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


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Chapter 4: Cuteness, Desolation, and Roughness—Harmonyland, Wonder Rakutenchi, and Kijima

 

Before we take a look at three more Japanese parks, a word of caution. When using a bullet-train lavatory, be advised to push the green button to flush the toilet—and that there’s a ten-second delay. Pushing the red button will 1) sound an alarm worthy of the starship Enterprise and 2) bring the bullet train to a dead stop. I know this from hard experience (the best teacher of them all). Yes, this will explain any “Chuck, don’t push the red button” jokes you may encounter here and in other site updates or TRs. But at least those who follow will benefit from my mistake. (In my own defense, I did try the green button first, but it didn't seem to work, thanks to the delay.)

 

The Japanese train system is, indeed, remarkable and efficient. Even after going from 200 miles per hour to a dead stop, then restarting, we still made our station on time.

 

We boarded a bus in the Beppu area to tour three more parks in the mountains nearby. First up was Harmonyland, and it was all so precious and cute and sweet and darling and colorful and nice, thanks to the enlightened administration of its benevolent dictator, Hello Kitty, and her garrison of Sanrio cartoon characters. There were two coasters here—the Rhythmical Coaster, a longer- and higher-than-average Rollerskater, and the powered Hello Kitty Angel Coaster—but it’s really all about the Sanrio characters boat ride (you have to see them spank the penguin to believe it).

 

We went from the cute and the perky to the desolate and desperate at Wonder Rakutenchi, a park that, at least, has a beautiful mountain setting. Never have I seen a park so empty, or ride ops so desperate to serve someone, anyone. (They actually seemed to stalk the few guests they had, and were often in charge of multiple rides.) The park’s one credit was the Jet Coaster we were becoming so familiar with in Japan (OK, with a nice little drop right before it returns to the station and some nice views). There was a unique double Ferris wheel, a pretty-good haunted house, and a very sad little zoo (with equally sad animals to match). But what I’ll take away from Rakutenchi was the eerie emptiness of the place; it would be a great setting for a horror movie.

 

Kajima was the final park of this very strange leg of the tour. It was pretty quiet, too, but not eerie like Wonder Rakutenchi. But two of the coasters did seem determined to beat the crap out of us:

 

Super LS Coaster—Who would’ve thought that a loop-screw would be the smoothest big coaster in any park? This looked painful, but was actually OK.

 

Jupiter—Ah, an Intamin woodie! This should completely rule! Well, not if it’s an older Intamin woodie that was like driving over 100 miles of bad road (one of the bumpiest coasters I’ve ever ridden). This is too bad, because Jupiter looks like it should be excellent (maybe if Intamin were to retrack it in the style of Balder or El Toro). The best part is the series of bunny hills before the lifthill—after that, its pure Marquis de Sade.

 

Gold Rush—Another coaster that wants to kill you (or at least shatter your kneecaps). This is one rough old mine train (nicely themed station, though).

 

There’s a standard-issue Rollerskater and a powered Dragon coaster, too, along with a very good, spooky haunted house and Zorb, the giant hamster ball.

 

All in all, a very strange day and mix of parks—and did I mention how much I love the Japanese rail system?

 

Up next--cabbies and arrows and chairlifts--oh my!

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Huzzah for the mighty spirits of Hello Kitty! Rakutehchi is next.

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Yes, obey Hello Kitty's edicts, and you will be rewarded with liquor!

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. . . this unfortunate penguin! Yes, he thought the train was a credit! But has since seen the wisdom of Hello Kitty!

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I understand, oh mighty one! I would never dream of such a thing, lest I suffer the fate of . . .

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By decree of Hello Kitty, citizens may not delcare this as a coaster credit!

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Your brakes bless us, oh mighty Feline of Much Power!

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We are plunging through darkness! Save us!

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And all must smile and wave from the Rhythmical coaster, for it is the will of Hello Kitty!

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She has ordered us to ram Barry into submission, and we must obey!

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We follow, oh mighty Hello Kitty!

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Yes, my people! I will show you the way!

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And all must obey her wise restrictions!

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Yes, all hail her mighty name!

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Yes, Harmonyland, which shows us how all the world can benefit from the enlightened rule of Hello Kitty!

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Perhaps they'd like to stop and play on this thing for a while.

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I can't believe I'm taking a busload of adults to Harmonyland!

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And now an eerie tale of emptiness--Wonder Rakutenchi.

