Another Dream Come True: My Trip to Japan! Day 2!

Continuing from my previous post of my trip to Japan!

This post is dedicated to Day 2!

Again, this is a very word and photo heavy post!


DAY 2

The night before, I packed up my gear that included Fancier DSLR Backpack (which funnily enough, I bought way back in 2011 when I only owned a Nikon D5000, kit lens, and a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM lens; I knew I would, one day or another, have more, bigger lenses, and DSLR… I was right):

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  •  Nikon D7200 with a Nikon MB-D15 battery grip
  • Nikon Speedlight SB-600 with Eneloop Batteries
  • Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM
  • Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM
  • Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter EX DG
  • 3x EN-EL15 batteries (2x Wasabi branded and 1x Nikon OEM)
  • 2x SanDisk Extreme PRO 32GB SDHC, 1x SanDisk ULTRA 32GB SDHC (kept inside SD card case of course)
  • Transcend USB 3.0 Card Reader (since my LYNCA card reader/card case swallowed a ton of water and buggered out), along with an OTG cable (The Nikon D7200 can be wirelessly tethered to my Android phone, but if you take more than 100 shots, it takes a long time to find those couple of photos to upload without post processing, thus an OTG cable with a card reader is much faster)
  • BlackRapid RS-Sport Version 2 Sling Strap
  • Joby GorillaPod (not used lol)
  • ND Filters (also not used lol)
  • DSLR Rain Cover (because I knew it would rain)
  • ROMOSS Solo 5 10,000mAh Power Bank

Then I also packed in a separate plastic bag:

  • LOTS of face towels
  • Umbrella (because of course)
  • Couple of bottled water (some tracks don’t allow you to bring outside drinks, so double check on the track you are visiting; of course the sell drinks track side, but sometimes it can get a bit pricey, so getting a couple of bottles will hold you off until the time you really need to buy from trackside)
  • Extra shirt
  • Alcohol (of the Isopropyl variety of course)

Ate a big breakfast at the hotel to keep me satisfied during the train ride to Suzuka as it takes at least an hour to reach Shiriko Station in Suzuka, and at least 30 mins to reach the track by way of shuttle service.

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I used the Kintetsu line to get to Suzuka, and much like the Meitetsu line, I opted for the first class tickets in order to enjoy the ride, and again, I usually spend a bit more to be comfortable during travels/commute because of my right knee, and boy was my right knee tested this whole trip and I learned new things to better prepare on my next travels to ease the pain on my right knee.

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The train ride was really comfortable and fast; great to see the scenery, but since this is a main train line between lots of cities and such, you don’t really see the country side, but there are some areas of pure green fields to marvel at. And not to turn down the city side view, as we all know, that Japan, and not limited to Tokyo, have beautiful cities that are well managed and well planned. So it still quite a beautiful sight!

Welcome to Suzuka!

Arriving at Shiriko Station at Suzuka, you can clearly see the signs to help you reach the shuttle service in order to reach the track since the track is not close to the station. You are certainly not alone, so you will see fellow fans locally or fellow foreigners, so if you can’t see the signs, just follow a fellow fan, and you will be all right.

After the shuttle parked up near Suzuka Circuit, it is at this moment where you have to purchase a ticket for the shuttle you used in order to enter the track, for 900 Yen; this is also where you can get a return ticket for the shuttle service – the combined price for the return ticket is 1700 Yen – also purchasing the return ticket now not only gives you a slight discount, but let’s you avoid queuing up at the ticket booth later in the day. At this day, I just got the 1 way ticket because I knew I will be going home late and will use the taxi services instead.

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First thing I noticed is that the Suzuka Circuit has a lot of uphill and downhill walkways; don’t get me wrong, they are made in a way that the average person can traverse to (well some walkways are REALLY steep, which I will get into later on), but having come from Singapore Grand Prix in the Marina Bay Street Circuit, being a street circuit, it was definitely more flat terrain that was far more easy for me to walk around the track in. Plus having to carry like 10lbs of camera gear may not sound a lot, but having to lug it around on a not so flat terrain for the majority of the day on a bad right knee, can certainly take its toll on me. This is one of the new lessons I learned in this Grand Prix weekend – that is to invest on one of those DSLR backpack that doubles as a trolley so I can just drag my gear around the circuits in the future.

