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Photo TR: Being Chuck's Account of TPR's 2007 Japan Tour


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Introduction: What to Do, What to Do?

 

I’ve been mulling over this trip report and simply can’t get a handle on it. A few folks have asked me what “theme” I’m going to use, or how I’m going to approach my report, but I really haven’t a clue.

 

The beauty of the country, the politeness and efficiency of the people, the coolness and outright weirdness of the parks, the great company—just where is the handle? How can I really capture how awesome this trip was? I’m a bit stumped. So I guess I’ll just plow through it day by day, words and pictures, and see what develops. You’re welcome to come along, of course. Or not. Totally up to you.

 

But you really should. TPR tours are awesome, and you can’t ask for better hosts than Robb and Elissa.

 

I arrived a day before the “official” tour got underway—all the better to deal with losing a day thanks to the International Dateline. My head pounded during the 10-hour-plus flight from San Francisco to Narita, but I was feeling pretty much OK by the time my plane landed—and thank goodness for the efficiency of Japanese Customs and baggage handling (nice, quick, and painless—not to mention friendly).

 

So I joined the Alveys and the rest of the early arrivals, got on the Narita Express (Japan Rail Passes rule), and made it to the Shinagawa Prince Hotel early that evening—in time for a nice evening amble in Tokyo’s crazy Shinjuku district. I’ll let the pictures tell the story from here.

 

Next up—The Jeff Johnson Expedition to Japan’s oldest amusement park, and the tour’s official start

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So, no one went to Sexy Club. Good night, Shinjuku!

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"OK, Lou, we'll spin this little wheel. If I win, we go to Sexy Club. If you win, we go to Sexy Club. Ergo, it's win-win for one of us."

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The sign in the previous picture was not in front of the "Sexy Club."

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Hmm--what if the woman is not taking the man? Can she go in then?

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Is it a trash can or a robot? You make the call.

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They even had this strange video game you can play with trading cards.

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Robb takes on the Old Man on the drum game at an arcade. It's exhausting just watching people play this thing.

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Oooh! We are all dazzled by the pretty lights! Thank you, Mega Penguin!

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. . . yet you can find little "traditional" joints like this.

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The whole area has a sort of "Blade Runner" vibe, . . .

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Yes, all the children of the night worship Mega Penguin!

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Massive penguin overlords rule the night! I, for one, welcome their enlightened administration.

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Robb took us stomping around the Shinjuku district, which is like Times Square on steroids.

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The view from my hotel room through my still jetlagged eyes--time to go out on the town!

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Here's what your fellow travelers look like when even your camera has jet lag on the Narita Express,

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Chapter 1: A Day at Hanayashiki . . .

I was feeling a bit restless the next morning, so I decided to join the Jeff Johnson Expedition to Hanayashiki—Japan’s oldest amusement park (circa 1893, as I recall). Yes it was, indeed, a scurvy, motley bunch of credit whores: Jeff Johnson (or “Old Jeff”), Jeff Waters (or “Young Jeff”), Bill, Rich (or “Hot Fuzz,” my roommate), Shane, Miles, and Steve (who was waiting for us at the hotel bar the first night).

 

What a cool, funky old place Hanayashiki is. You walk through a large, enclosed bazaar, where they sell everything from fried octopus balls to samurai swords, to an old Japanese temple, then down an alley to get there. The amusement park is surrounded by the city—the temple gardens border one side and apartment houses and old high-rise buildings the remaining sides (definitely a neighborhood hangout).

 

Their one coaster, with the catchy name of Rollercoaster, circles the park’s perimeter and was the first of the Japanese “jet coasters” of the trip. This is, I understand, Japan’s oldest roller coaster (circa 1953—pretty old for a steel coaster) and, with its tight trains, quite a “knee banger.” There’s a pretty cool drop and tunnel right at the end.

 

This is where I had my first taste of bizarre Japanese walk throughs—a standard haunted house; the strange, rooftop Treasure Fort Miracle Stone maze; and a truly odd “hall of illusions,” where you stop and watch little animated scenes that end with a dirty joke (usually involving nudity or flatulence). The park also featured the Thriller Car dark ride (which had two pretty good gags), the Surprising House (a homemade wacky shack), and the Bee Tower (an observation ride using birdcages on chains).

 

We had a blast there—the kind of fun that you can have only at a really old, noncorporate park. Here’s a look at Hanayashiki.

