Suzuka

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Suzuka (鈴鹿市 : Suzuka-shi) is a small city with a population of about 200,000. It is very spread and has a few main areas including downtown Suzuka (still often referred to by its old name - Kambe), Shiroko, and Hirata. There are also many other smaller country towns and villages that have been incorporated into the "city" of Suzuka.

Suzuka's claim to fame is the Suzuka Circuit, an F-1 racing track. There is also a small amusement park near the track. Most Japanese people have heard of the Suzuka Circuit and car racing fans know it well. Suzuka also has a very large Honda factory, making it even more well-known for cars in general.

By train, Suzuka is about an hour away from Nagoya and about two and a half hours away from Osaka. The city is situated roughly halfway between Yokkaichi and Tsu, Mie's two most populous cities, this makes Suzuka very conveniently located. Due to said convenient location, it is generally a very easy place to live - it also happens to be Mie's shopping center hub.

Suzuka at one point had more South Americans amongst its population (percentage-wise) than any other city in Japan and may still retain this distinction. You will see lots of people from South America, especially Brazil, around town and in its schools. There is a local law that all signs must be in Portuguese in addition to Japanese.

Name

Suzuka in Japanese

"Suzuka" literally means "Bell Deer", but the word itself is old and may have no inherent meaning.

The name of the city was inspired by the name of the mountain range, which outdate the city by millenia and have been called the "Suzuka Mountains" since olden Japan. When the main areas of Kambe, Shiroko, and Hirata merged into one city back in the 50's, "Suzuka" was chosen as the name for the city due to the mountain range's name recognition throughout Japan.

Getting Around

Train

Kintetsu Nagoya Line

This is the main transportation trunk running through town. It runs along the east side, almost right along the coast. Connects to Nagoya, the rest of Mie, and Osaka.

  • Isoyama (磯山) Station
    Local stop. If you exit out of the station, turn right, and follow Route 23, you will find Geo (a video rental store), Mos Burger, and Mie's only Don Quixote (shortened to ドンキー in Japanese), a shop that sells just about every assorted good you can imagine.
  • Shiroko (白子) Station
    Local, express, and limited express stop -- making it the city's major train hub. There is very little in the eki-mae, except for a street with half a dozen izukaya. If you plan on seeing any races at the Suzuka Circuit, you can get off at Shiroko Station and hop on a bus.
  • Chiyozaki (千代崎) Station
    Local stop. When you exit out of the station, turn left, cross the tracks and keep walking straight. The road will lead you to Chiyozaki Beach.
  • Ise-Wakamatsu (伊勢若松) Station
    Local and express stop. There is nothing to do around the station. Nothing. The sole purpose of the station is to transfer to the....

Kintetsu Suzuka Line

A branch line off the trunk Nagoya Line that consists of 4 stations all in or near central Suzuka, particularly the Kambe and Hirata areas.

  • Yanagi (柳) Station
    A scary, deserted area.
  • Suzukashi (鈴鹿市) Station
    Good access to the Suzuka City Hall and the intersection of Routes 23 and 54. This is the best station for places like Kurazushi. JR Suzuka is also walkable from here.
  • Mikkaichi (三日市) Station
    Your gateway to food and commerce. If you walk towards the giant bowling pin you see in the distance, you will arrive at Grand Bowl and Route 54 (Main Street). In your immediate area is yummy all-you-can-eat meat at Yakiniku King, karaoke at Japan Rent-a-car, and a giant second hand store called Mandai Shoten, or ”買います”.
  • Hiratachō (平田町) Station:
    End of the Suzuka Line. Provides access to many things on Route 54 such as Bell City and numerous restaurants. Also, you can catch a bus from here to places like Reiho JHS and Tsubaki Shrine.

Kansai Main Line

This is the line that connects Kameyama and Nagoya. It runs through town along the north bank of the Suzuka River (near Ishiyakushi) and so is a bit out of the way for most area residents. People in Hirata may find this line useful though as it goes to Nagoya direct (no changes) unlike Kintetsu which always requires the switch-and-wait at Ise-Wakamatsu.

Another notable reason for opting to take this line is plans to go to Nagoya and stay late. Note that for those living on the Suzuka Line, the last possible train out of Nagoya leaves around 10:30pm, however the last Kansai Main Line train bound for Kameyama (through northern Suzuka) leaves Nagoya just before midnight -- almost a full extra hour and a half of party time in the big city.

