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Photo TR: Chuck Finally Returns to Japan with TPR


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Chapter 3

Coasters & Culture: From Hirakata Park to Inari Temple


Today was a mix of the fanciful and the spiritual, of the ridiculous and the sublime. Well, mostly the fanciful and ridiculous--in a good way. After all, this is a TPR trip.


We took a few more trains and ended up at a new park for me--Hirakata, a family park themed around fairy tales, Japanese style. That is, I have no idea what fairy tales they were getting at, but the park was into elves and ogres and fairies and such in a cartoon Tolkien sort of way. It also boasted five coasters:


ELF--This is actually an acronym for "Episode of Little Fairies." (Yes, you read that correctly.) It's a an Intamin "family" woodie, and a pretty good one--a cut above, say, Ghoster Coaster at Kings Dominion. We had a nice little filming/ERT session on this one.


Red Falcon--the obligatory Jet Coaster, and a pretty good example of the breed. It sprawls out over one section of the park and offers some nice views to go with its interesting layout.


Crazy Mouse--an OK Reverchon spinner.


Fantastic Coaster Rowdy--well, this lives up to the "rowdy" portion of its name, if not the "fantastic." One very odd family ride.


Peekaboo Town--another odd kiddie coaster that rumbles over a nicely landscaped little area (and can throw you around a bit it you're not careful).


There was a slew of flats, as well as a good shooting dark ride and a funky walk-through attraction or two, including an indoor petting zoo. Everybody seemed to enjoy Hirakata quite a bit, and the staff was great.


We had some "free time" after visiting the park, and some of us decided to check out Inari Temple in Kyota while on the way back to Nagoya. Perhaps all the credit whoring we'd had done not only in Japan but elsewhere had forced us to rethink our lives, develop our more spiritual natures, and cleanse our souls . . . nah, we were just being tourists. But Inari Temple was quite beautiful and it made for a very nice walk--about two-and-half-miles due up.


Join us, won't you?


Yes, even "gentlemen" can have a swingin' time at Tokyo Disney.


I have no idea why Sir Issac Newton is interacting with a fan on a Japanese commuter train.


Er, did we get off at the right stop?


Oh, there it is.


Aghh! I thought this neighborhood looked kind of sketchy!


Like I said: "Episode of Little Fairies."


"All little fairies must read instructions to enjoy episode properly."


"Hang on to them hats and glasses!"


"'Cause this here's the wildest little fairy episode in the wilderness!"


Japan isn't known for wooden coasters, but this one isn't bad.


Fun for the whole family and all little fairies everywhere.


Where does the park end and the city begin?


OK, there's supposed to be a "Big Roller Coaster" around here someplace.


I wonder where that "Big Roller Coaster" could be?


Hey, guys! Have you been on the "Big Roller Coaster" yet? I can't seem to find it.


Hmm--doesn't look so "big" to me.


Oh, I give up . . . wait a minute!


OK, that looks like it could be a "Big Roller Coaster."


I think Red Falcon was the best of the Jet Coasters on this trip.


Yes, they are sort of like big, lumbering Mine Trains, but I like the layout of this one--very scenic.


Er, OK.


Proper riding position.


Improper riding position.


This just looks "wrong."


Jon is really enjoying this--maybe a bit too much.


"See you in your nightmares, kiddies!"


"Ahoy! Thar be rowdiness off the starboard bow!"


"Thar be no sense to the themin' of this ride, sez I"


When in Japan . . .


. . . do as the Japanese do.


"Enough dolphin hugging! Time to blow critters to bits!"


Yes from hugging dolphins . . .


. . . to blasting demons! Hirakata offers good, clean fun for the entire family.


This is excellent practice should you encounter any Lovecraftian Elder Gods in your travels. More to come from Hirakata.

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More Hirakata wackiness.


Whoa! Frodo really let himself go after all that "Ring of Power/Mordor" stuff.


I guess Frodo has spent a lot of time here.


OK, here's everyone's chance to be a fairy or wizard or something.


This involves running around a lot and bumping into mirrors.


The Haunted Shack is alive, well, and living in Japan.


This is Dowsing Mountain--another odd walk-through attraction.


"All this can be yours, if the price is right!"


Mine! Mine, I tell you!


This is an upcharge, by the way.


Yes, you're paying money for the chance to find one bag of rocks that weighs the same as another bag of rocks.




Emperor Guillotine, I have brought you the head of Ultra-Man!


Oh, god--another one of those raccoon pretenders.


"Look at me! Look at me! I'm a red panda! Howdy, howdy, howdy!"


