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Monday June 18th 2018

The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift | 2006

The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift location: Wilshire Boulevard at Grand Avenue, Downtown Los Angeles
The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift location: Han shows off his donuts in 'Tokyo': Wilshire Boulevard at Grand Avenue, Downtown Los Angeles

There’s precious little connection to the previous two films apart from the last minute introduction of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) as an afterthought. And to confuse things even more, Tokyo Drift takes place after the events of Fast And Furious 5, which is why characters killed off in the series seem inexplicably to come back to life.

It’s the usual mix of cars polished to gleaming perfection by bored looking young women in unfeasibly short skirts, with all conflicts settled by a street race.

Troubled Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) can’t seem to keep out of trouble around cars. His high school is supposedly ‘Oro Valley High School in Arizona’, but in reality is Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo High School, 2001 Santa Fe Avenue, in Long Beach, South LA, which also appeared in Steve Martin comedy Cheaper By The Dozen and Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, as well as appearing as ‘William McKinley High’ for the first season of TV series Glee.

Sean is needled into racing the arrogant Clay through the ‘Shangri La’ estate, which is still under construction. This was a construction site near Victorville, on I-15 some 80 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

The souped-up Chevrolet Monte Carlo and Dodge Viper SRT10 career along the half-built Ferndale Road and Tigertail Street in the Golden Mesa district, west of Victorville.

To avoid jail time, Sean is bundled off to Tokyo to live with his estranged father (Brian Goodman). Although there a plenty of shots of the dazzling lights of Tokyo, most of the film was made back in California.

One of the real Japanese locations is the exterior of Sean’s dad’s house, on a narrow sidestreet on the eastern fringe of the Azabu-Jūban district in the Minato area of Tokyo, which was scheduled for redevelopment.

Other real Japanese locations include the rooftop soccer pitch, Futsal Court, overlooking Shibuya Square; Takeshita Dori (Takeshita Street) and its side streets lined by trendy shops and boutiques which make up the heart of Harajuku's teen culture; and Kabukichō, the red-light district in Shinjuku, home to host and hostess clubs and, um, coyly-named love hotels.

The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift filming location: Hawthorne Plaza Mall, Hawthorne, Los Angeles
The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift location: Sean makes his first attempt at drifting: Hawthorne Plaza Mall, Hawthorne, Los Angeles

Apart from scene-setting, though, most of the film was shot around LA. The vast garage with the spiral ramp, where Sean gets to meet all the kids, is Hawthorne Plaza Mall, Hawthorne Boulevard at 120th Street, Hawthorne, to the south of Los Angeles (those nighttime views over ‘Tokyo’ from the garage roof were added digitally).

The closed and empty mall was briefly brought back to life for Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report. More recently you may remember cops quizzing the homeless people crashing here in David Fincher's Gone Girl and, in 2011, its lengthy rooftop parking area was transformed into a stretch of freeway for The Green Hornet.

After trashing the Nissan Silvia S15 belonging to Han (Sung Kang) during his first drift race, Sean is forced to work off the debt fixing cars in Han’s garage. In real life, the garage was a warehouse on Santa Fe Avenue at Mesquit Street in Downtown LA beneath the old Sixth Street Viaduct. The area was redeveloped after the bridge was demolished in 2016.

The dockside where Sean practises drifting, to the amusement of local fishers, is on South Seaside Avenue on Terminal Island, San Pedro, by the Terminal Island Japanese Fishing Village Memorial.

Han shows Sean the real reason why he drifts – to meet girls – by performing donuts around two women at a Downtown ‘Tokyo’ intersection. Underneath the neon dressing, the intersection is Wilshire Boulevard between Grand Avenue and Flower Street, in the heart of Downtown LA. It’s pretty much the same spot where Han is killed near the end of the movie.

And, despite that ‘Japanese’ gate, the climactic race between Sean and DK along the treacherous switchback mountain roads of ‘Japan’ was filmed in Southern California.

First, obviously, a warning. The stunts were performed by top-of-the-range professionals under strictly controlled circumstances – with far more safety back-up than is obvious on screen. Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to copy the apparent speed or the apparent manoeuvres seen in the film.

The roads used are off San Gabriel Canyon Road, Route 39, at the southern tip of the San Gabriel Reservoir a few miles northeast of Azusa, east of Los Angeles. In fact, that’s the San Gabriel Dam you can see in the background of the race starting point.