Things to do in Japan: Japanese Formula One Grand Prix (Friday Practice)

The main reason for my trip to Japan was to attend the 2015 Japanese Formula One Grand Prix. Held at the Suzuka International Racing Circuit in Japan we thought we would make the trek from Australia to check it out.

Any of my followers who have read my blog for a while will know I was quite fond of the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix so we thought that we would give it a go.

Just My Travel Disclaimer: If you are not a fan of photos of Formula One cars or Sports Photography – apology the next few posts might bore you a little.

The train from Takayama to Nagoya was spectacular. The scenery was really something to behold so make sure you keep your eyes outside the train.

After our stay in Takayama we headed down to Nagoya. Nagoya is the closest ‘main’ city to the Suzuka Racing Circuit so we decided to base ourselves there for the next little while to attend the F1.

Look at that view. The landscape between Takayama and Nagoya is breathtaking. I think it also helped being a cloudy and grey day as we had the stunning low cloud over the mountains.

The train journey from Takayama to Nagoya is absolutely gorgeous. The scenery as you work your way through the mountains is amazing. The Hide Wide-View train makes it a glorious view as the windows are “wide” so you get to experience the amazing views.

The journey time from Takayama to Nagoya was about 2.5 hours, thankfully all on the one train so no need to change anywhere along the way.

In Nagoya we booked into the APA Villa Hotel Nagoya Marunochi Ekimae as it was right near the Maunouchi station on the subway as well as only about a 20 minute walk from the main station. The hotel was actually not too bad, seems to cater very much to the business traveler but had enough to keep us occupied. Again the hot baths up on the top floor of the hotel were lovely with really nice facilities. The area was pretty handy with plenty of shopping and food options nearby.

Yamachan – these are dotted all over Japan and especially Nagoya. Honestly the whole menu is so tasty, try the Fried Chicken!

Just my Food Review: We stumbled onto an amazing food chain called Yamachan – this place is a staple in Nagoya, famous for their fried chicken, it is an Izakaya restaurant that has an amazing menu and very nice drinks offering. This would not be the first time we enjoyed ourselves in these establishments. Apparently there are over 72 stores nationwide with 38 of them in the Aichi Prefecture around Nagoya.

I may have consumed a few of these lovely Whisky Highballs over the course of the first evening, which may have had a direct correlation to the amount of food we ordered.

The first morning of the Japanese Grand Prix (Friday Practice) was a very grey and damp start to the day – as we made our way to the train station we just hoped the rain would let up by the time we made it to the track.

Rainy start to our Friday – really tend to have bad luck at Formula One events in Asia. Always seem to catch rain on Friday practice. Key tip in Japan – have your essential clear umbrella available at all times!

Getting to Suzuka Circuit: All up it will take about an hour to reach the circuit – I guarantee this will feel longer than an hour (it did for us). You need to first up catch the train from Nagoya to Yokkaichi or Kawarada, from there you transfer to the Ise Railway bound for TSU. The stop you are looking for is Suzuka Sakitto Ino (Suzuka Circuit Ino) station.

The main gate entrance to the Suzuka circuit. There is a “theme park” attached to the circuit which has some activities and events for young and old to check out.

From the station it is a shortish walk to the circuit. As we needed to pick up our tickets the first day the walk was about 2km. The following days it was only about 1.5km.

The view from our seats wasn’t bad at all. The curves grandstand allowed us to have quite a number of angles to see the cars working their way around the lap.

As a spectator the circuit is fairly well laid out and has plenty of great vantage points. We had grandstand tickets on the Suzuka Curves which provided amazing views of the cars early in their laps.

Away from the action there are plenty of displays and activities to keep you busy (and in our case – DRY).

Our hopes and dreams that the grey clouds would clear and the rain would be gone were soon dashed. Practice One was a very wet affair – very wet. All the ponchos/umbrellas/rain jackets were not helping the fact that it was WET!!!

Food and beverage options here are amazing. So much better than just “Burgers and Fries” you tend to see at events back here at home. There were too many options that I wanted to try out. TIP: Pick your times though, as you see the lines can get a little crazy.
Also of vital importance is to ensure you stay well hydrated at any outdoor sporting event. Plenty of options to keep you occupied here!

Still however I managed to get a few good shots of the cars, and the rain added a nice dimension to the shots. Friday at a Grand Prix is always a good day to go and purchase your merchandise and explore the complex as there are usually much less people around so getting around is much easier.

Friday Practice was WET WET WET – though that did allow some good shots of the cars with the spray coming off the wheels and bodywork.

I was absolutely blown away by the organisation of this event and the politeness and behaviour of the fans. If you have attended a sporting event in Australia unfortunately there will be an element of bad behaviour. At this event it was amazing, fans were well behaved and all made a genuine effort to put their rubbish in the bins whenever they left their seat.

The benefit of this being a permanent circuit is that there were plenty of vantage points that didn’t have safety fences in the way, meaning you get great photos. Plus being a Friday you could move around a little bit as the grandstands weren’t busy.

Likewise there was not a heavy security presence like you see in Australian events, I noticed that the authorities almost “trusted” their patrons to not abuse the event and treat it with respect. This was so amazing to witness.

If you are interested in Motorsport photography, the Friday and Saturday of an F1 event are the #1 days to take your photos. You will get better access as the stands are not as busy and there are less people around so it is much easier.

We were worried as we had a water bottle with us for the walk from the station to the track and were concerned about getting into the event – in Australia if you have an open water bottle you must throw it in the bin before you can enter an event – there was no such issue here in Suzuka

Thankfully as the day moved on the wet weather eventually cleared up. The cloud still provided a nice subdued lighting for photos so I wasn’t having to balance harsh shadows.

I know a few of my readers in the past have been interested in some of the technical aspects of my photography. I was shooting with the Nikon D300s body, coupled with the Sigma 70-200 f2.8 lens and the Sigma 1.4x teleconverter. The 1.4x loses about one stop of light so your f2.8 becomes about f4.

There were plenty of great displays and museum pieces around the track to look at so make sure you go for a good wander around to see all the various aspects.

Most of the shots today due to the cloudy rainy weather were shot at about 1/800 shutter speed with an ISO640 and usually around f5.6 to give me a little bit of Depth of Field and a bit more forgiving focus range.

After the racing finished for the day we headed back to Nagoya on the train and dried off in the hot baths of the hotel before hitting up Yamachan (yes I know how boring!) again for dinner.

Fingers crossed Saturday Practice 3 and Qualifying would be nice, sunny and dry!

Thanks for following along with the post today – hopefully not too many photos to bore you with if you were not a Formula One fan. Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment. Have you been to the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix? What about Nagoya? Not sure it is on the main tourist routes but was a nice enough town.

A special thank you as always to those of you who follow my blog and leave me comments. I really appreciate hearing from you, and am glad if you enjoy my posts. Thanks again and see you tomorrow.