  • Kawarada (河原田) Station
    A transfer station between the Kansai line and the Ise Tetsudo. You can hop off the Kansai line coming from Nagoya in order to use the Ise Tetsudo to get to Tsu. It is un-manned and smells of loneliness and cat pee.
  • Kasado (加佐登) Station
    Not really too much in the area, but for those living in or near Hirata it is not too far away. If you're planning on a late night in Nagoya (see just above), utilizing the Kansai Line out of this station is not a bad idea.
  • Kawano (河曲) Station
    A stop in the middle of nowhere. Rice paddies border this stop. This is the best way to get to Ishikayushi HS.

Ise Tetsudo

Ise Tetsudo is a fairly newly constructed line that used to be owned by JR but is now owned by the City of Suzuka. It's runs between JR Yokkaichi and Tsu. All Ise Tetsudo trains are one car and a ワンマン (wunman) train: ワンマン trains are trains where the fare is self-contained (like buses). You have to pay in exact change, show a train pass, or give a ticket before getting off the train. The train runs about every hour, it's last train making last stops earlier than most railways.

One important note though is that one particular station, Suzuka Station, located in Kambe, is a stop for JR express trains running between Nagoya and other parts of Mie.

  • Suzuka (鈴鹿) Station
    Not to be confused with "Suzukashi", though it is located within walking distance of Suzukashi Station. This station, though a part of the Ise Tetsudo Line, is used also by two types of JR trains: the Mie Rapid which runs a quick and direct route up to Nagoya and down to Ise, and the Nanki Limited Express which runs at high speeds down to the Deep South.
  • Suzuka Circuit Inō (鈴鹿サーキット稲生) Station
    This station rests on the Ise Tetsudo Line between Tamagaki Station and Tokuda Station. It is the closest station to the Suzuka Circuit (20 minutes), home to the Formula One races that take place every year in October. One must take an Ise Tetsudo train, as the JR Rapid and Limited Expresses only stop at Suzuka on the Ise Tetsudo Line.
  • Nakaseko (中瀬古) Station
    A part of town that most people never see, it's the small village that contains Suzuka International University. Isetetsu is the only train that runs anywhere near the school, so it can be quite useful for people going to and from SIU.

Bus

The buses of Suzuka (and Mie) are run through the company Mie Kotsu (三重校通)nicknamed Sanco. Most buses in Suzuka originate either at Shiroko Station or Hiratachō Station, and the only bus that runs with any decent frequency in town (suitably named Bus #1) connects those two stations. It runs a different route through town than the train and also makes a direct stop at Bell City and so is technically the best way for getting to the mall via public transportation. It also stops at the Shiroko Post Office (白子郵便局), the Valor super center, the Honda Factory, and the Asahi Kasei factory (though the last of which is very close to Hiratacho). There are also buses that run from Suzuka to Kintetsu Yokkaichi Station, but due to the infrequency and cost of those buses, you might just want to consider taking the train. To check to see whether your bus stars are aligning, the Mie Kotsu has a website that you can use to search for bus times provided you can name two stops on that route in Japanese. Learning your nearest stop will let you figure out the rest. Try it out here: http://www.sanco.co.jp/krs/search_start.php

Some Buse Routes:

  • Hiratachō - Kameyama
    The only reasonable way to get to your neighboring city of Kameyama. Runs about once every 45 minutes however stops around 7:30pm and so getting there after work is a problem. If you need access to the JR at Kameyama Station this bus is convenient as it drops you off right at the station.
  • Hiratachō - Yokkaichi
    Runs very infrequently (maybe once every two or three hours). Runs through Ishiyakushi and southern Yokkaichi. Runs a different route than the train but absolutely useless unless you plan ahead pretty well.
  • Shiroko - Suzuka Circuit
    AKA tourism bus. Actually doesn't run very frequently, though during peak seasons and important races it runs very frequently (though always crowded). Note that there is no bus between the Circuit and Hiratacho, you have to go out of Shiroko.
  • Shiroko - Suzuka International University
    Doesn't run very often, but provides access to Mie Prefecture's only international university which is so far outside of town the "Suzuka" in the name is quite misleading.
  • Suzukashi Eki - Kintetsu Yokkaichi
    Runs a whopping 7 times a day. Runs through Takaokadai (高岡台), Kawarada Station (河原田駅), Oiwake -near Power City-(追分), Kougyou High School (工業高校前), and Central Ryokuchi Park (中央緑地公園前). First bus leaves at 6:55 AM. The last bus to leave stops at 7:07 PM.
  • Hiratacho Eki - Kintetsu Yokkaichi
    Pretty infrequent. Stops at the corner of Bell City, then powers on through the Route 1 highway till it reaches its destination at Kintetsu Yokkaichi. Stops include Kougyou High School (工業高校前) and Central Ryokuchi Park (中央緑地公園前).
  • The Sick Line
    Runs between Suzuka General Hospital and Kaisei Hospital near Kameyama. Runs more in the mornings, full of old people going to visit all their friends in the different hospitals. Stops at Hiratacho as well as the Suzuka Cultural Center on the way though so can be convenient. Runs about once an hour.

