I can't even remember when C & I started talking about travelling to Japan one day - and the opportunity never really came up until this year. We both had a long list of bucket lists of bucket lists to do in Japan, and for C it was to get to see the Tsukuba Circuit and attend a car event and watch some cars go around the track. So it just happened to be, that the 2015 Hyper Meeting was going to happen during our trip, so we planned our trip going there.
Tip # 1 Plan for travel
- Time. C & I stayed in Shinjuku in Tokyo, from there it takes about 2 hours in total to get to the Tsukuba Circuit, so make sure you plan for that. It is in the outskirts, and it takes a number of transfers (ours took around 4)
- Suica or other IC cards. Travelling using the train system in Japan is pretty easy when you don't have to purchase a ticket and figure out the machines / talk to the ticket office who may or may not speak English well. I highly recommend getting an IC card, such as a Suica, so that you will only need to tap it through the entrance and exits of every train you have to get on. Japan's train system can definitely be intimidating for the beginner (I've only begun to understand it), because there's multiple train companies. With the Suica, you don't need to purchase tickets, calculate the price or worry about where to buy the tickets, etc.
So our trip began pretty early around 8AM, and we hopped on the JR Line to Akihabara. From there, we took the Tsukuba Express Rapid to Moriya. We learned that the Tsukuba Express had different speeds (local, semi-rapid, rapid), but the all of them go to Moriya, so I suggest to take the Rapid one cause it does save you a good 15-30 mins.
Then, we took the Kanto Railway Joso Line to Sodo Station. This train is pretty small, with only two cars. We also discovered that this train stops completely at Mitsukaido (around 3 stops in), and then the conductor asks everyone to completely leave the train - imagine our shock. In broken Japanese, we managed to figure out we just needed to get onto the next platform as another train will take us from Mitsukaido to Sodo Station. Upon arrival at Sodo, we saw there was one taxi parked outside the train station. Warning... lots of these taxi drivers in the outskirts don't speak much English, or even at all! So that brings me to...
Tip# 2 Learn some basic Japanese OR download the Google Translate app.
I learned basic Japanese in my university years, but believe me when I say I can barely speak it aside from the words I learned from going to Japanese restaurants / watching anime / reading manga all these years. #terrible But I can read some Chinese and also I still know how to read hiragana/katakana. That helps. I also found using the Google Translate app super helpful, by typing what I wanted to say, and showing it to the taxi driver and he understands it by reading it.
Fortunately, because there was an event, an Australian couple was also heading to Tsukuba and we all shared the taxi heading to the circuit. It's still a good 6km, so it's going to be a pretty far walk if you don't take a taxi.
Then finally we made it! The taxi cost about 2200-2500 yen. C wanted to check out the parking lot first and see the who's at the meet, and definitely I'm seeing a running theme of Subaru's everywhere.
Tip # 3 Ask for the taxi driver's phone number Gotta plan for your trip back to Sodo Station. Use your google translate to ask for the driver's phone number, so that you can potentially contact him later to drive you back to Sodo Station.
Just outside the Tsukuba Circuit area.
There were lots of car parts vendors, swag and cool items around the entire area surrounding the track.
C doing his thing taking his gopro around filming + phone capture! Haha. Watch the link below too for the video we made of this trip!
I'm not a car enthusiast like C but it was just so cool to actually see cars go around the racetrack, and listening to the hilarious commentators!
On our way back, we asked one of the locals using Google Translate to call the taxi for us. He was really nice and described us to the taxi driver so he could identify us. In about 10 minutes, the taxi driver arrived and drove us back to the station. It again took about 2+ hours to get back to Shinjuku.
It was so much fun to get to check this off our bucket list and actually see some action on the track! :) Onto our next adventure