After a couple of minutes walking from the shuttle stop to the main entrance, it was a sight that made me want to tear up.

Suzuka Circuit
Note: I already got my plastic ID ticket when I started having self portraits lol

Suzuka Circuit

I mentioned already that I have always dreamed of visiting Japan because of my numerous hobbies that are link to the culture of Japan, and being a F1 fan since 1996, Suzuka Circuit is one of those tracks I always dreamed of visiting on a Grand Prix weekend, but honestly never thought it can come true, yet, there I was… in Japan… And right in front of the famous main entrance for the famous Suzuka Circuit… God is great indeed!

My Happiest Place on Earth

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Inside the circuit premises, it is like home for a Formula 1 fan as you’d expect; I see everyone wearing their colors to support their team and/or driver… I see everyone interacting with strangers to talk about the sport we love, befriending them, and helping one another getting photos of each other or even together to mark a special weekend and keep for memories.

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You see all the booths much like I did in Singapore, selling what can be considered overpriced F1 gear if you haven’t already ordered some of the gear online elsewhere prior to the event. They also sell limited edition memorabilia, like the Kimi Raikkonen Suzuka Edition that was sold out minutes as soon as the shops open I heard, and thus, one of the special edition shirts I was so hell bent on purchasing was gone before I even got to the track that Saturday morning. F1 fans, I included, will pay a premium for any F1 gear we deem worth it… and Raikkonen is one of my all time favorite drivers, who is famous everywhere, but ever more so in Japan.

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Lots of places to eat and grab drinks as well. From your typical western style food, to the more local Japanese food.

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Since the track premises also house MOTOPIA, a themepark, there are numerous rides if you are into that sort of thing. Deeper within the track premises and ever closer to the actual track, you can also ride the famous Ferris wheel that is a fixture in the skies eavh time I watch the Japanese Grand Prix on TV. I was about to avail for the ride, but I did so much elsewhere around the track, and the queue was really getting long for that particular ride, that I thought to myself that this will give me another reason to return to Suzuka in the near future just to ride this Ferris wheel.

Kimi Fans United!

Many of my friends called me out for wearing Ferrari colors last year for the Singapore Grand Prix, calling me crazy spending on the gear (not gonna lie, the Formula 1 shirts, caps, and whatnot are pretty pricey indeed), as if they themselves don’t spend a lot on basketball jerseys or the like, but unlike Singapore, the fans here in Japan are all out! The fans in Singapore (plus the fans that traveled to Singapore) also showed their love and colors for the sport, but here in Japan (and again the fans that also traveled to Japan), the fans are not shy to show their love and passion for the sport! I mean, they aren’t shy to show their love for any hobbies they have, and that is one of the major reasons why I love Japan and its people.

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With Sebastian Vettel (Uhm, Close Enough!)

With My Hero, Kimi Raikkonen (Uhm, Close Enough!)

With Fernando Alonso (Uhm, Close Enough!)

With Sebastian Vettel (Uhm, Close Enough!)

You see people wear face tattoos, wearing racing overalls and helmet, you see them making big banners for their favorite team/driver, etc. This may not be a big deal for other sports like basketball, but unlike basketball, though F1 being famous, is just not as famous to my friends. So seeing other passionate people as I am gives me a warm fuzzy feeling that I finally belong somewhere.

It is also of note, that I still haven’t gotten my plastic ID ticket yet, since the pick up point is in the GP Square right next to the track that is a bit further from the main entrance.

Kimi for President!

Thus, walking towards the pickup point, I obviously took my time to look around the track, maybe buy a couple or more gear and such; meet new people, befriend them, and trade social media info; and of course, take a ton of photos of the life inside the event and have some self portraits for memories.

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I then got my ID ticket and felt more empowered… well it doesn’t really do much, but having to wear the ID around the track feels oh so good.

