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


David H
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A monkey riding a Capybara...seriously. Amazing.

 

Not quite asamazing as the bird riding a monkey riding a goat riding a bicycle over a tightrope or whatever the hell Dan saw at Chuanlord.

Edited by larrygator
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The cool thing about the monkey on the capybara was that it just happened on it its own randomly. The capybara was just walking by, and the monkey swung down on him from the rope above and rode him for maybe 10-20 feet then jumped off. The capybara didn't even seem to mind. I just happened to be there to catch it.

 

Now if we could have just gotten the capybara on a donkey, and all of them riding the Intamin coaster already at the park, we'd have had TPR heaven!

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

 

So, after I left Tobu, Zoo, I took the train to the Asakusa station. The Asakusa area is a huge tourist area that is famous for the Sensoji Temple, the Kaminarimon Gate, as well as a bunch of other temples and shrines. There’s also a large tourist trap shopping area with both outdoor stalls, and indoor malls. There’s also a park in the area, which includes Japan’s oldest amusement park, Hanayashiki. I hadn’t originally intended to visit Hanayashiki, but I did want to visit the area for the temples and cultural stuff, so I might as well visit a small historic amusement park that’s literally right down the street, right? But I’d have to make time to get there, because they were closing in less than an hour. And in Japan, when they say closing at a certain time, they mean everything is closed and get the hell out!

 

So, I rushed through the historic area, trying to snap as many pictures as I could, because I know that my camera sucks at night, and the sun would be going down soon. I soon arrived at Hanayashiki, which is literally a block in the middle of the area, with buildings on all sides. But they squeeze a decent amount of rides into such a small area, including the oh-so cleverly named Roller Coaster, which is the oldest coaster in Japan from 1953. It’s nothing special, but it actually a pretty decent ride. I quickly bought a bunch of tickets, headed straight to the coaster, and grabbed a few quick rides on the haunted attractions there, including yet another headphones attraction that wasn’t as good as the one at Joypolis. It’s pretty confusing finding your way around the small park, with various levels and rides all over the place, but I got help from the helpful locals.

 

After that, I walked around the Asakusa area, walking through the park, checking out the temples and shrines, and taking lots of pictures. Unfortunately, the temples were closed, but I had seen them from inside in 2005, so it wasn’t that big of a deal. I got my fortune by picking out a stick from a box, with the symbol on the stick corresponding to a drawer with a paper with your fortune on it (after making a donation, of course!) Mine said I'd be doing some traveling. The second fortune in three days to say this! I also inhaled some of the incense from the big burner, which was supposed to have healing properties. With my allergies, and with 46 days outdoors in Asia, every little bit helps! On the way back to the train station, I did some shopping for souvenirs. Then I headed to the Tokyo Skytree.

 

At 634 meters tall (2080 ft), the Tokyo Skytree is the tallest tower in the world, and the second tallest building. (The tallest is the Burj Khalifa.) It has two observation decks at 350 and 450 meters (1150 and 1480 feet), with the taller one being the second tallest in the world. (I wish I’d known a few weeks later in Ghangzhou that the Canton tower there has the tallest!) It was mainly built to replace the Tokyo Tower, which at just over half its height wasn’t effective at sending out radio and television signals any more, since many of the buildings around it were just as tall or taller! Since it just opened this summer, it had very long lines, and most of the people had bought timed tickets online. Unfortunately, I had had to leave the specific days of my plans open, because the amusement parks often close their coasters at the slightest hint of rain. As such, I wasn’t sure which days I’d be where, so advance tickets weren’t possible. Luckily, despite HUGE lines, the people at the Skytree show the usual Japanese efficiency at pushing people through queues. I was in the elevator on my way up the tower in much less than an hour, despite being in the standby line. Of course, then I had to wait another 20-30 minutes for the queue to the UPPER observation deck, which costs extra, of course! But it was worth it! It was an amazing view of Tokyo, with all its twinkling lights, above all of those tall buildings. This would be the first of many tall buildings and towers I’d be taking pictures from on this trip. It’s kind of a shame that I didn’t save it for last, since as the tallest, it made the others seem a bit inferior.

 

I headed back to the hotel and realized I hadn’t eaten anything other than snacks all day. And all of the restaurants in the hotel were closed. Luckily, the nearby TGI Fridays was open. As I approached it, I was also approached by a middle aged hooker, who giggled a lot and fanned herself with a paper fan as some sort of supposedly sexy titillation. But she was wasting her time with me! The very overpriced ribs at TGI Fridays were probably about as dry and fairly tasteless as I bet the hooker was. Luckily, their French onion soup was really good.

 

Back at the hotel, I did some planning for the next day’s sightseeing.

 

Next up: a whole day of culture, mostly at the Tokyo National Museum!

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The shopping area I rushed through to get to Hanayashiki before they closed. I'd buy souvenir crap here later.

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A quick peek at the Tokyo Skytree, between the buildings. It really dominates the whole area.

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The Sensoji Temple, unfortunately closed. Luckily, I'd been inside on my last trip.

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A five-story pagoda, next to the temple.

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Hanayashiki Amusement Park is really right in the middle of this tourist part of the city.

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Here's one of the entrance gates to the park.

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They really squeeze the rides in here in an impressive way!

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Here's what I'm really here for: Roller Coaster!

