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A TPR Japan 2013 Trip Report


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Totally excellent TR!! I loved reading about your excitement at your first visit to Japan. I hope to make my first visit with TPR in 2015. It's been a plave I've wanted to visit since I was little and watched the Gamera movies, especially with the Mystery Science Theater treatment! Cannot wait to read more on your trip!

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I am curious to know whether the pink triangles on the red light district buildings denoted "gay"? In LGBT history, upside-down pink triangle tattoos were used in Nazi Germany to identify gays and lesbians. The symbol isn't used as much as it was in the 90's as an equality pride/struggle symbol.

 

Very interesting question, and I have no idea! Good catch and I hope someone else can answer this question; now I'm curious, too.

The upside down triangles indicate windows that can be used for fire escapes, that way the fire department knows where to aim their ladders. Quite a few buildings have them. But yeah, when I first saw them I also thought they indicated the building's sexual preference

 

Great TR so far! It's good to see that you got to experience plenty of culture in addition to coasters. Looking forward to more!

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John Carpenter's remake of "The Thing" is one of my favorite movies, of any kind. I think it's the scariest movie I've ever seen, and I've seen hundreds of scary movies. Maybe the original "Alien" is just as scary, to be fair. They are both masterpieces of sci-fi horror; we can all agree on that, yes? Anyway, one of my best friend's nieces loves scary movies and this best friend and I both urged her, frequently, to see "The Thing:" the dog transformation scene; the "blood test" scene; Kurt Russell owning it all over the place; best practical horror effects EVER; best sci-fi horror movie ending EVER; and on and on and on.

 

She finally watched it and was thoroughly – and I mean thoroughly – unimpressed. "Lame," she called it. Lame. I'm still trying to figure that out. Did we oversell it? I guess so, but to this day, I don't see how that's possible. A dude's head turns into a spider!

 

Anyway. If anything was ever at risk of being oversold to me, it was Intamin Mega-Lites. Theme Park Review is filled with testimonials to their brilliantly compact, twisted layouts, their diabolical airtime, their ability to cure erectile dysfunction, yada, yada, blah, blah. For years, we've been hearing this kind of thing, over and over, am I right?

 

Well, get ready to hear it some more.

 

Part Two: Tobu Zoo with an Aqua Stadium chaser

 

Before the official start of the trip, there were three "add-on" days, and Tuesday marked the first official day of the add-on portion. Most everyone who would be on the trip proper had elected this "super size me!" bonus pack, which I had initially thought I'd exclude. Thank god I changed my mind, because Kawasemi and Harikata and a BUNCH of other stuff. Moral of the story: if you are presented with the option for more Japan, and can afford it, you choose more Japan. Always.

 

So when I went downstairs that morning for the buffet breakfast (again, so much and so good), there was a nice, big crowd of TPR folks meeting and chatting it up.

 

Another thing about TPR trips I'm sure you've already gleaned from previous reports, and/or first-hand experience: the people who go on these trips are just the kind of people you'd want on these trips: people who love parks and coasters, who love to travel, who love to have a good time. These are my kind of people. (And they were from all over the world, which was mega-awesome.)

 

Breakfast out of the way, we gathered in the hotel lobby, lots more excited chatter, Robb and Elissa greeted everyone, handed out the TPR tote bags filled with helpful supplies and snacks and goodies, holy crap, this is really happening, after all the months of dreaming, of planning, of desperate waiting: GAME ON.

 

Here's how you get to Tobu Zoo from Tokyo: make sure you are traveling with TPR and do exactly what Elissa tells you to do. See how easy that is?

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This park is a bit of a walk from the nearest train station and honestly, I'd love to tell you which station, but I don't remember at all. ("Someone else appears to be doing all the mental 'heavy lifting' here, so I'm just going to shut down everything but my pleasure receptors for a couple of weeks. Laterz!" - My brain.)

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It was neat to get a little taste of this more sedate, suburban part of Japan, after a day in the hyper-urban dynamism of Tokyo.