"Please, your just me with red hair dye! Why don't you embrace your raccoon-ness?


Because the enthusiast community demanded it, here is the entire layout of Fantastic Coaster Rowdy. You're welcome.


The little fairies' episode continues.


And what a darling little episode it was.


This will give you an idea of just how BIG Red Falcon is.


"G-day, mate! Just pedaling through."




"Hug Hug Town": The red-light district of Hirakata.


"Freedom! Sweet freedom . . . ow! Dammit!"


Yes, officer--that's the guy that tried to strangle me earlier today.


"Hello there! I'm Wizard! Can you guess what I do? Come on! Guess, damn you!"


Looks like they came to terms with Pippin from the LOTR movies, but I guess Merry was holding out for too much money. So they made do with Poppy. That's all from Hirakata. Now it's time to get all spiritual and stuff.

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Time for a nice long walk. I hope everyone is wearing comfortable shoes, and is ready for a bit of "culture" at Inari Temple.


Looks like something from Frankenstein's lab.


OK, there's supposed to be a temple around here someplace.


Like, maybe, right here.


I can already sense the presence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.


You're supposed to wash your hands here . . .


. . . then rinse and spit. Just like at the dentist's office.


"You did remember to spit, right?"


"Yessir, Mr. Devil Dog!"


We're going all the way up there? Well, some of us did. The group got a bit spread out. Some went all the way up, and others went out and found a good restaurant.


China's Forbidden City has an endless series of identical buildings and courtyards . . .


. . . while Inari has orange columns. Lots of orange columns.


Why so serious?


A pretty little stream runs down the mountain.


"Hey, guys! I found more orange columns!"


"Stay away from me! Stick to the orange columns, lest you be lost forever!"


There are quite a few little shrines as you make your way to the top.


I think this is the source of the stream.


So, this is where the orange columns come from. They must plant these little ones first, then they grow.


We encountered many spots of sublime beauty . . .


. . . and an alligator with underpants on its head.


Almost to the top . . . I hope!


A giant bug wished me good luck.


Whew! I made it!


May as well light a candle after coming so far.


Time to head back down.


Hey! No one said anything about bees on the way up!


You can wash and spit here, too.


Uh oh! Looks like someone didn't quite make it.


Ah, sweet, sweet victory! I was glad that I made it to the top of the mountain. That's all for now.

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Loving these reports. Glad that you were not eaten by bees!




A day in which you are not eaten by bees is, indeed, a good day.


One other observation about the climb up Inari Temple: There were vending machines at various stops on the way. The higher you went, the more expensive they vending machines were. I can't imagine having to be the guy who hauls all those drinks up the mountain to restock those machines. (We didn't see any service roads that went to the top.)

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^Funny you mention that. There are articles out there about the vending machines on the Mt. Fuji Climb and how the machine at the top is one of the most expensive vending machines out there!


Great report! I love Hirakata and hadn't been there since 2004. I thought the park looked great and KT was able to ride so much stuff!

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Hahaha when hiking with my co-teachers here in Korea, they have restaurants/grocery stores where they serve up basic food and have tons of snacks and food to buy all the way up the mountain, i'd hate to be the ones who carry it all up. They also get more expensive the higher you go.

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^Funny you mention that. There are articles out there about the vending machines on the Mt. Fuji Climb and how the machine at the top is one of the most expensive vending machines out there!


Great report! I love Hirakata and hadn't been there since 2004. I thought the park looked great and KT was able to ride so much stuff!


I enjoyed Hirakata quite a bit. I think our group did that shooting dark ride about five or six times, as you could win a prize for high scores (I didn't win a durn thing, though).


It's a very nice park with plenty for entire families to do.

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How did we miss the haunted shack attraction?! So awesome to learn that they had one! Well, there's another good reason to go back someday. You gotta love a park with so many dark rides/walk-throughs/etc.

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Chapter 4

The Yokohama Twofer: Cosmoworld and Sea Paradise


You may remember the yakitori feast we enjoyed after our day at Universal. Well, that excellent meal, and all the beer and sake that came with it, were courtesy of Mr. Kitigawa, an executive with Senyo, the Japanese company that not only designs and builds park attractions, but also operates Cosmoworld. He did more than treat us to a fine dinner, though; he also set up an excellent day for us at Cosmoworld, for which the entire group was very grateful. Mr. Kitigawa is also a bit of a prankster--he fits right in with TPR.