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The coaster runs around the entire block that is the park and is surprisingly fun!

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This little park even has a drop tower with a nice view of the area, though I didn't have time to ride it this time.

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But they've managed to stay modern with newer rides, like the Disk-O, in front of old rides like the parachute drop.

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I walked through the park on the way back to the temple. From here on, it's all culture, kids. So, if you're only about the coasters and parks, you can skip to day 5, when I post it!

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One of several temples in the area.

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A five-story pagoda with an antenna on top. You might as well make use of your historic sites, right?

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Only in Japan!

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I'm sure this rock is very important. That's why I took a picture of it. Don't ask me what it is, though!

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I'm coming, Skytree. Relax and stop taunting me. I'm just going to have to wait in line anyways!

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Sensoji Temple.

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Inhaling this incense smoke is supposed to be good for you and heal whatever ails you.

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With another 6+ weeks outdoors ahead of me, it couldn't hurt to get some healing smoke!

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After you make a donation, you shake the boxes, and take out a wood stick that corresponds to one of the drawers with fortunes in them. They have some badly translated English on them to get tourist money! Mine said I'd be doing some traveling!

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Pretty!

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Since my last name is Hamburger, everyone at work gets a kick out of the funny Burger signs I find abroad. I'm not sure I want to know what an Ice Cream Burger is, though!

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Fresh fugu anyone? I'm not that daring, especially not at the BEGINNING of this long trip!

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Im coming! I'm coming!

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The Kaminarimon Gate. Asians seem to love to give the peace sign when taking pictures, so I'd copy them for many of my pictures on this trip. When I asked them why they did it on my last trip to Japan, no one knew, and they all gave me different answers!

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The Kaminarimon Gate, with cool statues.

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On the last trip, when we drove by this, they told us that it is supposed to be a big statue of a hop for making beer, but that most of the locals call it the big turd!

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Wikipedia says that the lighting on the Skytree alternated between blue and purple on a daily basis. But I have pictures of both on this same day.

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Going up! The second of the two elevators in the tower, going to the upper observation deck.

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It's a gorgeous view of the city at night, but you'd think that by now they would have figured out a way of lighting the inside in ways that would make it easier to get pictures without reflections of all of the lights inside!

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Thats better! It was really hard trying to keep reflections out of my pictures!

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They project a hologram out from one side with various names and facts in both English and Japanese for picture taking.

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So that you can show your friends how tall the tower is.

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What a view!

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From the lower observation deck, which allows more detail in the view.

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That aqua and pink stick in the middle of the back is the Tokyo Tower, which used to be the city's big tourist trap before the Skytree replaced it.

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The Skytree has glass floors, though they're not as effective as some others are, as I'd see later on the trip.

Edited by David H
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Day 4: Tokyo Culture, with a surprise amusement park.

 

As I’ve said before, one of my reasons for wanting to go back to Japan was to “do Japan right”, and give it a chance to really impress me. One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I need to plan other things on my trips besides nonstop coasters and parks. When I don’t do so – as I didn’t on my last trip to Japan – I don’t really enjoy the trip nearly as much. So, when planning the trip, I allowed some time to see some of the tourist sights of Tokyo, without really knowing what those sights even were. Another advantage to having culture days was that they gave me some flexibility in my schedule. Since Asian parks tend to close their coasters as the slightest hint of rain, having culture days allowed me the flexibility to reschedule things on the fly, if necessary, even though it really never turned out to be necessary on this trip, thankfully! The other advantage to “culture days” is that since I didn’t have to be up early to get to an amusement park before the crowds get there, they offered me the rare opportunities to sleep late, an important perk on a crazy trip like this!

 

When it comes to sightseeing, I don’t really have any particular interests, other than perhaps an interest in aquaria, since I raise fish myself at home. So, I tend to just pick up a Frommer’s guide or go online and hit the biggest typical tourist trap sights that I see listed, skipping the ones that seem boring to me. I’m not much of a museum person or art buff, but I like checking out a few museums here and there to try to soak in some culture. And if there’s a big building or tower or better yet, a skyride/gondola ride where I can get some good panoramic views of the city or the mountains or whatever, then I’m all for it. Admittedly, these views became less impressive after 7 weeks of them, but I still enjoyed them, as you’ll see over the rest of this report.

 

My first stop on culture day was The Tokyo National Museum. It’s in a park that has a bunch of other touristy things to see, like other museums, a zoo, some temples, a scenic pond and more. So it seemed like a good place to get lots of pictures and soak up some culture. I’m not that familiar with Asian art, so I wasn’t sure if I’d get bored quickly at the museum, but I actually enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to, and spent much of the day there. I’ll post pictures of some of the highlights. One cool thing they had there was an area where you could make your own souvenir art on a circle or a paper kimono dress using stamps that had patterns and symbols that had different meanings to the Japanese. This was a fun, interactive diversion. I got a few souvenirs, including a t-shirt depicting a painting of the thunder and lightning gods Fujin and Raijin that I didn’t actually even get to see, because that wing of the museum was closed for renovations. But I liked it, and it looked really Japanese, so what the heck. Plus, those gods have two coasters named after them, so it’s almost a coaster souvenir, something very hard to come by in Japan!

