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PTR:David's EPIC Asia trip! TPR China +Japan, Korea, Taiwan!


David H
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Here's my first attempt at a photo trip report for Theme Park Review (or anywhere, for that matter!) But first a little info about me and the origins of this trip, since I don't post here all that often. I also tend to write a LOT. This won't be a trip report of only pics and snappy one-line jokes. But I promise there will be plenty of those, too, so feel free to skip all the verbiage if that's not your thing and scroll down to the pics!

 

For those who don't know me, I'm David Hamburger. I've been a coaster and theme park enthusiast for many years, something like 15-20. I joined the enthusiast community on the internet with the usenet group rec.roller-coaster, and joined ACE shortly thereafter. (Yes, that means I'm fat. Get a new joke!) I've gone on overseas trips with ACE, the European Coaster Club and now TPR. I kind of burnt out on coasters in the mid 00's, just as TPR was getting big, and took some time off of the hobby to pay off the massive credit card debt I'd acquired and to refresh the batteries, so I spent a lot less time online talking about coasters. Even now, I pretty much take one or two big coaster trips a year, and don't even really visit my local parks much. I kind of joke that I'm a coaster bulimic, binging and purging on coasters! But I'm a pretty well-traveled enthusiast. After this trip, my count is right about at 1000, depending on how I ultimately decide to count everything. But I don't count powered coasters or many water coasters, so by many accounts, I'm way past 1000.

 

For now, I'm kind of focusing my vacations on overseas trips. To be honest, China is not really any place I've overly wanted to go for the culture or anything. But it's the next frontier for coasters, so a trip there was inevitable. When TPR announced they were going back to China and hitting nearly all of the major parks in the country, the time was right. I'd been wanting to go on in international TPR trip for some time, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I've known Robb and Elissa for MANY years (we figured out that I've known Robb longer than anyone on the trip, including Elissa!) And I know that no one can plan a trip better than Elissa. So, this was perfect timing.

 

I'm also one of those people who wants to try to get the most out of every trip. I've always tried to add on other parks, other cities, other sightseeing, other experiences. And when it comes to overseas travel, it's always easier (and certainly cheaper) to add on other cities and countries when you're in the area. I've wanted to visit Taiwan and especially Korea, mainly for the parks, so I decided to add a few days at each. Talking with others who've been there, it quickly became clear that I'd need more than a few days in each! Plus, I wanted to make sure to do some non-coaster sightseeing, which I've realized is essential to my enjoying my trips. When it looked like the best flights route would take me through Tokyo, I thought about adding a day for Disney, then another, then Fuji-Q, and oh, wait what about Universal's Halloween, and so on. Before long, my 3 week TPR China trip blossomed into this insane nearly 7 week epic Asia trip! For the culture fans, there was plenty of culture in this report, though it was very interspersed with coasters and parks. Only 7 of the 46 days had all culture and no parks, but most of the park days had some culture, too.

 

For those who are interested in trying to get to some of the parks in Japan, Korea or Taiwan, without the aid of a group like TPR, I'll try to include some info on how I got to each park. Finding this info wasn't always that easy, since many of the Asian parks don't have any English on their websites. And when they do, the information is often VERY out of date. (One park had a bus schedule from 1999 on their English site!) I'd STRONGLY recommend that anyone planning any trips to Asian parks double check all information with the park's regular website in their own language, using Google Translate or Babylon or whatever. (Or better yet, getting help from native speakers of the language, as I eventually did! Thanks, Candice!)

 

I also wanted to say that I went into this trip thinking that I was mainly going to these countries for the coaster experiences. I’m very much a westerner, who likes western food and culture and isn’t that big on Asian food or culture. I didn’t think I’d really love the trip all that much. In fact, I was expecting that this would be kind of a check off kind of trip, mostly getting these countries and parks out of the way and not really ever needing to go back. I’m being honest. But, what happened is that I REALLY enjoyed myself all over the trip. Some places more than others, obviously. But I definitely want to go back to Korea, Japan and Hong Kong again soon, and would like to visit China again at some point. Honestly, I wasn’t all that thrilled with Taiwan, but I think that at least some of that was due to trip fatigue.

 

So, here's the index and rough layout of the trip. I'll fill in links to specific updates as I go along:

 

Week 1: Japan. Tokyo and Fukuoka.

Day 1: Tokyo. Aqua Stadium and Tokyo Joypolis.

Day 2: Fuji-Q Highlands.

Day 3, part 1: Tobu Zoo.

Day 3, part 2: Hanayashiki, Asakusa area, Sensoji Temple, Tokyo Skytree. Culture, at last!

Day 4: Tokyo Culture, with a surprise amusement park.

Day 5, part 1: Fukuoka, Japan, Kashiikaen Yuenchi.

Day 5, part 2: Fukuoka, Japan. Space World.

Day 6: Fukuoka, Japan. Mitsui Greenland.

Day 7, part 1: Fukuoka/Beppu, Japan. Kijima Kogen – coasting in the clouds!

Day 7, part 2: Fukuoka/Beppu, Japan. Wonder Rakutenchi, Kintetsu Beppu Ropeway.

 

Week 2: South Korea.

Day 8: Busan/Gyeongju, South Korea. A ferry, a tower and lots of culture.

Day 9: Gyeongju. Gyeongju World, Seokguram Grotto, Bulguska Temple, Gyeongju National Museum.

Day 10, part 1: Seoul, South Korea. Seoul Land.

Day 10, part 2: Seoul. Lotte World.

Day 11, part 1: Seoul. Children’s Grand Park (sort of.)

Day 11, part 2: Seoul, South Korea. Everland, day 1!

Day 12, part 1: North and South Korea DMZ tour.

Day 12, part 2: Seoul. Return to Everland.

Day 13: Seoul sightseeing.

 

Week 3 and a bit: TPR China, Beijing leg

TPR Best of China Tour overview.

Day 14: Beijing sightseeing, Forbidden city.

TPR Best of China Tour – General Discussion.

Day 15: TPR China begins! Beijing Sightseeing. Great Wall, Forbidden City, factory tours.

Day 16, part 1: Beijing Shijingshan.

Day 16, part 2: Sun Park.

Day 16, part 3: Chinese acrobats show, Olympic Bird’s Nest & Water Cube stadiums.

Day 17, part 1: Happy Valley Beijing.