Car

Very few English teachers in Suzuka drive, and for good reason. The roads in Suzuka are kind of a bottleneck. Route 23 and Route 54 in particular are full of stop lights and take far longer to get through than they really should.

The "Suzuka" highway interchange is so far outside of town that it is laughable. And the area around that interchange is home to what is said to be Japan's most traffic-jam prone stretch of highway.

If you want wheels in Suzuka, consider getting two instead of four.

Services

Plenty of post offices and banks. ATMs abound in any shopping center.

Local Attractions

Scenic Spots

  • Chiyozaki Beach (千代崎海水浴場 Chiyozaki Kaisui Yokujō) - Short walk from Chiyozaki Station
    A sandy beach on Ise Bay that is pleasant during the warmer months of the year.
  • Tsubaki Shrine (椿大社 Tsubaki Taisha)
    According to the official Shinto hierarchy, Tsubaki Shrine is the most important shrine in northern Mie. It is up in the mountains far removed from the city center but a beautiful location and a worthy trip. Buses run from Hiratacho Station a few times a day but only once every two hours or so be careful.
  • City Hall Observatory (市役所展望台 shiyakusho tembōdai)
    The 15th floor of Suzuka City Hall. Great view of the city in 3 out of 4 directions. Unfortunately it's only open during business hours and business days.

Events and Festivals

  • Suzu Fes - Early August
    Two days, one near Hunter (in Hirata), the other in Shiroko. Lots of Yosakoi with some taiko, but no real fireworks to speak of.
  • Sleeping Buddha Festival (寝釈迦まつり Nejaka Matsuri) - March 14th and 15th
    Temple called Ryūkōji (龍光寺) in Kambe has a "Sleeping Buddha" inside, but only unveils it to the public two days a year. The temple is easily walkable from Kintetsu Suzukashi Station.
  • WaiWai Spring Festival - April
    A multicultural festival in the park beside Hunter shopping center (near Hiratacho station). Usually includes a flea market shopping area, dance performances, and international food. If you are a Suzuka municipal ALT, you will probably be asked to help out at this festival.

Shopping

Shopping Centers

  • 'Bell City- 10 min walk from Hiratachō Station (now called Æon Mall Suzuka, but we generally ignore that)
    The beast - the legend - the biggest shopping center in Mie Prefecture. Come here to Suzuka, immerse yourself in (suburban) commercial paradise, and waste all that big fat bank you saved up by living out in the inaka.
    If you were to wonder to yourself "are five shoe shops in the same building really necessary?", another shoe shop will have opened by the time you finish your pondering.
  • Loc Town (has also undergone a name change - "Æon Town". Again - we ignore it)
    Bell City's younger brother, forever in its shadow - and conveniently located right behind it. Has a giant Uniqlo and a Nitori, but in general it's shopping doesn't have much on Bell. However, it has a few notable things that Bell does not, including a really nice arcade + bowling alley, a few bigger restaurants, a small gym (Axtos) and an onsen that puts every other "super sento" I've ever been to shame.

Standalone Shops

  • Mandai Shoten (万代書店) - Route 54, across from the big MaxValu
    The most amazing used shop you will ever set foot in...unless of course you go to one of its sister stores in Matsusaka or Yokkaichi. For geek pursuits, it is a treasure trove of valuables. Basically every video game and system known to Japan can be purchased here. Huge collections of manga, anime, figurines, and other miscellaneous nonsense that any nerd will love. Also sells used clothes and instruments.
  • Another 2nd Hand Shop - Route 54
    Including fishing supplies and second hand clothing
  • K's Denki - Route 54
    Electronics shop
  • Yamada Denki - Route 23
    Bigger electronics shop
  • Media
    Music, movies, games, and more. New and used. A number of shops like GEO and others, especially on Route 54.
  • Recycle Shops
    Two shops for furniture and small appliances [one near Bell City end of main road the other at the other end of the main road]