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Lookit, there it is! The first park of the trip, officially! Yay!

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Here's Robb setting us up for the day; to his right is an Asian rep for Intamin (super-nice guy, can't remember his name, either) who was instrumental in helping to arrange this morning's ERT session. Yeah, our first morning, our first park, the very first official ride of this trip, an Intamin Mega-Lite. Not too shabby.

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Tobu Zoo, as its name would lead you to believe, is a zoo with real, live animals. I'll warn you now that the only animals you're going to see in this report are either artistic representations of animals, like the fantastic hippos above, or rides that are made to look like animals. I did not get to the zoo portion of this park; the hour or so my group went off to check out the animals, I spent taking pictures of Kawasemi (a ride which is named for an animal, a cute little bird that can really haul ass, apparently.)

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The Japanese certainly do cherish their big Ferris Wheels. This is one of TWO of them at Tobu Zoo. We rode the newer one, which I'll discuss shortly. I love the happy Tobu doggie.

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Several rides were not operating today, including G-Max, the Intamin drop tower. Boo-hoo, I guess we'll have to console ourselves while we're riding one of the most insane roller coasters in Japan, I'm sorry, IN THE WORLD. Life is so unfair.

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Should I start with the slobbering worship now? Nah, you know what, I'll keep that for the end.

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Tobu Zoo has another big coaster, Regina, one of the very few woodies in this nation. Looks pretty decent from above, right? It was pretty decent, and according to Robb and some of the others who've ridden it in years past, it was in pretty decent shape for this visit. Not super-great, but decent.

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Regina means "Queen" in Italian; you can see the little crown over the "R" in the logo. Why they referenced an Italian word, I don't rightly know. Is she the queen of monsters?

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Because there's this monster here, like a little pet or something...

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...and then this big one ARRRRGH! I got the impression that these were sea monsters, or lake monsters, or monsters somehow related to water, but now I'm not sure why. Maybe because there's a big pond underneath much of the ride?

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Theming aside, Regina was designed by the Stand Company, who also designed Nagashima's White Cyclone, another woodie we'd be sampling down the pike.

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All the landscaping around Regina is quite lovely, with an abundance of shady trees and green vegetation. I wish I'd taken a shot of the rambling unpaved path that leads to this ride's queue; it's like they built a big wooden coaster in some quiet corner of Central Park.

 

But I'll leave it to the two photos directly below to say most of what needs to be said about this ride. Keep in mind, we'd all just staggered away, sweaty and spent, from the Kawasemi ERT...

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No one looks miserable. I see a couple of smiles even, Nozzy and Caroline, Sean in the back there... Steve, I think, is just wiping his brow, not slapping his forehead in disgust. I think.

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But really. Are these the faces of riders who can't wait to get back in line? I submit that they are not. (I only rode once.)

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It was fairly hot that morning, so anything that looked like it might be air-conditioned was getting our business, including Star Cross Meteor Attack!

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The waiting room just outside the pre-show, man, it was nice and cold in there! JC and Steve examine the outer space storage shelves.

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Star Cross Meteor Attack was a little CG sci-fi movie adventure with space ships, and meteors, and lots of PEWPEWPEW KABLOOIE! It was fun, if pretty incomprehensible to anyone who doesn't speak Japanese. But the air conditioning, THUMBS WAY UP!

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Speaking of space ships: TPR Astro-Fighter takeover (not really)! Cary, Priscilla and Steve are ready to go to infinity and beyond (which, if you think about it, is kind of a silly concept, like "infinity plus one" and I guess that was the point, to give Buzz something kind of silly to say. But I digress.)

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PEWPEWPEW!

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Many of the walk-throughs in Japan have some sort of interactive, competitive gaming element, and Galaxy Walkers (snicker) was my first exposure to this type of attraction. You could choose to be part of the "red" or "blue" team, which meant following a particular path and doing particular things, none of which stick in my mind. I think my team lost. But the point is that the Japanese are all about science fiction and robots and space ships and ray guns and all that jazz, which is just more to love about the Japanese, far as I'm concerned. PEWPEWPEW!