Day 17, part 2: Beijing National Olympic Stadium.

Day 18, part 1: Victory Kingdom.

Day 18, part 2: Tianjin Youth Center, Langfang Children’s Paradise.

Day 19, part 1: Chengdu. Floraland.

Day 19, part 2: People’s Park, Xinhua Park, and Chengdu.

Day 20: Happy Valley Chengdu.

Day 21: PANDAS!

Day 22, part 1: Happy Valley Wuhan.

Day 22, part 2: Wuhan Peace Park and Wuhan Zhongshan Park.

 

Weeks 4-5: TPR China, Shanghai leg and Hong Kong add-on

Day 23, part 1: Shanghai sightseeing. Yu Garden.

Day 23, part 2: Shanghai Sightseeing. Oriental Pearl Tower, Maglev Train, plus a bonus credit in the tower!

Day 23, part 3: Shanghai Sightseeing. Dinner on the water, a night riverboat cruise and Nanjing Road.

Day 24, part 1: Shanghai credit whoring. Fisherman Warf.

Day 24, part 2: Shanghai credit whoring: Jin Jiang Action Park.

Day 24, part 3: Shanghai credit whoring: Chang Feng Park, Zhongshan Park, and Shanghai Zoological Gardens.

Day 24, part 4: Shanghai Sightseeing: the Bottle Opener.

Day 25, part 1: More Shanghai credit whoring: Gongqing Forest Park, Peace Park at Heping Park.

Day 25, part 2: More Shanghai credit whoring: Luxun Park, People’s Park and Century Park

Day 25, part 3: More Shanghai sightseeing: Tea ceremony, Bund, Korean fun house, Nanjing Road.

 

Week 6: Taiwan.

 

Week 7: Back to Japan. Osaka, Shima, Nagoya and Tokyo Disney.

 

Don't worry. This is just an introduction. There will be plenty of pictures and sassy quips coming up shortly! The first update is coming up today!

 

In case, I’ve lost everyone with all this text, here are just a few of the things you have to look forward to in this trip report that you won’t find in any of the other China TR’s:

-- Japan! Meat on sticks! The world’s tallest observation tower! Coastering in clouds! Fuji-Q madness! The world’s only spinning and inverting coaster (coming up in the next installment!) Tokyo Disney going from packed to dead in three days! Pyrenees! Trying to negotiate Universal Studios Japan on one of their busiest days EVER! A cable car into the clouds in Fukuoka! The chair lift of death! Urinal video games!

-- Korea! T-Express! A tour of the DMZ between North and South Korea! Ancient burial grounds! Atlantis Adventure!

-- Taiwan! The world’s only Tilt Coaster! A plate (or is it a birthday cake?) as a park mascot! A park with a drag show (although I didn’t stay for it!) The crazy things they sell at Taiwan’s night markets! David screwing up and missing the last train of the night!

-- Macau! Me jumping off a 233M tall tower! Casinos grander than in Vegas!

-- Halloween events at Everland, Ocean Park (I stayed an extra day and went back for their Halloween event), Universal Japan (their first full-fledged Halloween Horror Nights), and Tokyo Disney

-- and more temples and shrines and tall buildings and towers and cable cars than you’ve EVER seen before on TPR!

-- Oh, and TPR in China, too! Even if everyone else beats me to that part, and gets all the good jokes and pics of crazy rides and smog and stray animals before me!

 

So, without further adieu, coming up VERY shortly: Phase One: Japan. Day One: Arriving in Tokyo, Aqua Stadium and Tokyo Joypolis. You'll see urinal video games and really crappy pictures of the world's first spinning and inverting coaster.

Edited by David H
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Day 1: Tokyo. Aqua Stadium and Tokyo Joypolis.

 

So, a little background on my Japan experience. I visited Japan in 2005 with the European Coaster Club and the American Coaster Enthusaists. To be honest, I didn’t really enjoy it all that much. I want to stress that this was in no way due to the organizers of the trip. There were several other factors, the biggest of which is that I was starting to hit a wall in the coastering hobby, kind of having overdosed on coasters and parks in recent years. That was my fourth trip that year alone. More importantly, I’ve learned that I enjoy trips a whole lot more when I try to do a whole lot more than just coasters and parks. Many of my fondest memories of my trips involve typical sightseeing fare like towers and museums, along with restaurants and nightclubs. And I did very little in Japan that didn’t involve parks and coasters. It’s my own fault. Not only was I intimidated by the language barrier, but I didn’t have enough time to plan this trip, because I was too busy planning my other three trips that year. Again, this is entirely my fault. Finally, the trip basically became a big run for coasters and credits, and to be honest, not that many of the coasters were all that great. In fact, when I returned this year, I only re-rode 15 of the 73 coasters I’d ridden on the first trip.

 

As I started loosely planning the basic shape of this trip, it started looking like layovers in Tokyo would work best for using award miles. So, I started thinking about adding a couple of days at Tokyo Disney and Fuji-Q. At some point, I decided I wanted to do some regular sightseeing to, to see what I’d missed on my last trip. At some point, I decided that I kind of wanted to try to “do Japan right” this time. And with that idea in my head, a strange thing happened: I started getting excited about Japan, something I honestly didn’t ever think I’d say. I decided to add in the Fukuoka area parks, both to give myself a bunch of credits, but more importantly to see some big parks that people have raved about on TPR. When I realized that I could take a ferry from Fukuoka to Korea on the way there and do Universal Japan’s Halloween Horror Nights on the way home, I decided to split Japan up into the first and last segments of the trip. Every leg of the Japan trip then grew as I got more ideas (Tobu Zoo for Kawasemi, Parque Espana for Pyrenees, Nagashima Spaland to finally get on Steel Dragon 2000, etc). What started out as a quick stop on the way quickly became two full vacations inside of a vacation! In fact, I actually did more planning for Japan than I did for the entire rest of the trip combined. I was committed to “do Japan right!” I think you’ll see that I accomplished this.

 

So, on to the trip! That's it for background!

 

I’m calling this day 1, though technically, it’s not, thanks to the international date line and time zones and the wonders of long flights! I left the house at 5 AM on Sunday, and with only a short layover in Dallas, I arrived in Tokyo at 1 PM the next day. So, let’s just call this day 1. Unless you want me to do an update about the plane ride over. Well, I did make a really good dance mix on my laptop that I’d listen to for the rest of the trip! And I got to see parts of Disney/Pixar’s Brave – when I wasn’t sleeping! And, oh yeah, they still feed you in international flights. (And in flights in Asia, too, as I’d soon discover!)

