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The Road to Suzuka

Dating back to ancient times when believers followed it to the Grand Shrine near Suzuka, the Tokaido Route has long held a special fascination for Japanese travellers. This summer dozens of Ferraristi set off westward from Tokyo to pay their own kind of homage
Words: Jun Nishikawa

The journey from Japan’s sprawling capital, Tokyo, to Suzuka is approximately 400 kilometres. Even on Japan’s notoriously congested motorways where large trucks often infuriatingly stay in the overtaking lane and where a relatively modest 100 kilometres-per-hour speed limit is the norm, it is a route that these days can be covered in four hours by car.

Watch as scores of beautiful Ferraris make their way along the ancient Tokaido route to Suzuka, a journey made for thousands of years

In the traditional Edo period – 1603-1867 – however, travelling from east to west Japan was not such an easy feat. Heading west on the ancient Tokaido Route remained a dream for many Japanese, an event that took on the aspect of a kind of pilgrimage, given that The Grand Shrine - Ise Jingu - was to be found south of Suzuka, hosting Amaterasu, the ancestral deity of the Imperial Household.


Thus, it is fair to say that, for Japanese people, travelling westwards from Tokyo has always carried a special significance. Today’s modern routes to Suzuka coincide perfectly with those of the ancient past. Which all means that, for Ferrari enthusiasts in Japan the drive to the Suzuka Circuit, where the country’s Formula One races are held, also takes on a special meaning.


So it was with a great sense of anticipation that on a sunny morning in late June some 77 Prancing Horse cars were assembled in Tokyo by their proud drivers, eager to set off westward along the famed Tokaido Route.

Some 77 different Ferraris made the trip to the Suzuka circuit, where Japan's Formula One Grand Prix races are held

The starting point for this modern four-wheeled pilgrimage was the Tokyo Prince Hotel, adjacent to the Zojoji Temple, the family temple of the Tokugawa Shoguns, located in a unique and symbolic landscape with high-rise buildings overlooking Tokyo Tower. The Ferrari drivers left the hotel car park in groups, first circuiting the Imperial Palace before then heading for the entrance to the Metropolitan Expressway.


That highway took us away from the capital and on to the Tomei Expressway. After passing through moderate traffic, we entered a mountainous area

whose roads were perfect for our Ferrari drivers, offering a series of corners ranging from gentle curves to high-speed bends.

It was a dreamy experience to find ourselves amongst a fleet of colourful cars, exchanging glances with other Ferraristi, all thrilled at sharing our love of the brand. The majesty of beautiful Mount Fuji dramatically loomed directly in front of us. After a while, Japan’s most famous mountain then appeared on our right- hand side, and it felt as though we were meandering around its foothills.


The well-maintained mountainous New Tomei Expressway has the highest speed limit in Japan, allowing us to drive at 120km/h. The Maranello engines merely hummed. But the humming of the engine in seventh or, more recently, eighth gear is also exceptional. The audial pleasure of a great engine is not solely experienced at full-throttle acceleration. Cruising along at a couple of thousand revs is also a real treat for the driver.

Thanks to roads along the route that have the highest permitted speed limits in Japan, the procession was able to make the most of the V12 engines 

Now we were regaled by the enchanting view of neat tea plantations and roadside mandarin orange groves that are so typical of the region, as we enjoyed passing through the Tokai area, a region that makes up a large part of the journey to the Suzuka Circuit.


After entering the Ise Bay Coastal Highway from the New Tomei Expressway, our huge group of Ferraris found itself overlooking a cluster of factories below, before then going on to cross the huge harbour in order to reach Mie Prefecture, the area where the Suzuka Circuit is located.


The history of the city of Suzuka is so ancient that its name even appears in The Chronicles of Japan, the country’s oldest history book, published in the year 720. During the weekend of this wonderful tour, the Suzuka Circuit hosted ‘Ferrari Racing Days’, an astonishing event that involved a total of 500 Prancing Horse cars, including the 77 cars that had made up our hugely pleasurable Tokyo-Suzuka pilgrimage.