Mie Prefecture’s Suzuka is the home of Japan’s most famous racetrack, but there’s more than cars to get excited about.

Suzuka Circuit is the claim to fame for the town of Suzuka. Not only does the track host top-tier racing events like Japan’s F1 Grand Prix and the Suzuka 10 Hours endurance race, it’s also been featured in countless video games, making it an internationally renowned venue for both real-life and digital motorsports.

But while Suzuka Circuit is definitely the thing to see in Suzuka, watching racing action isn’t the only fun thing to do in and around the course, as we found out on a recent visit.

For this special assignment, we recruited the help of two junior field reporters, American-raised, Japanese-and-English-speaking Liam and Grace, who are also…

the niece and nephew of SoraNews24 founder and president Yoshio!

First off, a bit of Japanese geography. Suzuka is located in Mie Prefecture. It takes about 45 minutes by train to get to Suzuka Station from Nagoya, which is on the Shinkansen bullet train route between Tokyo and Kyoto.

The trio’s first stop was Suzuka Circuit itself, where two different races were going on that day. Walking through the main gate, they could already hear the roaring engines and howling exhaust notes.

From their spot in the stands, our reporters had a great view of the competitors of the Race of Asia as they sped down the straightaway that makes up both the first and final portions of the full-circuit lap. No matter how many times you’ve enjoyed races on TV or through your PlayStation, there’s no substitute for the overwhelming sensation of speed and power that comes from seeing the real thing.

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Between races, Grace , Liam, and Yoshio headed down to the pit row, thanks to the special access granted by their upgraded tickets.

Not only did this let them see the cars up close, but the drivers too. Several stars were even holding autograph sessions, signing away for fans with the very same hands that grip the wheels of the high-speed machines they were standing next to.

▼ Pit access also gets you right up next to the starting grid.

Suzuka Circuit also offers what it calls a “Backyard Tour,” which gives you a behind-the-scenes look at parts of the facility that are usually off-limits to anyone who doesn’t work in the motorsports industry, like the international media center where on-site correspondents watch the race and prepare their reports.

They also got to see the control room, where track officials monitor the race and coordinate with each other to make sure the events are being run smoothly and safely.

Before long, it was time for the next contest, Round 2 of the Lamborghini Super Trophy Asia series, to get underway.

This time, Yoshio’s group had seats in one of the special hospitality terraces, located right above the pit lane.

But in the shot below, you can see yet another great place to watch a Suzuka race from

the trackside Ferris wheel!

Well, Yoshio and Grace thought it’d be a great place. Liam, not being the biggest fan of heights, wasn’t all that sure…

…but he was glad he worked up the courage to go along, because the view from the top is incredible, and something you can’t find anywhere else short of riding in a press helicopter.

Speaking of theme park-style attractions, there’s an entire amusement park located right next to Suzuka Circuit, called Motopia, and it was the next spot on the itinerary. Before checking out the rides, though, it was time for lunch. There are several restaurants and food stands located throughout Motopia, but our hungry reporters settled on the one called Advenchina. “Leave the ordering to me,” said Yoshio confidently, and while his niece and nephew grabbed seats, Yoshio went up to the counter

…and came back with…

the biggest bowl of ramen we’ve ever seen!

That’s the Big Boss Ramen, an extra-extra-extra-large serving of noodles that weighs in at 3.4 kilograms (7.5 pounds). Yoshio also decided to add on a triple-sized helping of fried rice and some karaage Japanese-style fried chicken, which are bundled together with the Big Boss in the 4,500-yen (US$42) Family Set.

▼ Liam, trying hard to figure out if he has the coolest uncle in the world, or simply the weirdest.

With the high-octane power of ramen recharging them, the trio was off to enjoy Motopia’s attractions, many of which have an automotive theme, like the Racing Theater, which recreates the sights and sounds of hot-lapping Suzuka Circuit…

…and a machine that blasts you with wind at the same force that professional motorcycle racers feel.

But the most fun comes with Motopia’s outdoor experiences, like the versus-style Duel GP.

This side-by-side contest pits two cars, each of which can hold a driver and a passenger, against each other on a lap around an approximation of the Suzuka Circuit layout, including its iconic underpass/overpass.

Even though the cars are on rails, there’s still skill involved, as the driver has to work the steering wheel to gracefully slide around the corners, with too sharp an entry angle resulting in speed-sapping spinouts.