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. . . to catch the funicular back down.

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Fortunately, Barry was able to squeeze out of the haunted house in time . . .

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Yep--everybody had a shiny face that day.

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. . . especially if you use one of the complimentary fans.

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The double Ferris wheel was kind of cool . . .

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Ride ops would flit from one attraction to another--but apparently not this safari ride.

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. . . the place was nearly empty.

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and exciting duck races, . . .

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. . . a "new" simulator ride, . . .

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. . . a beautiful setting, . . .

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But despite the allure of a lovely view, . . .

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We crammed into an empty funicular car and headed up.

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The park was nearly as devoid of people as this map.

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Wow.

 

Talk about yer side-by-side paparazzi, hmmm?

 

(see comparison below)

 

And another excellent set of parks caption-ized by

 

A Master of Such Things.

 

 

And stalling our gokarts on the track in the deep, deeeep forest of Wonder Rakutenchi (bless me!) - downhill side, of course - caused several of the ops there, to all scurry down to me and Rich Au$$ trying to get the dz*$-ed things moving again. They didn't. So we walked back to the station. Uphill all the way.

 

So I'm pretty sure we filled up their day's activity/entertainment cards very nicely. A few of them, heh heh.

 

Thanks for a great ongoing TR, Chuck

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Your shot. And you win - better focus, LOL!

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My shot.

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^I think a few people have that particular shot, Bill.

 

Before posting the next set of photos, I'd like to thank all those who have posted comments--and those folks who have just stopped by to take a peek. I enjoy putting together a TR, but it's a lot of work, and it's good to know that someone out there is checking it out.

 

And now, the park that just wants to rough you up--Kajima!

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Bleah! Never eat at a Valencia/Fresno buffet! And with that, we bid farewell to Kajima.

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Bleah! That "Fresno Surprise" didn't sit well!

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Uh oh! Zorb's looking a little sick and wobbly! I think Zorb's gonna hurl!

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And now, life from the hamster's point of view.

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Even the dude in the ticket window was cool--in a 1980s sort of way.

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Kajima had a pretty cool haunted house.

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There it is! Yee haw! It's a wee bit rougher than Knott's mine train. (Best bring your kneepads and back brace, pardner.)

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Hey, where's the train? Oh, wait . . .

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Now this here is one nice-lookin' station and queue fer one rough ol' ride! Kinda got a KBF look to it, don't it, hombre.

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. . . as was the Rollerskater (right down to its skate cars).

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The powered dragon was standard issue, . . .

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You'll find nary a contusion on these happy riders.

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Shocking, but true.

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This was actually the best coaster in the park.

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At least Jupiter comes with its own dessert treat!

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But looks can be deceiving.

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It looks like it ought to be great.

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Ah, who doesn't love Intamin wood? Well, there's an exception to every rule.

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Hmm--Ryan and Barry are celebrating because they're about to get ERT on an Intamin woodie. Either that, or they need to get a room.

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OK, which way is the entrance?

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^

 

Upgrade?

 

 

Upgrade???

 

 

Don't make me.... well, maybe.

 

Still - when you check all the oopses and echs I shot in the 2006 UK Tour and I posted every single out-of-focus, way too much lighting, etc. shot...

 

Not too shabby so far I'd say, lolol.

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Blimey Chuck - this great TR also brings home to me exactly how much ground we actually covered.

 

I can't believe I missed the whole land dog thing, though I think I was a tad vague that day (well not so vague after Bandit, as that brought me rapidly to my senses then knocked me ten streets into next week)

 

Looking forward to more as and when you update

 

Cheers

 

Steve

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The photo of me and Ryan is just so wrong.

 

I think I needed to brush my teeth in the haunted house shot. Man, look at that plaque!

 

Hmm--maybe all those squid and octopus balls you ate have something to do with that plaque problem, Barry. They probably have aphrodisiac qualities, too.

 

Steve, believe me, I know how much ground we covered. This TR is taking on epic proportions. Mitsui Greenland to come tomorrow (I really liked that park a lot.)

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Great pictures and TR Chuck!

 

I was glad to hear about your trip first hand. Now, with these pictures, the trip comes to life.

 

It was really great meeting you too!

 

I will have my TR up soon.

 

Thanks, Rick--I'll look forward to seeing your TR of Euroburg (one great home park, in my opinion).

 

And now the epic saga continues!

