Touge is a Japanese word literally meaning “pass” as in mountain pass or a road between two mountains. Touge refers to the narrow winding mountain roads.
Due to steep elevation changes, a series of turns and bends, sometimes called cut backs, is needed to provide access to and from the higher elevations. Aside from construction limitations, like not being able to pave a road straight up the side of a mountain, the winding road is intended as a safety measure - typically preventing drivers from reaching extreme speeds while on the mountain.
Nevertheless, street racers and motorsport enthusiasts alike seek to test their drifting skills on the touge. Eventually, these touge racers began to adopt driving techniques used by rally drivers to help maintain their momentum through the corners. From touge racing, drifting was born.
Touge racing typically has two stages — an uphill and a downhill tsuiso battle. One car leads the race uphill, while the other car leads the downhill stage. Since touge races feature narrow mountain roads, overtaking is extremely difficult and unsafe so another means of winning is by never letting the lead car brake away from your front bumper when you are chasing. The lead car wins if the space between the cars increases considerably. If any car spins out or crashes, the other driver wins the race.
Although illegal, touge racers take precautions like forming roadblocks while other drivers are racing – street racers don’t want to wreck their cars or hurt other people.
Touge racing has become popular outside of Japan in part to drifting entertainment like Initial D anime and manga.