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TR: 2005 Japanese Coaster Tour

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Just a note for the TPR forum. This trip report is long and it doesn't have the typical photos to accompany it. Fellow trip goer GregLeg should be able to post some of his photos at a later date. I only took video and doing vidcaps with my equipment would be rather time consuming. I'll try to post another part of the TR each of the next five evenings. Now on to the report.


TR: 2005 Japanese Coaster Tour


Part 1 of 5


When the ECC/ACE Japan trip was announced for 2005, my interest in making a trip to Japan was sparked. I figured I would definitely have to make the trip. Last fall however, I saw Theme Park Review's Japan trip reports along with a trip planning guide and soon realized I may be able to do such a trip on my own. I wasn't totally satisfied with the club trip as far as the timing, parks and costs. But the TPR website gave me enough information to start investigating doing a Japan trip independently. With a good head start on information gathering thanks to Robb & Elissa Alvey's groundwork, I jumped into planning mode about 9 months ago. My potential roommate for the club trip, Greg Legowski, agreed to join me in trying to do our own trip to Japan. I'm happy to report we recently completed a very successful journey to Japan.


This trip report will start with many trip details and hints in case anyone wants to use our trip as a guide for their own trip. If it is a bit long winded I hope you will be able to at least skim through the park and coasters details.


Before I begin the daily reports, I'd like to explain the timing of our trip. Based on the fact that the biggest enemy to a coaster trip to Japan is rain with its potential to close down many coasters and rides, we wanted to find a timeframe where we had a good chance of avoiding rain. The rainy season ends in July while the typhoon season peaks in September. Spring and late fall may have been better options as we hit some extreme heat and humidity at times but spring was a bit soon for me as far as planning goes and fall interrupts football season for me. So we were left with August. We had to wait until the week long Obon holiday was over as much of Japan is in transit at that time. We had a very tight window of about two weeks but that's all we really needed so it worked out. We supposedly overlapped the summer school holiday but I don't believe that really impacted our trip. We saw many children going to school on trains so many schools were in session during our trip.


Friday, Aug 19 - Departure


I arrived at Pittsburgh International early on Friday morning to head to Newark Liberty for my Continental flight to Tokyo Narita airport. The flight to Tokyo took about 14.5 hours. Somehow I was able to get in the right frame of mind to deal with such a long flight.


Saturday, Aug 20 - Arrival in Tokyo and the Shinjuku experience


Upon arrival at Narita I met up with Greg Legowski who flew out the day before. We proceeded to the JR (Japan Rail) reservation center to get rail passes processed and to get our major reservations set for the trip. The JR Pass is one of the greatest travel deals you'll find. For about the price of a moderately priced airline ticket, you can get a week's worth of travel on all types of JR trains which run all over Japan. Consider that each shinkansen (or bullet train) ride costs about as much as a plane ticket we saved tons of money with this pass. I'd say the JR pass covered at least 75% of our train travel with the rest being cheaper and more local trains and subway systems. Plus all JR reservations are free and you can make them within minutes of a train leaving.


We had all of the shinkansen and Narita Express (airport express train) return times listed on paper. Our agent was great and took care of everything for us. I'd recommend getting as many reservations as you can set up at Narita airport as they speak English very well and the atmosphere is calmer than at the train stations. Plus they'll print more English on your reservation tickets than they do at the train stations. Japan guidebooks show you how to translate the reservation ticket but every extra bit of English makes life easier in Japan.


After finishing our business at the JR reservation center, we went down to the Narita Express platform to take the train into Tokyo. The "NEX" is reservation only and would normally cost $60 to make the one hour trip. The train was very comfortable and it was the most direct way to get to our base hotel for the next four days in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo. I'll point out that the trains in Japan are always perfectly on time and are very dependable. If the trains are running they will be on time. They only shut down in extreme cases like a typhoon hitting. Trains are so timely that if you know how long your journey is supposed to be you could exit a train by only using your watch and not the station signs. Also, on most platforms they have updated electric signs with detailed information, many times alternating in Japanese and English.


We arrived at Shinjuku station in the late afternoon and tried to figure out how to exit the station and find the hotel shuttle bus. We soon realized how nearly impossible and intimidating Shinjuku station was. This is the busiest train station in the world with 1.5 million people passing through every day! Nothing in New York City can even come close to preparing you for this place. It is utterly confusing and even outside of the station large buildings block your access for several city blocks. One thing we learned rather quickly is that people walk on the left in Japan. They drive on the left so they also walk on the left. I don't recall the same phenomenon in England. Anyhow, after about an hour we found the area we thought the hotel shuttle bus should have been in but we couldn't figure out exactly where it should depart. Without much of a clue we decided to walk to the hotel, pulling our luggage, since it wasn't too far away. But like the train station, the Shinjuku area is rather chopped up and finding our way was confusing. I used the Park Hyatt Hotel, from "Lost in Translation," as my landmark and we worked our way back to our hotel, the Shinjuku New City Hotel.


I should point out that I also used the ultra detailed "Tokyo City Atlas" I had with me. This book is an absolute must for anyone traveling to Tokyo. It kept us on the right path many times and helped us figure out the tangled mess of train and subway routes in Tokyo. There are several train and subway companies that tend to serve similar purposes in Tokyo. It's a big mix that we eventually got a handle on. But the atlas was an essential tool with all of the street and train maps you'll need.


At this point I'll mention a great all around website about Japan and Japanese travel called Japan Guide. For train schedules, visit both the Jourdan site and the Hyperdia. They are both 100% accurate. See the links below.






We arrived at the hotel tired and sweaty. It was hot and humid in Tokyo that day as it was most of our trip. Checking in the hotel intimidated me a bit but the staff spoke enough English that things worked out. This hotel was actually the one with the least impressive staff as the other hotel staffs spoke much better English and were more helpful than the Shinjuku New City Hotel staff. They weren't bad but standards for service in Japan are very high. We did have a problem as they did not have two beds in our room. They were able to correct the problem but I was wondering if I made this mistake with every hotel. It turns out that I must have booked the correct room type for the rest of the trip and this problem was the hotel's mistake. All reservations were made (and prepaid) on asiarooms.com. This hotel wasn't our first choice but since the Shinjuku Washington Hotel was not available the New City was suggested to us as an alternative.


While this hotel was probably my least favorite of the trip, it was clean and had the basics we needed. A hotel of this caliber in New York City would cost at least double what we paid in Tokyo. All rooms we had in Japan were small as we expected but they all had mini fridges which was a nice bonus. The bathrooms were very small and more primitive than we were used to except for the toilets which had all kind of controls. We always had slippers and robes in our rooms which we really didn't need for our western style lodging needs. Most hotels had Internet access via stations in the lobby or access in the rooms. The room phones were to hard to figure out with my phone card but I eventually figured out how to use my phone card on the pay phones. Beverage vending machines were always plentiful in the hotels as well as everywhere in Japan.


After settling into the hotel I knew that I was in no condition to attempt to get out to La Qua that night to get some riding in. But we did manage to take the hotel shuttle bus back to Shinjuku station to look for some food and check out the area. We found out our mistake with the shuttle bus pickup area. It was on a lower level that we didn't even see. But we took note that we had to pick up the shuttle on the corner opposite of the big neon Subaru sign. We proceeded to an incredibly lit up gaming area of Shinjuku. We had trouble picking a place out to eat as we wanted picture menus and a welcoming restaurant. We peeked into one place and a passer by shook his head at us. Some places don't accept gaijin (foreigners) like us. But we did find a counter service place with Japanese food. We put money in a machine, pushed a button that matched the picture of the meal we wanted and got a ticket. We gave the ticket to the counter guy and our food came out shortly. That was easy enough. Not the highest quality food but it was a good first taste of Japan.


Food choices were a bit tough on the trip. While I found enough things I liked to eat in Japan, Greg is diabetic and has a wheat allergy so he had to choose first. Then I had to agree with the choice or try again. I typically wanted food with bread or noodles in the dish so that was a challenge. Many restaurants had picture menus or plastic food along with people who could make out enough English to help us out. We knew some key words and phrases in Japanese so it was a mutual effort.


After eating and looking around Shinjuku briefly, we picked up the hotel shuttle and headed back. We needed some rest for what was the craziest schedule of the trip on Sunday.


Sunday, Aug 21 - Toshimaen, Hanayashiki, La Qua and Sega Joypolis


Luckily we were able to wake up early without being sleepy. Getting adjusted to the time in Tokyo wasn't too hard since it was so far away from home it was almost like skipping a day. I wasn't feeling all that great but I realized it was probably due to caffeine withdrawal as I had avoided it on the plane. After arriving in Japan I didn't find any Diet Coke in the vending machines. So I found some cold coffee in the vending machine and caffeinated myself. I got used to the canned coffee and in this case it got me feeling good for the day. Luckily we found that the convenience stores, which were everywhere, had our treasured Diet Coke and along the way we found the occasional vending machine with diet cola.


We picked up the hotel shuttle and headed over to Shinjuku station. We scoped out some storage lockers for later in the trip and found a nice little bakery which had breakfast food for both of us. It was hard to find a place to actually eat our food as seats in train stations are limited to the train platforms for the most part. Even tougher was finding somewhere to throw our trash away. While Japan is nearly litter free, there are very few garbage cans. I can't quite figure it out. Bathrooms don't even had garbage cans. You're lucky if you find hand soap, towels or dryers in bathrooms. Luckily parks tended to have a few more garbage and recycling cans than out on the streets or in the train stations but that was sometimes inconvenient for us.


Today we'd mostly use the Toei subway line. We bought a Toei/Tokyo Subway day pass and saved some money on our travels. We had four stops on our itinerary. They were Toshimaen, Hanayashiki, La Qua and Sega Joypolis. After Sega Joypolis closed due to the skydiving simulator accident, I added Toshimaen since I heard it was a nice little park. But Sega Joypolis reopened just before our trip and we felt we should try to get there. So we thought we'd have just enough time to do everything in one day. Most parks in Japan close fairly early but La Qua, Sega Joypolis and Disney were open late so we took advantage of those parks in the evenings.


Toshimaen was very close to the Toei subway station. We could tell early on that the park was a nicely wooded park despite its location in Tokyo. I'd call this park the Kennywood of Japan. It just had a certain feel and look. Having a Swing Around and a Flying Carpet didn't hurt the comparison along with a shuttle loop in honor of the old Laser Loop. Strangely, most parks in Japan seemed to have Flying Carpet and/or Swing Around rides.