 

Chapter 5: It’s Not Just the Coasters, It’s All the Stuff—Mitsui Greenland

Another blazing hot, humid day—another blazing hot, humid park. But that’s OK, because Mitsui Greenland rocks! It’s hard to describe this sprawling mass of sun-baked real estate, except to say that it really offers something for everyone: anything any park aficionado could want is here, including nine, (count ‘em, nine) credits:

 

Fujin Rajin Blue—I never thought I’d ever say this about a stand-up coaster, but this is the best ride in the park. Yes, this coaster type that I’ve never liked has finally delivered—a stand-up with ejector air that doesn’t make a man scream for mercy. How did Togo pull this off? (KD’s Shockwave should burn in hell!)

 

Megaton—Another surprise! I wasn’t too thrilled with the whole “ultratwister” concept, either, but Megaton is great—a very smooth ride with a great first drop (just a rough stop).

 

Atomic Coaster—Weirdest shuttle loop ever, and it pulls some pretty insane G forces. There’s no launch. A funky double chain drive pulls the train up, then releases it to roll back through the station, down a hill, through the loop, up the rear spike, then back again.

 

Fujin Rajin Pink—This is the sitdown side, and while it isn’t as much fun as the stand-up side, it’s still pretty decent.

 

Grampus Jet—A suspended coaster with killer-whale trains? Well, OK, I guess. This is just one helix after another (the Japanese just love their helices), but you do get a nice, refreshing breeze in the front car.

 

Gao—What is it with the Japanese and really funky mine-train coasters? This one has the conventional train cars, but is, like, over 100 feet tall and rolls down the spine of a giant dinosaur! It’s isn’t particularly fast, but it really slams you on the turns.

 

Spin Mouse—Here we have an example of truth in advertising. It’s a mouse and it spins—a lot.

 

Nio—This was the only Vekoma SLC of the trip, thank god. One is always enough. Not as bad as Mind Eraser at SFA, but not a good ride either. Extra padding on the OSRs helps, though.

 

Sphinx Coaster—A family coaster with Egyptian themeing and a funky layout. OK for what it is (but not too exciting).

 

There’s a powered ladybug coaster, which rolled back on us—d’oh!; the Blackhole powered coaster (a fun if low-budget version of Space Mountain); and a very good alpine slide.

 

Greenland has a lot more than just the coasters. The Haunted Hospital walk through is a good haunted house with a pretty cool gimmick: an electric candle that you have to hold steady, or else it flickers and goes out. (They plug the candle into a computer at the end to see how “scared” you were.) The Horror Tower wasn’t as good (lots of steps to walk up), but experiencing the possessed squat toilet is a must. The Haunted Shrine dark ride is excellent—good atmosphere, enhanced by headphones (the giggling children will give you the creeps). The Legend of Salamander s a good shooting dark ride with, well, salamanders, bats, and bugs as targets. There’s even a very bizarre cross between Disney’s Indy rides and Star Tours: Adventure Ride (another attraction that has to be experienced at least once, cheesy as it is).

 

They even trusted us with arrows and guns!

 

All this and a McDonald’s—what more could anyone want?

 

Next up—2 out of 3 ain't bad

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Mitsui Greenland is one huge park. More to come.

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. . . I chill out with Jeff Johnson on the left and Barry Hom on the right.

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While Dan cowers before the water gods, . . .

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Even after riding the Sphinx Coaster, I am no where near solving its impenetrable mysteries.

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When she says be at McDonald's at noon, you best show up!

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Here's how Elissa keeps everybody in line on these tours.

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As for me, well, I did manage to hit the target once.

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Rich (aka "Hot Fuzz") shows the form that keeps the good people of Groton, Mass., safe from evildoers.

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Looks like it's gonna be a while. Let's take out our frustrations on the archery range.

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OK, boys, this way to a Fujin Rajin, or Milky Way, or whatever it's called. Wait a minute . . .

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And their prayers were answered!

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Rich and Robb stop for a moment of prayer before riding Grampus Jet.

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Cmon, ladybug--you can do it! Not with all you Americans in here, I can't!

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Time to take a leak, at least.

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Hmm--looks like the cabs got us here a bit early (but it wouldn't get much busier than this all day).

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More shakin' and bakin' at Mitsui Greenland.

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"Ah, that feels go-o-o-o-d," says Gao. There's a ways to go yet.

