If you haven't seen Andy and my photos from our Japan trip, check them out! We visted Daikoku Parking Area, the All Japan 1JZ Meeting, TYPE ONE, and did a ton of car spotting along the way. One story we sidelined, however, was our trip to Twin Ring Motegi and the Honda Collection Hall.
The trip from Tokyo to Togichi Prefecture is about 90 miles deep into the hills of Japan. Having secured my international driving permit from AAA back in the US, I was going to be driving us all day. Before being handed the keys to the small Suzuki van inside the rental car parking deck, I had never sat in or driven a right hand drive car. Let's just say getting down the 7 story parking deck was just as stressful for Andy - while he watched the walls of the deck draw nearer and nearer as I spiraled down the deck ramps - as it was for me getting a hold on the van before driving right into downtown Tokyo.
The trip itself wasn't bad at all, saved purely by the grace of Google maps and our 4G hotspot rental. It turns out the "English" GPS provided in the van was only English in about 4 unneeded menu options, leaving absolutely everything else in Japanese. Thankfully our phones were able to get us 85 or so miles into the 90 mile trip, losing service about 10 miles from Motegi and regaining service about 5 miles away from the Hall. Let me tell you, you haven't experienced Japan until you're driving through misty mountainsides full of thick vegetation, spotted with traditional houses built nearer the late 1700s than today. Oh, and almost none of the road signs included romaji, purely kanji. If I were driving alone I would've been done for, but having an extra pair of eyes really helped us to keep along the right roads and make the two turns we absolutely couldn't miss.
Once we made it to the Hall, after driving around Motegi a few times trying to find the one open gate and driving to a few incorrect parking lots, the cool stuff started before we got in the building. The bright orange Fit and black Jimny were only a couple of the cool "everyday" cars we parked next to.
Once inside we got to witness a live demo of ASIMO and the UNI-CUB (a couple of the coolest demos I've seen in my entire life), and found ourselves face to face with the Honda Collection Hall's equivalent of the Top Gear Test Track. Nearly everything in the Hall has been driven around the back loop on their Youtube channel, and it's absolutely worth poking around to see classic Hondas of all sizes being started, revved, and driven around a bit. Standing next to this course after seeing it online with Andy so many times was one of those "is this all real?" experiences I got hit with time after time in Japan.
We then worked our way through the remaining rooms of the Hall, including production model cars, wagons, pickups, snow machines, motorcycles, race bikes, and racing cars. For better or worse the whole collection isn't shown at once, with some cars being shipped around to other displays and collections in Japan. That only means we need to go back and see the Hall again...
On our way home we poked around the service roads of Motegi a bit, getting a couple peeks at the course amidst preparation for the MotoGP race the following weekend, and crying to ourselves that we wouldn't be able to extend our visit to see the race in person. We also happened across what may very well be one of my favorite buildings in Japan: an old Honda repair shop a few miles from the track complete with Honda memorabilia and adverts all over the lobby. If we ever make it back to Japan, I will give it everything I have to shoot a Honda-centric feature in front of this building.
Check out the photos below and make sure to check out the other galleries linked at the top of this article! I've got one more writeup of more day-to-day stuff Andy and I experienced (aka less car stuff) so check back soon for that.
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