 

After the museum, I wandered around the park. I skipped the zoo, since it was closing soon. I got some weird pizza with blue cheese and sausage that turned out to be really good. And then I happened to run into a little kiddie amusement park called Ueno Kodomo Yuen, tucked away in the park. It was actually very small, barely bigger than my apartment. But I took some pictures because few enthusaists have probably ever seen the place, since it’s not listed on RCDB, because it unfortunately doesn’t have any coasters. There were a few temples and shrines in the park to take pictures of. Outside one of them, some guy in a monk outfit asked if he could put a wish for me in his book. He asked me to sign it, gave me some cheap little tag, and then tried to guilt trip me into giving his a pretty hefty “donation” to his temple. I threw his some spare change, and lied that it was all I had. He tried to follow me and insisted that my wish would cost more. But I wasn’t falling for it. I just hoped he didn’t put a curse on me, and I’d get sick or hit horrible weather! I walked around the park some more, and got totally lost! Eventually I found the pond that’s noted for its lotus plants, especially when they’re in bloom, although only a few of them were blooming.

 

Then I made my way to the Imperial Palace, which you can only get inside with a guided tour I didn’t have time for. I snapped a few pictures of it, as well as the nearby Tokyo Tower, I skipped on this trip. From there, I headed to the Harajuku area, noted for lots of high end stores for shopping, although I didn’t buy anything. There was a really big temple in a park nearby. I knew it was closed, but figured I could get some pictures from outside, but it turned out that the entire park was closed off at night. Oh well.

 

From there, I headed back to the hotel to visit the aquarium. You know how most hotels want you to not have your sheets and towers washed, so they can save money – I mean help the environment? Well, they actually bribe you with a 500 yen voucher for each day you let them skip room service. The voucher was good for the Aquarium, so I might as well use it. Besides, as I mentioned I raise fish myself, so I like aquariums. Admittedly, it wasn’t all that impressive of an aquarium, but it was ok. From there I went to the legendary Shinagawa Kitchen food court in the hotel complex. The funny thing about this place is that you buy your food on machines in front of the counter, then give a slip or coin to the person, who has them make your food. I’m not sure how this is better than just giving the person your order! I got some pasta carbonara at the Italian restaurant. In Japan, they actually put a runny egg on top of carbonara, which is really weird. I also picked out a dish from another restaurant that I thought looked pretty traditional Japanese to me from the pictures, so that I could expand my food horizons a bit. It turned out to have Korean kimchee, which I'd see all the next week in Korea. Oh well.

 

After that, I headed back to the room, and packed. The next day, I’d be leaving Tokyo for now, and flying to Fukuoka. And before any of you horrified coaster enthusiasts ask how I could skip Tokyo Disney, don’t worry! I’d be back in 6 weeks at the end of the trip. I was saving the best for last!

 

Next up: Fukuoka, Japan. Five amusement parks in three days, all under the threat of thunderstorms!

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As I headed thogrough the park to the Tokyo National Museum, I passed another museum with a big whale out front!

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The main building of the Tokyo National Museum.

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One of the side buildings.

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Doesn't he just look welcoming?

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I'd see many, many, MANY Bhuddas on this trip, but at least this one was surrounded by a bunch of cool statues.

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Isn't he just precious? If they'd sold a mini verison of him in the gift shop, I'd totally have bought it!

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It's an arrow, stupid! You need a bow to use it!

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For you, Robb. Culture days with no coasters are always easier to bear with gratuitous boob shots!

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It wouldn't be a Japanese museum without some ancient armor, right? And swords, too, but none of them were cool enough to include here!

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Nothing says Japan and culture like Kimonos, right?

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Art. Your brain is growing as you read this!

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Helmets are always cooler with dragons on them!

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These ancient dancing guys are some of the biggest symbols of the museum. Now I wish I'd bought replicas of them, since they had tons in the gift shop! (I got a stuffed one for the X-mas tree, but it doesn't look close enough.)

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This guy is another symbol of the museum. I got a mini replica of him in the capsule machine they had there. I'd wanted the dancing guys, but he's pretty cool.

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Is it me, or does this demon look decidedly sad?

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A gate from an old building that used to be on the property of the museum long ago.

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A pretty fountain in the park.

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Surprise! An amusement park I wasn't expecting to run into! Unfortunately, it didn't have any credits. The whole park was maybe a bit bigger than my apartment!

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Fully licensed, I'm sure!

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They even had a tiny Dumbo ride.

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And a suspended plane ride.

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And even a kiddie whip!

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Most of the rides were maybe the size of my living room.

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So I walk way through the park to get to this temple, and this is what I find. A fascade, while they renovate it. Oh well. I got used to that in Italy 3 years ago.

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Some statues outside the temple.

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You write messages on these pieces of wood, presumably for the gods. I wonder if the Japanese gods speak French?

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Is it me, or does this totem pole by the Lions International seem a wee bit out of place in a Japanese park?

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No more so than the King Tut World tourist trap exhibition, I guess. If it hadn't been about to close, I might have actually gotten suckered in.

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A temple.

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A temple guarded by evil looking cats with pink and red bibs.

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Don't I look scary in my bib? You won't dare to enter!

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Tokyo Skytree flashback!

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A shrine to the victims of a war.

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Believe it or not, that's actually a big pond in the background, but you can't actually see any of the water, with all of those lotus plants. If you look closely, you can see a few of them beginning to bloom.