We had some confusion buying our free pass (ride all day) since the rides were the same price as the water park and there was no English on the sign. I had a price written down on my notes but in this case it didn't help. It turns out we bought the wrong pass as we were denied access to Cyclone coaster. I did notice while in line that our pass looked different than the others. Luckily, inside the park was another ticket booth where they kindly helped us change our pass type. We had to pay another 400 yen ($4) for some reason (possibly a combo pass price) but we were glad that was all we had to pay at that point. The pass was a paper ticket at this park and not a wristband so we had to be careful not to lose it.


We headed back to the Cyclone coaster and found a long line. The nearby Corkscrew had just opened with no line so we rode it first. It was a standard Arrow corkscrew with Drachen Fire style trains. The ride was typical and not too rough for the style of coaster.


Next up was the Cyclone. This is a 1965 Togo steel family style coaster. It looks a lot like the sooperdooperLooper at HP with its blue steel structure but it doesn't have a loop. It has log style cars (popular in Japan for some reason) with velvet seats and only a seatbelt for a restraint. It was mostly a scenic ride but the unexpected tunneled helix was a nice surprise. I would have loved to have ridden it again but due to limited time, one train operation and a long line we could only ride the coaster one time. Most coasters in Japan only ran one train and often times we only had enough time to ride each coaster once. Most of the time the operators were efficient as possible but with one train and certain procedures, like having storage lockers or wiping off the seats, caused slow operations on most coasters in Japan.


The Shuttle Loop wasn't open yet (it was scheduled to open at 12 noon we later discovered) so we rode a few other rides. We rode the Mystery Zone dark ride and walked through the Ghost Residence. I can't recall many details of the dark attractions in Japan because we did so many of them and they were mostly unspectacular. But I did like the Japanese themes found in most of them. I think the only flat ride we rode was the Huss Magic. It was OK but certainly not running at German fair speed. We were impressed by the dual giant pirate ship rides but we skipped them because we knew we'd probably have time to ride it at Nagashima Spaland. Strangely, the park did not have a Ferris wheel as almost every other park had one. The Japanese love them as they don't kiss in public but they are allowed to kiss on Ferris wheels from what I've been told. We saw so many random Ferris wheels all over Japan it was hard to believe. They're almost as numerous as the netted driving ranges that are everywhere in Japan and extremely popular. Also plentiful all over Japan are pachinko parlors.


The Shuttle Loop eventually opened at noon. It has a strange partial covering over the loop. This was a flywheel model and a very good one at that. It would be right behind Monte at Knott's in my estimation. After some lunch and video/picture taking, we were off to Hanayashiki.


Hanayashiki is in the Asakusa area of Tokyo. It is very close to the famous Sensoji temple so we were able to check out that area after our park visit. We probably should have walked through the area first as it was the best way to get to the park but we took a more round about way, having trouble actually getting into the park. The park and its Bee Tower were visible but we had to walk all around the park to get in. It wasn't the best area of Tokyo but with crime not being much of a concern it didn't matter much. When we passed by the Sensoji marketplace area, we actually ran into some college students looking to show English speaking people around the area. We had to decline since we mostly wanted to get to Hanayashiki and that wasn't part of their agenda either. But it was an interesting encounter.


While Hanayashiki has the oldest existing steel coaster in the world, the Bee Tower circle swing ride caught our attention. Unfortunately we looked to ride it after getting our coaster credit but it had just gone down and by the time we had to leave it was still down. That was definitely a disappointment but I was able to see it run and get some video of it. But the Roller Coaster was well worth it. I thought it would be more of a kiddie coaster but it encircles the entire park. It's more of a family coaster with cool NAD looking cars. It's a fun ride with a surprising tunnel near the end.


The entire park is very compact and layered with an Arabian theme. Despite the stacked nature of the park it has a nice Japanese garden in the middle. We only bought a couple books of tickets so we were only able to ride a few things. Since the Bee Tower was down we opted to ride the dark ride. It was weird in that it went through a tarp covered area. I recall a funny scene with 70s music. We skipped the Star ride which is like a powered Looper ride. A little too much spinning for weary travelers.


On the way back to the train station we passed through the Sensoji temple area. It was overrun with tourists and was a bit worn out with more fair style booths set up all around than I would have expected for a temple. Greg stopped for some steak on a stick at one of the booths. But the temple buildings were very cool to see even if we were just passing by.


We took the Toei line over to the Tokyo Dome area so we could visit La Qua. The Yomiuri Giants, the New York Yankees of Japan baseball, were playing at game at the dome but that didn't impact us very much. We were able to get a discounted evening pass, this time an actual wristband that was scanned each time. Most parks in Japan had scanners for wristbands or tickets. The only problem is that they had some kind of date night promotion so it was a bit busy.


La Qua is visually impressive. It's right in the middle of large city buildings and next to the Tokyo Dome. Thunder Dolphin is an impressive structure and the entire area is nice and new looking. Our first stop in the park was in the older section of the park to ride Geo Panic indoor coaster. My memory of the indoor coasters is a bit jumbled but I recall this ride having some surprising dips but being rough. It was a Togo after all.


Nearby was Linear Gale, the original Intamin impulse coaster. We had some trouble actually getting to the entrance. Again, it was a case of something being easily visible but hard to get to. The launch is humorously slow but the straight spikes are very fun. In all I really enjoyed the ride despite the weak launch. To round out the credits on the older side of the park we rode Spinning Coaster Maihime under the pavilion cover. It's an earlier generation Maurer Sohne spinning mouse. I can see why they changed to the banked curves because it was a somewhat brutal ride.


Our last ride was on Thunder Dolphin. We figured we'd wait until after it was dark to ride (it gets dark at 6:30 PM in Japan). Unfortunately the line was about 50 minutes long. They ran two trains but since you had to empty out your pockets and use the storage bins, dispatches took a long time. Before dispatch the operators make this diving dolphin motion which is pretty funny.


I had low expectations for this ride but I was actually pleasantly surprised by it. No, it doesn't have much airtime but it's not all bad. The first drop is solid and it does have one nice floater hill. But the curves are very powerful and the views are great. The only weird thing is that there is a slow, tame trick track at the end of the ride before a large drop directly into the brakes. This ride could have been so much more. But overall I thought it was a mostly fun ride.


Unfortunately we didn't have time to ride the Big O Ferris wheel to get some shots of Thunder Dolphin and La Qua. We had to get going to Sega Joypolis but first we needed to stop for some food. It just happened that McDonald's was the place we ran into. It was familiar and quick but ordering wasn't exactly easier than other places. They have value meals but you still have to specify everything that you want. I said I wanted a #5 and they initially rang up five double cheeseburgers with no fries or drink. Yet another learning experience for me.


Sega Joypolis is located in Daiba which is an island in Tokyo Bay. To get there we had to use the Yurikamome elevated train which allowed some great sightseeing even at night. We saw the central Tokyo skyline with the Tokyo Tower, an Eiffel Tower replica. We proceeded onto the Rainbow Bridge to see the cool skyline of Daiba including the Palette Town Ferris wheel with its modern light pattern.


Sega Joypolis is an interesting facility with many simulators and arcade games. The coaster is the unique Speed Boarder sideways coaster. It has a slight connection to surfing. The cars run sideways but it spins at certain points. At one point it goes into a glass enclosed area where people on the outside boardwalk can watch you ride by. It was an interesting ride but a bit rough. We made it onto the coaster just after 9 PM. The facility closed at 10 PM. It was a busy day but we managed to get all of the parks and coasters in.

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WOW! That was one hell of a trip report! Thanks Tim! I really hope this does not get overlooked due to the lack of Photos. Everyone....




I'm glad you guys liked Thunder Dolphin. What you described is pretty much how I felt too, other than we went into with with really high expectations.


And as far as food goes....ah, McDonalds triumphs yet again!!!


Also good to see you made use of our guides and got to FOUR parks in one day! WOW!!! If you do it right some of the Japan parks are small enough where you can get everything done in a short amount of time and not feel like you are missing anything.


Please keep posting your TRs, this is really good reading!!!


--Robb "This really helps if people are interested in a Japan trip!" Alvey

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TR: 2005 Japanese Coaster Tour


Part 2 of 5


Monday, Aug 22 - Tobu Zoo and Tokyo DisneySea


We had a full day of activity once again on Monday. We'd start with Tobu Zoo and end at Tokyo DisneySea. We repeated our morning routine but this time we just used our JR pass to get on the JR Yamanote Line. This is the big commuter loop in Tokyo and it is always busy. Luckily Tokyo seems to wake up later than American cities so our ride in the morning wasn't too congested. But during the peak times it can be very packed and at some stations they do use pushers to push people into the trains. That is not a myth as we viewed this firsthand one evening at Shinjuku although we never experienced it.


Train pushers:




We connected to the JR Joban Line to get to Kita-Senju and the Tobu Isesaki Line. We had to get a ticket for this line but we found no English at the regular ticket machines. I knew how much the fare was supposed to be and the one, more automated machine that did have some English was dispensing tickets with reservations. The only problem is that the express trains were only every hour and we had just missed one. We noticed once in the fare zone that there was a local train coming so we jumped on that and figured we could work things out at the other end. The local took a long time and we realized we could have taken a slightly later rapid train to skip some stations. The rapid trains aren't as fast as the express trains though. Anyhow, once we got to the next station we showed our pass to the guard who didn't speak any English. He was confused that we arrived so early compared to the time on the reserved ticket we had. I was just trying to show him that we paid for reserved express and just took the earlier local. I then held out some money in case they wanted a fare adjustment and they didn't take it. Eventually I just pointed out and he let us go. That was the only real ticketing mistake we made on the trip. We learned that we just need to go by fares on the simpler machines to get tickets. Also, to confirm the fares and destination we sometimes would need to match the Japanese script to our location. Luckily I had some of the Japanese script in my documentation and in the Tokyo city atlas to help us. In most cases the stations had the English name somewhere, especially on the platforms, but not always.


To backtrack a bit, on the train platform there is a cool sign for the Regina coaster with a woman's figure turning into coaster track. The picture is on RCDB. We could see the Tobu Zoo Ferris wheel from the train station. As we did in many cases, we just followed people out of the station to get us going in the right direction. Along the way we found a vending machine with the only Diet Pepsi we saw in Japan. I mention it because any Pepsi products are very rare in Japan (including convenience stores) and in all other cases the closest we could find was Diet Pepsi Twist.


Tobu Zoo, like almost all Japanese amusement parks, had a rather expensive free pass. Parks generally cost between 3800 - 5200 yen which is $38 - $52. You can choose to just buy admission to the parks but a ride on a coaster will cost you $6 to $10 so the free pass is still a better deal even at around $45 on average. Strangely, food and drink prices in the parks were about what they were outside the park.


