Japan is a nation for which the production of automobiles has driven (pun intended) its development and economy for generations, and as of 2014 there were more than 75 million cars owned, nearly 60 cars for every 100 people. And that’s before we include the 11.2 million motorcycles. It should come as no surprise that the country that brought us Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Toyota, Mitsubishi (need I go on?) is somewhat obsessed by motor vehicles, and for those who worship at the alter of the engine, the Suzuka International Racing Course (or Suzuka Circuit for short) in Mie Prefecture is their mecca.
The brainchild of the Honda Motor Co. founder Soichiro Honda, the Suzuka Circuit was designed in 1962 as a test track. Today it remains as the preeminent motorsports track in the country, is one of the most technically challenging courses in the world, and is the site of major races such as the Suzuka 8 Hours, Super GT and of course the Japanese F1 Grand Prix.
But it’s not just the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel who can enjoy themselves at Suzuka Circuit. There is plenty that you and your family can do at Suzuka, whether it be watching races, driving the course, playing games, eating out or soaking in a hot spa, there is something for absolutely everyone.
Of course the main thing about the Suzuka Circuit is the racing. As mentioned, it holds most of the important races in Japan from all aspects of motorsports, and you can be part of the 155,000 strong crowd. There are events most weekend (I know someone who travels up from Nagoya pretty much every weekend to catch a race) so no matter what sort of motor head you are, check out the events page to see what’s coming up.
However there can be no doubting that the Formula 1 Grand Prix is the biggie. This year the race will fall over the weekend of October 6-8 (with the first two days being taken up by practice and qualifying, respectively) and if you are interested there are still tickets left, which you can buy here.
But even if you’re not much of a motor head, the Suzuka Circuit can be a great day or weekend out, especially if you have a young family, thanks to the Amusement Park MOTOPIA. Many of the rides at Motopia are motor-driven cart attractions that can be enjoyed – safely – by adults and children from as young as two.
Perhaps the most exhilarating of these is the kart games. Children under 140cm can drive Kochira Racing Karts, while bigger children and adults can take their Advance Kart B-License, giving them the opportunity to race over and over, competing with their times, improving as they do so.
In fact with most MOTOPIA attractions the aim of the game is self development and improvement as every ride has some kind of goal or challenge to achieve, which goes some way to keeping kids, and adults, constantly entertained.
Other attractions include various vehicle-based rides such as mini touring bikes (for children 3+ who can ride a bicycle without stabilizers) an adventure village, a pool in the summer and Putti Town which has many hands on rides and activities for smaller children (which leads me to think that the word ‘Putti’ is a misspelled Japanese-icized attempt at ‘petit’, the French word continuing the language of ‘Grand Prix’).
If you are willing to pay a further 1,500 JPY, you or your children can take the opportunity to ride an electronic car on the actual Suzuka Circuit track, the first of its type in the world, something that is a must for any car obsessives, both young and old.
After a long day of amusements, thre is a good chance that the last thing that you want to do is get back in your car (particularly as it is going to be something of a come-down when compared to being on the tracks) so you may want to wind down a little.
The Suzuka Circuit Hotel nearby has various plans to suit your needs, including buffet dinners, breakfasts and family rooms. Many of these have F1 style seats, which is a bit more impressive than your usual Corby Trouser Press. Prices for rooms are pretty reasonable considering that there isn’t a whole lot of choice in the area, but it might not suit those on a tighter budget.
Whether you stay at the hotel or not, you can still relax at the Kur Garden hot spring onsen and pool where you and your kids can take a swim (bathing suits required), soak in the indoor hot spring, or head outdoors to the ‘rotenburo’ open air onsen, complete with a ‘utaseyu’ hot spring waterfall.
By Mark Guthrie
Image via http://www.suzukacircuit.jp/en/experience/amusementpark/racingkart/ – Screengrab (modified)