 

So, let’s just agree to call this day 1, ok?

 

Day 1 was originally going to be a sightseeing day. Culture, yeah! But as soon as I heard about the spinning, looping coaster at Tokyo Joypolis, that kind of went out the window. Once I arrived at the airport and got through customs, and picked up my bags, and took the train to my hotel, and checked in, and set up my portable wifi device, and relaxed a little, it was already getting late. So, my plan was to kind of just go down to Aqua Stadium, ride the coaster and see the aquarium and then head to Joypolis.

 

The Shinagawa Prince, my hotel for Tokyo, was recommended to me by Elissa. Gee, could the fact that they have an Intamin coaster on the property have anything to do with that? And I’m a fish geek too, with 6 aquariums in my house. So this was the ideal hotel for me. Plus, it was cheap and VERY convenient, being a 3 minute walk from a major train station, including one from Narita Airport and to Haneda Airport (where I’d be flying out to Fukuoka in a few days.)

 

Also, for those who don’t know, it’s not easy or cheap to get a sim card in Japan. And many US phones won’t work there, because they have weird non-standard phone and data frequencies. So I opted for a portable wifi (mifi) device. That was the cheapest option, though it was still quite expensive. (Like $70 for a week!) This would come in VERY handy especially in Japan, since I was able to use Hyperdia to navigate Japan’s confusing train system, as well as to use Google Maps and Google Translate when sign language wasn’t cutting it!

 

After setting up the mifi and the phone, I headed down to Aqua Stadium, and rode my first coaster of the year: Galaxy Express 999. Yes, I’ve been so busy working and saving up money and planning this trip, that my first coaster of the year was in at the end of the August in Japan! But I started on an Intamin in Japan, so it’s definitely TPR approved! Interestingly, they've changed the pre-show and made it smaller and shorter than when I visited 7 years ago. And the store selling merchandise for the anime show that the ride is based on is no longer there. I was going to try to hit up the aquarium, but time was running short, and I wanted to get to Joypolis, because I know that place can get busy. For those who want to get to Aqua Stadium in the Shinagawa Prince Hotel, just go to the Shinagawa JR train station. I only had to walk down the corridors in my hotel! I rode the decent indoor coaster once, then decided to head out, because it was getting late. The aquarum could wait. I’m stayiung in the hotel, after all!

 

From there, I took the train to Tokyo Joypolis. Note that the Tokyo location is the only one that doesn’t have Sega in the name, even though it’s owned by them. They closed the park for many months this year to update it. They updated many of the haunted attractions and added in a copletely new coaster, getting rid of the piece of crap that was there before. If you want to get there by train, you can take the Rinkai line to the Tokyo Teleport station or the Odaibakaihinkoen Station‎ (Odaiba Kaihin Park) on the JR lines. It’s a short walk from there, with wonderful views of the Rainbow Bridge. As with almost all of the parks on the trip, I bought the “free pass”, which includes all rides. In Japan, at most parks you can buy just an admission ticket and pay for individual rides, if you prefer. But if you’re going to ride more than 2-3 rides, it usually ends up cheaper to buy the “free pass”. And this is Joypolis, so I definitely intended to make use of that free pass!

 

First up, though, would HAVE to be the newest ride: Veil of Dark: the Shooting Coaster – the world’s first spinning AND inverting roller coaster. It also has a fairly extensive shooting dark ride section. I’m gonna admit that I could only get crappy pictures of the coaster. Partially because most of the coaster is inside where you can’t see from public areas, and they don’t let you take pictures. And partially because the small section that is in the public areas has massively bright lighting all over the place, which messed up both of my cameras, my regular one and my cell phone’s. So you’ll have to settle for what little I got – at least until TPR goes next year! Also, while I was waiting for the coaster, they put on their show on the stage that’s right between the queue and the section of the ride you can see. It’s a weird show, with live actors singing and dancing and otherwise interacting with a digitally created character.

 

One thing this brings up is that I NEED A NEW CAMERA! Perhaps, after spending a whole crapload of money on an epic trip to Asia, I should have bought a better camera? Yeah, maybe. Especially one that takes better night pics and better pics in low light, smog and fog, since I’m a night owl, and I’m going to China the smog capital of the world? Yeah, maybe!

 

As to Veil of Dark, I’ll spend a little more time describing it than I ordinarily would, since it’s a world premiere ride. Those who like to be surprised might want to skip this paragraph. Firs off, it has the world’s coolest coaster sign. It’s a video sign that sometimes shows video of zombies in the letters! It’s subtitled “The Shooting Coaster for a reason. The first section of the ride is a shooting dark ride. It’s a weird setup. Each car seats four, with stadium seating. There isn’t the usual actual gun. Instead, each restraint has a 2-way joystick and a button. As you go along the beginning of the ride, you stop in front of several screens, a lot like in Spider-Man at Universal. Your joystick controls the left and right of your crosshairs across the screen (you can’t move them vertically), while the trigger shoots the monsters attacking you. Unlike most rides, this is a proper video game, which responds to the actual shooting you’re doing. After 30 seconds or so at each scene, you move on to the next one, until you get to a lift hill, at the top of which is the last big boss battle screen. After that, you go into coaster mode. The spinning was quite decent on both of my rides. The inversion is a barrel roll, and yes, you’re spinning during it. There’s actually more coaster section than I expected, mostly helices to enhance the spinning. All in all, it’s a really good attraction. Nothing terribly intense, but a lot of fun.

 

From there, I headed around the indoor park, mostly doing the haunted attractions, most of which are new, and themed to Japanese horror movies I’ve never seen. Honestly, I think they’ve gone downhill with these. Most of them consisted of you sitting in a room where someone tells you a LONG story in Japanese. Then you walk through a short section, where a few people jump out at you, briefly. In one of them, you stand in a coffin, which is supposedly being moved around. The most effective haunted attraction should have been the least effective one. The attraction involves dolls coming to life while you sit in the dark with headphones. Some Spanish enthusiasts I ran into remarked that if we’d understood what they were saying in Japanese, it would have been terrifying! And, even so, it was pretty scary and very well done!