Tobu Zoo wasn't very busy. It's far enough away from Tokyo to be a big facility with a zoo and amusement area. It has a nice, natural setting with trees and water. But our main interest was the amusement facility. We walked by Regina to get to the Crazy Mouse thinking it made the most sense to get that ride in first. It was a good move as it went down for a long while after we rode it. A Togo looping mouse is scary thought but this ride was very smooth and enjoyable.


After taking care of the Crazy Mouse credit, we went over to Regina, the Intamin woodie. It's a pretty big ride located entirely over a lake. It was a decent woodie with some airtime along with some vibration that we didn't care for. It's pretty much a double out and back with a big helix in the middle. It was the first coaster in Japan we had time to ride more than once. We rode it five times.


Next we passed by the SBNO Mount Rocky Coaster. It has a permanent fence in front of the entrance though the trains are still on the track. I doubt it was much of a ride but I'm sure it would have been fun to ride for the uniqueness factor. Nearby was the Tentomushi ladybug coaster so we rode that for the credit.


In order to get some good photo views of the parks, we often rode the giant wheels at the parks. Tobu Zoo was no exception. These were often rather hot with a good deal of plexiglas but they often provided hand fans for us to use. The final non-coaster ride we rode was the G Max drop tower. It was average height but it was an excellent Intamin drop ride.


We left the park to head to Tokyo Disney Resort. We did much better with the Tobu-Isezaki Line as we bought regular tickets and caught a rapid train. Then we caught the JR Musashino Line to Maihama which is the Disney Gateway station. From there we had to buy tickets for the Disney monorail to get over to Disney Sea. Rather than buy $2 tickets we just bought a $5 day pass so we could avoid lines coming back at night. The Disney Monorail is cute with the Mickey windows and handles. DisneySea is essentially on the sea (the bay to be exact) but it had a real oceanfront feel.


We arrived at the DisneySea entrance around 5 PM. We were able to buy our 6 PM entry passes at that time. Security started lining up people about 25 minutes before the 6 PM entry time. It was perfectly orchestrated as you would expect from Disney. We were worried that we'd encounter some impossible lines in the park but we found in the brochure that the park had single rider lines for the new Raging Spirits coaster, Indiana Jones and 20,000 Leagues.


Upon entry into DisneySea, we were instantly impressed. It's like a Disney take on Islands of Adventure and thus it was extremely impressive. Entering for only 4 hours and in the dark mostly, we didn't get to see all of the park. But I think we saw the most impressive areas. Still, we conquered the parks major rides rather easily.


First up was the one month old Raging Sprits coaster. We used the single rider line to avoid a long wait. The park is designed with Fast Pass in mind so we got to see all of the theming using the alternate line. Raging Spirits is essentially a clone of the Indiana Jones coaster at Disneyland Paris, a coaster I have not ridden. I thought the theming was good but it is an outside ride so it is hardly immersive. After taking a ride I left thinking the ride itself wasn't much better than the mine themed Pinfari looper that Drayton Manor removed. It's a 12 year old ride taken off the shelf.


Next we checked out Indiana Jones since it had a single rider line. It worked like a charm and we were on in no time. I think it's pretty much like the one in California but I'm hardly a Disney expert. Next we got our credit on Flounder's Flying Fish Coaster. It seemed like something right out of Seuss Landing at IOA.


We then rode what was really the highlight of the park, Journey to the Center of the Earth. This ride seemed to use Test Track technology. It's a dark ride with some coaster like elements and it was very impressive. They didn't have a single rider line here but it was well worth the long wait. To round out our riding for the night, we took the single rider line to get on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I didn't really care for it as it faked being under water.


We had a nice dinner at the Horizon Bay buffeteria. In true ACEer fashion, we ended up waiting longer for food than we did for any single ride. But we were due for a good sit down meal. We made it out of the park with much problem and back onto our train to Shinjuku.


Tuesday, Aug 23 - Fuji-Q Highland


Tuesday was our excursion to Fuji-Q. I was a bit worried about how our transportation would work out. I initially thought we'd take the bus to the park but I had trouble with the Japanese reservation phone before I left on the trip. Arriving at Shinjuku I really didn't know where the bus office or platform was upon initial inspection so I went with my pre trip plan to just take the train to the park. That would give us more flexibility, would be cheaper and would bring us to the train station entrance to the park. The bus wouldn't make it to the park for the early 8 AM opening that time of year so we wouldn't lose anything by taking the train which would also arrive after 8 AM. We actually decided to take a slightly later train since it would allow us to get up at a more civilized hour.


At Shinjuku station we made reservations for the Super Azusa express train to Otsuki station. We could have gone without reservations but it made sense to get the free reservations even though we had a bit of a struggle communicating our needs to the guy at the reservation window. The Super Azusa was a very comfortable train to ride. The typical shinkansen trains (aside from the Rail Stars) were actually more cramped.


At Otsuki station we purchased our tickets for the Fuji Express train. I figured it may be a pretty nice train but it was actually an old, rural train line. We ran into an American traveler at the station, the only random American we really had a chance to talk to the entire trip. I also recall a very helpful Japanese woman who was excited to practice her English with us. As for the ride I really liked the mountainous scenery. We could see parts of Mt. Fuji despite the cloud cover. We didn't see much of the mountain at Fuji-Q Highland itself as the cloud cover was heavy at that point. We arrived at the Fujikyu-Highland station just after 9 AM and we had no lines to get in. But we had to take our free pass and get our picture taken on it. We saw some 100 yen clamp-on free pass holders which we bought. They had the park logo on them so they were a nice souvenir in a country where park souvenirs were extremely limited.


Fuji-Q is sometimes called the Magic Mountain of Japan. It may be as far as having a large number of rides and a mountainous location. But I don't think the operations were Magic Mountain like. It's more of a situation where they have Paramount low capacity coasters. I felt Fuji-Q had the best operators we ran into, especially on Dodonpa and Fujiyama. It's just that capacity is generally low there plus the major rides have lockers and don't allow loose articles. That takes time to deal with and slows down operations. The park itself is blacktopped and is probably best described as nicer version of PNE Playland as it did have some more portable buildings.


Our first stop was Dodonpa, the S&S launched coaster, since we wanted to try to avoid the line building up. We still had to wait almost an hour but that wasn't bad. Before lining up we got a locker to put all of our stuff in (and I do mean everything) since nothing at all is allowed on Dodonpa, even in zipped pockets. It turns out that the ride has lockers in the station and they give you a key to put around your wrist but it was probably still a good idea for us as we had a bunch of stuff on us.


Dodonpa is an incredible ride. I was very surprised that I liked it so much because it didn't seem to get too much positive hype. It is much more of a complete ride than Hypersonic, a ride that feels more like a one trick pony. Dodonpa was running three trains that were launching very regularly. Dodonpa has an outstanding launch that leads to a nice drop. The launch is more pleasant than Hypersonic but not quite as good as Top Thrill Dragster. After an effective drop, there is a huge curve into the top hat. We were assigned a back seat and even there we had a tremendous pop of air going up the top hat. Then we had a big pop of airtime going over the top. From there the track snakes back to the station. Dodonpa actually had a few souvenirs. Greg bought a shirt since they had his smaller size. I didn't take the other style shirt because I didn't like the design. Another shirt I did like didn't come in my size. I asked the clerk if they had large and she checked in back for me. She was scared to disappoint me with the news that they didn't have any. I laughed it off to try to calm her down but the Japanese don't like to disappoint people with an answer of no.


Next up was Fujiyama, the Togo hyper. We had to wait about 80 minutes for it but later in the day the line was down to 30 minutes. They had two trains running all day. Once again, I was very surprised by this ride based on the negative reviews I've read about it. It's not really about airtime although it does has some. It is very powerful, rough in some spots but it has an out of control ending. Instead of bunny hills, it has side to side hills that get crazier as you go. I was really stunned by the ending the first time. Most of it came from the fear of getting serious pain inflicted but it wasn't too harsh. It just felt very out of control. I think overall it was probably smoother than Magnum.


After gathering our stuff from the lockers, we were ready for lunch. We ate at a big sports themed food court with a boxing ring in the middle. One thing we started noticing is that you could get free water at a station in most of these type of food courts at parks. It's much like situation at the Parkside Cafe at Kennywood.


The next coaster we rode was the Mad Mouse. The manufacturer is unknown and it has a unique layout. Its cars only hold two people but they dispatched trains as fast as possible as the previous train cleared the lift. It was a good mouse style coaster. Nearby is the Zola 7 indoor coaster from Togo. It had a shooting game associated with it. It pretty much starts out as a powered dark ride but ends with a gravity driven coaster section.


Our next credit was difficult. We waited it out for Fuwa Fuwa Osora No Dai-Bouken, the suspended hamster themed coaster. This is actually inverted as the car is rigid. It has super low capacity with cars almost as bad as batflyer cars. This ride was originally called Birdmen and was a flying coaster until an accident shut it down. The result is a family coaster with a cartoon theme. On top of a long wait, it started raining lightly when we were about six cars away from loading. The ride shut down for 45 minutes or so. Strangely Dodonpa and Fujiyama never shut down. But eventually the rain cleared long enough for us to get on. I think overall we waited at least an hour and a half. It was an OK family ride but it was certainly unique.


We had one more credit to get. It was Rock 'N' Roll Duncan, a Thomas the Tank Engine themed kiddie coaster located in Thomas Land. Thomas Land was much nicer than the rest of the park. The coaster itself is very short with a small lift. The wait was minimal.


We didn't ride any flat rides aside from the Ferris wheel as we didn't have time. The giant pendulum ride looked cool but we knew we'd probably get on one at Nagashima Spaland. Instead we opted to ride Fujiyama one more time since the wait was only 30 minutes. We scored a front seat ride by chance due to the front to back loading. Before anyone asks, we didn't do the haunted hospital despite all of the rave reviews. We simply didn't have time and we knew that going in. I hear its a bit extreme and I'm a bit phobic about those type of haunted walk thrus anyway.


We caught the Fuji Express back to Otsuki. Since we wanted an open schedule for the day we didn't have reservations for the train back to Shinjuku. We checked at the station but they were out of reservations so we'd have to check out the non-reserved section. I'm not sure we completely knew which cars to check but I know we went through the smoking car which was unbelievably nasty. We haven't seen anything like this in America for decades. We ended up standing in the exit area between the trains for the journey which wasn't too bad. It sounds worse than it actually was. I'm pretty sure we just headed back to the hotel for the night after arriving at Shinjuku station.