Suzuka Circuit

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Did a little more exploring, then grabbed a big bit to eat, stocked up on another bottle of water and Coke, then I headed towards my designated seating. The skies were also beginning to darken and hints of rain by way of a drizzle.

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This was the toughest part; I was already quite tired from my exploration before the Qualifying Session even started, but going to my seat entails going around Turns 1 and 2 which is also quite long, but having to go down a steep hill then up again was worrying me if my right knee can take it especially when I’m carrying a lot.

Eventually, luckily, and unbelievably, I made it to my seat, and a few minutes to spare before the Qualifying Session began, so I started to setup my Nikon D7200 by messing around with the settings that will be perfect for the current cloudy conditions and that with my Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM and Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter EX DG, which with the teleconverter, loses 2 stop of light, so with the cloudy conditions, it really isn’t helpful if I want to shoot at a higher shutter speed. Thankfully, I still managed to find the sweet spot in order to get the shots I wanted.

So here are a few shots of each driver during the entirety of the Qualifying Session:

Kimi Raikkonen
Kimi Raikkonen, #7, Scuderia Ferrari, SF71H
Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel, #5, Scuderia Ferrari, SF71H
Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton, #44, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, W09
Valtteri Bottas
Valtteri Bottas, #77, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, W09
Daniel Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo, #3, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, RB14
Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen, #33, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, RB14
Nico Hulkenberg
Nico Hulkenberg, #27, Renault Sport F1, R.S.18
Carlos Sainz Jr
Carlos Sainz, Jr., #55, Renault Sport F1, R.S.18
Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso, #14, McLaren F1 Team, MCL33
Stoffel Vandoorne
Stoffel Vandoorne, #2, McLaren F1 Team, MCL33
Charles Leclerc
Charles Leclerc, #16, Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team, C37
Marcus Ericsson
Marcus Ericsson, #9, Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team, C37
Pierre Gasly
Pierre Gasly, #10, Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda, STR13
Brendon Hartley
Brendon Hartley, #28, Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda, STR13
Lance Stroll
Lance Stroll, #18, Williams Martini Racing, FW41
Sergey Sirotkin
Sergey Sirotkin, #35, Williams Martini Racing, FW41
Sergio Perez
Sergio Perez, #11, Racing Point Force India F1 Team, VJM11
Esteban Ocon
Esteban Ocon, #31, Racing Point Force India F1 Team, VJM11
Kevin Magnussen
Kevin Magnussen, #20, Haas F1 Team, VF-18
Romain Grosjean
Romain Grosjean, #8, Haas F1 Team, VF-18

Near the end, of the Qualifying Session, Qualifying 3 to be exact, the skies began to open up and it poured. Having my DSLR rain cover at the ready, my gear is certainly safe. I also had a rain cover for my back pack and learning from last year in Singapore, I also bought a rain poncho at trackside knowing that the rain may be coming.

Results wise, it wasn’t a good day for Ferrari, but experience wise, it was just perfect. No rain will dampen my parade for sure.

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When all was said and done, there was a special historical lap event for the past F1 cars; they will give an exhibition of sorts, but I decided to forego that and make my way back to the GP Square, because my ticket enabled me to have a pit lane walk and be close to the actual cars, albeit behind barriers, or so I thought… wink wink.

Knowing others will also take advantage, I quickly had another bottle of Coke, another bottle of water, and headed my way to to queue up for the pit lane walk.

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The Eye in the Suzuka Sky

It took an hour I think to queue up, but it was well worth it; to be in the pit lane, seeing and talking to some of the teams’ engineers, getting close enough to the cars to photograph, being right underneath the podium…

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IT WAS A MAGICAL. I thought to myself, I have been quite lucky in this trip so far… how can it get better than this!?

AND IT DID.

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Working my way up to Ferrari’s garage, knowing that much like other garages at that moment, it will be empty as per FIA mandate, all cars after the Qualifying Session must be parked up next to the Scrutineering Garage just to make sure that was no exploits to have gained an advantage in the session. But I felt I took enough photos of the Ferrari and that of the other cars while I past by the FIA garage where they are being scrutineered, so I still headed onward through other garages and that of Ferrari’s.