Food and Drink

Supermarkets

  • MaxValu - There are at least 9 of them (I lost count)
    Standard suburban grocery store. The MaxValu in Nishijo is open 24/7.
  • Jusco
    Grocery store on the first floor of Bell City's Jusco (Aeon). About the size of a big MaxValu. 'Has automated check-out lanes!!!'
  • Maruyasu
    Slightly upscale grocery store, just off Route 54 near the MaxValu. Sells mostly standard fare but has a few things that other stores won't have, like salsa and taco shells!
  • Business Supermarket (業務スーパー)
    Sells cheap stuff in bulk. Don't have to be a business to shop here. Not the biggest selection but if they have what you need it's a great place to stock up on stuff. One near Hunter's, the other near Suzukashi Station.
  • International markets
    Scattered around town -- one near Mikkaichi station (Plaspa Pizza), another near Sakurajima Elementary (nearest station-Tamagaki).

Local Restaurants

  • Indian Village (インド村 Indo-mura)
    Delicious Indian food located between Mikkaichi and Suzuka-shi station. ¥1080 all-you-can-eat lunch special including salad, grilled chicken, two types of curry (one of which is always veggie-friendly), na'an bread (buttered), rice, yogurt, and chai tea. Staff is from India and speaks a little English. One of the best restaurants in Suzuka and quite possibly the best Indian food in Mie - only Indian restaurant in the whole prefecture to be listed in the "Mie Oishi-mon" (三重おいしもん) guide. Once you've had Indo-mura you will want to return again (and again). In 2011, a branch store opened up in Shiroko. Like their big brother in Mikkaichi, they have an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet. It has slightly less of a selection, but it is also a little bit cheaper.
    If there's one place you eat at in Suzuka, make it this place.

 Website: http://indomura-suzuka.com/

  • Primavera (ベーカリーレストランプリマべーラ Bakery Restaurant Primavera)
    A Beautiful Italian restaurant about a 20 minute walk from Kawarada Station. Has beautiful open glass into the surrounding garden and forest scenery, but the only time you should eat here is lunch! The lunch specials go for around ¥1400 but include a variety fresh-bread buffet. If you also order a dessert set they'll bring out a try and let you choose two from their specials!

 Website: http://suzukaprimavera.jimdo.com/

  • 13 (トレイズ Treize)
    A stylish Patisserie with macaroons, special order cakes, baumkuchen, and a variety of artfully decorated desserts. Anywhere form ¥200 to ¥400 if you choose to get a slice of whatever is in their display. Highly recommend their banana Crème brûlée because it is worth eating. A cafe is attached where you can sit down and enjoy your chosen desserts with a cup of coffee. Located a 15 minute walk from Kawarada Station, just shy of a side street near the Takaokdai's Lawson Conbini.

 Website: http://www.patisserie-treize13.com/index2.htm

  • Chantilly's - At Chiyozaki Beach (Search ChantillyBeachsideCafe on Google Maps to find it!)
    A restaurant and bar. An overgrown beach shack with good food and great staff. They sometimes have bands. 25 minute walk from Shiroko station, or 20 minute walk from Chiyozaki Station.

 Website: NA

Japan

  • Yamakawa
    Excellent Italian restaurant that is more authentic than most in Japan. Attached to the restaurant is a cake shop that you can order from for dessert.
    Location - across the street from (what used to be) Iris there is a smaller street that branches out at an angle from the main road (Route 54). Follow this street for a little while and Yamakawa will be on the right just before you come to the stoplight. 

 Website: http://www.suzuka-yamakawa.com/

  • Gunji (ぐんじ) - behind Autobacs, near Indo-mura
    Local ramen shop. Probably the best ramen in Suzuka. The chahan (fried rice) is extra-tasty.

 Website: http://www.ramen-gunji.jp/

  • Minatoya (港屋) - Just off 54, next to Maruyasu
    A nice cafe that serves many delicious drinks (melon soda floats!) and some amazing waffles. They stay open until midnight!

 Website: http://www.minatoya-coffee.net/

  • Gravy Burger - behind Minatoya (take the small road between Maruyasu and Minatoya)
    Best burgers and custom burgers in Suzuka. Awesome music. Great place for some chill times. Pretty small though so be sure to make sure they have room for you as they can get pretty crowded sometimes. The restaurant is pretty small, but they do take out orders. Closed on Tuesdays.

 Website: http://www.gravy-burger.com/index.html

  • Yagura (やぐら) - Shiroko Station-front (west exit) (Search やぐら相撲居酒茶屋 on Google Maps)
    A sumo "tea house" (read "izakaya") - serves tasty chanko-nabe (sumo food) and about 100 other things.