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Awesomely detailed TRs so far, Tim! You're really making me want to go to DisneySea and Fuji-Q, not to mention La Qua. I can't wait until I go in 2007. Hopefully Greg can finish the photos soon, I've seen them and they look great! Keep the trip reports coming, dude.

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Glad to hear you guys got on everything at Fuji-Q. I wonder if there is ever a time where that park doesn't have hour long waits for EVERYTHING! Keep in mind we were there mid-week after school season had started and we STILL waited an hour for most rides and 90 minutes for DoDonpa.


It was a nice, but frustrating park. Parts of it reminded me Magic Mountain, parts of it reminded me of Legoland. I just wish they had better operations to move people through the line quicker. That Fujiyama line seemed to take FOREVER even with three trains!


Anyway, looking forward to part 3!



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TR: 2005 Japanese Coaster Tour


Part 3 of 5


Wednesday, Aug 24 - Tokyo Summerland, Yomiuriland and travel to Nagoya


Wednesday morning we had to check out of the Shinjuku New City Hotel. Luckily the shuttle was running at the time of our departure in the morning since it was more convenient to leave our luggage in lockers at the station before leaving later in the day for Nagoya. We realized a probable logistical problem with us trying to use the crowded JR Chuo Line around rush hour to get to Tokyo station where we would catch our shinkansen train. That simply wasn't an option. Luckily we realized that would could simply make a reservation for the Narita Express and just get off at the first stop. We told the reservation guy that we only wanted to go to Tokyo station but he booked us for Narita airport anyway. No problem. But this move would work out very well for us later in the day.


After making reservations for the afternoon, we were off to Tokyo Summerland. I added this park late in the game since I thought it made sense to get as many major Tokyo coasters as possible and I thought it wouldn't hamper our efforts to get to Yomiuriland later. We had the option of taking two trains and a 30 minute bus ride or three trains and a 5 minute bus ride. We opted for the longer bus ride. We made it to Hachioji station and a fairly large bus station. We found platform #6 that we were looking for but we had no idea which bus was going to Summerland. There was no English to help us. Eventually a bus worker assisted us. That was a huge relief as we were pretty much stuck, clueless and 30 minutes away from the park. After we knew what bus we'd want to get on, we looked up the Japanese script with the park name and we were able to identify it on the electronic bus sign. That was a nice double check for us. But then we were confused by the bus. I knew that there is a rather intimidating yet efficient system on Japanese buses. You are supposed to take a ticket when entering in the center of the bus. When your stop comes you check the fare on a board in the bus that matched your ticket number. You get change from the machine at the front and drop the exact fare into the box. I knew about all of this but a ticket didn't pop out and I was confused. It turns out the bus was a direct shuttle to the park with a set fare. So once we settled down on the bus we knew we were in good shape to get there. We just hoped we'd easily be able to get back.


It was raining a bit when we arrived at the park. We went up to the parking lot to see if anything was running and we could tell that the coasters were running. This was important as the park is expensive due to the inclusive waterpark price we had to pay. We didn't want to pay over $50 for nothing. The waterpark is pretty impressive. Half of it is in a huge indoor building. It even had a dark ride in there. The rest is a typical outdoor waterpark. These waterparks are much more popular than the actual ride parks and with the hot conditions we faced I can definitely understand it.


Our first stop was the Hayabusa Arrow suspended coaster. It looked pretty good and riding it proved that it was indeed a solid ride. It was on par with Top Gun at PKI and was smoother with possibly a better first drop. The ride ops wiped off all of the seats after every ride which slowed things down. The first several cars were closed, probably due to the rain. I think we rode in the back car the first ride. We decided it was worth riding a second time, especially with the high price we paid to get in.


Nearby was the Tornado which is like the former Whirlwind at Knoebels but they replaced one corkscrew with a loop. I think this is the same model as TusenFryd. Luckily it was more enjoyable than Whirlwind was although that isn't saying much.


I would have liked to have tried the giant wheel but we didn't have time. The park also had a ride that looked like a Music Express called Love Express. I didn't get the name until a caterpillar cover went over the ride.


We figured out where we wanted to wait for the bus back to the station. We got to the point where we decided we'd take the bus to either station, whatever bus came first. After about 10 minutes we noticed taxis dropping people off so we investigated what it would take to get to the Akigawa train station 5 minutes away. Luckily it was pretty cheap for the two of us so we jumped in. This train station was much smaller and my guess is that finding the bus may have been it bit easier. Either way getting a taxi from Akigawa would be a good option to get to Summerland. That said, we found out later in the day via e-mail that there had been an accident on Hayabusa where a support cable turnbuckle snapped. The ride has been closed every since. The way the Japanese are who knows if the ride will ever reopen. We must have ridden the coaster just hours before the accident happened. I caught some video of the accident scene on Japanese news the next morning. What an odd situation for us.


Back to our travels, since we were traveling from Akigawa JR station we'd have to transfer to the Keio line at Inadazutsumi to get to Yomiuriland. It's only one stop and we could see the park but the stations at Inadazutsumi are not next to each other. We were a bit lost so we went back to the JR station for directions. From Inadazutsumi station we had to cross the tracks, make a right at the first road and walk a few blocks to the Keio station. Had we come from Hachioji station we wouldn't have had to do this. Luckily from Keio-Yomiuri-Land station it was obvious how to get to the gondola to the park.


We had to get a ticket for the gondola which is quite a scenic ride to get to the hilltop park. The park offers some great views of the impressive Tokyo skyline which seems to go on forever with all of the city centers. Yomiuriland appears to have some connection to the Yomiuri Giants as they have a good deal of merchandise for the team in the park.


The first coaster and what I'd call the centerpiece ride of the park was the Togo built Bandit. It's pretty much a mini-hyper. The trains have horsecollars for some reason even though it lacks inversions. When we lined up we were confused by the split lines. We got in the line that was moving and got on right away. With front loading we luckily ended up near the back. This coaster is pretty decent. One moment of memorable airtime but its a bigger ride with some power. It has a strong helix and it uses the terrain very nicely. It would probably be a fan favorite if it didn't have horsecollars.


Near the end of the ride we spotted a samurai who jumped out on a platform behind the walk thru. It was kind of strange. Later I observed the same guy getting a big hose and squirting a train. What was that all about! We then found the sign for the wet rides and that was what the other line was for. Every third train was the wet ride. It actually starts with an area where people can pay to squirt riders and it concludes with the samurai squirting you at the end. It was right out of a Japanese game show.


Next we rode the very scenic SL Coaster. On my list I had SL Coaster and also a Standing & Loop Coaster listed. Greg only had one coaster and he thought they were the same thing but there were actually two coasters that were significantly different. In the case of the SL Coaster, the SL undoubtedly stands for steam locomotive. The coaster was scenic, thrilling and weird all in one. It starts with a big drop down the valley to the lake. It then stops before going around the lake with some good force. It then goes up a long, slow lift hill for a swoop around the station.


Nearby was a Japanese themed walk thru that we went through. It had some live actors who didn't do much more than scream to scare you. It was pretty cool.


I found out about the next coaster shortly before we left on our trip. It was a new family coaster called the Bowwow Coaster. I don't know the manufacturer is but it was themed to the park mascot, Land Dog. It also had a bubble blower near the lift hill for a fun touch.


Next up we rode the Standing & Loop Coaster, a Togo product. It's a tamer version of the standing Togo coasters most are familiar with. But the gimmick is that it switched between running a sit down and standing train. We opted for the sitting side first. We sat down and our train was slid over to the running track position. As I mentioned, it was tamer than they usual Togo stand ups. This was definitely noticeable on the stand up side. But it was fun and fairly smooth.


Our last credit was White Canyon, a wooden coaster from John Pierce. I was nervous about this ride. It just looks nasty and all beat up. The Morgan trains have roll bars to keep people safe from the tight clearances. The station is quite ghetto with tarnished US and California flags and tacky Christmas lights inside. We rode off the wheels and the ride wasn't too rough to our surprise. But it still wasn't a quality ride as it didn't do much. I'll probably rank it right behind the coffin car version of Texas Cyclone. I only have on ride on the Texas Cyclone, coffin car version.


On the way to the big wheel I spotted the Dragon ride which was much like a tumble bug ride but rather than sit in a circle you sit facing forward. I forgot this park had the ride so we jumped on. It was fun. Afterwards we rode the Ferris wheel. After that I think we rode the jungle themed dark ride (park website says House of Terror). The best feature is when the car stopped at the volcano scene and started shaking. That was funny. Before leaving we rode the Bandit one more time before catching the gondola back down to the train station.


We had to get back to Shinjuku to pick up our luggage and catch the Narita Express to get over to Tokyo station. That worked out very well. The station and train platforms were quite crowded. It was strange to sit down in our reserved car while having people crowded right outside. I had a great view of a security guard stopping people from getting on a Yamanote Line train and then proceeding to push the rest of the people in so the doors would close. I tried to video tape it later but my view wasn't as good as it was the first view.


We arrived at Tokyo station with a good deal of time to kill before our shinkansen train left for Nagoya. Tokyo station is busy but not as confusing as Shinjuku. But it does have some extremely long walking distances between some of the major lines. We decided we should get some food at the station before our train left. In the main hallway we were in there were plenty of places selling food and only a few places to sit down and eat. With our luggage we needed takeout but without any benches or waiting areas, we simply sat down behind a big pillar near an elevator and ate our dinner on the station floor. That was quite a memorable experience as thousands of people were walking around us. We managed not to do that again but it was funny to do once. Most people pick up food and eat in the reserved train cars but we had luggage so carrying dinner along wasn't exactly convenient for us.


The time came for us to go up to the platform and wait for our shinkansen train. The fastest shinkansen are called Nozomi. They were not covered by our rail pass so we had to opt for the slightly slower and more stops of the Hikari. There is an even slower shinkansen with more stops called Kodoma which we didn't use. Regardless of the train, all of them are extremely fast when running between stations once you get outside of the cities. They don't have much luggage room for big bags like the Narita Express. The best trick is to place your bag behind the last row of seats or find some face to face seats since they create a little cubby hole. My luggage was lighter and it easily fit in the overhead bins.


The journey to Nagoya took two hours. We sat back and enjoyed the ride although it was already dark. They don't have daylight savings in Japan and it gets dark by 6:30 PM which still seems pretty early for summer. It was a nice place to kick back, have a beer and listen to the MP3 player or work on the laptop.


