Lifestyle | CHILD'S PLAY

Race to Motegi for outdoor fun and games

by Jason Jenkins

Contributing Writer

Racecars, zip lines and the great outdoors. Head to Motegi in Tochigi Prefecture and you can get all three.

Twin Ring Motegi is best-known for its racing. It is, after all, where you go to see world-class competitions such as MotoGP. But when the track is empty, there is just as much for kids to do.

Surrounded by forest, Twin Ring Motegi uses the great outdoors as a unifying concept for family-friendly fun. Take, for example, the two multistory Dokidoki and Itadaki outdoor attractions, which can be found in its Mobi Park. Itadaki is a wooden labyrinth course and stamp rally where families learn about the region’s ecosystem. Kids collect 14 stamps featuring bees, bats, snakes and other animals along the course, which takes around 30 minutes to complete, but of course it varies by child. You’re welcome to join the kids, too. Just keep in mind that there are some low entrances where you’ll need to duck or possibly crawl to keep up.

The newer Dokidoki obstacle course incorporates ropes, swinging bridges and rock-climbing walls. There are a total of 39 obstacles and two fitness levels. If it gets too exhausting, there are escape exits with stairs to the entrance. Both Dokidoki and Itadaki require proper footwear: no sandals or flip flops. Itadaki stays open when it rains, but Dokidoki closes during wet weather.

I recommend doing the labyrinth and obstacle course first, as these require the most energy. Once accomplished, it’s time to take to the kid-sized raceways in the park. Here there are motorsport-themed rides for every age. The smallest kids can ride with an adult on the Acro-X obstacle course and learn about traffic safety on the Forest Driving School course. For children 8 and older, the Moto Racer course puts kids on small electric bikes where they learn to ride on a mini track. Don’t worry: helmets and padding for knees and elbows are provided. The real thrills start for kids 135 centimeters and taller. For them, the Drift S and Dream Kart track allows for more speed without the need for helmets and other safety gear.

All of the mentioned rides and attractions are covered by the ¥3,200 Passport ticket, which I recommend you get if your kids are in the 5-12 year range. Individually, each ride costs between ¥200 and ¥800, and if you’re spending the day here, it saves money to get access to them all. Faster rides cost extra. For example, you can try the Challenge Kart (¥800) for more horsepower. Beat the standard time and you get a license to try Racing Kart level (¥2,500-3,000).

The adjoining forest offers more outdoor fun. Teens, tweens and other thrill seekers will enjoy zip lines through the trees. At just over 500 meters, The Mega Zip Line Tsubasa course (¥1,300) is one of the longest in the country, and on race days you get a bird’s-eye view of the spectacle. Peaking at 20 meters above the ground, these are not for the faint of heart. Of course, keep in mind that waivers must be signed, proper shoes must be worn (rental shoes are available) and kids can’t go on their own.

As you can see, you don’t have to be a racing fan to enjoy Twin Ring Motegi, but if you are, then there’s even more to discover. Of course, there is the track itself, which has been on the international MotoGP circuit for two decades, and there are several opportunities to actually ride on it. These come at additional cost, with prices varying from ¥1,000 to do one lap in a kart to ¥3,300 to cruise the track in your own car. Of course, this is only available when there are no actual races happening.

Then there is the Honda Collection Hall, an impressive automotive museum and a must for any fans of the Honda brand. Entry is ¥1,000 for adults, ¥300 for kids aged 3 to 5 and ¥500 for those aged 6 to 15. Here you’ll find Ayrton Senna’s Formula One car, as well as loads of other Honda vehicles from F1 and MotoGP history. Start on the third floor and work your way down to the second floor, which is dedicated to Honda’s commercial vehicles over the decades. In total, there are usually approximately 300 vehicles on display at one time. Exhibits include everything from race cars to the earliest motorized bicycles that first brought Honda to prominence.

Twin Ring Motegi is tricky to access by public transport. It’s not impossible, but takes several hours and transfers, making it an unlikely day trip. The good news is that there’s a hotel on site, as well as glamping opportunities, where tents include large beds, a sofa, a barbecue dinner and more. City kids who’ve never seen a sky full of stars are in for a treat. The Nozomi-no-yu onsen (hot spring) on site is also a great place to clean off the day’s grime.

There are kid-friendly events happening at Twin Ring Motegi all summer long — outdoor and indoor. What more could you want as we race toward the summer holidays?

For more information about Twin Ring Motegi, visit www.twinring.jp/english.