Cosmoworld is an amusement park/arcade complex in Yokohama with a wide assortment of flat rides, walk-throughs and dark rides, arcade games, and coasters--all in a beautiful urban setting. We enjoyed ERT on Diving Coaster Vanish, which features a drop into an underwater tunnel much like Kings Dominion's Anaconda (only without as much pain); Spinning Coaster, which is a Reverchon ride that spins like mad; the Log Flume, which has two insane, airtime-filled drops; and Family Banana Coaster, which is pretty much what it sounds like.


We even had early access to the park's "ice house." Yes it is, indeed, a freezing cold building in which everything is made of solid ice. We got to spend a fair amount of time in there, thanks to Mr. Kitigawa and Elissa locking us in. As I told you, our host was quite the prankster--and we all salute him for it.


It was a great ERT session and my thanks to Robb, Elissa, and Mr. Kitagawa for making it happen.


We hit Yokohama's Sea Paradise that day, too. This is an aquatic park with the usual array of marine exhibits and shows. It's the home of Blue Fall: the best damned drop tower anywhere! Yes, this is the old-school Intamin tower with the "false" drop. It also has an insanely long free fall that puts most other drop towers to shame. This park is also features Surf Coaster--a Togo ride that's actually fun, doesn't try to hurt you, and sports a few huge Japanese helices.


There's a "never in America" attraction here, too: a dolphin lagoon with electric boats. You can cruise among the dolphins. Very cool, indeed.


Shall we go to Yokohama now?


Welcome to Yokohama.


"Good people of TPR! Look to the right, which is my left. Do not get confused! It is to your right and my left to which we must go!"


"OK, that was a little confusing. Just head for the big Ferris wheel."


Our first stop was Diving Coaster Vanish: The Pinkest Ride in the Wilderness.


Cosmoworld is undergoing quite a makeover, which is supposed to look like this when it's done.


Meet our host, Mr. Kitigawa.


"OK, everybody! Group photo! Group photo! Please look over here . . . oh, forget it!"


They were all too distracted by this.


Now you see it!


Now you don't! My god! It vanished!


Hmm--they sure have some strange customs in Japan. I wonder if the dogs enjoy this?


Unlike those in China . . .


. . . this Spinning Coaster actually does spin. Quite a bit. In an Elissa-unfriendly manner. (This was a new credit for me, as I missed the ride back in 2007. I think it was down for maintenance then.)


I also missed the Log Flume back in '07, but not this time. This drop is much crazier than it looks.


If you scream loud enough during the drop, the park keeps score.


The we headed over to the other side of Cosmoworld, for what I'm sure was a trip highlight for many.


I am referring to, of course, Family Banana Coaster.


Interracial "coupling" is not allowed on Family Banana Coaster!


"Caw! Caw! I eat bugs and carrion, and I'm not as pathetic as you! Caw! Caw!"


But despite the crow's taunts, TPR gave in to Family Banana Coaster with reckless abandon.


If this sign is any indication, it's a bit chilly in there.


We're trapped! And even the liquor is frozen!


Quick! Thaw out the booze with this fire . . . d'oh! (Then they let us go.)


Everybody hum "Do the Hustle" here.


Aw, isn't it adorable? I think I'll bite its little head off and eat it.


I don't think Dr. Edgar is a "conventional" physician.


This poor guy came in with a hangnail--now look at him!


You know, I don't have much memory of what went on in here.


But it did involve some table slapping. At least, I hope it's the table that's being slapped.


Cosmo Panic sounds like a name for a 1980s pro wrestler.


Apparently, blue lights are supposed to incite "panic." I had no idea my Grandmother's Christmas tree was so terrifying. She used nothing but blue lights.


Looks like Vanish has reappeared. But for how long?


In the future, we will all commute via skateboard. Stay tuned for more Cosmoworld, followed by Sea Paradise!

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We haven't even got to Sea Paradise yet.


"Now entering the arena, from Yokohama, Japan, weighing in at 300 pounds, the Master of Disaster, Cosmo Panic!"


Hmm--I think she may have had some "work" done.


I never win anything at these games.


Not even a can of coffee.


Cosmoworld's shooting dark ride was pretty much the same as Hirakata's.


Boogie, boogie, boogie! The haunted-house dark ride was pretty good, even if I didn't understand what was going on.


Anybody up for "hamburg"? The only other place I've ever encountered the word "hamburg" was in John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath." Well, Steinbeck is popular in Japan from what I hear.


This is some weird chili-chicken thing we grabbed at KFC. It was greasy and . . . interesting, I guess.


Rooftop mini-golf--the rich really know how to live.