Upon arrival in Nagoya we had to take the city subway to our hotel. I was surprised by how busy the subway was at 10 PM. We had looked into closer and cheaper hotels but they were all booked, most likely due to the 2005 Expo nearby. We settled for a hotel in the Sakae area. That was a good tourist area to be in with the Nagoya TV tower nearby. Our hotel was expensive but the APA Nagoya Nishiki Hotel was easily the best hotel of the trip. It was awesome and had great amenities including free Internet access for Greg's laptop and CNNJ on TV.


Thursday, Aug 25 - Typhoon dodging day in Nagoya


Thursday morning I happened to turn on the TV. Back in Tokyo I never really bothered to turn on the TV much. What I saw was typhoon coverage on the Japanese news channels. The first projection I saw was that the eye was to hit somewhere between Osaka and Nagoya around 3 PM. I thought we'd have a chance to get to Nagashima Spaland but I wasn't sure we'd be able to get back and I didn't know what to expect in facing a typhoon. We decided to skip visiting a park on this day and stay within Nagoya. That didn't mean we wouldn't get to visit Nagashima Spaland as I scheduled it first in case something happened so I could move it to the next day. Parque Espana had to be sacrificed as it would have been visited on Friday. As nice as that park is with a unique B&M, it barely made our cut anyway due to location and not having a wood coaster. We actually checked with the JR people and Nagoya tourist info booth to get more of an idea of what to expect. The only idea we really got is the look on the Nagoya tourist reps face when we told her our planned travel route for the day. That was enough of a warning for us.


If it was any other park we'd have had a realistic chance of making a quick visit. But Parque Espana was 2 hours away from Nagoya and further from our other destinations. I couldn't even begin to think of a reasonable plan to get that park in without us really going crazy and not enjoying other parks. Our time was limited to begin with at most parks. It turns out that the typhoon landing took longer than expected and it hit much farther east towards Tokyo than initially projected. We never saw a raindrop in Nagoya but I'll take it. We were just lucky we got to Nagoya the night before since we saw the shinkansen shut down in Tokyo from the severe rain. The good thing is that clear weather follows a typhoon.


So what to do in Nagoya. First, we rode the futuristic random Ferris wheel at the shopping area near our hotel. It was sufficient enough for sightseeing that we didn't need to go up into the Nagoya TV tower although we did go to the park it was located in afterwards. After some lunch and a stop at our hotel in hopes to find a nearby coin laundry (no luck), we decided to head to Nagoya Castle. We walked there but being so hot we did ride the subway back.


I honestly don't know all of the details of the Nagoya Castle history but it was an accurate rebuild of the original castle which was destroyed in WWII. Inside now is a modern museum with an observation are on top. The castle is inside a walled fortress along with some other buildings. Evidence of the honesty in Japan, Greg left his waist pack on a ledge for just a minute as we were leaving the observation area. He went back and it was gone but we assumed that someone actually turned it in that quickly rather than it being stolen. In the US it probably would have just sat there so it was a safe inconvenience. At the front gate Greg was able to contact security and sure enough they had retrieved the bag.


The rest of the afternoon we hung out in the hotel room to sleep and watch some CNNJ. We decided to eat a nearby pub that had advertised in English in a city map we had. It was an education in Japanese restaurants as we had to figure out some of the procedures. But it worked and we had a good meal with some sake. Our biggest confusion was the two receipts we had. The one looked to make sense but the other made no sense. We thought they somehow separated the bills so we tried to pay individually. When I tried to pay they were confused and just gave me change for my bill. It was funny but luckily the meal ended up being the reasonable price we expected. After that we checked in early in anticipation on a long day on Friday.


Friday, Aug 26 - Nagashima Spaland and travel to Kokura


As I mentioned before, Parque Espana had to be sacrificed in order to get to Nagashima Spaland. We were moving south to Kokura that evening so we had to take our luggage to Nagoya station to luggage lockers. It was a bit difficult to get on the subway in the morning with our luggage but things worked out. We ended up on the local train to Kuwana station where we'd catch a bus to Nagashima Spaland. This time the bus was much more obvious and it did have a more traditional fare/ticket system. On the way to the park, even on the train, the structure of Steel Dragon was visible for many miles. It was imposing. Speaking of Steel Dragon, a Navy guy in Japan that Greg was in contact with had his Japanese wife translate the big sign in front of the ride. It gives hope that the ride will eventually reopen one of these years. He believed it was due to a contract with Morgan and after the contract was up Steel Dragon would reopen with new trains from another company. We'll see.


Nagashima Spaland had a very nice looking entry way which was shared by the huge waterpark. This park was definitely the Cedar Point of Japan. It has a large coaster collection and it has trash cans everywhere inside the park which was very strange for Japan. The park was well kept if not having a bit too much concrete and it had several rides comparable to Cedar Point rides.


Upon entry we looked in the gift shop for the famous Engrish coaster shirts. We found them but they were all children's sizes. But Greg found one medium White Cyclone shirt. It wouldn't fit me right so it was all his.


The rides in the park didn't open until 10 AM although the park opened at 9 AM. It worked out that most people went to White Cyclone first which was OK because the line was along a wall people sat on. While waiting we got to listen to karaoke style 80s music. In true Cedar Point style, the queue was opened and we were led through a bunch of switchbacks. The coaster did open with two trains but it later went down to one so it had a fairly long line all day. One bonus is that they let us take whatever seat was open at this park. We rode in the back on White Cyclone which was probably not a smart choice.


White Cyclone is probably slightly better than Mean Streak but it shakes the entire ride. Despite being an Intamin ride it did run PTC trains. But overall I don't remember much other than the shaking of the trains. It was much like Mean Streak.


Next up was the Ultra Twister. It was pretty much layout as the installation at AstroWorld aside from not having a moving walkway and having a 90 degree lift hill. Since it was nearby we rode the Arrow Corkscrew. It was a basic corkscrew and it wasn't too nasty. Down the midway we road is the Children Coaster (without an 's) which is a larger Tivoli coaster.


On the other side of the park we rode the Togo built Jet Coaster. This was a fun family ride that pretty much acted as the mine train for the park. Next in line was the Schwarzkopf flywheel Shuttle Loop. Unfortunately it was pretty weak compared to the Toshimaen installation. From there we rode the excellent Schwarzkopf Looping Star. While its a standard configuration it was still be best coaster in the park by a long shot and one of the better coasters in Japan. Our final credit was the Mack Wild Mouse. They actually have two mirror image mice but only the right track was open. I was OK with that since I'd only count it as one attraction anyway. It was a typically good Mack mouse and at least we got to ride the right track which is a mirror image of the typical Mack mouse layout.


We got through the coasters fairly quickly but this was one of the hottest, sunniest and most humid days we hit. Still we wanted to take advantage of our time and get in some flat rides. We rode the hot Ferris wheel to get some photos and video. More interesting was my first ride on an Intamin giant frisbee ride. I haven't been to CP this year and the one at PKI was down. It was quite a thrilling ride. Good stuff. We also finally got to try the giant pirate ship ride. It felt huge although the forces weren't quite powerful enough to produce any airtime.


We were pretty fried from our visit. I did pick up a White Cyclone mug as we left so I could have some kind of souvenir from the trip. We had no trouble finding the bus back to Kuwana station. We caught the train back to Nagoya to pick up our luggage. At Nagoya station we had some time to kill so we hung out at a bakery place for a while. Then we found a food area where we picked up some early dinner since it would be late by the time we got to Kokura for the night.


Our first shinkansen ride of the night was from Nagoya to Shin-Osaka and it took one hour. We had about an hour layover in Osaka until the next shinkansen to Kokura, which is the gateway city of the southern island of Kyushu. The second train was a very nice Rail Star train and the journey took two and a half hours.


We arrived at Kokura at 10:30 PM. Looking at the city monorail from the station we estimated our hotel wasn't too far and we could walk. Walking to the hotel proved interesting as the city was full of drunks even at that fairly early hour. The town had a nice look to it but had a slight seedy feel to it although in Japan things are very safe. We were staying at the Kokura Tokyu Inn. The staff was very friendly and the room was pretty good. The best thing about the hotel was the coin laundry which would save us a lot of hassle of washing clothes in the sink. It even had free soap powder.

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TR: 2005 Japanese Coaster Tour


Part 4 of 5


Saturday, Aug 27 - Wonder Rakutenchi and Kijima


Saturday we headed for a couple less commonly visited parks. I don't know why that is the case because they aren't far from the train lines but I guess being four hours from Osaka by train makes a difference. All I knew is that I wasn't going to Japan and miss a wooden coaster as there are only six there.


From Kokura station we reserved a seat on the Sonic limited express train to Beppu. It was a pretty nice train and the ride took about an hour and a half. Beppu is a coastal resort city best known for hot springs. It has a mountainous backdrop so it is a very beautiful location. Kijima is located nearby but Wonder Rakutenchi is located on the mountainside inside the city. We arrived at Beppu station and had reports that there was a very helpful English speaking tourist booth nearby. We found it and everything was true about it. They gave us maps and bus details. Next door was a travel desk where we could even buy a combo bus and park pass for Kijima a little later on.


Since Wonder Rakutenchi was closer and would require a very breif visit, we went there first. I called this our first Lisa Scheinin park is it was small and kind of off of the beaten path. We took the #15 bus from the east side of the station right to the cableway. Our admission ticket included a round trip ride on the cableway and admission to the park. From there we were only going to ride the coaster using tickets. While on the cableway we could see the double Ferris wheel above the station at the top of the hill. Once we walked into the park there was a long suspension bridge that cost 100 yen to cross one way. We probably should have tried it but time wasn't on our side. We did stop to watch the duck race. There was a little course and a guy was taking bets from people on what duck would win. With PETA you'd never see this in the US.


The park had a colorful collection of rides, mostly family oriented. It was an old park but it was in decent shape. It also had a zoo. Great views of Beppu, the mountains and the coast could be enjoyed from many places in the park. But the highlight of the park was the Jet Coaster. It's a family ride but it is very scenic. This park was well worth checking out even for a very quick visit. We shortly headed to the cableway to wait for the next car down the mountain.


We weren't quite sure when the next bus would come around but it arrived just when we started wondering. It didn't take long to get back to the train and bus station. We picked up some fast food there (again, my ordering of fast food didn't quite work out the way I wanted) and waited for bus. This time we'd wait on the west side of the building for bus #36. Bus #37 would also do but it was less frequent. It was quite a bus ride. We wound our way up the city streets onto a mountain road, pretty much over the mountain. It was very scenic. There was a bus stop at a big gondola station. After about 40 minutes we were at Kijima.