There’s an entirely different driving experience waiting at Acro-X Evolution, where instead of speed, the goal is smoothness in navigating difficult roads.

Up to four people can ride in the same vehicle, and you’re awarded points (the higher the better) based on how deftly you progress through each section of the course, which is made up of bumpy, uneven sections and even a stretch across a flooded bridge.

▼ Somehow, we don’t think the SoraNews24 company car, which we bought for 10 bucks, could have survived this challenge.

If you want even more water, though, you’ll want to head to Adven-Boat Frontier.

These two-passenger boats aren’t for lazily drifting around in, though. This is more like an aquatic obstacle course, with a twisting waterway that goes past waterfalls and under suspension bridges, with sprays and splashes making providing some extra coolness on a hot summer day.

Back on dry land, and moving from four wheels to two, Motopia has two different types of mini motorcycle attractions.

The first, Moto Fighter, is inspired by tarmac bike races. After strapping on their helmets for a training session on a practice course, up to six riders can engage in a time attack battle to see who can turn the fastest lap on a course that recreates Suzuka Circuit’s S-curve and Spoon Curve sections.

On the other hand, if motocross are more your thing, Acrobike simulates dirt bike racing with its bumpy, undulating course.

Oh, and while the bikes are compact, both Motofighter and Acrobike are open to adult riders as well, with plenty of challenge and depth to get even grown-up racers’ competitive juices flowing.

▼ Neither Grace, Liam, nor Yoshio was in any mood to lose

But even our three reporters eventually felt their energy reserves running low. Luckily for them, the Suzuka Circuit Hotel is located adjacent to Motopia, so they walked on over and checked in. The hotel has a number of wings, and theirs was in the north one, which is good because that’s the section which offers the Racing Room Premium configuration, and it definitely lives up to the name.

The Suzuka Circuit bed runners and motorsports photography on the walls are obvious from the moment you walk in, but they’re just the beginning of the unique interior design. For example, you don’t get a boring old office swivel chair, but this cool piece designed by Recaro, supplier of competition-spec racing seats.

The headboard reading lamps are styled like headlights…

…the clock like a tachometer…

…and the dresser is actually a tool chest of drawers.

Yoshio felt like he could have drifted off to sleep right then and there, but being a Japanese guy, he always likes to take a bath before he goes to sleep (he also hadn’t eaten dinner yet, but we’ll get to that problem a little later). While he could have hopped in the in-room shower, the group instead headed back out to Kur Garden, an onsen hot spring that’s next door to the hotel.

While the complex has a heated, wear-your-bathing-suit co-ed pool, the real draw is the gender-segregated hot spring baths.

In addition to indoor sections, there are also open-air rotemburo baths, and soaking in them Yoshio felt the ache and fatigue of his muscles, built up during the physical exertion of trying to beat children around Motopia’s motorcycle courses, start to melt away.

OK, remember how we mentioned our crew was getting hungry? Once everyone was out of the bath and changed back into their clothes, it was time to hit the buffet.

The Suzuka Circuit Hotel’s Sora Tabeyo restaurant offers a buffet with a mix of Japanese, Western, and Chinese dishes, which is pretty much the holy trinity of buffets in Japan. There’s a lot to love here, but perhaps the best of all is the teppanyaki station, with chefs standing by to grill succulent slices of beef for you.

▼ Like at many Japanese buffets, the plates are divided in a grid pattern, letting you keep the various flavors from mixing before you want them to.

After polishing off their second massive meal of the day, our team headed back to their room to relax and make “vroom vroom” sounds until they fell asleep.

So as you can see, there’s more to do at Suzuka than just watch races, and even if you can’t get enough of screeching tires and roaring engines, your less-interested family members or other traveling companions can enjoy a day at an amusement park, soak in an onsen bath, or leisurely stuff themselves with delicious food and meet up with you after the checkered flag is waved.

Major upcoming events at Suzuka Circuit include the Suzuka 10 Hours GT3 endurance race in August, featuring Ferrari, Lamborghini, Audi, and McLaren racing machines, as well as entries for home-country heroes Nissan, Honda, and Lexus. Then in October there’s the Japanese F1 Grand Prix, the biggest spectacle in motorsports anywhere in the country…except, of course, the eventual Moto Fighter revenge race between Yoshio and his niece and nephew.

Related: Suzuka Circuit
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