Japan remains one of the most exotic destinations on the Formula 1 calendar. Tokyo is one of the most exciting and lively cities in the world, juxtaposed with rural Japan, which is a chaotic mix of total isolation and dense population. The mountains, particularly in the north of the country, are stunning but uninhabitable. The flatter areas of central and southern Japan have to house most of the country’s 127 million people and the bulk of its agriculture.
Suzuka Circuit is 50 kilometres south west of Nagoya, Japan’s third largest city, and it is liked by the drivers and teams. The track is owned by Honda, having originally been built in 1962 as a test track for its road cars and motorbikes. In recent years there has been an increasing number of Japanese sponsors in Formula 1 racing, and with them has come a surge in interest within Japan. Nowhere in the world are the fans more knowledgeable or enthusiastic.
Did you know?
Suzuka has hosted 12 world championship-deciding races.
Nagoya’s Centrair (Central Japan International Airport) airport is the closest to Suzuka. It is linked to all of Japan’s major cities and, while smaller than Tokyo’s Narita airport, it serves an increasing number of international airlines. A third option is to fly into Osaka and take a short bullet train ride.
It’s as easy to get to Suzuka by car or train. If you are travelling by car from Nagoya, take the Higashi Meihan expressway to the Suzuka exit; by train, catch the Kintetsu line to Shiroko station, from where there are shuttles to the track over the race weekend.
The track’s figure-of-eight layout lends itself to the general admission ticket because you can see so much. For instance, from the bank on the outside of 130R, you can also see the cars negotiate the Degner Curves.
The whole of the Suzuka pit straight has grandstands running down the left-hand side. Prices vary depending on your seat position, with the most expensive seats being the ones that all the Formula 1 personnel - including the drivers - have to walk by en route to the paddock.
If travelling to the track by train, don’t be late to the station because the trains in Japan are the most prompt and efficient in the world.
Where to go?
The Suzuka Circuit is very much a self-contained facility, which is why many Formula 1 people remain there for the duration of their stay. As well as the racetrack, there is the famous Motopia theme park, the Kur Garden hot springs, gyms, golf courses, tennis courts, bowling alleys, several hotels and restaurants from what seems to be every country in the world.
Away from the circuit, venture out into Suzuka itself for a more authentic Japanese experience, or head to one of the surrounding towns of Yokkaichi, Tsu or Shiroko - if you're new to Japan, everywhere will seem fascinating.
Where to stay?
The most convenient hotels are within the grounds of Suzuka Circuit. Most of the drivers stay at the Suzuka Circuit Hotel, but there are seven others to choose from as well.
If everything’s fully booked at Suzuka Circuit, try one of the local towns or even commute in from Nagoya, where the cheapest options will be available to you. Due to a lack of space, camping near the track isn't possible.
The first place that you have to visit is Kyoto. You may have already read about its traditional Japanese gardens, shrines and temples. It is a very beautiful city and only about 80 kilometres away from Suzuka. If you’re looking to go further afield, head north, to Mount Fuji on the outskirts of Tokyo.
There are lots of race circuits throughout Japan, but the only Formula 1-spec track other than Suzuka is Fuji Speedway. After being bought by Toyota in 2000, it was brought up to the very latest standards and recently hosted the Japanese Grand Prix in 2007 and 2008. You could also visit Motegi, another track owned by Honda, east of Tokyo. The facility boasts a road course, an oval and a fascinating museum of all of Honda’s racing machinery throughout the years.
Suzuka International Racing Course