Kijima has an outstanding backdrop of mountains. It's really one of the more spectacular park backdrops you'll find. Entering the park is a little village of shops. From there the layout is it bit odd but we worked our way down to the Super LS coaster, LS probably standing for loop screw but it was hardly a typical design. This is a Meisho coaster and the restraints were rather tight. It ran one train as we've come to expect. The coaster had a shiny green and blue color scheme. I thought it was a fun ride. Coming off of the lift there is a slight dip to a curve and a bigger ramp drop into the large vertical loop. This leads to the corkscrew inversions. The track then makes a big curve and threads the loop before heading to the station.


Next we headed down to the main attraction, the Jupiter Intamin wood coaster designed but Curtis Summers. Unfortunately the line was long due to only one of the three Intamin trains running. It was also sunny and hot. The line did have covered switchbacks but only one was being used and the line spilled out into the midway. The coaster looks really cool but in reality it's not very good. It's just too rough. Much like old Hercules, the best part may have been the approach to the lift. Old Curt was good with those at least. Aside from that the first part of the ride did have an interesting layout. It starts with a big swooping drop off the lift and goes into big helix before continuing into a more typical out and back layout.


Our next coaster was the Roller Skater. Yes, it's your basic Roller Skater. Nearby was the unique looking Gold Rush Adventure Coaster. This looked interesting but again, one train and one operator made for a slow line. I don't know who makes this ride but it had some of the pointiest hills I've ever encountered. If you think Magnum has triangular hills check out this ride. Even with minimal speed you get quite a jolt going over the points. Overall it was interesting and somewhat thrilling but also a bit rough. I did like the mountainous theming around the coaster.


We spotted a Huss Flipper style ride called the Super Bowl. I think I saw one of these back at Heide Park but didn't ride it so I wanted to try this one. It had a football theme. The ride was OK but it wasn't running very fast. From there we went to ride the Ferris wheel. One unusual feature of this wheel was the two exterior seats the ride had. The ride was mostly typical gondolas but it had two special seats you could wait longer for that were totally out in the open and facing sideways while you were strapped in. Interesting concept. We skipped the flying island observation ride due to the line.


We headed out to catch the bus back to Beppu. We went to the bus stop but right before the bus left Greg asked if this was the right bus. This bus still had one more stop to make before coming back for the return route so we had to get off. But the driver told us to pick up the bus on the "other side" whatever that meant. We ran around for 10 minutes and found nothing. We got back to the original bus stop and found the bus there. We ran to get on it. It was only around 5 PM but the buses stopped running around 6 PM despite the park closing later on. Once again the ride was very scenic. We arrived at the train station and asked for a reservation on the next Sonic limited express to Kokura. The next train was in about 3 minutes and Greg said he'd take them. Yikes! I was figuring we'd wait. So we ran up the steps as the train was pulling in the station. This train was extremely nice. Best train of the trip. The entry area looked like a cruise ship with hardwood floors and a lounge area. The seats were all leather and spacious. Thankfully it had a vending machine so I could get a drink as we didn't have time at the station.


We arrived back at Kokura somewhat early. We had trouble finding place to eat that would work out for us. Greg suggested an Indian restaurant because it had English on the sign. It was a great choice as the menus were in English and the staff was great. It was very enjoyable. We went back to the hotel and I believe I watched a baseball game on TV while Greg did some laundry.


Sunday, Aug 28 - Space World and travel to Osaka.


Sunday we were packing up and later moving to Osaka. That meant getting storage lockers at Kokura station before heading over to Space World. This park was our easiest commute of the trip. It was only a 12 minute ride to the park's own JR station.


The initial impression of Space World was very favorable. It looked very nice and clean from the outside. Inside it had a full space theme. I think it had some themed area names but they were all space related. While the park opened at 9 AM, the two major coasters didn't open until 10 AM. So we started to walk around the park to find the secondary coasters if you will. The park had somewhat of a Europa Park feel although it wasn't quite at that level. But was certainly very nice. We walked past the cool looking flume ride complete with a curving drop and an accompanying milder scenic boat ride. This lead us to the Space Dome which had a huge Star Wars display, arcade, movie or simulator of some sort and the Black Hole Scramble coaster. It was a bit hard to find the actual entrance but when we did it was a walk on. It's an enclosed coaster. My memory is faded on this one (too many indoor coasters) but I think this one was a decent ride.


Next we found a family coaster but I wasn't sure which one it was. I spotted the other coaster nearby so I knew we were about to ride the Boogie Woogie Space Coaster. Yes, that's really the name of this Senyo coaster. The ride starts with a crazy operator who gives you the hang loose sign as you depart the station. It's mostly a family ride with a few tunnels. It was pretty fun. Plus you can choose to ride forwards or backwards. The front half of the train is forwards and the back half is backwards. We tried both.


We then proceeded to ride the next coaster, the Clipper. It's a Togo kiddie with space shuttle cars. It looks much like a Roller Skater. They had a fun Japanese countdown before "blast off."


By this time we saw the Venus coaster operating so we went over to ride. This is the Schwarzkopf influenced Maurer Sohne looper with an exact replica of the space shuttle inside the structure. I was really looking forward to this ride. We had a complete choice of seats for the first time on the trip. We opted for the front seat. You could definitely feel some Schwarzkopf in this ride. It was a good, powerful ride but the newer accordion restraints were still a problem and caused head banging. We took a ride in the back seat and I didn't like the ride as much. The accordion ratcheted down and hurt my back. I wanted to like this ride so much but the restraints really hurt the ride despite the great layout.


Our last coaster was the Titan Arrow hyper. It has green Magnum trains without seatbelts, just lapbars. Our first ride was in the back and our second ride was in 1.3, Magnum's ejector seat. I was hoping this ride would perform as well but it really didn't. It starts with two Magnum style drops that were OK. Then it has a helix with a figure 8 element much like the butterfly on Anaconda at PKD. I was thinking you've got to be kidding me. There's stop on the brakes before this element and thus the rest of the ride is slow. They should have just put in a normal turnaround because the succeeding bunny hills couldn't perform at that speed. I think they had some Magnum potential if they had speed but that wasn't going to happen.


We had a pretty good lunch at the food court although we hit a crowd there. I actually took a picture of the plastic food out front to show to the cashier since it would have been a bit difficult otherwise. Hey, whatever works. We did a photo and video tour after lunch, stopping at the Ferris wheel. Strangely we ended up with a very decorated gondola. I don't know if it was for weddings or what. We had some time to kill so we took in an IMAX movie. It was some anime movie and I fell asleep for half of it. But hey, it was air conditioned so that was great. Some of the other attractions had long lines so we skipped them. We headed out a bit early despite having later train reservations.


Back at Kokura station we were able to change our train reservations to Shin-Osaka to get on an earlier train. That worked out well for us. Two and a half hours later we arrived in Osaka in the Shinosaka area. Luckily our hotel was right across from the train station. The access path wasn't the greatest but it was indeed the main walkway despite the conditions. We stayed at the New Osaka Hotel. The lobby was very nice and at this hotel we did have breakfast in our plan. We opted not to pay for it at other hotels but it was included in the price here. The room had hardwood floors and a more Japanese style window. In all it was pretty nice at a fair price and a super convenient location.


Osaka itself really didn't have much of an identity. It was a large city but not too busy or exceptionally unique in any way. That was kind of nice as it was calm walking the streets. We didn't have a large number of establishments around us but there were just enough. That night for dinner we found an English friendly family style place. It served almost as a diner without the diner look. The server treated us very well and we had a nice meal there. Just upstairs was a cool Internet cafe place. We both joined since the hotel didn't have access or terminals. I'm not big on Internet surfing while on vacation but with some spare time some evenings and the lack of English TV I didn't mind logging in.


Monday, Aug 29 - Hirakata Park and Expoland


Monday we started our exploration of Osaka area parks. We had a 45 minute commute using the Osaka City Subway and Keihan line to get to Hirakata Park. I was very surprised by how nice the entrance to Hirakata was. We ran into a big crowd at the entry plaza but most people were going to the waterpark as it was pretty hot and humid once again. The entry area looks like something Universal created. That's how nice it was with a big volcano and palm trees along with a shop and restaurant row. Though we bought free passes at the gate we didn't see a place to get wristbands. Eventually we found an information booth with wristbands. I can't say I understand this but that's how it was.


On this day I'd hit my 700th coaster. I had to make it Fantastic Coaster Rowdy just because it was my favorite Japanese coaster name. This coaster is Meisho family coaster. It was running two gator themed trains. It was a rather uneventful ride. Of more interest was the large Red Falcon coaster. This one looked like an Arrow looper without the loops. It was actually a Senyo coaster with their version of trains with horsecollars. The ride was actually very good. It was smooth and had some good speed. We liked it so much we rode it again later on. The park allowed first come, first served seating on this ride.


Across the way we found the Crazy Mouse. This is a Reverchon but they didn't have it spinning. Thus, it was just a credit ride. Not far away we spotted the Peekaboo Town kiddie coaster. It was a small coaster but a fun little ride.


The Elf, or Episode of Little Fairies coaster, was further up a hill. It was an Intamin family sized wooden coaster but it was very good for its size. It was also smooth. We took two rides on it.


Near the Elf was a Ferris wheel which had become almost obligatory at this point. Then we tried the flying cages. I'd seen these things before but never had the chance to ride them. It has a little lift to get the cages going but then you try to pump it enough to get it over the top. I got my cage going so fast I almost fell over. That's probably why you can't find these in the US anymore.


Under the Crazy Mouse looked to be a walk thru attraction. But upon entry they gave us a lighted object and it was actually some kind of maze game. We gave up an exited early since we couldn't figure it out. In the lower section of the park we tried two other dark rides. I really don't remember much about the one but I think it was safari themed. The other one was a nicely done family dark ride called Dreamy Musical.


After lunch it was time to proceed on to Expoland. To do this we had to take the Keihan line to the Osaka monorail which took about 40 minutes. The monorail station was pretty much at the entrance to Expoland. As the name indicates, the park is on an old exposition site. While it wasn't the most scenic park I found it quite interesting with a wide variety of coasters.


Our first ride was the Mack Wild Mouse. The most notable thing about this ride was the way the ride attendant balanced on a little platform to grab loose articles and how she would then lean in front of the mouse car to hand them over to the other attendant. Again, never in America. The ride was very good for a Mack mouse but still not as great as Hersheypark's model. For some reason it had Senyo stickers on it.


Across from the mouse we spotted a crazy flat ride. It was like a paratrooper ride with flipping seats. It looked insane. Greg wasn't interested in riding it so we skipped it. Next up was Orochi which is essentially a B&M Raptor clone. It felt good to finally ride a really great ride. Still, they only ran one train on the white and pink rails. Orochi differs from Raptor in that the cobra roll is much smoother and it doesn't have that final whip at the end. Otherwise its the same.


