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Just got back from Japan! Massive Trip Report enclosed.


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Hello everyone, just completed a vacation spent in Japan doing all sorts of things, including climbing Mt. Fuji, visiting Tokyo and Kyoto, riding rollercoasters, and of course, spending a couple days at Tokyo Disney Resort! I want to thank Rob and Elissa for their Japan guide as it was invaluable in my planning…THANK YOU! Now, on to my trip report:

 

Tokyo Disneyland:

This is a beautiful and very clean park. I was impressed by the state of the attractions. I got there at 3 PM so I had little time to hit all the major attractions and see what is different. The park was insanely packed and 90 min to 2 hour waits were common at most attractions.

 

Started with Thunder Mountain after picking up a Splash Mountain fastpass. I prefer the WDW version due to the beginning being super dark and setting the mood. The TDL one was much brighter and didn't kick off the ride in quite the same way. The ride was about the same in terms of thrills...it wasn't any more exciting, but the layout was different.

 

After that we headed over and queued up for Pooh's Hunny Hunt. Wow, this ride is great!! I wish one of the US parks got this one as it is so much better than ours. If you don't know, the hunny pots move independently on invisible GPS guided tracks and each ride can be different. Each group of 3 pots enters each room and moves around differently. One of the rooms has about 9 hunny pots dancing around each other which was incredibly cool. If you like Disney dark rides, which obviously everyone here does, this is one of the best ever.

 

Next up we backtracked and got in line for Pirates of the Caribbean. This version of Pirates completely blew away WDWs. I have never been to Disneyland so I can't compare, but this is probably closer to that than WDWs abbreviated version. Right at the beginning you float past a real restaurant built into the cave...awesome! The effects in room with the skeleton captain were stellar. This version has also had the Captain Jack Sparrow makeover, and it looked great and fit in the with attraction well. I have not yet been to WDW to see this so this was my first taste. I like it.

 

Then we walked over to the newly refurbished Space Mountain and queued up. This line was mostly outdoors and that didn’t really help the build up. I like WDWs indoor queue. The indoor platform area of the queue was really well done and had new lights and a new spaceship in the center. The ride itself was really incredible. The stars were moving around all over the place and it was very dark and featured unexpected turns, drops, and ramps. It is not all right hand turns as I had previously thought. There are also drops, though they are not as good as WDWs drops. Overall, though, I thought this was a better ride than the one at WDW. It is smoother, and has more intense helixes. No music though, so it would seem that DL’s is still the king…I have to get out there to ride it.

 

Next up we watched the Electrical Parade Dreamlights. This was a great parade and featured several floats from the newer movies as well as the classics. I am not sure if I like it more than Spectromagic though because I much prefer the music at WDW’s parade.

 

After the parade our fastpasses finally kicked in and we headed over to Splash Mountain. This was essentially the same as WDW, however it was really weird hearing those songs in Japanese.

 

On to Haunted Mansion. Here there was again a quality advantage over WDWs. The floating candelabra was actually visible and looked how I remembered it as a kid, and the graveyard scene was in a larger space. It was an identical ride, but it just looked better.

 

We tried to get on Space Mountain again, but they closed the line with 20 minutes left before park closing. Personally I think this is BS. If the park is open until 10 PM you should be able to get in line up until 10 PM. How else can you gauge when you can still get into a line when it depends on line length? I can’t remember if the Orlando parks do this or not, but I hate this practice. They should clearly state when the cutoff time is to get in line for popular rides.

 

Tokyo DisneySea:

The only way to really grasp how amazing this park is is to visit it in person. The rides are good, a few are great, however the park itself is flat-out astonishing. I have never seen such attention to every last detail and wild imagination packed into a single park. I had already seen all the pics, thinking I would never go there, so I took it all in and imagined I was there, but even that didn’t live up to the real deal. Approaching the main tunnel under Hotel Mira Costa and seeing the fortress and mountain on the lake framed by the end of the massive tunnel is the single most awe-inspiring vista any theme park has ever delivered. You feel like you are walking into another world completely. My friends are no Disney geeks by any means and they all had their cameras whipped out, snapping away like we were in the Vatican City. Disney magic has never been so powerful.

 

This was just the beginning though. We made our way to the Mysterious Island section and were literally floored by the amazing theming panning out in front of us. What in the…how did they build this place? How did they plan all of this? When you realize how the rides are in, around, and under you at any given point it becomes even more incredible. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was our first ride. This was a good start as I had heard it was not that impressive…I was misled. This ride surprised me and I think for a kid this would be one of the best rides at the park. The simulated underwater scenes move and flow about like you are in a fantasy ocean, and make for very entertaining exploration with the flashlight using a joystick.

