Saturday, July 7, 2018

Why Everyone Should Visit Japan Once in their Lifetime

As of last month I have been rolling into my 11th year living in Japan: I moved here when I was 21 and basically spent my whole adulthood on this side of the planet - time flies. Let me start by saying that, whether you are into cars or not, everybody should visit this place at least once. However, if you happen to have been bitten by the JDM bug, Japan can easily turn into the trip of a lifetime. Whether you need extra motivation to start planning, or a convincing argument (in photo format) for your other half, this post is for you.

Tokyo can be extremely frenetic, but it didn’t take long before the craziest aspects of living here became daily routine. However, earlier this month I had my family visiting for a holiday. That, combined with the several recent trips to get my car project started, revealed to be a great opportunity to slow down and rediscover the little things that really makes this place so special. 

To begin with, Tokyo is as diverse as it gets: in a matter of minutes you can move from that urban jungle and neon chaos that is Shibuya.

To the absolute quiet of Hamarikyu Gardens, planted in the middle of the city.

You can experience the most amazing modern architecture blending in with traditional style buildings.

I am Italian and I’ve never seen old and new co-existing so well together in one place.

Now, whether you are GT-R owner or overall JDM enthusiast, understandably, you will want to check out car related stuff as much as possible. Good news are that automotive culture is deeply rooted in Japan and it’s not difficult to run into cool places worth taking your DSRL out for, like Nissan Crossing.

Today it’s a state of the art showroom filled with all the latest tech and styling exercises, but you would be interested to know that Nissan very first Ginza gallery dates as back as 1963.

Tokyo and its surrounding offer plenty of things to see that can be easily paired up with city sightseeing, starting from the artificial island of Odaiba.

Definitely pay a visit to Toyota History Garage, where classic racers are regularly displayed. Currently, to celebrate Toyota challenge to the Le Mans 24 Hours, a very cool selection of endurance racers is on display.

You will also find plenty of classic cars from all eras and makers, not just Toyotas.

Now, if you are visiting in summer, go and spend a weekend trackside at a Super GT race, easily the most advanced GT series in the world. The cars have an incredible presence and the sight of watching them lap the track with Mount Fuji in the background is worth the trip alone.

Round 2 and Round 5 usually take place in May and August respectively, which makes Fuji Speedway the only circuit to host two rounds of the series in one year, as well as R’s Meeting and Nismo Festival later in the year.

If you are around autumn, then a visit to Twin Ring Motegi in Tochigi prefecture for the final round of the series could be part of your plans. This area is famous for its hot springs and mountains.

You can easily put together a great weekend, spending a day touring the area, including Edo Wonderland (a real life reconstruction of a Edo period village with actors playing as local characters), before you head to the circuit.

Twin Ring Motegi is a great track, very easy to get around.

Besides, the Honda Collection Hall alone is worth the visit.

Here you’ll find some of the most iconic cars and technology that ever came out Japan.

The collection is incredibly vast and diverse and includes some of the most legendary machines.

If you are in Yokohama for the day, then you are definitely at the right place for all things Nissan.

The new Global Headquarters  building is huge and usually hosts at least a few racer or classic sports models that are worth checking out.

This is an obvious statement, but, the next logical stop from Nissan HQ is Daikokucho, direction Nismo Omori Factory.

If you are reading this blog, this place needs no introduction.

The Mecca of everything Skyline and GT-R related, this place represent the ultimate expression of Japanese automotive craftsmanship.

From here you have multiple options: you can stop by the famous Daikoku parking  area, visit Minatomirai or, if you plan ahead, head down to Zama to visit Nissan DNA Garage (you’ll need to book in advance on their website).

Japan offers a virtually endless menu of options: you can hop on a Shinkansen and reach some of the most amazing locations in a matter of hours, or just stay local.

Spring and summer are my favorite seasons and, as long as you avoid the heavy rain in June, you should be fine.

From cherry blossom viewing to local matsuri, you can rest assured that there is plenty to satisfy whoever is tagging along with you.

The country has a lot more to offer than just cars, which is why I’d recommend to go and explore as much as possible. 

If time and budget allow, visit Okinawa and the surrounding smaller islands.

Easily my favorite place on Earth; if it’s your first time, you are in for a treat. 

Lastly, and this is pretty obvious, you’ll finally have a chance to taste one of the most refined cuisines in the world.

Forgot the California roll, this is the real deal.

And there you have it: as somebody once wrote, you just have to see, feel, taste, and hear everything on your own to truly understand the Japan experience. Some people end up returning, even multiple times.

I ended up never leaving. 

Until next time.

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