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

I chanced upon meeting two of Ferrari’s engineers and thought having a photo with them, because why not!? It was at this moment I wanted to shoot myself in the foot because I forgot to show them a video of me and my racing simulator playing F1 2018! Not saying they will be so impressed by my driving, but maybe at least be impressed by my set up… who knows, maybe they would have invited me inside to show their friends my set up. Sigh. But still, having a nice little chat and a picture with them was awesome.

Kimi Raikkonen's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Kimi Raikkonen's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Kimi Raikkonen's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Kimi Raikkonen's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Kimi Raikkonen's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Kimi Raikkonen's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Finally made it to the Ferrari garage, just taking pictures of the heading, the equipment, the engineers, all inside the 2 empty garages, again, because the cars are being scrutineered at this moment, but all of a sudden, I was hearing so much commotion, I also heard some people speaking lots of Italian, and when I turned around, lo and behold! It was Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari SF71H car being hauled back into the garage! It was so close, I can taste it! Sadly, I wasn’t too close because I was caught off guard thus, others had a better vantage point than me, but I took a great garage photo of it, in my opinion. Just being that close to the Ferrari SF71H was beyond a dream come true!

Sebastian Vettel's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Sebastian Vettel's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Sebastian Vettel's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Sebastian Vettel's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Sebastian Vettel's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Sebastian Vettel's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Knowing way better at this point, even if I was taking so many shots of Kimi’s car, that Sebastien Vettel’s Ferrari SF71H will also be hauled in soon. And it did. This time, I was at a better position, to the point that the car’s rear right tire was so close to my leg, so close to the point that if I ever tripped, I was would have scuffed up any part of the car and be sent to jail. It would have been worth it though. And I got a good enough garage photo of Seb’s car. But that is give and take: I got a great pics of Kimi’s car in the garage, yet so and so pics while it being hauled in; I got great pics of Seb’s car being hauled in, though I got so and so pics of his car in the garage. And that is like the cherry on top! I was so satisfied with my trip and my visit to the track… that I really can’t think of anything topping this. Everything else is just more cherry on top, and trust me, I ended up with lots of cherry upon the end of my trip.

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Another car that I was able to brush right up against was Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes AMG F1 Wo9 Power+ (Simply, the Mercedes W09) car; admittedly, I was never ever a Hamilton fan, but I respect him as a great driver, and amazed at all his accomplishments. Being a Ferrari fan since I started watching the sport, of course, my allegiance lies with the team and most of the drivers that either drove for us for a time, still drive for us, or left (Like Fernando Alonso, I never really liked him before, but became a fan when he drove for us, and since respected him until he eventually retired this year. Same goes for Kimi Raikkonen, didn’t like him at first, but when he drove for us and grabbed a title for us in 2007, I became a fan of his and he remains my number 1 current driver, even if he will return to Sauber next season).

In Control

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Suzuka Circuit Track Walk

My Dream Come True

Having my fix of the pit lane, I moved on to the start/finish straight, a sight that we all know too well when you are a racing fan… where obviously the starting grid is placed and the race starts, and ultimately ends with the chequered flag. I was really blessed to even just walk a few meters of the actual race track… I should have asked someone to photograph me pretending to kiss the tarmac, but I was so overwhelmed that I have forgotten to do so. Next time…

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After all that was said and done, I then worked my way back out the main entrance of the circuit and since it was pretty late and the shuttle service is over for that day, hence why I decided to just purchase a 1 way ticket earlier in the day and not the return ticket, so I waited in queue for a taxi; it took awhile, but it afforded me yet another few minutes to take a breather and just reflect on what I have achieved so far in this trip. It is surreal.

Got on a taxi eventually, was able to get the first class Kintetsu ticket, and soon enough, I made it back to the hotel, feeling so accomplished… so empowered… I was ecstatic.

I did a lot this day, but there are still more things to see the next day that I failed to do so this day, certainly more photos of the other points of interest around the track, and the weather forecast for the next day is clears skies with no chance of rain, so taking photos of the cars running laps will be so much better.

Capped off this amazing day with a random dinner and even more Coke…

Day 3 here we come!


Stay tuned for Day 3 post!

-o-

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