 

We would return back to this area later for our Journey fastpass, so we moved on to the Mermaid Lagoon. Holy Mother of God!! This park is enough to make you fall over backwards when you enter the different areas. When we walked into this area our collective jaws hit the floor. This indoor section is so wild…so over the top and filled with color and movement you’d think you jumped right into a living animated movie. Walt…your empire is in good hands at Tokyo DisneySea. We didn’t ride anything in this area as it was kiddy rides, but some would have been fun with the right company.

 

We moved on to the next area…Arabian Coast. At this point I am thinking nothing can match what I had already seen, but this was yet another impressive land which felt like it belonged at Epcot. Beautiful and realistic, the winding streets and mosques made you feel like you were in the middle east. We walked past Sinbad and checked the wait time. We still were waiting for our other fastpass, but wanted to pick up one more before heading back so we moved along to the Lost River Delta and Indiana Jones to grab another fastpass.

 

Back to Mysterious Island and Journey to the Center of the Earth. The area around the queue here is hard to believe. You are in a dark cave waiting to get on elevators to take you deep underground. The elevators are actually real and do move downward as the door opens on the same side, though probably just 1 floor down. However, the theming makes you feel as if you are traveling much further. Inside the loading platform, the themed cars really set the tone of the ride. This is a great use of the Test Track technology, and a much more exciting ride…even if it doesn’t last long enough. The ride takes you through crystal caverns and underground creatures. The finale accelerates you into a high speed upward helix, and then bursting back into the sunlight…straight down a gut-wrenching drop!! This is a truly thrilling moment, however instead of hauling along the outer part of the track it merely meanders about back to the station and ends. I think more should have been done here as just when it gets really good it stops and ends short of expectation. If this had about another 10-20 seconds of high speed action it would easily be one of the best rides in Disney history. As it stands it is still a great overall ride, combining dark ride with thrill ride, but it falls short of being a slam-dunk in the thrill ride landscape. Everest, while not themed nearly as well on-ride, is a much more action-packed ride, and while everyone clamors for this ride to come to WDW, I think many people would be disappointed in the ride length of the high-speed section. Regardless, this is my favorite ride at DisneySea.

 

We headed over to Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage and took a nice calm float through this IASW-like attraction. It was nice and themed well, but more for the kiddies. The song didn’t do it for me and the crew I was with didn’t really care for this type of ride. I think it is a well done attraction, though, and many will like it.

 

On to the Lost River Delta section and Raging Spirits. They did a bang up job trying to theme up this lame coaster by surrounding it with cool stuff, but I’m sorry this ride has no business in any Disney park. It is an uncomfortable, slow-loading ride that offers nothing that any traveling amusement park coaster doesn’t offer. This ride sucks, and bringing this to WDW would be a mistake. It would be advertised as a major thrill attraction, but fall so far short of other coaster offerings in Orlando that it would quickly become a joke.

 

Our next fastpass was ready and I finally got to ride Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull. Having never ridden Indy at DL, this would be a new experience for me. Well, relatively new as I have ridden Dinosaur. This ride delivered and was one of our favorites. The theming is superior to Dinosaur, but I am not sure that the ride is different enough to bring it to WDW. I never knew how elaborate the ride system was on this ride as on Indy you can see the track criss-crossing over and over in the huge room…very cool.

 

After this we walked over to another new area…Port Discovery. This is where the park would hit its low point. While the area itself is really cool looking, it feels just a bit out of place and the rides here are not outstanding. I was really excited to ride StormRider and see some of Disney’s newer motion simulator technology in action. However, this ride was the biggest letdown for me at Tokyo Disney Resort. It was nothing more than a slightly larger version of Star Tours with a dull, washed out looking ride video. The motions didn’t convince me either. The theater effects were pretty cool, and the sound was stellar, but everything else was rather lame. The screen was dome shaped and you could clearly see squares on it.

 

We skipped Aquatopia and headed for Tower of Terror. The American Waterfront area was typical MGM looking fare with classic streets and shops. ToT had some new developments. Gone is the Twilight Zone theme and in is the theme of Hightower and his exploits across the globe. The waiting room on this ride had a really, really cool effect where this stolen idol disappeared from the room right in front of your face. I wish I could have ridden this again to see how they did it, but on first ride they stumped me. The ride itself is DCA ToT to a tee. It is nowhere near as intense as the MGM version as it features only a few drops. Great ride though.

 

After this we watched BraviSEAmo! This is a FANTASTIC show…probably the best I have seen at any Disney park. It has both fire and water effects and is visually stunning. I think this would be a candidate to replace Fantasmic at some point.

 

We hit a Indy and Journey again, but were denied at ToT when the line closed before the park.

 

 

LaQua

Thunder Dolphin: Going into this one with some less than stellar reviews, I had my expectations low. The setting of this ride is one of the best you will ever find…right in downtown Tokyo over and around a brightly lit shopping mall area. We did the ride at night so it was extra cool. The first drop was about what you would expect from a giant Intamin hyper…steep and amazing. The rest of the ride featured several excellent portions of positive Gs and turns, however a lack of any airtime. If you like Gs and turns, this is still a great coaster. If you want Intamin ejector-seat airtime, look elsewhere. Still, it is a very good coaster.