Next up was the Space Salamander, an Arrow loop screw. I loved the name and the ride wasn't too bad if I remember correctly. That brought us to the extremely weird Daidarasaurus. This is an old Sansei coaster that used to be two tracks. Now it's one circuit to create the world's longest coaster. The first thing you notice is that this ride is very noisy like Superman the Escape. The ride experience is more interesting for sightseeing than actually riding. I don't think it was too rough but it didn't have much action. It's not really a racer as much as it appears that the tracks (now one long track) duel. It runs two trains but as long as the ride is it feels like a one train operation.


At some point we rode the Ferris wheel as had become our custom at each park. This was our favorite park model since it was air conditioned. I believe we rode a dark ride shortly after. Unfortunately I can't remember much about it including the name. From there we headed to the Mini Coaster from Okamoto. This was an old family coaster. It was a pretty interesting ride with a tire drive curved lift hill.


At the far end of the park was the Togo stand-up coaster, Fujin Ragin II. To my surprise this ride had no inversions. It did have a bunch of transitions which spelled disaster along with some helices. Transitions and Togo standup bicycle seats are a bad combination. Luckily I left my seat a little low to avoid any damage. But this ride was nasty. I will give it credit for a powerful final helix but otherwise it's flat out bad.


The final ride was Family Coaster. It was a Zamperla model for sure but it also had Senyo stickers on it. They must be the ride broker. It was a fun little ride in the kiddieland area. Afterwards we were going to reride Orochi but it was down. We bought some Orochi mugs and headed out.


From the monorail we had to switch to the Osaka City Subway at Senrichuo. This was a very nice mall and business area but we had trouble finding the subway station. We were distracted by the nice surroundings and we ended up eating dinner at Mos Burger. This was a more upscale burger chain place that we both really liked. Good food and excellent service. After dinner we were finally able to find the escalator down to the subway and we headed back to the hotel. I was pretty much done for the night and I watch some TV (some English speaking movie was on) while Greg went down to the Internet cafe for a while.

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Another great TR Tim!


I was saddened to read about the racheting restraints on the Venus coaster. It looks so damn cool!! Just wondering, are the restraints similar to those on Zonga (Taz)?? Are the forces comparable??


Granted, I didn't like those restraints too much, but I was able to sit straight up for most of the ride. Certainly defensive riding.



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The restraints are a newer version of the Texas Tornado restraints. I thought they'd be better but they had the same problems. I probably wasn't defensive enough when I rode Venus. Venus doesn't have quite the postive Gs that Zonga/Taz/Thriller had. Venus only has one loop but it has many more spread out curves. I'd probably rank these coasters fairly close to each other.

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TR: 2005 Japanese Coaster Tour


Part 5 of 5


Tuesday, Aug 30 - Nara Dreamland and Mt. Ikoma Amusement Park


Tuesday ended up being a rather weird day. But when you go to Nara Dreamland, that's pretty much a given anyway. We were able to use the JR lines to get out to the city of Nara in just over an hour. From there I had some bus numbers we could take from the JR station (108, 109, 111, 115, or 130) but we couldn't quite figure out the correct platform. An employee guided us to a platform but it was an airport bus which was clearly wrong. We figured the safest thing would be to hire a cab. That worked out very well and we saw a bus shelter on the way out which we expected would be rather straight forward. Getting a cab at Dreamland without prior arrangements wouldn't have worked as it isn't set up for cabs.


For those who don't know, Nara Dreamland was built in 1961 as a Disneyland copycat park. I have no idea if it was every nice but it currently is very ghetto looking. I'd have to guess this park "jumped the shark" when it added the Screw Coaster in 1979. I'm sure the opening of Tokyo Disneyland didn't help things either.


This place is downright freaky. It has a castle, a Matterhorn, a main street, a big train station, teacups, carousel, a jungle cruise (it looked pretty scary), a speedway (now with antique cars) and a defunct monorail. But it also has many carnival rides and newer coasters that don't fit that theme. The result is a very weird and somewhat rundown park.


Greg was interested in making Aska #400 so we needed to ride three of the five coasters first. We started with the Arrow model Screw Coaster. Not Corkscrew, Screw Coaster. I recall it being somewhat rough. Next we tried the Matterhorn coaster, the Bobsleigh. I heard this was a poor attempt to recreate the Matterhorn bobsleds. While the theming is lacking I really liked this ride. It was fast and probably smoother than the real Matterhorn. That's not to say it wasn't ghetto as the splashdown was just some, brown still water that the train luckily didn't splash into.


Next we had a dilemma. The Fantasy Coaster didn't open until later on and the Kids Coaster, while testing briefly, didn't look like it would open at all based on the sign blocking the entrance. It was starting to rain so I said I have to get on Aska now. Greg held out for #400 but I was not going to get rained out of the best wood credit in Japan. I knew Aska was a SFGAm Viper clone but I didn't know it was a mirror image. It runs two bench PTCs instead of three. I lucked out and got the second seat for my first ride. It was first come, first served choice of seating. I was very impressed with this ride. Its at least equal to SFGAm Viper if not slightly better. It's smooth with plenty of action. It's hard to believe it's at Nara Dreamland.


Next we rode an impressive looking swing ride that ended up being pretty typical. Eventually the Fantasy Coaster opened and we rode it. It was a Meisho family mine train style coaster. It was fun. Now Greg could finally ride Aska. It was raining harder now but the rides in the park were still open. We rode Aska in the back seat. This is definitely where Aska has an advantage over Viper. Aska is equally good in the back seat as it is in the front. Actually, the ending of Aska in general is better than Viper. We took at least one more ride on Aska after this ride. With Aska being the final wood coaster in Japan we had to ride, I'll give you my rankings. Aska is a runaway #1, Regina is #2, Elf is #3 despite being a family coaster and everything else is a distant tie for fourth.


We discovered a walk thru attraction in the mountain. I don't know what made me think doing a walk thru at this park was a good idea but it was well lit and was actually a good attraction. After that we ate lunch. As run down as the park was, the restaurants were fine. We saw a place with plastic food out front but when we got inside they didn't have picture menus. No problem as the waitress kindly followed us out front to see what we wanted. I've heard of this technique being used before and it worked. The food ended up being good.


It was raining steadily so we put on our el-cheapo emergency ponchos to walk to the bus stop. The schedule had all of the buses I expected and one arrived in no time. The only catch was that this time we wanted to try to get to the Kintetsu line train station in Nara instead of the JR station. We saw the familiar script for train station on the message board, which looks like an 'R', and many people exited there so we knew we were in good shape. The escalator to the train was nearby.


Our next stop via the Kintetsu line was Ikoma and Mt. Ikoma Amusement Park. This was another so called Lisa Scheinin park. You have to take a cableway to the top of the mountain. As we entered the cableway station, it started to downpour and our hopes for the park being open were minimal. But still, the cableway looked really cool and it was operating. Was it ever cool. It was actually two separate cableways, each with a couple minor stops along the way. The cars were themed to cats and dogs and the amusement park. The first section of cableway was more straightforward with split so the cars could pass. We made our connection onto the second cableway and found a really unique setup. Shortly after dispatch we went into a curving tunnel. I'd never seen anything like it. The we went up a steeper incline to the top of the mountain into the clouds. It was impressive.


Upon exiting the cableway station we walked right into the free admission park. It was nearly deserted as all but a few covered kiddie rides and an arcade were closed. We walked around and took pictures of the rather unique collection of coasters at the park. The first coaster was Jet Roller which was somewhat like the other jet coasters we encountered on the trip except I think it had individual cars. One of the coolest coasters was the Jet Sleigh which is a unique wild mouse coaster. I would have loved to have tried that one. Down towards the cliff was a standard Ultra Twister. Nearby was the odd Senyo Sky Loop shuttle coaster. It had one vertical spike and one horizontal spike. Aside from the coasters it had an old circle swing tower with newer airplanes attached. It kills me that I couldn't get on either circle swing ride we saw.


We ran into some park employees and eventually a supervisor. Nobody really spoke English. We tried to ask if the park would reopen but we got no indication that it would. It was due to close in an hour so we could tell it wasn't going to reopen at that point. I had actually thought the park was scheduled to stay open a bit later to begin with. Either way we were washed out but I was glad to make the journey up the mountain.


After riding the cableway back down the mountain we made the 30 minute train ride back to Osaka. We'd have a decent amount of time to kill that evening. I threw out the idea of visiting Universal Studios Osaka but neither of us really were into that idea for the price and time we'd have. I also thought we may want to stop by Festival Gate just to see what was there as we assumed it was closed down but we didn't do that. I found out when I arrived home from Richard Bannister's report that Delphis at Festival Gate is still open. Oh well. We ended up finding a nice pub for dinner next to the hotel. The staff was able to work with us. It was much like the pub in Nagoya we enjoyed. From there we headed back to the Internet cafe to hang for a little. They had free beverages so why not.


Wednesday, Aug 31 - Kobe Portopialand, travel to Tokyo and Aqua Stadium


We had another hotel change but this day but with the hotel so close we just used their left luggage rather than pay for lockers at the Shin-Osaka station. After eating breakfast at the hotel and dropping off our luggage we were ready to head to Kobe for Kobe Portopialand. To get there we took a 30 some minute ride on the JR Tokaido line and then switched to the Portoliner elevated train at Sannomiya station in Kobe.


Portopialand is located on Port Island. It looks like the park and the area around it were part of a big expo back in the 80s. I'm stunned that the ECC/ACE trip skipped this park as it has two Schwarzkopfs and a Mack bobsled. It's not that far from Osaka. The entire park has a German theme which was interesting. In the center of the park is a huge pirate ship on display. The shoot-the-chutes goes around it and is part of a dancing waters show. Nearby is a German village. Overall it's not the most attractive park but it has some very nice features here and there.


It was cloudy out and our plan was to try to hit the bobsled first, followed by the Bavarian Mountain and finally the Double Loop. It turns out that only the Muncher (Munich) Autobahn opened with the park at 10 AM. With this ride I completed my world domination of Mack Bobsleds with a whopping total of six credits. The ride has a very good layout that is even a little longer than Avalanche at PKD. But it is probably the worst overall Mack bobsled simply due to the vibration of the ride. It's the worst of a very good bunch of rides so in general that's not too bad. We rode it multiple times despite the policy of front to back and tandem seat loading. We actually rode single one time each to avoid the tandem pairing they enforced.


