‘Tokyo Drift’ Was Not Filmed In Tokyo

“The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” is one of the most beloved films in the Fast Saga franchise. We would not be surprised if there are fans out there that could recite all the dialogue word for word. However, there are things that even the most ardent fans may not know about.

That is where Craig Lieberman comes in. Lieberman has been a figure in the automotive aftermarket scene for decades. Craig also served as the technical adviser for “The Fast and the Furious” and “2 Fast 2 Furious.” Lieberman then assisted with sourcing background cars on “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.” Today, Craig likes to share stories and little-known behind-the-scenes fun facts on his YouTube channel.

Speaking of “Tokyo Drift,” in Craig’s latest video, he drops a bombshell that much of what audiences watched in that film, was not actually filmed in Tokyo! Now would be the time to clutch your pearls if you have them.

Where was ‘Tokyo Drift’ filmed?

A scene from Fast And Furious: Tokyo Drift featuring the character "DK"
A scene from The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift | Fast Saga YouTube channel

By now, most of you might be wondering where “Tokyo Drift” was filmed, if not in Tokyo? The truth is that the majority of the most iconic scenes from the movie were filmed in different areas of Southern California. We know that may seem unbelievable, but it is actually true!

Remember the first drifting scene in the Japanese parking garage? That entire sequence was in reality, filmed in the now-abandoned Hawthorne Mall in California. All the scenes that took place in the Han character’s garage were all filmed in a warehouse located underneath the landmark 6th street bridge in downtown Los Angeles.

The scene in which Han takes Sean for a ride around downtown Shibuya and does some donuts around a duo of women in a Nissan Skyline was actually shot in a LA intersection. Even the final race showdown between the antagonist character DK and the hero was not actually filmed on a mountain road in Japan. That scene was shot in California on San Gabriel Canyon Road route 39.

How was ‘Tokyo Drift’ filmed?

A scene The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift featuring the character "Han" drifting in downtown Tokyo.
A scene from The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift | Fast Saga YouTube channel

If the aforementioned scenes were not filmed in Japan, then how did the studio make those scenes look like they were in Japan? The answer is a combination of practical set dressing techniques and CGI (computer-generated images).

For example, in the parking garage scene to make things look authentic, the set designers painted traffic directions on the walls and floors in Japanese characters. Real Japanese vending machines were imported from Japan and placed in the background. 

Remember all of those authentic right-hand-drive Japanese cars in that scene? While some were actually flown in from Japan, about 150 of those cars were from local private owners. The studio rented those JDM cars from the owners and some of them even got to be extras in the film!

Was any of ‘Tokyo Drift’ filmed in Tokyo?

Video from Craig Lieberman’s YouTube channel

While it might be disheartening to learn just how much of “Tokyo Drift” was actually filmed in California, we should make it clear that some of the film was shot in Japan. Nearly all the aerial shots of Shibuya City were authentic and shot from a helicopter on-location. The scenes that took place outside of “Sean’s” father’s house were also shot in Japan. 

There were also several scenes that were shot “run and gun” style in Japan to capture the authenticity of the urban surroundings. Craig goes over all of it in his video. Craig has addressed many commonly asked questions and myths about the Fast And Furious films on his YouTube channel. Though, for now, you know why much of “Tokyo Drift” was not actually filmed in Tokyo and how they pulled it off. It was all movie magic.

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