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A pretty small, but still nice, temple.

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You can't have a proper PTR of Japan without at least one picture of the drink vending machines that are EVERYWHERE. I mean, this is in the middle of a city park.

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Doesn't the Tokyo Tower look kind of sad trying to be all impressive as taller buildings have gone up all over the city? I bet it has a bad case of Skytree envy.

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The Imperial Palace. You can't see much more than this, unless you take a long guided tour that I'm sure is absolutely fascinating.

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A women only trian car during rush hour. As a feminist, I'm not sure what I think about this.

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In the big toy store in the high-end Harajuku shopping district, I found this oh-so-classy toy! Don't you want one? I love that they have samples out, in case you didn't understand what it does!

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More high-end class in Harajuku!

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This was as close as I got to the temple and museum in the park!

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Along with helpful info like which stop is next and how long to each destination, they also run ads on the subway monitors. For some reaosn, I really liked this sheep, which I saw on almost every trip.

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On to the Aqua Stadium Aquarium, where I got crabs. Really big crabs.

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Don't disturb the sleeping penguins! That's what I get for going to the aquarium with 30 minutes to spare before closing. Well, at least it was free with my vouchers for not getting the sheets and towels washed!

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I was really tempted to eat in this very overpriced restaurant at the aquarium. And then I relaized that if I want to eat surrounded by fish tanks, I can do that in my living room at home!

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Besides, I wanted to eat at Shinagawa's Prince's food court!

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The lights outside Aqua stadium.

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

 

One nice thing about staying at the Shinagawa Prince hotel is that it’s right on an express train line to Tokyo’s other major airport, Haneda Airport, which mostly serves domestic flights, though not exclusively.

 

Fukuoka is the southernmost major island of Japan. It was originally two separate cities named Hakata and Fukuoka, but earlier in the last century, they merged them into Fukuoka, although they still use the name Hakata for the area that was once that city. You can get there by high speed rail, but it would make more sense to take the train from Osaka. From Tokyo, it would take around 6 hours. Since I had a lot of miles available on British Airways, and since short-haul flights on BA require very few miles (4500, worth about $45), flying seemed a much better option. Especially since either flying or taking the train would cost over $200. Note that English is far less common in Fukuoka than it is in touristy Tokyo, which makes it a lot harder to get help from the locals. But the people still try to be as helpful as possible. And far more people speak at least some English that you might otherwise expect.

 

There were a few reasons I decided to add Fukuoka to this trip, even though it was far away from Tokyo. First and foremost, Kijima Kogen park is home to the only wooden coaster in Japan I haven’t ridden, even if it isn’t a great one. Secondly, Space World had always looked really neat in all of the reviews on TPR and elsewhere I’ve seen. Also, the entire area was a place I haven’t been, which is always nice. And I could get 20 or so credits in a few days, which is even nicer! Finally, I discovered that there are ferries and hydrofoils to Busan, South Korea, which is a short train ride from Gyeongju, where I’d be going next to ride their B&M inverted coaster. So, rather than flying all the way up to Seoul in the North part of the country, then taking the train most of the way back down South Korea to Gyeongju, I could just take the ferry, and do a bit of sightseeing in Busan, too. I’d originally planned two days in Fukuoka, but quickly realized that with the parks so far apart, I’d need three days. With three days, I could also hit Mitsui Greenland, a major park with perhaps no stand-out coasters, but a lot to do. And this would also allow me to add two smaller parks that were near (or at least sort of on the way) to the parks I was going to. I actually ended up completely rearranging my plans just before leaving for the trip because two of the major parks actually had changed their announced opening hours for that weekend at some point during the season, which actually gave me more time to play with than I’d expected to have.

 

My big challenge in Fukuoka would be the weather. It was the tightest leg of my trip, with 5 parks in 3 days. And if it rained on any of those days, they’d close the coasters, and I’d be stuck deciding whether it would be worth it to sit at the park all day hoping they’d open the coasters or try to do some sightseeing. If I got rained out of one day, it would be hard to try to squeeze in two of the three major parks in one day, since they were all scattered around the island with around 3 hours worth of train rides between them, PLUS bus rides. To make things worse, for the entire week beforehand, they were predicting various degrees of rain all weekend. At one point, the reports were predicting 60-80% chance of rain all weekend! Interestingly, the typhoon I just missed seemed to have sucked most of the rain out of the area, because in the last few days, the weather reports started really clearing up, with Friday and Saturday showing only 20% chance of rain, and Sunday showing 40% chance. But with Kijima Kogen now planned for Sunday, I was gambling that I might miss out on the most important coaster of this leg of the trip for me, the only woodie in Japan. I was tempted to try to squeeze it in today, and was still considering it that day, but it would have simply been way too tight. I’d have had to skip the bonus park and RUN through Space World, and would have had to pay a lot for taxis to save time. And I still might not have made it to Kijima in time. I decided to stick with my plans, knowing the risk.

 

The Fukuoka airport is one of the few airports right in the middle of a major city, as opposed to far on the outskirts. It’s a quick subway ride to the main downtown train station, where my hotel for this leg of the journey was. On Elissa’s recommendation, I stayed at the Hakata Miyako Hotel which was pretty cheap and VERY convenient, since it was literally across the street from the train station I’d be using to get to all of the parks. Those who went on the TPR trip to southern Japan will recognize it. When I got there in the morning, my room wasn’t ready, so they stored my bags, and I headed off to my first park of the day.

