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2009 Formula 1 Fuji Television Japanese Grand Prix October 13, 2009

Posted by Dru in Sports.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “2009 Formula 1 Fuji Television Japanese Grand Prix” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-hI

On October 4th, 2009, Japan hosted it’s annual round of the Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix.  For those of you who have been reading this blog, last year, I also attended the Japanese Grand Prix.  This year was a little different.  After two years at Fuji Speedway in Shizuoka, the Japanese Grand Prix moved back to its traditional home of Suzuka Circuit in Mie Prefecture.  Mie is located south west of Tokyo.  The closest major city is Nagoya, but you can still access Kyoto and Osaka from Suzuka.  By and far, the easiest and most common way to reach the circuit itself is to leave from Nagoya.

The biggest difference between Fuji Speedway and Suzuka Circuit is the owner.  Fuji is ultimately owned by Toyota, while Suzuka is owned by Honda.  The two car giants of Japan competed for the rights to hold the Japanese Grand Prix for the last three years.  From this year, the plan was to alternate between Fuji and Suzuka.  Next year’s race was supposed to be held in Fuji.  Unfortunately, due to the downturn in the economy last year, Fuji decided to not hold the race in 2010, so Suzuka stepped up and will hold the race in Japan for the next few years.  Many of the drivers were very happy about this, but what about the fans and the Japanese people themselves?  While a lot of people don’t really care, race enthusiasts were always happy to hear that Suzuka won the race.  It is one of the very few figure 8 circuits in the world, and the only one on the F1 calendar.  It is steeped in history that, while not as old as Fuji, is more prestigious.

Accessing and retuning home from Suzuka Circuit is very easy.  From Nagoya, it’s a simple reserved express train from Nagoya Station to Suzuka Circuit Inou Station.  You can also purchase reserved tickets to get back to Nagoya.  While this may be a little expensive compared to the regular trains, it guarantees that you’ll have a seat, and when you return to Nagoya, that may be very important.  When you do reach the station, it’s very easy to find your way to the circuit.  Just follow the groups of people and you’ll be fine.  While it may be different in future years, be sure to pick up a map and ask the staff for some information to make sure you know your options.  If you want to play it safe, just return to the same station.  The second option is to take the Kintetsu trains to Shiroko Station.  It’s about 5 kilometres away from the circuit, or an hour walk.  There is a shuttle bus, but it can take up to an hour to wait for it.  Many people enjoy a nice walk in the countryside to get to this station.  To reach it, you must also walk past the Inou.  The main advantage of walking to Shiroko is that trains come more often than at the Inou station.  When leaving Nagoya, don’t worry too much about buying tickets.  You can easily buy them at the main entrance as there will probably be a table set up for selling return tickets.  Just be sure to know which tickets you need before leaving.

When entering Suzuka circuit itself, it’s evident that Honda’s circuit company knows what it’s doing.  It has held the F1 event and other major world sporting events for years.  The F1 event itself is very similar to the one in 2008, but there are noticeable differences.  The first is that the party is slightly bigger, yet more compact.  In Fuji, everything was spread out a lot more.  Suzuka’s main entertainment area was behind the main grandstand, and there wasn’t a lot going on outside of that area.  Of course, you can always buy the basic souvenirs around the course, but there were fewer opportunities to do so.  However, buying food was ten times better in Suzuka.  The options were slightly limited, and it wasn’t the cheapest food in the world, but it was good and reasonable for a world sporting event.  The major plus is the number of activities that are available for children.  There is a large ferris wheel, and other various amusement rides that are centred for children.  Suzuka, being Honda’s signature track, has a better amusement area compared to Motegi.  There are various boat rides, and roller coasters.  There was a go-kart track, but this was closed to add more space for exhibitions.  Overall, I’d prefer Suzuka over Fuji, and most Japanese people would tend to agree.  Fuji’s major advantage was being close to Tokyo.

Looking at the race, it was your typical F1 race.  I had the chance to enjoy the event during qualifying for the first time.  It was a nice event, and qualifying made walking around the main areas easier.  It was extremely busy on race day, so if you can enjoy the Saturday qualifying, be sure to do your shopping then; don’t wait until race day or things will be sold out.  Qualifying was riddled with accidents, and the race itself wasn’t that exciting.  In typical F1 fashion, there were several passes on the first few laps, but after that, it was a war of attrition.  Everyone kept circling the circuit and any passing was done in the pits.  By the end of the day, Sebastian Vettel won the race with home team Toyota’s Jarno Trulli in second.  Bringing up the last spot on the podium was McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton.