 

Next up as Chapter 1 continues—Aqua Stadium and LaQua.

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It really gets you during this part--more to come.

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Yes, I think an orthopedist designed this coaster.

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The ride cruises around the border of the park, trying hard to shatter riders' kneecaps!

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I hope you're wearing your knee pads, lads! You'll need them!

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Our first stop--the aptly named "Rollercoaster."

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Hmm--I think this fellow may be some sort of guard. Just a hunch.

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And our quest is at an end! God be praised!

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We trek down this mysterious, narrow street.

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But in the distance, the park calls.

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There's even a tribute to our friend, the humble pigeon. (The hell? At least they can crap on themselves for a change.)

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Relax--the chicken wire is for your protection, not his!

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The expedition stops to pay proper respect to Japanese tradition at the neighborhood temple.

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If you're looking for samurai swords, bizarre candy, strange wind-up toys, or pratically anything funky and Japanese, this is the place for you.

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Shane demonstrates the necessity of maintaining proper hydration by drinking the local swill. (Well, it beats drinking your own urine, right?)

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While Bill finds his own "special" entertainment.

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All good expeditions need proper reading material to maintain morale. Rich decides on a provacative issue of Wedge.

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Sheesh! We gotta find this little park on this friggin' map? This may take some time, lads!

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The Jeff Johnson Expedition started it's quest at Shinagawa Station.

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Nice trip report. It seems like everyone is having a lot of fun on the trip. I haven't been a member of this forum for long but notice you all have a lot of great trips and have fun on them. I wish I could go to Japan. But maybe Ill do a trip with the group sometime.

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More from Hanayashiki.

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I'll leave you with the view from the park's "Bee Tower." Next stop--Aqua Stadium and LaQua.

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. . . only to be farted upon by a giant sumo butt! Surely, we have tarried here too long!

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I manage to escape and rejoin the expedition at some strange, magical place . . .

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Aghh! Run! It's a trap!

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Where strange, nippleless women dwell!

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The spinning hypnotic wheel draws us into the Treasure Fort Miracle Stone Maze.

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Our intrepid leader barely survives his encouner with Michael Jackson's dark side on the "Thriller Ride"!

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Aghh! A spider who spins chainlink!

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As we all know, green is the true color of horror!

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And no smoking elves, please.

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Only heartless, teetotaling, skinny chicks are allowed on this ride, it seems.

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Or to Michael Jackson as he appears today!

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But he's nothing compared to zombie Michael Jackson!

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Or you could brave the "Thriller Ride!" At first, you're threatened by demonic Michael Jackson!

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You can even take a spin on sexy Bondage Bear at Hanayashiki!

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You see! Didn't I warn ya?

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Don't look now, but your world is about to turn upsidedown!

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Great photos. Hanayashiki is a great way to start any trip. Our first hotel (Asakusa View) looked directly on the park. I rode that coaster at least 14 times. It was cool. I can't wait to see the rest!

 

-Dainan "Great PTR" Rafferty

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Aw Chuck.

 

I think you're doing just fine with whatever-the-f theme you've got going here.... I think.

 

I didn't take my camera for that first add-on park, so many thanks Oh Most Honorable One From Hummel Land (arrrrhhhh) with Your Most Elegant Intrepid Camera Work and Truly Artsy (not fartsy, perish the thought) Caption-ing.

 

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Chapter 1 (cont.): . . . a Night at Aqua Stadium and LaQua

 

The Jeff Johnson Expedition safely returned to the Shinagawa Prince in time for the tour’s official start at 4:00 pm—a ride on Galaxy Express 999 at Aqua Stadium, the hotel’s very own indoor park. Express is an Intamin launched coaster that was sort of a kinder, gentler version of Flight of Fear. You have to get past a very long pre-show based on a Japanese animated feature about a steam train with a robot conductor that travels between planets and has to deal with bad guys and space pirates and stuff--I think it was based on a very obscure Agatha Christie novel("Twinkle Twinkle Little Killer," or something like that). I don’t think anybody in our group “got it,” but the ride itself was a fun and a perfect introduction to the weirdness to come.