 

Kashiikaen Yuenchi is a small park. It’s just off the main train line to Space World, so it’s an easy, quick stop. And it has a medium sized coaster that’s pretty decent, alone with a nice location just off of the water north of the main city. If you’re trying to get there by train, you take the JR Kagoshima Line 3 stops from Hakata Station to Chihaya station, then switch to the Nishitetsu Kaizuka Line 3 stops to Kashii Kaen-mae station – the park’s own train station. Since these trains are owned by separate companies, you buy the tickets separately. It only takes around 20-40 minutes to get there, depending on how well you time your trains. And half of that time is time I would have spent getting to Space World anyways.

 

It’s a small park with a handful of rides, the largest of which is their mid-sized Meisho coaster called Pegasus. For a park this size, it’s actually quite a big coaster, with a decent layout. It’s nothing spectacular, but it’s honestly worth a quick visit. Even if you’re in a hurry, you could do the entire place, including the detour train rides in under 90 minutes. The park also has a powered coaster called bunbun coaster. The park is surrounded by mountains, as is much of Fukuoka, and is right off the water, which makes for some nice views. Luckily, the park was pretty dead, so I had time to to ride the coaster a few times, and took a quick ride on the powered coaster (even though I don’t count them), took a bunch of pictures and headed out to take the trains to Space World.

 

More on Space World, shortly....

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Another thing you have to have pictures of in any Japan PTR: the plastic models of the food in the windows of most restaurants! They're everywhere. And very helpful when they don't have English menus!

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The JR Hakata train station, where I'd be leaving from every day.

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The Hakata Miyako hotel, my home for the next three nights. It's very convenient, literally across the street from the trian station area. And more importantly, it's Elissa approved and recommended!

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The entrance to Kasiikaen Yuenchi park. Guess what the big ride is here.

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The Japanese love their helices!

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Pegasus, a surprisingly big coaster for such a small park.

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I'm not sure why they have train cars displayed near the coaster. It's Japan, that's why!

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The coaster had a pretty decent view.

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Living on the pretty flat East coast of the US, I love seeing mountians. And Fukuoka is full of them!

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Bunbun coaster, the powered coaster with the silly name!

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This layout would become very familiar on this trip, particularly in China.

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A small driving academy type ride, and a big wheel. Gee, you never see those in Japan!

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They even have a Dumbo knockoff.

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It's actually a pretty nice park, definitely worth a quick stop if you're in Fukuoka.

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The train ride between parks. For some reason, the clouds on the mountains fascinated me. I wanted to go up there and walk in the clouds. Luckily, I'd have my chance in two days!

Edited by David H
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I'm really enjoying this TR. Did you get a chance to try Fukuoka ramen (tonkotsu)? So delicious!

Looking forward to hearing about Korea... last year I did the reverse direction, going from Gyeongju to Busan by bus and then taking the ferry to Fukuoka before heading up to Tokyo.

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We didn't skip it!?!?! In fact, it was our first official park on the trip!

 

Sorry! Someone had told me you guys skipped it! I should have checked, or better yet, remembered it from back when I read the TPR reports of the trip!

 

I'll fix that right now!

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

 

I know I tend to write a lot of text, which a lot of you probably skip over to see the pictures, but you might actually want to read my description of the park operations at Space World, because they’re damn funny. In hindsight, at least.

 

Space World is a park that seems designed just for me. I’m a sci-fi geek and a sucker for all the spacey theming, even if it’s cheesy. I’ve been to Alabama’s Space Camp and Texas’ Johnson Space Center, although I’ve somehow never managed to get to Kennedy Space Center in Florida, despite its relative proximity to many parks I’ve been to dozens of time in the Orlando area. I’ll have to fix that some day.

 

Space World is actually a pretty big theme park. It has 6 coasters, three of which are among the bigger coasters in Japan. It has a bunch of flat rides and water rides and a mini water park, plus a whole indoor dome filled with rides and attractions. It has some pretty good theming, even if it isn’t all exactly world-class. But they also have a full sized replica of a NASA space shuttle as the backdrop to one of their coasters, which is pretty impressive. They even had a small “space museum” with supposedly genuine moon rocks and models of moon rovers and space capsules and space suits and the like. And, of course, they have a whole slew of space themed cartoon characters with likenesses all over the park, including in their own musical shows, not to mention a bunch of actual genuine park merchandise – something that’s hard to find in Japan! Yeah, I FINALLY got a park t-shirt on this trip! And they stayed open until 9PM all weekend, too!

 

Unfortunately, it also has some of the most excruciatingly bad park operations I’ve ever seen, which really made it hard to like this place as much as I wanted to. The wait to ride a coaster can be absolutely interminable, even with only one train of people waiting! Those of you who visited the park with TPR were probably spared much of this, since you mostly rode during ERT. You have no idea how lucky you are! Be sure to thank Robb and Elissa profusely the next time you talk to them for sparing you normal Space World operations!

