What trip to Japan would be complete without a visit to the drifting mecca of the world, Ebisu circuit? For those who (somehow) don't know, Ebisu circuit is a collection of 7 race tracks just out of Nihonmatsu, about 3 hours north of Tokyo. The complex is also home to a rather depressing zoo, but that's beside the point. Ebisu is famous for a few things, such as its jump drift at Minami course, its replica mountain drifting action on Touge Course, and its tri-annual drift Matsuris, which draw people from around the world to drift all day and all night. Ebisu circuit has a restaurant and plenty of vending machines, so you can stay here all day no worries.
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There are a few ways to get to Ebisu however I STRONGLY recommend arriving in a hire car, especially if you are coming here in summer. The tracks are spread over a decently large area, and the hills between each course are very steep in sections. I'll cover 3 main ways to get here.
Option 1: Drive from Tokyo
Although this may be the most daunting and potentially most expensive option, driving from Tokyo is by far and away the best experience and most fun. What we have done in the past is hire a car for a weekend in Tokyo, checked out Daikoku and Tatsumi on Friday night, slept at a Michi-no-eki for the night in the car, then driven up to Ebisu the following morning. The drive from Tokyo to Ebisu is about 3 hours on the toll roads, or about 6 off the tolls. I highly recommend taking the toll roads as the difference in cost is far outweighed by the difficulty and time factors.
On that trip we got our cars from Omoren, however we have also used Toyota Car Rental with great success in the past. To order, just fill out the on-line form for the store and car you want, and rock up. Staff will generally speak good English, and if they don't they will have a tablet with step by step instructions to make the process super easy. Make sure you have your native license, your international driving permit and your passport with you. Once you have your car, enter this address to Google Maps: Ebisu Circuit
The toll roads do add up a little on the drive, depending on which way you go and where in Tokyo you come from. Our toll cost was roughly $80AUD each way coming from Daikoku PA. The drive itself is very straight forward. When you reach the gate at Ebisu, you need to stop at the booth and tell them you are "Kankyaku", or spectator.
Option 2: Drive from Fukushima
If you don't want to drive for 3 hours, you can catch public transport to Fukushima, hire a car at the train station, and drive 35 minutes to Ebisu. We have included directions from the Toyota Car Rental in Fukushima to the circuit in this map: Ebisu Circuit from Fukushima
Your best bet to get to Fukushima is to catch a Shinkansen from Tokyo or wherever you are staying. Assuming you are in Tokyo, you want to take the Tohoku-Hokkaido Shinkansen from Ueno station: https://goo.gl/maps/4hiWcgJrrnRdwQxD6
The journey will take roughly an hour and a half, and will cost about $100AUD unless you have a JR pass, in which case it will be free.
Option 3: Public transport all the way
I can't stress enough how much I DON'T recommend this approach. Although you will save a bit of money and it will be a little less scary, it is not worth it. If for some reason you must, this is how it's done. Again, assuming you are coming from Tokyo, this is the route: https://goo.gl/maps/gJ6QVqNQ7uuQjppi8
Make your way to Ueno station, then jump on the Tohoku-Hokkaido Shinkansen. As above, it will cost around $100AUD if you don't have a JR pass. Take the Shinkansen all the way to Nihonmatsu station. When you arrive, walk 2 minutes across to the bus stop, and catch the Shiozawa Onsen bus. You want to get off at the Safari Park stop. This will drop you at the gates to Ebisu circuit, from which it is a rather large walk uphill to the restaurant/parking area. As mentioned earlier, the tracks are separated by quite a large distance, so be prepared to do a lot of walking.
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