 

Nagashima Spaland

Steel Dragon 2000: Wow, I can’t believe I got to ride this coaster! The first day we went there it was raining and the ride did not open, so we left. We returned the next day and it was crystal clear out…the Dragon was up and running! Anyone downplaying this coaster’s awesomeness needs to take a seat. This is a BAD ASS rollercoaster! It is loaded with positive G forces and floating airtime in SPADES. Sure, essentially this is similar to Mamba or Steel Force in layout, but 95 mph is going to add some more excitement to the equation by default. The first drop, while not steep by today’s standards, is still a great thrill at 307 feet as you accelerate relentlessly toward the first valley, which provides amazing speed and a ton of positives. The second hill has floater airtime and again builds up the speed at the bottom. The turnaround section is gigantic and has excellent speed and G’s. It is the least exciting section, like part 2 of a trilogy, waiting for the finale. The mid-course break run is barely kissed, and the onslaught of bunny hills begins. The airtime here is bliss if you love floater airtime. No ejector seat here…just floatation central and good maintained speed to the final break run. I would put this on par with Millennium Force any day of the week. They are both excellent rides…neither one is my #1, but both are superb. MF’s first drop is better, there is no question, however SF2000 has much more airtime and I would say is overall a more fun ride.

 

Universal Studios Japan

Hollywood Dream: I didn’t see this coming, but this coaster would be the surprise of the trip. Hollywood Dream is AWESOME!!! It is the most unassuming coaster I have ever seen for a hyper-style layout, but holy crap does this ride deliver. B&M has outdone themselves yet again and topped Goliath at SFOG, which I thought was their previous high. HD’s airtime and changes of direction are on par with some of Intamin’s best work. The first drop is surprisingly intense and throws you into your lapbar. What happens next is nothing less than killer airtime on EVERY hill, double downs/ups, changes of direction, and a whopper of a helix at the far end of the course. The final bunny run is all ejector seat and changes of direction that are just a total blast. This coaster kicks ASS. It has literally everything you can ask for besides a tall first drop.

 

Fuji-Q Highland

This park is a dump…it is dirty as hell, and looks shabby and old at every turn. Nevertheless, it does have a few good to great coasters to ride:

 

Eejanaika: I have been on X, but something about this ride was more intense. It was total insanity from start to finish. Most rides I am screaming for joy…this ride made me scream for dear life. The full-full double inversion leaves you wondering what just happened to you, as does most of the ride. It has an out of control feeling that most coasters just do not possess. Unfortunately, the coaster is also rough and you are thrown around like a rag doll. It is not the roughest coaster ever, but the insanely high G-forces, coupled with the radical direction changes and bouncing of the trains does not make you want to run around a queue up again. Eejanaika is a ride once for the insane experience and just cherish the memory. I would really like to see B&M or Intamin work on a design like this that would actually be smooth because the premise is awesome and the ride is totally nuts…I could just do without being shaken so much.

 

Dodonpa: Don…Don…PAH! Don…Don…PAH! Don…Don…PAH! If you’ve been on this coaster you know exactly what I am talking about. I have never experienced anything more annoying than this queue in any amusement park before. After hearing how rough this was, I was pleased to find that the curve wasn’t that rough at all. The launch is freaking nuts, but over so quickly that you can’t really savor it. I prefer Kingda Ka or TTD for launches over this. It basically feels exactly the same as Hypersonic for the first 1.8 seconds. Even though it is technically faster, it felt the same to me. After that the curve is not really very thrilling, however the hill is pretty insane. It just wasn’t designed very well because you practically break your back going up the thing from the Gs, and then are flung so hard out of your seat at the top that you wonder if this is what they intended. The last section is a bit rough as well. Overall the ride is decent and a good rush, but nothing special. KK and TTD are still the kings of the launched coaster in my book.

 

Fujiyama: Another one that was reported as rough, however I really liked this one. I am not that big of frame, but one of my friends is 6’3”, 260 lbs, and he got beat up. To me this ride was not rough enough to not ride it again…it just has those very poor transitions from element to element like the old days before B&M changed the game. The coaster design itself is excellent. While not every drop is perfectly designed like today’s killer hypers, it has some really wild sections. There is a curve before the bunny run that totally rocks the house, and the final run of bunny hills is fantastic…though poorly transitioned and rather rough. Nothing that will leave you crying though…I have been on FAR worse on woodies. Maybe larger people feel differently.

 

The End…hope you enjoyed! BTW, I loved Japan. It is one of the best vacations I have ever taken and was a highly enjoyable place to visit. I highly recommend it!

 

I have not sorted through the pictures yet, but I can repost the photo album later if people want to see it.

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