 

Some of the best parts of Joypolis aren’t even the actual attractions. They have all sorts of game-type stuff all over the place. At one big video screen, you can have your picture superimposed on a sea lion-type creature that swims around a fake tank. There are various games involving interactive cameras and screens, where you break bubbles or move objects around. In some of the queues, there are cameras that play games with your face (like in the Dark Knight queues at Six Flags parks.) but the best thing there, I ran into unintentionally. When I went to the bathroom, they had URINAL GAMES! Yes, you get to play a game with your pee! This is supposedly a hot new trend in Japan, according to the news, but these were the only ones I ran into in my whole two weeks in Japan. I was pretty excited!

 

After all of that, I headed back to Veil of Dark for another ride, and ended the day(with time running out!) on the awesome skateboard halfpipe ride. With only one person riding, it was actually much easier to play properly, and I got a TON of spin, and easily won the game! If you ever go there, do NOT miss this fun ride!

 

After Joypolis, I explored the area a bit before heading home. I found the replica of the Statue of Liberty, which was ironic since I finally saw the real thing in NYC for the first time 3 weeks before that. And I ran into some random statue of something that looked like a transformer.

 

Then I headed back to the hotel, because I had to get up early for what would undoubtedly be a trying day at Fuji-Q Highlands the next day.1405323584_Asia12-Days1-2Tokyo-Fuji213.jpg.c8b03286a8ff457e0c0e9d9fcbaf7307.jpg

Ah, Japan. I'm back!

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The Shinagawa Prince. My home for the first 4 nights of the trip! Thanks for the reccomendation, Elissa. And it was cheap, too! Well, for Japan!

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OK, maybe the rooms are a bit small by US standards, but for Japan, this is a massive suite!

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And look at the oh-so-spacious bathroom!

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This is the view from my tiny window (which you couldn't see in the room picture, because the bathroom door was blocking it!) Note the train station down below, just a couple of minutes walk away!

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Culture day? Not with an amusement park right in my hotel!

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Yes, my first coaster of the year! But it's an Intamin. And it's right in my hotel!

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Let me push through these crowds to make sure I get a good seat! Oh, wait.....

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It's amazing how the crowds just line up for the trains in Japan. The Japanese are so polite and orderly. Such a contrast to China in a couple of weeks!

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Ah, here's where I'm heading, along with tons of Japanese geeks!

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But let's take a quick look on the way at the famous Rainbow Bridge. Isn't it pretty?

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Ah. Here we are. For those who don't know, Joypolis is a chain of arcades/amusement parks in malls across Japan. The Tokyo one is BY FAR the best. And not just because it's the only one with a coaster!

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So, of course, I headed straight for.... THE SHOW! No, But I didn't have any choice, because it was right next to the queue area.

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This is a digital character that was created for the show, who interacts with the live actors. Sega brags about this, trying to make a big deal about it. What's really sad is that the lighting in this area is so obnoxious that I got better pictures of the show than of the coaster that goes around it!

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Ah, the moment we've all been waiting for! The best coaster sign in the industry!

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It has moving video of zombies in it!

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Like many parks in Japan, they REALLY want to make sure you put everything in a locker! Luckily, they're free.

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Are you happy, Larry? That's the best I could do with the obnoxious lighting and the nearby show!

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And the moment you've all been waiting for: the world's first spinning, inverting roller coaster (with dark ride sections!) Sorry the picture is so crappy. believe it or not, that's the best I could do, and I spent quite a bit of time trying to get a good picture of it! Sorry, guys!

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Here's a picture of the track, as it inverts. That's the show's stage in the background.

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Yes, I find this as disturbing as you all do! They put your picture on some sort of sea creature that swims around the lounge area!

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OK, this is REALLY the moment you've all been waiting for! Urinal video games! Notice the target in the urinal. It apparently can track aim and volume. Sorry, ladies. No equal rights in the bathrooms of Japan!

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You can even choose your urinal video game. I should have chosen the Street Fighter-type game! I'd have tried to get more pictures for you all, but I felt creepy taking pictures in a bathroom!

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While I was waiting in line for the half-pipe ride, I suddenly became part of the show, getting the hair from the computerized character from the show. Actually, I think it looks good on me. Should I have bought the wig? (I'm sure they had one!)

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That's the best picture my crappy cameras could get of the half-pipe skateboarding ride. Trust me, it's a ton of fun! And I don't just say that because my score blew everyone away!

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The rainbow Bridge at night. That's the Tokyo Tower in the background, which used to be a big deal, before the Tokyo Skytree supplanted it as the biggest tourist attraction in Tokyo.

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A random Transformers-type robot I ran into on the way back to the train station. I'm sure the geeks will all chime in to tell us who he is! ;-) (That's not an insult. If it was comics-based, I'd be the geek chiming in!)

Edited by David H
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Your pics aren't so bad for such a crappy camera. Mine is probably worse actually.

 

Veil of Darkness sounds like a pretty interesting ride. Disney/Universal should definitely consider building something like that as a future E-ticket attraction. I had no idea a combination shooting dark ride/spinning coaster actually existed.

 

I believe the random giant robot is a Gundam (which is sorta like Transformers from what I've seen, but without the transforming part). Still nerdy to know that kind of stuff though

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I couldn't get any decent pictures of the old, lousy Spin Bullet coaster when I was there in 2007, either. The new ride sounds like a distinct improvement.

 

Joypolis is a fun place to spend an evening--their "Haunt" type attractions are very good. I thought the "dolls" attraction was great, even though I didn't understand the story.

Edited by cfc
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You'll have to wait a bit for that, though, Mike. I've got almost another two weeks of the trip before I met up with TPR. Until then, you'll have to settle for Japan and Korea.

 

More importantly, there will be lots of pics of Big Mike and Megan, I'm sure!

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You should have seen how hard it was to get a good pic of that sign. It was too well lit, and was giving bad flash elements. But since I wans't sure if anyone else in TPR would be there before next year's Japan trip, I knew you'd want it!

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You should have seen how hard it was to get a good pic of that sign. It was too well lit, and was giving bad flash elements. But since I wans't sure if anyone else in TPR would be there before next year's Japan trip, I knew you'd want it!

 

Trust me, many of us have failed at getting good pictures at Sega Joypolis. Your effort is much appreciated.

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Day 2: Fuji-Q Highlands

 

This will probably be one of my bigger updates of the trip.