 

Next up was a train ride to Tokyo Dome City, home of LaQua—a park and shopping complex that services the Tokyo Dome (home to the Tokyo Giants pro baseball team). LaQua is a pretty cool place to visit after dark--definitely a "date park." There are four coasters:

 

Thunder Dolphin—this coaster looks more awesome than it rides. The first drop is good, but there is but one pop of airtime on it, and it has this strange portion where the train shimmies back and forth—like a swimming dolphin, I guess. The crew has to do a little ritual dance when trains return, too. Fun, but it’s fairly weak for an Intamin hyper.

 

Linear Gale—Intamin strikes again with an impulse coaster. The first forward launch is fairly weak, but it’s a lot of fun when you shoot up that back spike.

 

Geo Panic—a major “WTF” ride. It’s an indoor coaster that’s sort of a ghetto version of DisneySea’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, what with the caves and rocks and lights and rumbling noises and such. A rough ride, but I couldn’t help but like the damn thing a bit.

 

Spinning Coaster—Hey, a name that makes sense! It’s a coaster, and it spins! Yay for truth in advertising!

 

LaQua also has a great “WTF” dark ride in Zombie Paradise. Well, they were more like goblins than zombies, but it does have its very own zombie/werewolf rock band and cars that are capable of spinning at least once. When the ride starts, it seems like a “family” attraction ala Disney, but it takes a gruesome turn with a torture chamber and kitchen scene where people are bring filleted and roasted—as if Gomez Addams had designed Disney's Haunted Mansion.

 

LaQua made for a fun evening—with a nice taste of the even more eccentric Japanese parks to come.

 

Next up—the dog of a thousand faces

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Oh, I guess this is what they meant. More to come from LaQua.

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. . . or visit Parachute Land. (The hell?)

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. . . scarf down a Frisbee-sized cheeseburger fot $41.50, . . .

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But what else is there to do at LaQua? Well, you can enjoy a nice can of Pocari Sweat, . . .

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Yes, Thunder Dolphin--the coaster that goes for the "Big O"!

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Just check out those comfy Intamin hyper trains. But if your pocekts bulge, the ops will frisk you!

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LaQua--where you have to empty your pockets, not mention your bladder and bowels (for it was a long wait), to get your Intamin fix!

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No, we were there for LaQua! What was I thinking?

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Surely not to eat at Denny's or 7-Eleven.

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Yes, we had arrived at Tokyo Dome City! But why were we there?

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So, after plunging across the galaxy and back, we rolled out to our next stop--a place where huge, naked fat men dance in the sky!

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And we all saw stars after the fierce robotic beating.

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Don't worry--our robotic handlers will beat the meaning into us!

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Hmm--despite Robb's cogent explantaion, I still haven't a clue what this ride's about.

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Tom, I'm going to read the English translation of this ride's backstory. An interpretative dance will not be necessary, thank you.

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Attention please! Now boarding on track 12, train 666, the Pits of Hell Limited! With stops at Sodom, Armageddon, and the Ninth Circle! Last call! Bo-o-o-o-o-ard!

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. . . Galaxy Express 999!

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As tempting as this offer is, I think I'll join the group at Aqua Stadium to ride . . .

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We now return to LaQua, which is already in progress.

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. . . the zombie will follow you home! Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Yomiuri Land will be next.

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Ah, who can ever forget their first time at Zombie Paradise? Truly a magical spot! And when they lift the safety bar . . .

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See? It's a coaster that spins! Woo hoo!

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Falafel and Bill say, "Yay for coherence in naming!"

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What? A name for a coaster that actually describes it?

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Yeah, I've been to Japan a bunch of times, and I still can't make sense outta this thing!

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Who you callin' "bitch," bitch?

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Ok, Geo Panic! Bring it, bitch!

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What's it like to ride around in a huge catcher's mask?

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Next up, Geo Panic--a ride that answers an important scientific question.

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The initial launch is a bit weak, but it picks up steam the second time through.

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Wow, deja vu! It's like I'm waiting to board Volcano: The Blast Coaster.

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Linear Gale gets some pretty good air up that back spike.

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A few folks have asked me what “theme” I’m going to use, or how I’m going to approach my report, but I really haven’t a clue.

 

 

How about "Don't Push the RED Button"?

 

 

 

I wish I had flown in a day early like a lot people did. I would have liked to have gone with the group to Hanayashiki instead of on my own (well, technically I wasn't since I was with Mike, aka miniviews). That coaster was fun, though I don't recall it a being a knee banger. Did you notice that one of the drops/tunnels was done up like the coaster was going through a women's locker room? That was really funny. I also got a real kick out those weird rides they had there.

