MOTEGI, Japan — We woke up early, and met our host for the day, Shigeki Endo of Honda's PR team, in the lobby of Tokyo's Royal Park Hotel. Endo-san introduced himself, and invited the three of us — Associate Producer Alexander Malburg, Senior Producer Christopher McGraw and myself — in to Japan's version of the Honda Odyssey minivan which, by the way, is totally different from the Odyssey we get in North America. We headed out of Tokyo, and northward across the rural countryside until we began to head into the mountains. As rice farms and bamboo forests swept past, we wound our way up the hills and ended up at Honda's Twin Ring Motegi racing complex.
We had made good time, and arrived before the Honda Collection Hall — a museum dedicated to Honda's history and vehicles — had opened. Endo-san took us to Hotel Twin Ring, which required a circuitous route that gave us fantastic views of the two races courses. At the hotel, we enjoyed the finest cup of coffee we'd had over our entire stay in Japan, with a gorgeous view of the race tracks and the surrounding forested hills.
Once properly caffeinated, we headed back to the museum and made our way inside. In front of us, to the right of a large staircase, were a historic race car, classic convertible and an old racing motorcycle — all cars we'd learn about soon enough. To our left was a reception desk with a pair of smiling hostesses, as well as a gift shop filled with a bunch of stuff we'd end up wanting. To our right was a temporary installation about the life of Soichiro Honda, and the entire history of Honda the company, from a bike shop to a motor supplier and finally global automaker and racing dynasty.
Above us were two more floors filled with hundreds of vehicles. We saw Honda Super Cubs, and Civics, racing and street bikes, the oval pistons of the Honda NR motorcycles, the company's first four-wheeled vehicle (a kei-class T360 pickup truck). There were super clean examples of the S500 and S600; the Z, the Beat, and the City (with its accompanying folding moped); and ebony white Type R vehicles. At one point, we came around a corner, and there was a Formula One car driven by none other than Ayrton Senna. Those goosebumps lingered for the better part of a day.
As we had our personal tour through the quiet museum, Endo-san was kind enough to translate for our guide and answer our copious questions about the hundreds of pristine vehicles before us. It was a wonderful education not just about Honda's heritage, but about the greater automotive history as a whole.
The day we spent at the Honda Collection hall might have been the best day of our trip to Japan. And, apart from perhaps the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, the Honda museum was probably the most holy ground we visited — at least to us. If you're a Honda fan, car enthusiast or history buff, the Honda Collection Hall deserves a pilgrimage.
Oh, and if you're looking for some tasty Ramen, don't forget to visit Twin Ring Motegi's Gran Turismo Cafe. Delicious!
For more, find links to the rest of our videos from Japan here.