 

So, for my first full day in Japan, I went to one of the biggest amusement parks in Japan, Fuji-Q Highlands. For those who don’t know, Fuji-Q Highlands is one of those parks that coasters fans hate, but absolutely must visit on every trip to the area. The reason we can’t skip the place is because if you were name the 10 or at least 20 most notable coasters in all of Japan, then Fuji-Q had 4 of them. Frankly no other park in all of Asia could make that claim. The problem is that the park is run so poorly that it becomes an exercise in frustration to visit the park. The main reason for the frustration is that the rides are run poorly, with ride ops that are clearly in no hurry to get a train out in anything resembling a reasonable amount of time. Then you have a ton of rides with a pretty low capacity, at least for a park of this size. Add in some of the largest crowds of any non-Disney or Universal park in Japan. And then throw in a bunch of ludicrous rules that slow up ride loading even more. And you’ve got a recipe for pure frustration. At least if you’re a westerner, used to better standards. The Japanese apparently don’t mind waiting in ridiculously, needlessly long lines. They’re used to it. But if you’re a coaster nut, you absolutely HAVE to go to Fuji-Q Highlands in you’re in Japan. In fact, back when I was just planning a quick stop in Japan, it was the second thing I added, after the Tokyo Disney parks.

 

There’s pretty much only two ways to actually have fun at Fuji-Q. You can go with a fun group like TPR, so that when you’re annoyed and frustrated, you’re still with a fun group that makes it all better and eats up all that time you’re in line. Or you can buy their version of fastpasses. Lots of them. With the cost of this huge trip, I wouldn’t be able to afford TPR’s Japan trip for 2013. So I had to opt for option 2. But more on that in a bit.

 

If you try to plan a trip to Asia on your own, you’ll quickly find out that it can be challenging. A lot of companies and amusement parks don’t even have English websites. And when they do, they’re often painfully out of date. (The bus schedule that the English web site of one park in Taiwan pointed to was from 1999!) In some cases, I’m not even sure that they were ever actually accurate! There’s one piece of advice that Elissa gave me when I was planning this trip that turned out to be VERY good: NEVER trust the English websites of anywhere in Japan. ALWAYS check the original site in their own language. The problem is that the web sites for a lot of parks put their directions to the park – including infor about the trains and busses -- in graphic pictures. Google Translate isn’t going to help you with that, when you know there’s a train from somewhere that will take you to a bus from somewhere else, but you don’t know the names of those places. This is a lot of what intimidated me about visiting Japan back in ’05, but in that time, I’ve gotten smarter and more resourceful – and more stubborn, too! Armed with Google Translate and Babylon and a lot of time on search engines, I made my plans. Or at least I tried to!

 

To get to Fuji-Q Highlands without a car, there’s a bus that leaves from the Shinjuku station and goes to the Mt Fuji tourist area, with stops at Fuji-Q Highlands and elsewhere. With help from Elissa’s past Japan trip reports and Fuji-Q’s site, I was able to find out the info and reserve tickets on the bus company’s website. The odd thing, though was that their website returned an error whenever you tried to buy a ticket for the first bus of the day, which arrived at the park at right about opening time. It wasn’t because the bus was sold out, because it gave this error for that bus on ANY day I tried. The problem is that the second bus, which I had to reserve, because it was the only option, arrived at the park about an hour after the park opens. Anyone who’s been to any busy park knows what a bad idea that is, because all of the rides will already have long lines! At a park like Fuji-Q with long lines AND bad operations, that hour could cost you 3 hours in line! To make things weirder, the bus company’s website also let me reserve a ticket for a bus that was 45 minutes AFTER the last bus listed on the schedule. Hmmm. Since you actually buy your bus tickets at the bus station, I knew I’d have to get there a little early to try to clear this up. And to try to get on that earlier bus! And just to complicate things, the bus station is several blocks away from the train station, though you can get there indoors, in underground tunnels. So, if you’re going yourself, allow extra time.

 

When I got to the bus station, it turned out that, yes, there was return bus at the time my reservation was for, even though it’s not listed on the schedule, which was good, because that gave me nearly an extra hour at the park. And there was an early bus, but it was sold out. I begged with the agent to try to get me on that bus, and she managed to pull it off, since someone supposedly hadn’t shown up. Woo hoo! I was on my way to my first major park of the trip.

 

So, I get to the park pretty quickly, and based on advice from others, headed to their new coaster Takabisha. The line was only an hour, which was considerably shorter than it would be for the rest of the day. Takabisha by Gerstlauer is almost two coasters in one. First there’s a launched section. Then there’s the typical Eurofighter with the beyond vertical lift hill. Along the way, there are a ton of swoops and turns and inversions. While I wouldn’t rank it as highly as some people, who have said that it was a top 10 ride, it will probably make my top 40, whenever I figure it out after the trip. And given that I’ve ridden over 800 steel coasters, that’s pretty damn good!

 

I also experienced another weird quirk of the Japanese. They’ve VERY service oriented and very polite. But the rules are the rules, and they will STRICTLY enforce them, no matter how illogical they may seem, or even if they really make any sense under specific circumstances. But they'll do it with a big smile and many thank yous. For instance, I understand their policy of NOTHING in your pockets on coasters, for safety reasons. But does it really make sense to hold up the whole train for a Kleenex in someone’s pocket? Seriously? I hope to never get injured by a flying Kleenex!

 

One other problem with going overseas is that the advice you get from others isn’t always up to date. If someone asked on here about advice for a trip to Cedar Point, he’d probably get advice from someone who was there last week. But with Japanese parks, the info is often from a year or two ago, when things may have changed. This turned out to be the case for Fuji-Q Highlands. In the past, they didn’t start selling their fastpass tickets until well after the park opened. So, most of the advice I got was to head right to their new coaster, Takabisha, and ride that once, then go get fastpasses. This turned out to be bad advice. By the time I got there, the line for Takabisha was already an hour as I mentioned. But I’d soon find out that they now sell fastpasses right away, and you can now buy pretty much as many as you are willing to pay for. (They used to have limits and sold tickets for different rides at different times.) After an hour in line for Takabisha, the tickets for their 4th Dimension coaster Eejanaika were sold out – something I’d pay for all day, waiting in line! The good thing, though, was that I could buy the fastpasses for everything else. So I bought two for Takabisha, and one each for Fujiyama, Dodonpa and the Haunted Hospital walkthrough, all for specific one-hour time slots, that I tried to schedule well. They’re expensive at $12.50 each, but it’s totally worth it to avoid 2+ hours of frustration in a slow-moving line.