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Chapter 2: The Many Faces of Yomiuri Land Dog

 

After a night in our own personal Zombie Paradises, it was time for a bright-and-early train ride to Yomiuri Land, followed by a long bullet train ride to Fukuoka. But, hey, there were credits to be had.

 

Yomiuri Land was a very nice park with beautiful views (you enter by riding a gondola up a mountain) and a good mix of coasters, walk throughs, funky flat rides, and even a ghetto version of Indiana Jones. I enjoyed it quite a bit. But what I really pulled away from this park were memories of its mascot—Land Dog. Yes, he was one versatile pooch—everything from a cute, sad-eyed mutt to the very harbinger of death itself! Yes, you’ll get a look at some of the faces of Land Dog later.

 

But what of the coasters? Here they are.

 

Bandit—This was one twisted piece of Togo steel that has good air on the drops, but beats the hell out of you on its curves, thanks to all sorts of funky transitions that even Arrow would never dream of trying. But, for all that, I liked it, especially in its “Splash Bandit” incarnation. Yes, every other train is deluged by park guests with Super Soakers at the start, then drowned with fire hoses at strategic parts of the track—lots of fun. And the crew performed a little ritual that became a running gag for the rest of the TPR tour: “Go, go, Bande-e-e-e-et!”

 

White Canyon—I was rather dreading this evil-looking woodie with its “roll-cage” trains, but, you know, it wasn’t half bad. Not a great coaster, but the layout was quite tricky, and it wasn’t nearly as rough as I’d feared.

 

Loop Coaster Momonga—Here was another bizarre pile of Togo: a steel coaster that ran sit-down and stand-up trains on the same track! One would think that you’d get the worst of KD’s Anaconda and Shockwave in one ride, but it was surprisingly good, especially with the stand-up trains.

 

SL Coaster—This was the weirdest ride in the whole park: a family mine-train coaster that’s like an eccentric Kennywood ride, only sans fun. The train takes a big drop right out of the station into a little valley with a lake, promptly slams on the brakes to a near-dead stop, then gradually picks up speed until it reaches its one lifthill, which simply puts you into a helix before slamming on the brakes again before returning to the station. Not good.

 

There was a kiddie coaster that I skipped.

 

The park’s two walk throughs were a kick. Haunted House (original name, that) involved a convoluted backstory (in Japanese, of course) and a parchment that you had to drop into a “medicine box”—very creepy atmosphere and plenty of surprises in this one. The House of Terror was cheesier and a bit rundown, but still fun (you have to love the monster rock band on the second-floor balcony).

 

The Indy ripoff was Mystery World, in which you ride a little jeep through an impenetrable jungle and encounter the obligatory angry natives, wild animals, and dinosaurs. But it has one cool twist—you car shakes around as you pass a live “volcano.” Absolutely hilarious.

 

All in all, Yomiuri Land was a lot of fun—great staff, too. Pictures to follow.

 

Up next—from the cosmic void to the middle of nowhere

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But, again, it was pretty decent. More to come.

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Land Dog looks very concerned.

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Falafel Girl looks pretty concerned.

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The Fresnonians look concerned.

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Uh oh! More Togo! Should we be concerned?

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It really wasn't that bad.

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But that's OK, Land Dog.

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A Repentant Land Dog apologizes in advance for White Canyon.

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A good shot of bourbon would be helpful here.

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But reach for your Advil here.

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This part isn't painful.

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In case you've forgotten, this is Bandit.

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Arghh! I be Pirate Land Dog! And there be no ducks on my ride, sez I!

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Bandit was our first stop.

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. . . and poor Impaled Land Dog.

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Then there's sleazy Pole-dancer Land Dog . . .

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Here's Land Dog in his sweet, adorable persona.

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And it cruises right through Bandit.

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There's a great view from the gondola.

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You have to ride the super happy fun gondola from the super happy train station!

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. . . Yomiuri Land!

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Ok, kids! It's time to ride the super happy fun train to . . .

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More of the many faces of Land Dog.

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You can't visit Japan without paying tribute to Ultraman. Land Dog will return in "You Only Live Twice (or Maybe Thrice)."

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Whee for the goofy dragon ride! Why does Land Dog always look so depressed unless he's packing heat?

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Dragon Land Dog greeted us next.

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Phew! We made it!

