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A warm welcome in Japan
Preparing for the start of Rally Japan
Drivers and co-drivers in the FIA World Rally Championship embraced Japanese customs last night when they gathered for the traditional Rally Japan Welcome Party.
Subaru World Rally Teams Petter Solberg and Chris Atkinson were among
the top names who joined the crowd of some 500 competitors, officials, media and VIPs who turned up at the outdoor festivities outside Rally Japan Headquarters.

Against a backdrop of traditional lanterns, the drivers sampled typical food from the rally region of Tokachi, including its famous potatoes and the Obihiro specialty butadon pork dish. Taiko drummers sounded out a rousing beat for the evening, while yosakoi dancers provided a energetic performance combining traditional dance movements to modern music. Inspired by the cultural displays, drivers and team personnel alike took to the floor to join the bon odori dance of joy led by professional costumed dancers.

Mayor of Obihiro, Toshifumi Sunagawa, officially welcomed all to Rally Japan and to the hospitality of the town and region; sentiments which were echoed by Rally Japan Organising Committee Chairman, Kunihiro Tabata.
"Coming to Rally Japan is more than just motorsport," Tabata said. "We want this to be a complete cultural experience for all competitors, media and personnel who come to the island of Hokkaido. We offer the Welcome Party as a way of giving people a chance to sample the local hospitality and specialties so that their time in Japan is memorable for more than one reason."

A ceremonial start in downtown Obihiro will continue the colourful activities before the proper rally action starts early on Friday morning. Rally Japan is the 11th round of the 16-round FIA World Rally Championship. The rally is held in Hokkaido, Japans northernmost island from September 1st to September 3rd 2006.
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