kept within a tight budget, and—oh yeah—he's still only 21.