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Aghh! The volcano's erupting, the car's shaking like hell, and I need to use the bathroom!

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But not this guy!

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But, hey, this guy seems pretty friendly.

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Once again, Land Dog looks pretty worried (not to mention weepy).

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Yay for ghetto Indiana Jones! Pay no attention to the rhino behind the curtain!

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Mom, Dad, I met someone in Japan. I know she's an undead, soul-sucking ghoul, but please try to understand.

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But at least it was near this cool Haunted House.

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Casey Jr. with one bizarre layout.

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It's a mine train without a mine, which I guess would make it Casey Jr.

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This was the weirdest family coaster ever.

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Mafia Wise Guy Land Dog is ready to whack someone at a moment's notice!

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At last, the last of the Yomiuri Land photos.

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This really lousy band bid us farewell.

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Bah! I've had worse!

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. . . and let slip the dogs of war!

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Cry havoc . . .

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For the young Fresnonian, it was payback time! He didn't know why or who, but somebody was getting paid back!

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Uh oh! TPR members and Super Soakers! This can't be good!

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. . . and Non-German Tom.

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Some of us decided to ride "Splash" Bandit to wash off the funk of the House of Terror. Here we see the results on Falafel . . .

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This was the most disturbing Land Dog yet!

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. . . met another hot, undead chick!

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Rock on, House of Terror, where I . . .

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This was some weird show about an evil pocket protector from hell that steals some girls' homework, or something. There was much bad kung fu (or perhaps pencil fu).

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^I wonder if you can buy one of those Bondage Bears on E-Bay? Derek, you have your work cut out for you.

 

And now, moving right along . . .

 

 

Chapter 3: From the Final Frontier to the Wild Frontier—Space World and Uminonakamichi Seaside Park

 

Parks with their own train stations were the order of the day—one a port to the infinite cosmos, the other an outpost on the edge of nowhere.

 

The Final Frontier is a rather colorful, goofy place, if Space World is any indication. This well-themed, somewhat off-center tribute to man’s exploration of the trackless void was one of the highlights of the trip. Yes, you will believe that a giant, rubber-headed bunny has conquered the universe!

 

And the bunny has some pretty decent coasters, too.

 

Venus—This was one of my favorite coasters of the trip. It’s intense, twisty layout reminded me of Flight of Fear (only without a launch), and it’s a lot of fun (especially the loop in front of the park’s very own space shuttle). This was yet another coaster with a launching ritual, this time involving the drumbeats from Queen’s “We Will Rock You" (but no "Go, go, Venus!"). I guess they couldn't get the rights to the songs by Bananarama or Frankie Avalon.

 

Zaturn—This is the Japanese version of Thorpe Park’s Stealth. It’s an Intamin rocket coaster with good airtime over its high hat and unfortunate brakes on its bunny hill. The launch is pretty cool, thanks to pulsating (and rather warm) lighting in the station and some throbbing, “heartbeat” music to hype riders up. Fun, but I wish it had another trick or two.

 

Black Hole Scramble—This is Space World’s version of Disney’s Space Mountain—an indoor coaster with lighting and painted murals to depict the infinite void. It’s a fun ride, if not particularly thrilling, and you have to walk through a bizarre complex ruled by a space bunny to find it.

 

Titan—I think Arrow’s Ron Toomer heavily invested in Advil stock, then got into coaster design. This hyper has a great first drop, but the rest is a twisted study in pure pain.

 

Space Coaster—You can ride either backward or forward, on the same train, on this family coaster. The backward cars are the most fun, but “space” is simulated by cruising through a green, rather aromatic plastic tunnel. And, in yet another ritual launch, you have to join the ride ops in wagging your fingers in the air and saying “boogie woogie woogie.” (As for why, I have no idea.)

 

Clipper—A kiddie coaster with “space shuttle” trains and a long, twisty layout. Better than average.

 

Space World also has a great flume ride with rocket-shaped boats, a strange, coaster-like spiral drop, and a very wet splashdown at the end. The Alien Panic Evolution walk through was a great space-oriented haunted house. And let’s not forget the giant Space Eye Ferris wheel, or “Holey Rusted Wheel of Twirling Terror.”

