Get on a plane for six hours, hang around an airport terminal for three more, then board another plane for nine or 10 hours. Next, head to the trains, trundle along for a while, jump onto another one, then get a taxi and, if you're lucky, you might now be in Suzuka.
So epic a 24-hour journey might dampen enthusiasm for most ventures, but when you're heading to what is arguably the best circuit on the Formula 1 calendar, it passes in the blink of an eye. The Japanese Grand Prix is unquestionably one of the highlights of the Formula 1 season.
Suzuka has the feel of one of the great old-world classics. Despite being four decades younger than Spa or Monza and not joining the F1 calendar until 1987, its sweeps and swoops have seen enough action to fill several chapters in the history of the world championship.
Since hosting the first Japanese Grand Prix back in 1963 - a race won by the recently-departed Peter Warr almost 25 years before Suzuka joined motorsport's top table, the titans have clashed here regularly. The circuit has hosted 21 world championship races, making it the 12th most oft-visited, and no less than 10 of those grands prix have been title-deciders.
Suzuka is a place where things happen. Amazing things, jaw-dropping things, things that will remain indelibly carved in the memory of fans and drivers alike forever. In part, this is down to the Honda-built facility holding a privileged position near the end of the season (20 times it has been either the penultimate or the final race of the year). But it is mostly because of the unique nature of the circuit. Little wonder that the mind is strewn with snapshots of the great dramas that have played out here.
Senna and Prost's first Suzuka clash in 1989 © LAT
Sitting atop the ferris wheel for the past two-and-a-bit decades, the sights you would have witnessed would be incredible. Nigel Mansell's practice shunt that handed the championship to Nelson Piquet in 1987; the Alain Prost/Ayrton Senna collisions of 1989/1990; Damon Hill's sensational victory in torrential rain in 1994; Jacques Villeneuve's title bid ended by losing a wheel in 1996; Michael Schumacher stalling on the grid in the 1998 title-decider and ending Ferrari's two decades in the wilderness without a drivers' crown in 2000; Kimi Raikkonen's last-lap pass on Giancarlo Fisichella to win in 2005...few tracks can boast so many season-defining moments.
And the drivers adore it too - possibly more so even than Spa. Few times in a season do they experience the intense, never ending snaking of the high-speed Esses, the flat-out blast of 130R or corners like the first Degner, where one slip can lead to oblivion. It could only have been made more dramatic had the figure-of-eight configuration, unique among tracks on the calendar, been designed in the banger racing tradition rather than using a bridge!
Drivers revel in places like Suzuka, even though, in the cold light of day, they realise that it perhaps isn't as safe as it might be.
"There are two ways of looking at it," says Rubens Barrichello. "Being a racing driver, you end up being a bit mad anyway, so you work with that adrenaline, having the walls alongside and so on. But for a simple, normal guy, you would like to see more asphalt because crashes in those areas are not easy ones."
So, to review: we've got a combination of one of the greatest drivers' tracks in the world, zero margin for error and a record of generating season-defining incidents. Onto that stage, we welcome Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, the protagonists in the most sensational championship battle in the history of the sport.
In the last three races, at least one member of that quintet has ended the day pointless after an on-track clash. Suzuka may find itself in the unfamiliar position of having three grands prix to follow it, but don't bet against the track producing another iconic championship moment this year - could one, or more, of the title-chasing quintet fall victim to the track's curse on Sunday?
And just think, but for Toyota's decision last July that the track couldn't afford to hold the race in alternate years, we might be at Fuji waiting for the next chapter of this gripping title fight. Instead, it's majestic Suzuka that prepares to start another chapter in its remarkable F1 history - no wonder the track is besieged by fans 24 hours before the on-track action even beings.
To continue reading this feature, subscribe to Autosport Plus today.
Are you an Autosport magazine subscriber? Activate your online account
- Your Autosport Plus subscription includes:
- Unlimited access to Autosport's news - no monthly cap.
- Read the best motorsport features, analysis and opinion.
- Explore Forix, our comprehensive motorsport stats database.
- Choose from a monthly or yearly membership.