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. . . that pays tribute to Sylvester Stallone movies.

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. . . the dinosaur mine train . . .

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It leads to Gao, . . .

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Everybody loves the Chairlift of Death over the go-kart track.

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Down and up they go!

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And check out this funky lifthill.

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Lap bars and OSRs? Why not throw in a seatbelt, too?

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Looks fairly normal from here.

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Atomic Coaster is one of the funkiest, most intense shuttle loops I've ever been on.

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Who knew that salamanders were so evil?

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That's OK, sir! I don't need any adjustments down there! This is taking customer service a bit too far.

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Oh, I see.

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OK, you expect us to do what exactly?

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Yes, don't let this Japanese lucky cat fool you! Inside, terror awaits (along with lots of stairs).

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Even Dave braved a chairlift ride up to the Horror Tower (but he didn't go in--too many stairs).

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It is an amazing simulation of riding around in a plastic box while watching blurry computer graphics. But ya gotta check it out at least once. Yes, these cars do, indeed, roll through the show building and jump around a bit.

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Three exciting adventures await you at the aptly named Adventure Ride. We just checked out one.

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More from Mitsui.

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At least we have Ultraman to protect us from Ryan. More Japanese parks to come.

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But this is the most horrifying sight of all!

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Yeah, this shrine ain't gonna haunt itself!

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OK, you guys! Break time's over!

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Goofy, blood-curdling terror!

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Uh oh! Whenever you see the Grim Reaper hanging out with Frankenstein, Jr., that could mean only one thing!

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. . . just so he could blow up this punk!

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Brian wishes he'd brought some C4 with him when he entered Danger in a Maze . . .

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But these trains were swallowed by carnivorous trees. Too bad.

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Oh, my freakin, ever-lovin' god!

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Get ready to get catapulted out of your train on Fujin Rajin, gentlemen.

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Please do not hurt us, oh angry Vekoma demon!

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Megaton was great! The bear's word was right and true!

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Hey, a fiberglass bear wouldn't lie.

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Really? Megaton is pretty good, you say?

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Have you taken your protein pills? Good. Now put your helmets on.

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This is kind of fun, but it makes Space World's Black Hole Scramble look like Space Mountain.

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Great TR Chuck!

 

Thankfully, you cover entire parks-ful of stuff that's all been blurred (or watered down, depending on the attraction) in my mind since the tour... ended (sniff)

 

Lots of stairs in that (meh) horror Hotel or what-ever the f it was. The toilet was OMGWTF I must say, lol.

 

But for my Yen, the best pic in these sets...

 

 

 

 

 

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Jeff and Barry indeed, LOLOLOL!

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I really think that Mitsui Greenland is one of my favorite (if not FAVORITE) non-Disney parks in Japan! There's just so much to do and it's all either awesome, or so bizarre and strange that it's awesome. Oh, and they have an ice cold McDonalds!!!

 

Thanks for the photos!

 

PS, my form with that bow and arrow is really bad, perhaps that's why I ended up with a giant welt on my arm from it!

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I have to agree with Elissa, this park was great, best non-disney park of the trip (well besides Universal)

 

The single seat chair lift was like nothing I have ever seen or experienced. Sad to say but most of America, because of unusual "body proportions", would not be able to ride this terrific ride.

 

I loved the ride operators over at Megaton, the ultra-twister, they kept rooting me on to my tenth ride. I almost didn't make it , but I GOT WOOD!

 

btw Chuck, this trip report is great. I love the captions!!!

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Yeah, I agree, MG was favorite park on the trip after Disney and Universal. The place is huge, and there is a ton of fun stuff to do. I'm sort of bummed I missed the haunted toilet (I can't do walk thru attractions due to my eye problem). Perhaps next time.

 

And I did survive the mini-chairlift death attraction. Twice. That was pretty scary.

 

dt

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I think I used the single chair lift five or six times, to get back and forth across part of the park, to save some walking. It was great to use, again and again!

 

Best memory of seeing somebody else on it:

 

Jeff sitting lotus-style (cross legged at least?) on the chair, gliding serenely over it all.

 

Very nice to see, that.

 

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The Chairlift of Death was a bit unnerving the first time around--one slip and you could fall into that cheese-grater, chainlink safety barrier! But it was pretty handy, too.

 

Greenland was my favorite outside of Universal and Disney, too. Thanks for all the comments--more to come after I get back from Knoebels this weekend.

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