 

I headed over to Fujiyama next, armed with my fastpass, to finally get a full ride on this thing, even though I’ve had a t-shirt for it for seven years! You see, in 2005, I got stuck on the lift hill of Fujiyama, almost at the top. After an hour, I got evacuated from it and even made the local news in Japan! (Weeks later, I’d wait on a table of people back at home who saw us on the news!) So, I was excited to finally get a ride on it, even if I’d heard that I hadn’t missed much. I actually ended up enjoying it more than I thought, and decided to go get another fastpass, while they were still available, because I didn’t enjoy it enough to wait in line for 90 minutes for it! So, I went back and bought another fastpass for it, and another for Takabisha. I tried to get another one for Dodonpa, but they were sold out by then.

 

Basically, the rest of the day was spent trying to get on rides in my allotted one-hour fastpass times in between waiting in 2+ hour lines for Eejanaika. I headed over to the Haunted Hospital next. It’s one of the longest haunted walkthrough attractions in the world. They use a large building, and take you on a convoluted maze up and down stairs and down hallways and emergency wards and patient rooms in a hospital setting. Along the way, patients and other scary creatures jump out at you. The only problem for me was that they send you in your own group, because they take your picture first. Since I was alone and a guy -– and white one at that -- not as many of the actors would waste their time jumping out at me, preferring to save their strengths for groups of screming Japanese girls. Still, it’s a long attraction (over 30 minutes to walk through it all), and it’s very well done.

 

From there I headed to Eejanaika, an S&S 4th dimension coaster with cars that flip. It’s legendarily rough, but I really liked the one 4D coaster I’d ridden (X at Six Flags Magic Mountain) a whole lot, so I was interested to see what I’d think of it. Unfortunately, it would take over 2.5 hours in line to find out, although at least 30 minutes of that was due to the ride breaking down – something it would do all three times I waited for it! Unforutnately, that means sitting in a long, barely moving line with annoying commercials playing on the video screens in the line, along with the Eejaneika theme song. I can still hear it in my head two months later (“Eejanaika, Eejanaika. Eejanaika, Eejanaika. Fuji-Q Highland-ah.”) I spent much of that time listening to Doctor Who audio stories and catching up on Facebook on my phone. The fact that I waited 3 times for it probably tells you how much I liked it. Scrap that. How much I LOVED it. I was smart enough to sit on the inside seats, because I know that they rattle your body a lot less. But I really loved the intensity of the ride, and the whole flipping thing is still enough of a novelty for me that I really love it.

 

From there, it was pretty much trying to fit in the waits for Eejanaika in between the fastpass times. It was a really odd dichotomy. I’d walk up to two coasters and ride them with virtually no wait. Then sit in line for 2.5 hours for one ride on Eejanaika. I still love Dodonpa, with its massive ejector aitime, though I’ve now ridden a bunch more coasters with airtime that equals or surpasses it. (NTaG, anyone?) Towards the end of the day, I had ridden everything had wanted to, and had a little time to ride some of the smaller things that didn’t have long lines. I never did ride three of the coasters, because they had low capacities and long lines, and I’d already ridden them in ’05, so I didn’t need the credits. One piece of bad news: the really cool “coffin” haunted attraction has been replaced with some sort of acrobatic thing I didn’t care to wait in a very long line for. I did their weird headphones haunted attraction, but it was aimed more at kids, and wasn’t even scary, besides being in Japanese.

 

All in all, I had a great day at Fuji-Q Highlands, something that it’s not easy to do. But it was pretty much ONLY because I’d gotten a ton of Fastpasses. I may have spent over $100 on them, but considering how much money the trip was costing me, it was totally worth it. Especially if it gave me a good day at Fuji-Q!

 

I had a little time to do a bit of shopping and take some pictures and headed back to Tokyo by bus. I saw some weird shaker fries advertised in a window of some restaurant and tried them. Basically, they put cheddar, parmesan and gouda (!) cheese and herb sprinkles in a bag, along with fries, and then shake ‘em up and give you the bag. They were awesome! I also picked up some KFC and took the train back to the hotel.

 

Here I ran into another example of the rules in Japan being mandatory and inflexible. With KFC in hand, I stopped at the McDonalds by the hotel to pick up some of the cheap soft serve ice cream. I asked for a dish of the ice cream, and the clerk told me no. I was confused. I pointed at the ice cream cone on the sign, and said I wanted it in a cup. And he said no. I asked why, and he said “no have cup”. I pointed at the many cups in the place, and made a hand gesture of taking the cone and putting it upside down in the cup. And he said no. When they say a cone, you get a cone. Apparently, even nicer restaurants in Japan don’t often cater to special requests in any way. And the Japanese just accept that, and rarely make special requests. But as a result, they didn't get my sale. I wasn't going to try to juggle a dripping ice cream cone while I ate the KFC dinner in my hotel room! Ah, culture shock! Especially for a server in a restaurant that does almost anything a guest wants, no matter how unreasonable!

 

On to some pictures.

 

Next up: Day 3: Tobu Zoo, Hanayashiki, Tokyo Skytree and some culture.

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Waiting for the train. It's amazing how everyone just lines up and gets on the train in an orderly fashion.

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Waiting for Takabisha, you get to see the trains coming back on Dodonpa, and can see much of Fujiyama, too.

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In 2005, I spent about an hour right about where the last car on that train on Fujiyama is, although I was in the front car. The motor blew, probably from all the fat Americans and Europeans on the ride!

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One last picture from this angle, since it would be the best angle I got for taking pictures of Fujiyama.

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They're proud of their at-one-time world record breaking Takabisha!

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Takabisha. Tehre's more to come!

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The haunted hospital. one of the Guiness musems has this listed as the world's longest haunted walkthrough attraction, though I don't think it is any more.

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Some nice theming on their rapids. Even if i'd had the time, I didn't want to get wet.

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That's a TPR-approved rodent.themed coaster on the left. I didn't feel like waiting several hours to ride a family ride, even if it's themed to hamsters. I had the credit and was heading for Eejanaika!