 

But if you go on a normal day, here’s what you missed: First they completely unload the train and make you wait completely outside the station until everyone is completely out of the station. With the elevated Titan V coaster, with its elevated station, that means waiting until EVERYONE comes down several flights of stairs. Then they start letting people up the stairs. They don’t actually open the gates until everyone is up the stairs and in the gate rows. Then they finally open the gates, and let people into the trains. Since this is Japan, you have to take EVERYTHING out of your pockets – yes, including Kleenex! They wait until everyone has everything in the cubbies and is sitting down. Then they give you the safety speech. But for some reason I can’t even fathom, this safety speech takes literally 5-7 minutes. I’m not exaggerating. I timed it several times. The ride op goes on and on and on, telling jokes and laughing as she’s going. I can’t imagine what they’re telling you that takes twice as long as the ride itself. (And about 5 times as long as the ride, in the case of the launched Zaturn!) And they continue to tell this 5-7 minute speech all day, even when it’s clearly the same people riding again and again, because there are less than 100 people in the park! It was one of the only times in Japan that I truly wished that I understood the language so that I could find out what the hell they were telling us that was so important that it took 5-7 minutes to tell us while we’re waiting to ride a damn coaster! At first, I thought that maybe they were telling funny stories about the coaster, and maybe people who are scared of it or some stats or something, but a person I rode with who could speak a little bit of English said that it was just safety information. Then, at long last, they actually check the restraints. Then they actually tell you a few more things! And then, just as you’re about to try to kill yourself, they actually send out the ride.

 

Oh, and don’t even TRY to ride with someone you’re not with! They’ll make you get up, even if the person you’re riding with doesn’t mind – even if they’ve invited you to sit with them. One ride op explained that it was because “Japanese too shy”. So 2-8 seats go out empty on every train, forcing more people to wait another eternity for the next train. And Lord knows, they will only ever run one train! As a result, since they count how many people to let up, and since they don’t let people pair up, that means that inevitably, there are 2-10 people waiting in the station for the next train, while everyone else waits downstairs, which is somewhat absurd. In fact, one of the funniest moments of the day came when a big bee came into the station with 8-10 people waiting for the next train and EVERYONE freaked out. And it wouldn't leave for at least 10 minutes. Which, of course, wasn't even one cycle!

 

After 1-3 minutes of actual fun, no matter how good the ride is, you have to decide if it’s worth sitting through all of this crap again to ride again.

 

The sad part is that I’m not actually making any of this up.

 

And those of you on the TRP China trip thought that the Happy Valley parks were bad!

 

Luckily, I liked the park enough that I was willing to tolerate all of this bull, although it annoyed the hell out of me every time I tried to ride Titan V and Zaturn. I’m not the most patient of people. And absurd stupidity like this that makes me waste lots of time needlessly frustrates the hell out of me! I’m still amazed that I walked away actually liking the park!

 

So, back to the beginning. To get to Space World, you take the JR Kagoshima line RAPID to the conveniently named Space World stop. Do NOT take the local train, or it will take you longer than waiting for the next rapid train would have taken! All told it takes an hour or so to get to the park from Hakata, or where you changed trains from Kashikaen Yuenchi. You can see the park from the train station, although it’s a bit of a walk. And you have to walk by most of the park to get to the entrance, though that walk is at least good for getting pictures of Venus GP and its space shuttle.

 

So, when I arrived at the park, I was happy to see the looping coaster Venus GP running. But instead I headed to the side of the park with Zaturn, the Intamin accelerator, and Titan V, the Arrow mini-hyper coaster, since they seemed more notable coasters to start with. (Remember, there was still the threat of rain, although it never materialized.) As I got to Zaturn, the sign said that it didn’t open until 1 PM. And the sign at Titan V said that it didn’t open until 2 PM. Great! Especially with the sky being overcast and there being the ever-present threat of rain. But I did the only thing I could do and headed to the next biggest coaster, Venus GP, a surprisingly good Maurer Sohne custom looping coaster, designed by Werner Stengel, and reminiscent of a Schwartzkopf looper. The funny thing is that while the park doesn’t allow anything on your pockets on the larger coasters, they make you ride WITH YOUR BAG in Venus GP! They even showed me a little hand sign in English that they had ready for the occasion that said that the centrifugal force would keep my bag in the vehicle! From there, I headed to the kiddie Togo coaster Clipper, which was surprisingly painless for a Togo, but otherwise unremarkable. Then I headed to Senyo junior coaster with the absolutely silly name of Boogie-woogie Space Coaster, which has the back half of its cars facing backwards. But the ride op during her schpiel kept trying to get everyone on the train to yell “Boogie oogie oogie!” with their hands waving in the air, both in the station, and during the ride, which was actually hilarious and charming. She loved it when I did it!

 

From there I headed to the indoor dome, since it hosted the indoor Black Hole Scramble coaster, which, you guessed it, wasn’t open yet. I walked around the various displays and kiddie play areas inside, and timed it well to ride the space simulator movie, which was so exciting that I think I fell asleep. When it was over, the coaster was open, which was good timing on my part!