At 11 AM, BMRX (or Bavarian Mountain Railroad) opened. This is a Schwarzkopf twister that is the same design as the Jetline at Grona Lund in its original form. The Jetline has since extended its first drop while BMRX retains the original, shorter first drop. The advantage BMRX has is that it has a mountain structure built around the twister portion, much like a classic scenic railway. It is really awesome with the tunnels and waterfalls. I think they really enhance the ride experience which is great to begin with. I would say that Jetline is better due to the bigger first drop and the lack of a hard trim in the middle. But BMRX is still exceptional and it was my favorite coaster in Japan. I think we rode it seven times. After our first two rides just after 11 AM, the ride shut down for a while due to light rain. But it opened up later and we got some more rides. BMRX allowed first come, first serve seating to fill up the train so we were able to get multiple rides in the back seat and at least one in the front seat.


Unfortunately maintenance was working on the Schwarzkopf Double Loop all day. We weren't sure if it would open for us or not. To fill time we rode a few flat rides. The Giant Wave Swinger was quite cool. It was a big swing ride with bigger seats to put your legs out on. We rode the Flying Carpet (no seatbelts) along with the obligatory Ferris wheel. We also had some lunch.


We spent some time waiting around the Double Loop. It never did open by the time we had to leave. I hated to leave without getting that Schwarzkopf but it wasn't going to happen for us. Still BMRX and Muncher Autobahn were more than enough to keep us happy.


We left to get back to Shinosaka and our hotel to pick up our luggage. We picked up some snacks for the train and we headed up to the platform to catch our shinkansen headed for the Shinagawa area of Tokyo. The trip would take two and a half hours. Arriving at Shinagawa we found a busy station but one that was pretty easy to navigate. I'd say this may be a better first option for those arriving in Tokyo rather than attempting Shinjuku right off the bat. We were staying right across the street at the Shinagawa Prince Hotel complex.


We could see the hotel but there were buildings in front of it. We ended up walking around the wrong way and taking an alley to the hotel complex. The best way to get there is walking through the ground floor of the little mall to get to the reception area. Each of the four hotel towers had its own reception. We were in the New Tower which was the biggest tower but not the newest or best tower. But our tower and room were more than sufficient as this was an excellent hotel. It was very much meant for tourists. Our room was on the 23rd floor and overlooked the huge train station and the Tokyo skyline in the background. It was the most amazing night view I've ever had from a hotel room I was actually staying in. We paid about $170 a night for this place but if you had a room and view like this in New York City you'd be paying a whole lot more.


The entire complex reminded me of Vegas. After all, the attatched Aqua Stadium complex just added an Intamin launched coaster called Galaxy Express 999. We booked this hotel before we even knew the coaster existed. Yes, we still had to pay the $10 like everyone else. Before getting to the coaster, we walked by dinner show theater where the attraction was a pirate ship ride you could pay to ride. It was incredibly themed. The whole scene was quite amazing.


On to the coaster, it had a long set of preshows I couldn't understand. No worry since none of it mattered during the ride. The launch starts on a tight curve with tire drives. Then it accelerates rapidly with an unknown device into a vertical loop. The beginning packs a punch. From there is has a few tight turns, reminding me of the Italian Job Stunt Track along with some helix turns which go around the dolphin tank. You don't see the tank as it is dark but that's what it does. In all it was interesting for one ride but that's it. It certainly beats having to endure Manhattan Express. After riding I hit McDonalds since it was nearby, I hadn't had any dinner and the food court in the hotel had already closed. Greg opted to check out the Yahoo cafe.


Thursday, Sept 1 - Sea Paradise, Cosmoworld and Tokyo Disneyland


This would be our final full day in Tokyo for riding. We headed out on the JR line to Yokohoma and then the Yokohama Kanazawa Seaside Line, an elevated railway, to get to Hakkeijima Sea Paradise. This park was nearly Busch caliber as a sealife and amusement park. It was better than I was expecting. We ran into some confusion as far as buying tickets. While the information desk had a very nice English brochure for us, it had nothing about what we needed to know most - tickets and pricing. We came back to the desk to find out the free pass price for the amusements only and then went to a ticket machine to buy the free pass. I soon noticed people riding had wristbands so I asked the guy at the Dolphin Coaster where we had to go for a wristband. We had to go to the aquarium ticket booth for the wristband. Why they bother to sell free passes in a machine made no sense to me since you had to go over to the aquarium to get the wristband anyway. I still don't understand why several Japanese parks don't give you the wristband at the front gate or where you buy the free pass.


After getting our wristbands, we rode the mouse like Dolphin Coaster. I have no idea who made this ride but it was pretty fun. It had a nice spiral near the end. Nearby was the imposing Blue Fall drop tower. I believe it is 330 ft tall and was at one time the record holder. Unlike the Drop Zones at PKI and PKD, this tower had individual cars. This ride was definitely the real deal. I think it is slightly better than Drop Zone at PKD. The drop was amazing. We had the full freefall drop. There was never a crowd so I didn't see the "fake out" drop sides run with people.


Across the park on the water was the Surf Coaster. From pictures this almost looked like a cheap Pinfari located over the water. What we found was a large, long Togo coaster that was on par with the Bandit. It too had horsecollars but this ride was very smooth. It had a lot of speed along with a few helices. We were impressed with this ride and we rode it twice.


Nearby was an observation tower which gave us some great views of the park and surrounding area. After some debate we settled on a food court for lunch. After lunch it was time for another great attraction, the Boat Chute. This is an old school shoot-the-chutes into a real lake. If that is not enough, it features boat jumpers. These are guys who stand on the front of the boat on the way down and jump high in the air when the boat hits and then land on the front of the boat. It is quite the show. I loved it.


After another Blue Fall ride it was time to head to Yokohama Cosmoworld. We'd seen the park when we were changing trains at Sakuragicho station in Yokohama earlier. I didn't have high expectations but I really enjoyed the area the park was located in. It's in a clean, modern area of Yokohama along the water with sculptures and a replica tall ship. The park is in sections along the water with the main section very much stacked in layers.


The main attraction is the Senyo twister called Diving Coaster Vanish. It has horsecollars despite no inversions. The main feature is a drop through the flume pool with a fake water splash. It's a pretty cool effect. The ride was fun but featured a couple bashing moments. On the top level of the complex with the Spinning Coaster which was a standard Reverchon Crazy Mouse. It was kind of worn but gave a decent ride with spinning. The flume looked good but we skipped it due to time.


We needed to head over to the Disney Resort for our final park, Tokyo Disneyland. We only needed to take JR lines the entire way and from there it was such a short walk there was no need to use the Disney monorail system this time. We arrived just after 5 PM so we could purchase our after 6 PM tickets. We had hopes things would work out as well as DisneySea did but without single rider lines we weren't sure. We heard stories about how long the lines could get at this park.


Upon entry we decided to hit Big Thunder Mountain first as we thought it would help us gauge time better. To get there we went through the short, covered Main Street area of the park and the huge park area in front of the castle. Oddly enough, Big Thunder still had Fast Passes left but was passed since we didn't think we'd return to that side of the park. A 30 minute wait was posted but we were on in exactly 12 minutes. I found this version of Big Thunder to be excellent. Much smoother and better themed than the American versions. I was very impressed with it. I haven't been on the Paris version so I can't compare it to that one.


We headed over to Space Mountain for our next ride. Before we could queue up Greg got a call from a coaster enthusiast named Chris Belson who was going to meet up with us for the evening. Chris is in the Navy and is stationed in Japan. He has many picture credits on RCDB. I think Chris was happy to run into some enthusiasts as he talked nonstop for about 3 hours, even on the rides. We, on the other hand, were pretty fried from the trip and gladly let Chris do most of the talking.


Once united, we headed into Space Mountain for a minimal wait. This ride is much like the original California ride, at least in layout and general theming. It was fun. Knowing we had time on our side, we decided to ride the incredible Pooh's Hunny Hunt. This is nothing like the WDW Pooh dark ride. This ride system was astonishing yet unexplainable as there is no visible track. It's up there with the Spiderman ride system. The way three to six cars on the ride would interact was very cool. Plus the all around theming in the ride was top notch. If you ever go to TDL, don't miss this ride.


After the Hunny Hunt we picked up our final coaster credit of the trip, Gadget's Go Coaster. It had good theming much like the Flying Fish over at DisneySea. After this ride we opted to get some dinner at the Plaza Pavilion buffeteria. It was empty due to the electrical parade (they still have one). After dinner we were able to cross the parade route to get into Westernland. We were going to head to Splash Mountain but went the wrong way to Adventureland. That was fine with me because I wanted to do Pirates of the Caribbean. I like that it felt more like California, with the entrance and restaurant, than Florida. Afterwards we rode Splash Mountain which had a short wait and was excellent as expected. It had a funny mix of English and Japanese. The Haunted Mansion was down for a makeover (they hid it fairly well) so we went along with Chris as he wanted to ride Big Thunder. We had no problem with that because we really enjoyed the ride. Finally we had just enough time to get on Buzz Lightyear before the park closed.


We looked at the gift shops for t-shirts before leaving but no luck. Not even a simple Disneyland or DisneySea shirt that I liked could be found. But it was still a great yet short visit to Tokyo Disneyland. We caught the JR train back to Shinagawa via Tokyo station. Before bed we got ready for our departure the next day. Greg had a very early wakeup call while I would be leaving closer to check out time.


Friday, Sept 2 - Departure


On Friday I had some time to sleep in a bit before leaving for Shinjuku station across the street to get my Narita Express train. Even on the last day I lined up in the wrong position for my train car. It wasn't a problem as I just walked through the train, following some fellow gaijin to the same car. At the airport it didn't take long to check in and security lines were non-existent. I wasn't sure what areas of the airport had what services like food or shops. With the lack of security lines I had time to eat and shop at the major food and shopping area outside of security. It turns out that inside security at all points there was also minor food and shopping places. I picked up a couple last minute souvenirs to use up my change. In all Narita airport was no problem at all. I survived the long flight to Newark and caught my flight back to Pittsburgh with no problem. Newark was a great place to connect with minimal lines at security, immigration and customs.


This trip was quite an adventure but one that was very well worth making. While Japan didn't have the same allure that Europe has to me, the cultural differences made it very interesting. Even though we really didn't hit many top notch thrilling coasters, the parks were all pretty nice and above all interesting places to discover with many unique coasters.

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Wow, that was a lot of reading, but a lot of GREAT reading.


I especially agree with your last paragraph. We found that we didn't come away with too many "top ten" coasters in Japan, but the parks, the place, and the atmosphere is what's going to keep us going back!


It's truly an amazing place!



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