 

The group came back down to Earth at Uminonakamichi Seaside Park, which from the train station looked like an ancient fort bordering a trackless wilderness. It was a bit of a walk to the park’s amusement section, which featured Jet Coaster, a decent Togo with a twisty layout, station flyby, and a blue-and-pink color scheme, and a frigid Arctic walk though. But the real attractions of this place were three things you’d never see in the States: an obstacle course over a creek of rather fetid water, some rather dangerous roller slides, and a go-kart track with an “offroad” section complete with huge rocks, potholes, and water.

 

Apparently there’s not much danger of litigation on the Wild Frontier.

 

Next up—cuteness, desolation, and roughness, along with a cautionary tale of random cluelessness

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To be fair, this part is pretty good. The rest of it though . . .

 

More Space World to come.

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"Titan" is actually Japanese for "ibuprophen."

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And there they go!

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Lock and load, Rich and Bob!

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I wonder if Robb had to pry the camera out of his eye after riding Zaturn?

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Hmm--kind of looks like I'm in the UK from this angle.

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Now this is the wait time I like to see. This park was pretty dead the rest of the day, too.

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"Venus, if you will . . ." Nah, doesn't work. "I'm your Venus/I'm your fire . . ." Doesn't work either.

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. . . or race to Venus!

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. . . enjoy a nice dessert and burger, . . .

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And what does one do at Space World? Well, you could check into the Zero Gravity Party Suite at Space Lodge, . . .

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. . . Space World!

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I know! I know! To . . .

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Our futuristic bullet train is here to haul us to . . . where are we going kids?

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Before exploring the cosmos, proper nutrition is essential.

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Our journey through the icy void of space (where no can hear you scream--or make any sound, for that matter) continues.

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But you must panic within these established guidelines. More to come from Space World.

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Captain to crew! The order is given to panic!

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And it's protected by Saucer Snowmen Terror Troops!

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The space bunny's realm is rather high tech.

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We survived our terrifying journey into the hideous vortex of the black hole.

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Remember--in space, meteors have the right of way.

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. . . a mutant space bunny!

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. . . mutant cartoon space trees ruled by . . .

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Our next stop, the giant space dome, the realm of . . .

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Apparently, space is an enormous blue geoduck--or perhaps a giant urethra.

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. . . and backwards! Boogie woogie woogie!

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Same train forwards . . .

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Here's the weirdest coaster concept yet.

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We ride like Klingons--with great honor!

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Here are three of them.

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There are credit whores all over the galaxy.

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One last look at the eternal void.

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Our slaphappy space travelers are ready to move on.

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Hmm--I'm feeling rather insignificant as a man at the moment.

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It does give you a nice view of Venus.

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Maybe they should provide arc welders, too.

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At least they give you these nice fans.

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It was rather hot and humid in the capsules of the Space Eye.

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I concur completely!

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Right, Steve?

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And it delivers!

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Hmm--this promises wetness.

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Kang, you were supposed to pull back on the joystick!

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And now, back to Earth at Uminonakamichi.

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How many American parks would let people in a playground while some guy was welding overhead? Thanks for reading so far.

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Bob is thinking, "Oh God in heaven, what have I done?"

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I wonder if Rich's police training came in handy here?

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But at least you could flee the vicious beasts on go-karts.

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. . . and polar bears!

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This park was so remote, it had infestations of penguins . . .

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At least you played a part in this "Hidden Mickey."

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Yes, quite a pickle, indeed. Getting a little "tired," Ryan?

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The young Fresnonian, however, is in a much sitckier situation.

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But Tom's daring leap to safety paid off--this time.

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. . . he encountered a little obstacle named Joey.

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Tom was doing well, until . . .

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But not this one. At least the foul-looking water didn't eat through my shoes.

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I actually made it over this one.

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But here's the real reason we're here.

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Not from this angle, either. Oh well, it's still fun.

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Hmm--doesn't look like a jet or an aquatic mammal to me.

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How does a dolphin suggest "Jet Coaster"? What is this ride's name, anyway?

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And, hey, other than the ride ops, there's no one here but us!

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It's quite a trek across the wilderness to the amusement park.

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I half expected to see samurai at this gate, guarding their feudal master's domain.

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OMG Chuck this is insane of you!

 

Excellent first-rate stuff.

 

I was getting teary-eyed while laughing and laughing...

 

I think your "theme" for this tour is

 

RANDOM CAPTION OPTIONS A-PLENTY

 

Japanese-style!

 

You rock buddy.

 

So glad you were on the tour.

 

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