Birds and crickets chirp, and cars zoom by; pavement meets forest. Twin Ring Motegi marries a world-class motorsports park with a park for nature appreciation activities such as camping, hiking, bug-collecting, nature crafts and zip-lining. You need to prioritize and make a schedule for your visit. I studied the English guide map in advance. Wear good walking shoes and prepare for the weather.
Hello Woods offers those new to camping a package (¥12,000~20,000 per adult) which includes tents, bedding and meals. How about glamping (glamorous camping)? Stay in a teepee set up with beds, chairs, a carpet and electricity!
Campsites are arranged around a communal washroom with flush toilets/large kitchen facility and a central campfire. Up a small hill, find some tiny air-conditioned log cabins (¥17,000), reception, a shop with beer, wine and items campers might need, coin laundry, and showers. Campers may use the public bath up the hill at the hotel free of charge. Depending on your package, you can barbecue your own food or eat in style in the hotel. On a clear night, star watching should be excellent.
Mobipark and Fan Fun Lab
We parked at N1 lot. My husband and son got Mobipark passports. Within two hours, they tried seven of the fourteen rides. The most challenging are the five in Kartland, suitable for kids over 12 and adults. Pinky Bike and Pinky Drive work best for toddlers. My husband loved ACRO-X so much he tried it twice; it's a golf-cart like vehicle set on a track with water, bumps and other hazards. A family can drive ACRO-X together, with the child on a low seat between an adult's legs. In other vehicles, our six year old could race against his dad. He also collected license cards. His favorite drive was the kid-sized motorcycles. For those, first comes Bike Training and if that goes well, children may try Touring (helmet, knee pads provided). The area for that is well padded!
Twin Ring characters also ride the vehicles in Mobipark. My son had his photo taken with “Batto” while holding up a trophy and posing like a winner. Find drive simulators, a craft corner, small cars to drive and a chance for kids (sorry, no adults) to pose on/in racing vehicles up the hill from Mobi Park in the Fan Fun Lab. Adults can pose in the pilots' seat of a Honda airplane.
Musasabi means flying squirrel. This is the name of the 90 minute zip line tour (¥2,100) I took at Hello Woods. I put my bag in a ¥100 coin (refundable) locker then put on a harness, hairnet, helmet and gloves. Our guide “O-san” walked our group of four (five is maximum) up Rhino Beetle Hill to Jukan Tower. Along the way, he pointed out where beetles hide, where the moles and wild pigs dig and the different trees.
We started at a low, short line, and progressively moved to more challenging, fast and fun lines. The sound the zip line makes is similar to that of the vehicles racing on the track below. We also crossed bouncy plank and rope bridges suspended in the forest canopy. I am hyped now to try Hello Woods' Mega Zip Line Tsubasa (¥1,300).
See the history of Honda through display of cars, motorcycles, tractors or robots. Signage, brochures and guides (call ahead) are available in English. We arrived just before closing, at 5. ASIMO Honda's humanoid robot shows his stuff. Once my son is a bit older, I would like to try Pit Kobo with him, a chance to build an electric cart and test drive it (¥500/cart). Before leaving, we popped into the gift shop. The black squid snack there caught my interest; it is made to look like left-over rubber bits from racing tires. Can you imagine pro-drivers nibbling on that with beer after a big race?
We drove past the camp up to Nozomi No Yu in Hotel Twin Ring and snuck in just before it closes to the public, at 5:40. Drop-in is ¥650 for adults and ¥350 for kids 3~15. Rental towels are ¥350. It was a perfect way to end our day -- I soaked in 40 degree hot water outside on a cold, March evening as the stars started to appear. Local charcoal decorates (and sanitizes?!) the walls of the pool area. Wooden latticework at the entrance to the women's changing room was made by craftspeople in nearby Kanuma, and the stonework at the entrance to the men's changing room comes from Ohya, in Tochigi Prefecture.
Access and a final word
Twin Ring Motegi's English homepage describes how to get there. Our drive from Utsunomiya took about an hour. If your Japanese language skills are shaky, you may want to join a bus tour, or arrange a volunteer guide from Utsunomiya to escort you (you must pay your guide's expenses).