 Website: NA

  • Castinet (カステネット) - In the Shiroko area
    Your typical Italian place with one exception - they serve legit lasagna.

 Website: NA

  • Chabou Suzuka - Shiroko
    A tiny little Italian place near Shiroko High School. They love their cheese.
  • Misaki (みさき) - Halfway between Hiratachō and Bell City
    "Famous" yakiniku shop. Great for groups, has a beer tower. The food is so-so and you pay buy plate of stuff you order. Go for the ambiance, otherwise, try Yakiniku King on Suzuka's Main road, just across from Grand Bowl (10 Boy FOREVER!).

 Website: http://www.misakiya.gr.jp/

  • More Yakiniku
    If you aren't satisfied yet, there about 30 more local yakiniku shops in town. Just keep your nose open and you'll find them.

Chain Restaurants

Suzuka is a magnet for chains, we have a ton of them. Most of them clustered along Route 54 - "Main Street" (中央道路 Chūō Dōro) - and Route 23

Route 54 (Main Street)

  • Yakiniku King (焼肉キング) - Directly across from 10 Boy
    Some of the best yakiniku around.
  • Marugen Ramen (丸源ラーメン) - Across from K's Denki. Open until 12:30am
    Excellent ramen shop with most common types of ramen available. Also serves the standard ramen side-dish fare such as gyoza (pot stickers), kara'age (fried chicken), and chahan (fried rice). Taste-wise, this place is a clear step above most chain ramen shops. The store is famous for Niku soba (肉そば) but I personally recommend the shōyu, it's extra-good at this place.
  • Coco's Curry - Across from K's Denki, behind Marugen Ramen
  • Saizeriya - One on 54, one on 23, and one in Bell City
    Cheap and tasty Italian famiresu. Don't be surprised if you encounter children set free to scream and run about to their heart's content.
  • Gyoza King (餃子の王将 gyōza no ōshō)
    Probably the best gyoza you can find at a chain, and is thus true to its name. The best thing about this place is that it stays open late.
  • Denny's
    Not at all like Denny's in the US. The sign may try and convince you otherwise, but don't believe its lies.
  • Yoshinoya (One on 54, one on 23)
  • McDonald's - There are at least five in town, including the one on 54, and one in the mall food court.
  • Kentucky Fried Chicken - close to McDonalds and Gyoza King on Chuo Doro
    Many agree that it's better in Japan than in the U.S. However, the side item menu is a little disappointing.
  • Coco's Family Restaurant - near Kura-zushi
    Not to be confused with the other Coco's restaurant aptly located five blocks on the same road. Serves a wide variety of things and has a drink bar which includes soup at lunch time.
  • Sushi Roll (スシロー) - At Loc Town
    Taste-wise the best conveyor-belt sushi in town.
  • Kura-zushi (くら寿司)
    Ultra-automated conveyor-belt sushi with a reasonably good taste
  • Kappa-zushi
    Worst conveyor-belt sushi your ¥105 can buy - go to the above two listings and get better stuff for the same price
  • Saigon Cafe - Near 10 Boy
    They serve (Japanized) Vietnamese Food.
  • Subway - in the mall food court

Route 23

  • Sato - Shiroko
    Japanese-style famiresu
  • Gusto - Shiroko
  • Marugame Seimen (丸亀製麺) - Shiroko
    Self-serve udon shop
  • Baskin Robbins aka 31
  • Bikkuri Donkey
    Hamburger/steak madness
  • Ramen - and LOTS of it
    Most of the ones on 23 are pretty mediocre

Recreation and Entertainment

  • Loc Town Arcade
    First-class arcade and bowling alley. Practically brand new.
  • GRANDBOWL (Formerly 10 Boy; renamed in Spring 2013. It's still 10 Boy to most ALTs)
    Bowling, arcade, and table tennis. Also has a sporting center with batting cages and such.
  • Konami Gym - on Route 23
  • Karaoke
    Heaps of them...
    Big Echo • Shidax • Japan Rental Car (yes, it does Karaoke too and for a good price) • and more...
  • The Pink District
    If you want to drink a soothing cold beer and maybe get a little something extra on the side. Popular among the seedier bunches in Suzuka, especially after a Curcuit race, matsuri, regular day of work... This is obviously NOT something an upstanding ALT would participate in but you other folk are more than welcome. Japanese Language Skills a must [to get through the door]. Very close to Hiratacho Station.
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