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Skloosh! The splashdown boat in front of Eejanaika

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Eejanaika would turn out to be my favorite coaster of not only the park, but this whole leg of the trip.

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"Eejanaika, Eejanaika!"

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"Eejanaika, Eejanaika! Fuji Q Highland-ah."

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Another picture of the rodent coaster I didn't ride this time.

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A little more Eejanaika!

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One of my favorite ride safety signs ever!

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Yeah, yeah, screw the 4D. You want to see more of Takabisha, right? Well, how's THIS for a picture of Takabisha?

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And more importantly, the FOOD STADIUM!

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It's a pretty twisty ride!

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A quick stop in Thomas the Tank Engine land for their quirky dark ride.

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I forgot to get pictures of Thomas' kiddie coatser, since i didn't ride it. So, you'll have to settle for more creepy anthrompomorphic trains.

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Back to Takabisha for a drop that was once world record setting.

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You know, for Fuji-Q Highlands, this was actually decent operatons. Look, two trains one the track at once! And that's only in the part of the coaster you can see in this picture.

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Twisty!

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Fuji-Q Highlands is actually a pretty nice looking park. As long as you don't try to ride anything without a fsstpass, at least!

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I love its setting, surrounded by Moutains. That was one of the things I loved about many of the Japanese parks, particularly those in Fukuoka, which you'll see a few days from now.

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Coming Down!

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I really like this shot!

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Ladies and gentlemen, the clouds have finally parted enough to reveal: MOUNT FUJI! And a really cool coaster in front of it!

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Mt. Fuji is a real symbol of Japan. I'm glad I finally was able to get pictures of it!

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What's not to love about a great coaster with great scenery?

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Mmmm.

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Some parks block off funny pictures, so you can't see them. Fuji-Q posts them and has people sign them!

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They took out the Zola 9 shooting coaster to put in a museum devoted to some anime show.

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Me with some Japanese cartoon chick. Note that her boobs are bigger than those on 95% of the women in Japan. (Not that that's saying much!)

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Since I went on the last week that they're open until 9PM, I was able to get some rare night shots of the park. Too bad my camera sucks for night shots!

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A token picture of the mouse coaster I didn't ride this time. Notice that there isn't a single car in the picture's view. Even with a relatively short queue, with operations like that, it would have taken forever!

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Dodonpa at night with a blurry train. I actually kind of like the effect.

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Theming. Like in other sites and shrines in Japan, you tie a wish to this fake shrine.

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Pretty night lighting.

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And a Christmas tree. In August. With Fuji-Q ornaments. Ah, Japan!

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Tell the truth. You really came to Fuji-Q Highlands amusement park to buy a t-shirt of New York! Now, if they'd only have some roller coasters t-shirts! (Actually, they have one of Takabisha, but it's completely in Japanese with no pictures.)

Edited by David H
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Me with some Japanese cartoon chick. Note that her boobs are bigger than those on 95% of the women in Japan.

 

Knowing that you don't pay to this, that is a close estimate, I'd estimate 99.8%. You didn't hapen to get the Takabisha marquee ride sign, did you?

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Bob, if you could send the pic to me, I'd appreciate it. That was quite a memorable experience, wasn't it? Luckily, I finally got to ride Fujiyama on this trip!

 

Larry, I don't think I managed it to get pics of the signs for Takabisha. I know I intended to, but I was doing planning all day, and was going on very little sleep, since I had to get up early to try to catch the early bus, and I was already somewhat jetlagged. I'll check again, but I don't think I saw any. Sorry.

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Bob, if you could send the pic to me, I'd appreciate it.

 

Here's Bob's PTR from that day www.themeparkreview.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=116563#p116563

 

 

Larry, I don't think I managed it to get pics of the signs for Takabisha. I know I intended to, but I was doing planning all day, and was going on very little sleep, since I had to get up early to try to catch the early bus, and I was already somewhat jetlagged. I'll check again, but I don't think I saw any. Sorry.

 

No problem, I had to ask.

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^ Yep, that's me, sitting up in front, waving. The funny thing is that I actually shold have been sitting in that empty seat right behind Bob.

 

But when there was an empty seat in the second row, I snuck up there and took it, which was probably against the rules at Fuji-Q, where they strictly assign seats. But I paid for my rule-breaking when the motor broke and we got stuck, because they evacuated the ride from the back car. So, it cost me an extra 10-15 minutes stuck up there!

 

I'm looking forward to reading the rest of that report actually, Bob. I didn't know it got posted here. I didn't think to look on TPR, since it was an ECC/ACE trip. It is already bringing back good memories!

 

 

As for my picture-taking, I actually took a lot fewer pics at the very beginning of the trip, but took more and more as the trip went on. I tried to remember to get pictures of signs for new rides, but didn't worry about it too much in China, with 30-odd TPR members there (and Larry himself!) there to get the pics!

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Or you can buy their version of fastpasses. Lots of them.

And thankfully they have these now otherwise it's a park that I honestly just cannot go to. Seriously, I would be willing to skip any new credits there if they didn't have the fastpass option. I've had some of my WORST days at any theme park at Fuji-Q...and multiple times!

 

Which is sad, because it goes against EVERY OTHER cultural standard in the rest of Japan. I just don't "get" Fuji-Q.

 

--Robb "The expensive FastPass almost makes Fuji-Q bearable!" lol Alvey

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Day 3, part 1: Tobu Zoo.

 

When Japan was originally just a quick stop in my plans, I wasn’t planning on visiting Tobu Zoo. But when I decided to lengthen the Japan part of the trip with some sightseeing, it seemed an ideal option for a partial day, combined with sightseeing. I’d already visited the park in 2005, but that was before Kawasemi, an Intamin mega-lite, which is a smaller, but intense version of Intamin’s mega-coasters, which are very much favorites among coaster enthusiasts, especially those on TPR! Admittedly, I’d be riding two other mega-lites on the trip in China in a few weeks. But it seemed a shame to skip one that would be just a few miles away, especially since it would let me hopefully complete the set! Plus, Regina is probably the best still operating wooden coaster in Japan (since Aska closed), and it would give me a chance to actually see the zoo there, since we’d rushed right through it to get to the rides last time. So, it could even count as culture!