 

From there, I headed back to Zaturn and Titan V and began the long waiting game through a handful of rides on each coaster. Zaturn is pretty much a clone of Stealth in the UK, which I liked. Or a smaller version of Top Thrill Dragster and Kingda Ka. But it’s a fun ride with a good launch, which had only a 1-2 train wait, although that meant around 20 minutes at this park! Honestly, I expected more from Totan V, since I usually like the Arrow hyper coasters. But this one didn’t do all that much. Not much airtime, not much laterals, long, boring helices, yadda, yadda. A decent ride, but nothing special. I walked around some more, and took a bunch of pictures, and got a few more rides, until I couldn’t stand it any more. I did the really neat alien haunted walkthrough, which had a couple of good surprises, one of which really got me. I did a few more random rides and headed back to the other end of the park to walk through the Space Museum, which had various displays of space memorabilia, as well as a display honoring the 45th anniversary of the Ultraseven show. I got a few more rides on Boogie-Oogie and Zaturn and decided to call it a day. Normally, I’d have headed back to Zaturn and Titan V, but I just didn’t want to deal with the operations over there any more.

 

On my way out, I happened to run into the last few minutes of the park’s “Space Disco Nights” show, which I mainly stopped into to get some pictures of the actual life-sized characters walking (well, dancing!) around. It was a corny show, with a buncvh of characters, along with some live singers, and dancers who went out into the crowd trying to get everyone involved. Harmless fun.

 

In the end, though, despite frustrating operations, I had a lot of fun at a quirky, well-themed park with some decent coasters. I’m not sure if I’d hurry back here if they didn’t add something major, but it was definitely worth the trip.

 

I headed back to the train and the ride back to the hotel . When I got there, I was hungry, since I hadn’t eaten all day. But it was late, and the front desk clerks said there were no restaurants open anywhere in the area, even though the area was full of restaurants. They said I‘d have to get food at a convenience store. But I didn’t accept this and pretty quickly found a pub food kind of restaurant that was open very late and had a good mix of Asian and western mediocre food. When I told the clerk about this, he was very surprised. You’d think this would be the kind of thing that they’d get asked once in a while? What was even more surprising is that the next night I’d notice that the restaurant RIGHT NEXT DOOR was actually open every night until 2 AM! How on Earth did they not know this? The standing sign is right at the entrance of the hotel!

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Excuse, me? Is there a space themed amusement park around here, anywhere?

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Even if the coaster isn't the biggest in the park, the impressive space shuttle makes Venus GP the most iconic coaster in the park!

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Yay! It's running!

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Wait. Is that Intamin track I see?

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Theming!

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Pretty. AND educational!

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Back to Venus GP. What the heck does the GP stand for anyways? They added it later.

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Cool!

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Yeah, yeah. Everyone who's ever been here has this picture.

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Wait? Helices with actual forces in Japan? I thought they were illegal!

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Obligatory shot of the Clipper family coaster.

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Watch out for aliens crossing under this bridge!

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The dome that houses the Black Hole Scramble coaster and a few other rides and attractions.

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These are supposed to be cute, but I think they're creepy!

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Well, if the Arrow mini-hyper across the park isn't good enough, I can always simulate it's big brother from Vegas in here!

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Indoor theming that's supposed to make you think you're in space.

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Dinosaurs on a spaceship??? Wasn't that just done on Doctor Who? (Actually it was a week after this was taken.) At least it made sense on the show!

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Finally, they opened the Black Hole Scramble coaster.

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A pretty typical indoor coaster, with some space theming.

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Sorry, but if you have problem with your heard, you can't ride. So stop fighting with your boyfriend!

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Stay away, David. Resist the temptation!

(The trampoline I dislocated my shoulder on last year at a park, was a standard trampoline, actually, not one of these bubble thingies.)

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Zaturn had better be running by now!

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Yay! it is!

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THAT's what I waited through a 5-minute safety schpiel for? 45 seconds of ride?

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Nice theming. And another mountain with clouds on it! I was wondering what it would be like to walk up there. (See day 6!)

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How about you, Titan V? Are you running yet? After all, just because i haven't seen a train in over 10 minutes doesn't mean anything here!

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Ah, there it is!

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It's a decent drop, but not much airtime.

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So, tnhey built this fairly big coaster, then hid most of it away back where hardly anyone can see it!

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A nicely themed log flume.

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I didn't know robots could go to the bathroom! See, Space World IS educational!

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An Intamin at night.

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Pretty again.

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The Space Museum. Another Doctor Who story title!

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Typical space museum fare. A space suit.

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Scapce capsules.

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And space monsters. Who smile and wave.

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No, they're part of the Ultraseven 45th anniversary display, which took up over 1/3 of the space museum.

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A moon rock that wasn't actually in the Space Museum, but in another building with a few other space displays.

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Boogie oogie oogie! (with your hands up!)

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Venus GP at night.

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I'm not really a show person, but how can you pass up something called "Space Disco Night"?

Too bad I missed "VICKI the LIVE!"

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These gals went out into the crowd and really tried to get everyone dancing, especially the kids. The show had everything from park mascot characters to hot dancer chicks to live singers to a live band to a train!

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Is it me, or does this guy in the bluish silver look like a Japanese cross between Bowie and Jagger?

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The characters dancing, along with one hot Japanese dancer really putting her all into it!

But I get distracted by the eagle character who really rocks that glittery dress and boa!

Yes, I bought her stuffed character, along with the bunny in the space suit.

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The kids seemed to love the confetti-filled finale.

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Actually, it's goodbye, Space World.

I actually did have fun here, despite my annoyance at the horrible operations.

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Some sculpture thing outside the park on the walk back to the train station.