OK, just what the hell is going on over there?


Vanish is, once again, sucked into its interdimensional vortex.


Time to move on. Goodbye, bizarre, stylized representation of London's Tower Bridge. Goodbye weird metallic structure that looks a bit like Joker's Jinx.


Good to know.


Happy Anniversary, Sea Paradise!


Yep--this is where everybody went first.


Looks so "old school" doesn't it? Well, it's gonna school you good!


Surf Coaster might be the smoothest Togo ride anywhere.


See how friendly it looks--unlike, say, Manhattan Express in Vegas.


Shall we look at the park from on high?


This is a literal "Bridge to Nowhere."


This is the site of the park's Splashute jump boats. I don't think they run them anymore.


Yes, the Japanese do appreciate a good helix.


Look up "disturbing" in the dictionary, and you just might find this photo.


OK, who wants to play "bumper boats" with dolphins?


Best stay out of this part of the lagoon.


Dan snaps photos while Dave mans the helm. Dan is a brave man.


"Hello. I'm a whale shark. This is pretty much all I do during the entire show you're about to watch."


This photo was taken moments before the rogue sea lion grabbed this woman and dragged her into the icy depths. We never saw her again.


"Yay, whale shark! Way to swim around the tank there! You rock!"


"Hey baby, once you've gone 'walrus' you don't ever want to go back!"


"Yeah, balance a ball on my nose and get a smelly fish. I know the drill."


Sickest threesome ever.


At Sea Paradise, the family that drinks together, stays together. That's all for now.

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Chapter 4

It's the home of Blue Fire: the best damned drop tower anywhere! Yes, this is the old-school Intamin tower with the "false" drop. It also has an insanely long free fall that puts most other drop towers to shame. ?


Not to be that jerk but isn't it Blue Fall? Hahaha although Blue Fire makes me think of an energy drink for some reason


also what the heck is that giant blue in front of the ferris wheel, I don't remember it being there last year, I hope it doesn't block out the ferris wheel when it's finished, I liked that view from where you took your picture.


The splash boats were running last year, they don't jump anymore but I hope they are still running. I don't remember any bumper boats with dolphins around them either otherwise i'd have rode it, Is it new?

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Not to be that jerk but isn't it Blue Fall? Hahaha although Blue Fire makes me think of an energy drink for some reason


also what the heck is that giant blue in front of the ferris wheel, I don't remember it being there last year, I hope it doesn't block out the ferris wheel when it's finished, I liked that view from where you took your picture.


The splash boats were running last year, they don't jump anymore but I hope they are still running. I don't remember any bumper boats with dolphins around them either otherwise i'd have rode it, Is it new?


It is, indeed, Blue Fall (as Blue Fire is a coaster at Europa). Fixed. I think the "giant blue" is just a building that's being renovated (based on the concept art in one of my photos, it shouldn't "block" the big wheel). I don't know how long the dolphin boats have been there.


Now, Blue Fire Fall would be a great name.


^^ So who were your two buddies there with you, taking the same pix

of the Booze Cafe, Chuck? Reflections don't lie, LOL.


I think they're Jon and Dave (as in tpdave).

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Some of your captions have me laughing out loud, like Robb's "look to your left which is my right!" and "I am a whale shark and I swim in a tank for 1 hour." The dolphin boat experience is certainly different and would never happen in America. Is there a POV somewhere of the log flume? I don't recall its name. Steep flume drops are really the only thing that scare me so I would love to ride it.

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Chuck, as entertaining as always. So glad I had a chance to sit and read through all of this in a single sitting, like my favorite Netflix series!


Sea Paradise was one of my trip favorites. Blue Fall is still stuck in my head--I lost sleep and was so anxious that entire day. Wow what a view...and ahhhhhh....stop, silence....aaaaah forever! The Togo coaster was also a huge surprise in how awesome it was.


Great Kyoto pics as well, definitely one of the nicest cities in Japan.

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Imagine how cool Sea World would be if they had a "boat with dolphins experience" like the one shown here. Those jellyfish look scary, are they in the same lake as the dolphins? Sad to see the boat jumpers ride wasn't operating. I hope it isn't permanent, even if the jumpers never jump off the boat again.


What is the false drop on Blue Fall btw? I have ridden Intamin's Drop Zone/Tower at CGA, Huracan Condor at Port Aventura, and their old Freefall at SFMM, along with S & S drop rides at Knott's, SCBB, DCA, and Stratosphere, and DCA's Tower of Terror so I'm not sure if I've experienced the false drop.

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