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Suzuka Circuit Links:

(English – Note that this site has only information on the facilities) http://www.mobilityland.co.jp/english/
(Japanese – Note that this site has information on events) http://www.suzukacircuit.jp/
(Wiki) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suzuka_Circuit
(Official F1 Website) http://www.formula1.com/

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Tokyo (Odaiba – Part II) September 22, 2009

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo (Odaiba – Part II)” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-gU

After completing a museum tour, heading to the southern area, just east of the museums is a couple of famous attractions.  The first is Palette Town.  It is a large complex that holds various activities, one being Venus Fort, a theme mall.  It’s very similar to the shopping malls on the north side however Venus Fort is modeled after a European city.  On the exterior, it looks like any regular building, but once you enter, you’ll be greeted by a grand walkway full of Italian styled stucco wallpaper.  The shops in this mall tend to be more upscale and there is a huge fountain in the back of the mall.  It’s a famous place for photos and the staff of the mall will happily take your photo.  The end of the mall has a stage for various performances and Mariah Carey made an appearance at one time to promote one of her albums.  In grand style, she was over an hour late for a 15 minute appearance.  If you head to the second floor, you’ll enjoy small walkways connecting various restaurants.  The other main attraction is next door to Venus Fort.  Toyota’s Mega Web, and the Palette Town complex.  Mega Web is a large showcase for Toyota and Lexus cars.  If you have a Japanese driver’s license or an international one, you can, for a fee, test drive any of the Japanese spec Toyota cars around a small private track.  You can easily enter any of the showroom cars, buy a brochure, or take a look at a few of their displays.  There is usually an F1 car, other race cars, a theatre showing Fuji Speedway, and a race simulator.  There is even a corner for children to drive around or just have fun.  If you want to, you can take a tour on an electric, automatic car that will drive around the entire showroom.  Heading over to the far end of the complex, you’ll come to one of the largest Ferris Wheels in the world, and an amusement centre.

From the eastern edge of Palette Town, you can walk over a famous pedestrian bridge, Yumeno Ohashi, which can be picturesque.  It was used in several TV dramas in the past but only a few people ever walk over it.  It is generally too remote for most people to use it, but it’s very good for most movies and dramas for this very reason.  Tokyo has very strict film laws, so closing any other bridge is very difficult.  The size of this bridge makes it very convenient to film on.   From here, there are various buildings that are mainly for office workers, but you can see the odd cosplay event from time to time.  In all honesty, there is almost nothing to see or do in this area.  If you can walk all the way to Ariake station, you’ll be able to visit the Panasonic Center.  It’s a small showcase of Panasonic’s latest technologies and green movement.  They even have a small Nintendo corner, but in reality, unless you love technology, it’s not worth the long walk.  In the past, this was a nice destination as it was the last stop of the Yurikamome line.  Unfortunately, this is no longer the case, but it does provide a nice trip to see the edge of Odaiba.

The bigger attraction in this area of Odaiba is Tokyo Big Site.  It’s the scene of various conventions and exhibits.  The popular Design Festa is held twice a year showcasing some of Tokyo’s craziest artists.  Everything you see will be strange, different, and unique.  It’s something that must be seen to understand.  There are several comic and anime conventions where you’ll be able to see your favourite characters, and even see all of the crazy fans that dress up as their favourite characters.  The annual Tokyo Motorcycle Show is also a popular exhibit, including various technological exhibitions.  It’s impossible to describe each and every convention that can be held in Tokyo Big Site, so visiting their website is essential.  If you don’t want to go to any conventions, or if none of them are interesting at the time of your visit, visiting Tokyo Big Site itself is still pretty interesting.  You can get very nice views of the planes coming in to land at Haneda airport and there are several public works of art.  Unfortunately, unless you want to see an exhibit, there really isn’t any reason to be in the area unless you have time to spare.

Overall, Odaiba is a wonderful place to visit.  For seasoned residents of Tokyo, there isn’t much to see or do.  Most people either come as a couple, usually in their teens, or to drive around.  Odaiba is, for some reason, considered a nice place to drive.  Is Odaiba really a place to visit in Tokyo?  The simple answer is no.  If you don’t have time, it’s not that important.  However, like any other city, if you have time and you finished seeing everything else, by all means, spend a day in Odaiba and you’ll have a great time nonetheless.

This is Part II of a II part series.  Please head back to Part I if you haven’t read it.

Odaiba Information:

Japan Guide:  http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3008.html
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Tokyo/Odaiba
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odaiba
Map of Odaiba:  http://www.tokyoessentials.com/odaiba-map.html

Palette Town (Japanese Only): http://www.palette-town.com/
Venus Fort: http://www.venusfort.co.jp/multi/index_e.html
Toyota’s Mega Web: http://www.megaweb.gr.jp/English/
Panasonic Center: http://www.panasonic.net/center/tokyo/
Tokyo Big Site:  http://www.bigsight.jp/english/

Design Festa:  http://www.designfesta.com/index_en.html

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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