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The Japanese city of Suzuka is famed worldwide for its Formula 1 circuit, but is equally popular in Japan for its location along the border of Ise-no-Umi National Park, home to the most important historic Shinto shrine in the country. Within reach of the heritage city of Kyoto as well as Ise Bay, the city makes a good base for exploring the Japanese countryside and rural villages, as well as its better known landmarks. Renting a car is the best way to get around the remote corners of the region.
Who to Book With
Given the location of the Suzuka Circuit on the edge of the city, there are a good number of reliable Japanese car hire companies located in and around the centre. Our online price comparison and booking site links with independent suppliers, allowing visitors looking for car hire to book well in advance of their trip.
Best Time to Go
Unless you’re heading to Suzuka for the Formula 1 race at Suzuka Circuit, cherry blossom time in April/May is the best time to admire the displays of avenues of trees in full bloom. Winter here can be warm and sunny one day and cold and snowy the next, and summer is hot and humid. Accommodation and car hire prices soar in May’s Golden Week national holiday, in the brief cherry blossom season and when Formula 1 takes place. Japanese roads are well-maintained and safe year-round, and drivers are mostly courteous.
Need to Know Essentials
When collecting your rental vehicle, remember to bring the following documents:
- An International Driving Permit
- Your passport or valid photo identification
- The credit card used for the initial reservation
- A printed copy of the confirmed booking
Japan drives on the left. Most major trunk roads here have signs in English as well as Japanese, but the signage on roads in Suzuka is in Japanese and Portuguese, making it difficult for English speakers to find their way around the city. Inner city driving in Japan requires concentration. Parking garages are scattered around the shopping and entertainment district. The side streets in the older part of town are best avoided as they can be extremely narrow and confusing to navigate.
Visit our Japan driving tips page for more information.
Getting around Suzuka and its surroundings is by train, bus, self-drive via car rental or taxi. Japan’s public transport services are efficient and comfortable, and generally a delight to use. They are not, however, cheap. All train stations have signage in English, but this is unusual for buses, with the exception of major tourist hubs such as Kyoto. Taxis are clean and reliable, and have helpful, honest drivers. Local trains are comparatively slow, with self-drive sightseeing in the region the best idea.
Suzuka’s main railway station, Shiroko, connects with Nagoya, Osaka and the remainder of Mie prefecture via Japan Rail’s Kintetsu Nagoya Line. For a trip on the Shinkansen bullet train, Nagoya is the closest connection. Shiroko Station is Suzuka’s main rail hub and can get very busy at peak travel times. The Kansai Main Line also runs through the city, giving a fast, direct transfer to Nagoya. Several other local lines run between various areas of the city and small nearby towns, but they are confusing for those who can’t read Japanese to use.
Most of the city buses leave from either Shiroku Station or Hiratacho Station, with Bus 1 the most useful as regards frequency. Most of the city buses run every hour or less and are tricky to use unless you know your exact destination, and the service shuts down at around 19:30.
Travel by taxi is safe, reliable and comfortable. Drivers are helpful and meters are always used. The only downside to Japanese taxis is the price, but many consider it worth the cost as the service is excellent.
Set on the coast and conveniently located for easy access to Nagoya, Osaka and fabulous Kyoto, as well as the Ise Shrines and two national parks, Suzuka is a great base for exploring the region by car. Once you’re out of town, driving is a dream, and excellent trunk roads run along the coast and into the interior. Nagoya is an hour away and glorious Kyoto is just over a 1 hour, 30 minute scenic drive from the city.
Hikone on Lake Biwa - From Suzuka, head in the direction of Kameyama and follow the road through beautiful countryside and small, traditional villages to Higashiomi and on to Hikone on the shore of magnificent Lake Biwa. Here, you’ll find an original 17th century Daimyo castle, one of the few genuine remnants of feudal Japan. Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest freshwater lake, is lined with traditional villages and pilgrimage temples.
Ise Shrines - The two holiest of all the thousands of Shinto shrines in Japan, the Ise Shrines were first built and the 3rd and 5th centuries, and are still a major pilgrimage destination for modern-day Japanese. The spectacular coast road leads south from Suzuka to Ise city, with the drive taking just over an hour.
Amanohashidate - For a longer scenic drive to the northern tip of the peninsula and a sight beloved by millions of Japanese, take Highway 9 from Suzuka to Amanohashidate. Japanese people take natural beauty very seriously, with this glorious view over a mountain-ringed bay bisected by a pine-covered sand bar considered one of the three loveliest in the entire country.