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In the train stations in Fukuoaka, they had tons of ads for Universal Studios' Japan's newly updated kiddie section. but that's still five weeks away for me at this point.

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And just a a touch of culture to round out this installment. A statue at the Hakata train station.

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Thanks for the nice comments, everyone.

 

No, I didn't get to try Fukuoka ramen. The Fukuoka leg especially was quite tight, since the parks actually closed fairly late. 9PM for Space World on Friday and 11 PM for Kijima Kogen on Saturday (but that's the next update.) Once I got back to Hakata by train, it was quite late, and food options were limited. (Though not as limited as the hotel desk who told me I'd have to have conveneince store food would have had me think.) So, I was stuck with the Japanese version of pub food, which actually had quite a bit of western options. I did manage to get some meat on sticks on Sunday, just before most of the restaurants closed.

 

Honestly, I'm not all that adventurous of an eater. But I did make sure to try at least some new local food on various legs, like the famous Gyeongju bread (which was ok), Tapenayaki, Korean BBQ, etc. I didn't brave the stinky tofu in Taiwan though!

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Venus GP was the first looper made by Maurer-Söhne after their purchase of the former Schwarzkopf coaster division from BHS - it's still using a lot from coasters like Jetline. Also there're similarities to the older Intamin loopers like California Screamin - both manufacturers hiring Schwarzkopf engineers and continued were they left off a few years earlier, with some founding Gerstlauer...

 

Dou you have some pics of the parks flats?

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Venus GP was the first looper made by Maurer-Söhne after their purchase of the former Schwarzkopf coaster division from BHS - it's still using a lot from coasters like Jetline. Also there're similarities to the older Intamin loopers like California Screamin - both manufacturers hiring Schwarzkopf engineers and continued were they left off a few years earlier, with some founding Gerstlauer...

 

Dou you have some pics of the parks flats?

 

You know, after a few rides, I was convinced it was a Schwatzkopf, actually, though I hadn't really remembered the details from RCDB. It definitely RIDES like an Uncle Anton coaster. It wasn't as intense as some of the crazier Schwartzkopfs, but it definitely had that feel, with some nice positive G's in the turns.

 

I'll have to see what other pics I have. I mostly took pics of the coasters.

 

Now that I think about it, there weren't actually a lot of flat rides. It was mostly water rides. I think several of the flats have been closed or removed. (According to the TPR park index.) It was mostly water rides, with a rapids and a really nice log flume, plus some water park rides. Most of the other non-coaster rides, were indoor stuff. A whole indoor kiddie area, though most of that was kiddie play areas. The bubble trampoline thing I posted a picture of. A 4D theater, showing the panda movie -- which I just relaized that I've never actually gotten around to watching in any of the languages it's been at the many parks I've seen it at. A simulator. A really cool alien themed haunted walkthrough. A drop tower is listed on the park index, but i don't actually remember riding, so it might be gone. And a ferris wheel. Plus the shows and museums. I think that's it.

 

The Space Disco Nights show was pretty silly, but decent for a park show outside Disney or Universal. I mean, it had a ton of characters, a live band, live singers, a troop of dancers, a confetti bomb and even a train. (?!?) I mainly just went inside to get some pictures of the characters, since they don't roam the park. Probably more than 3/4 of the people in the park were at the show. I think they only run the show in the Summer, because that's the only time they're open nights. I planned the trip to be in Japan for the last week of Summer/night operation of some parks to give me some extra time at Fuji-Q and the Fukuoka parks. I was worried that that would mean summer crowds, but luckily, it didn't. (Well, Fuji-Q is nearly always busy, but the fastpasses and the extra time made up for extra crowds.)

Edited by David H
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Do you have some pics of the parks flats?

 

Now that I think about it, there weren't actually a lot of flat rides. It was mostly water rides. I think several of the flats have been closed or removed. (According to the TPR park index.) It was mostly water rides, with a rapids and a really nice log flume, plus some water park rides. Most of the other non-coaster rides, were indoor stuff. A whole indoor kiddie area, though most of that was kiddie play areas. The bubble trampoline thing I posted a picture of. A 4D theater, showing the panda movie -- which I just relaized that I've never actually gotten around to watching in any of the languages it's been at the many parks I've seen it at. A simulator. A really cool alien themed haunted walkthrough. A drop tower that i don't actually remember riding, so it might have been down. And a ferris wheel. Plus the shows and museums. I think that's it.

 

David is correct in that there are not that many flat rides. I did make sure to get pictures of each of them for the Park Index in 2011, so unless they added something for 2012, TPR's Park Index lists all the non-kiddie flat rides.

Edited by larrygator
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^Were the S&S Towers still there or did they pull those out yet?

 

I was just editing my last post to note that the index lists drop towers, but I don't remember riding them. And I don't have any pictures of them. So, I imagine they're gone. If they'd been there, I'm pretty sure I'd have ridden them. Not only do I like them, but for the view of the park and the surrounding mountians. And the park was slow enough that I'd have had the time, even with the park's operations!

 

What's up with the park taking out ALL of their flat rides, anyways?

Edited by David H
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The rumor was that one of the towers had a somewhat serious accident. I don't think we've ever seen them open, run, or people working on them since we started visiting the park back in 2005. I do believe they were still standing though when we were there last year.

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