 

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Tobu Zoo, in terms of crowds. I was in Japan on the last week of their summer vacation, just as school was about to go back in session. Hopefully this would mean small crowds. But you never know. Luckily, for Tobo Zoo, it did! Although that actually turned out to be a problem. But I slept a bit later than I might have, gambling that it wouldn’t be a big issue.

 

Getting to Tobu Zoo by public transportation is fairly easy -- something that those on the TPR Japan tour next year may want to make note of if it doesn’t end up in the official trip. However, it does take three different trains from most of downtown Tokyo. Luckily, the Japanese trains are so efficient that this only ends up taking around 75 minutes total. You can take the Tobu Skytree line to the Tobudobutsukoen station, though you’ll definitely want to make sure you get on the MUCH faster section express or semi-express. From there, you can take a bus if you want. But it’s really only a 10-15 minute walk from there. If the bus happens to be at the station (or the park, on the way back), you can hop in, since it’s cheap. Otherwise, just walk.

 

So, I got to the park around an hour after opening, if I’m recalling correctly. And there was hardly anyone in sight anywhere near the gate, besides the staff. After buying my “free pass”, I headed straight to Kawasemi, although I did stop to feed the koi at one point along the long walk.

 

I’ve got to admit, I was actually very nervous getting on Kawasemi, because Intamin coasters are not know to be very friendly to larger riders, especially not those with larger butts. And I’m a larger rider with a larger butt! Last year, I barely fit on another mega-lite, Piraten in Denmark. I really had to pull at the seatbelt there. And I’d probably gained 10 pounds or so since then! Honestly, of all of the coasters on the entire trip, it was the mega-lites I was most afraid of not fitting on. In fact, it was one of the reasons I bought an exercise bike before the trip, even though I didn’t ride it nearly enough to really make that much of a difference. Once I got on, I was relieved to find out that I fit, with a good half inch or more to spare! Also, again, NOTHING can be in your pockets, including the ever-deadly Kleenex! (Since I have allergies, I always have Kleenex in my pockets!)

 

As for the ride itself, it’s great. In its compact layout is a lot of power, especially in the middle of the ride. However, I do think it’s somewhat overrated, as I also felt about Piraten – with both ranking in the top 6 of all steel coasters in the world on Mitch’s respected internet poll. Perhaps they were both running slowly on the days I visited, though, since the one at Happy Valley Chengdu seemed far more powerful to me.

 

But then I ran into the down side of a slow park in Japan. They don’t run the coaster until the train is full. And with a dead park, that can mean longer waits than if the park was busy. It wasn’t actually that bad, but it’s frustrating sitting in the station of a world class coaster, and not being able to ride it. So I rode it a few times, then headed off to the other rides. I hit the fun house, the Intamin drop tower, Tentomushi (a Zierer Tivoli) and Regina a few times, although it wasn’t running nearly as well in the early afternoon as it did on my last visit, when we had full trains and nighttime ERT. The haunted house was down for rehab, which had been noted on their website. I also spent a little time in the arcade, playhing the famous maracas video game and the stupid walking the dog video game.

 

Then I headed off to the actual zoo part of the park. I actually spent more time there than I had planned to, taking a bunch of pictures. It’s actually pretty standard zoo, though, with nothing you wouldn’t find in an American zoo. I fed some monkeys and watched them water the elephants and other zoo-y sorts of stuff.

 

Finally, I headed back to Kawasemi. Luckily, there were enough people there, many of them reriding, to get a bunch of rides in, though I had to strategically time getting in the line to get the front or back, since they make you board in the order of the line, and don’t let you choose your seat. After 8 or so rides, the small crowd started to wear thin, and it was taking longer between rides. I probably wouldn’t have left so soon, but I knew I’d be riding the remaining two mega-lites in China later on the trip.

 

Since I’d spent longer at the park that I’d originally, planned, I rushed out to try to get to Hanayashiki before they closed. More on that in a bit….

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Walking to the park, you'll quickly see signs of civilization: an Intamin drop tower and a ferris wheel!

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OK, maybe I don't have to worry about the park being busy.

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Feeding the koi. I'd see many, many koi and goldfish throughout Asia, especially in China.

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I spy with my little eye... Intamin goodness!

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It's actually easier to get good pictures of Kawasemi from further away, because much of the coaster area is blocked off.

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Gay rights have come a long way in Japan. We even have our own town now!

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A well done mirror maze in the funhouse.

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Regina, probably the best woodie still operating in Japan. (RIP Aska!)

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Since the park was so dead, I had to stand there for quite a while to finally get a picture with a train in it!

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More Regina goodness, heading back on the return run.

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Do people in Japan actually spend money to try to win slippers in the claw games in Japan?

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Apparently so. More slippers. I'm sure they're all properly licensed, too!

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Me at the maracas game, which was actually quite fun. Ok I admit I'm just posing here, but I did play just before this.

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Zoo time. I can never tell if ostriches look happy or angry. Or maybe they're happy when they're angry.

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Some neat Asian animals you'd never see in an American zoo!

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Uh oh! It looks like Timon escaped from Tokyo Disney!

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This was kind of neat. As the keeper hosed off the elephant, the elephant caught a bunch of the water into his trunk, then deposited it into his mouth afterwards. Then again, maybe they should just leave enough water for him, so he's not so thirsty?

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A cute kangaroo family. This is not THAT Joey.

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Look, just because I'm gay doesn't mean I can't pick up chicks!

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I normally love seeing penguins. I'm not the PETA type at all, but I admit that it bothers me seeing antarctic penguins out in summer heat. At least they didn't look as miserable as the ones at Higashiyama Zoo on my last Japan trip.

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Hey, monkey! I just fed you. Look more grateful!

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Pic of the day! This monkey takes a ride!

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Why am I suddenly feeling so sleepy?

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The park's mascot. Many of the parks in Asia have mascots, although they use them in varying amounts in the park itself. I tried to get mini stuffed versions of as many of them as I could as souvenirs on this trip. I planned to put them on my Christmas tree, although I ended up getting way too many of them. So I'll probably hang them from tinsel and stuff aroudn the house too.

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The first appearance on the trip of the dreaded squat toilets! It would NOT be the last!

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OK, back to Kawasemi. That's all most of you care about, anyways! ;-)

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Intamin mega-lite goodness!

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This is actually the most intense section of the ride, right in the middle, with some SERIOUS airtime.

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Who will be the first US park to install a mega-lite?

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Transfer track porn for the nerds!

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