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To get from Tobu's East Gate area (where we came in) to further west towards the zoo section, you can either walk, or take this suspended "Pegasus-powered" monorail ride. The wings on the horses actually flap, a detail I much appreciated.

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Here's a shot from my car looking back at some of the others.

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The carousel was under repair, but I liked that they built it on a platform over the water.

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Continuing:

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Almost every park we visited, except for the Disney parks, offered these ride-able mechanical animals. I somehow managed to never get one of these credits.

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FYI, Tobu has a ride called Fantasy Elephant.

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These little guys were on a roof along the monorail path; cute! I wonder what the sign says... "We Think We Are Cows, But We Are Not Sure!"

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I really do love the Tobu doggie. I didn't seek out any Tobu doggie souvenirs and I regret that now.

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Check out what's right under the opposite winged-horse-monorail station?! SWEET!

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A film crew was setting up a shot out in front of Strange Street, and from the make-up and costuming on the actress there (the taller one with the jet black hair under the umbrella), I'd guess it was a ghost story of some kind. Very sweet.

 

This was a walk-through and out of the many, many spook houses we encountered, I'd say this was the least memorable. Because I remember almost nothing about it. But I chalk that up to the fact that there were so damn many on this trip, and I was still pretty jet-lagged. Still, Tobu has a haunted attraction, so hooray!

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And they have their own Surprising House, too; double hooray! Tobu's was fun, but again, the best of these was still a few days out.

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Other than Special-K, I think this dog ride was my favorite. Because it was just this long row of seats that went round and round in a slow circle and bounced up and down a little. And it barked.

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That's what led us over, the barking. Round and round, woof woof woof! Hell yes, we rode it.

 

I have no pictures of the lakeside go-kart "safari" ride, but we rode that, too. The "safari" elements were pretty weak, but go-karts are never a total loss.

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Heartful Farm is Tobu's newest "land" and it is where you'll find the park's second big wheel.

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Can you see the windmill that fronts the other side? Nice touch.

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Each car is air-conditioned. Oh, and the views way up high are great, too, sure (I took lots of photos on this wheel). But: air-conditioned. That's the really important thing.

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We didn't spend too much time at Heartful Farm. The kids' rides look very nicely put together, though, don't they? Very farm-y.

 

One more random note: I had the chicken curry at the place where we ate lunch; it was damn tasty, and the first of I don't know how many plates of super-yummy chicken curry I ate over the following days.

 

No, wait, sorry, another thing: we rode the pedal car monorail doohickey up front, too. Just a big square, very whatever.

 

Enough foreplay.

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OH MY FREAKING GOD.

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By modern standards, Kawasemi is a wee morsel. Its highest point is just above 100 feet, and you travel less than 2,500 feet from lift hill to brake run.

 

There are coasters three times as big that can't muster even half the thrills this mofo delivers.

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My first ride was all it took to know that Kawasemi had not been oversold, in the slightest. And after I got off (pun very much intended), all twitchy and giggly, someone said "Not bad, but it needs to warm up."

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Holy damn freaking damn it to hell, did it warm up fast.

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I rode in the front, in the middle, and in the back; we all did. Doesn't matter where you sit; it's an airtime ass-whupping like almost no other roller coaster I've been on. That said, I do believe the front row is where I was ultimately turned into Kawasemi's eternally devoted, eternally submissive love-slave.

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Take a good long gander at that layout. Every hill, every twist, every turn is just where it should be, like a perfect melody, every note flowing from the one before it, setting up the one to follow. And I like how many trim and block brakes there are, which is none.

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There's a train full of professionals, man. TPR in da house!

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Some of the locals may not be as hardcore, may try to hold on, but no one can escape the wrath of the negative-G gods, not on Kawasemi.

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Yep, the front row, that's my favorite.

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This ride has it all: camelbacks, bunny hops, low-slung turns, all manner of surprising twistiness, except for inversions, though, and if you ride Kawasemi and say to me, "Needs some loops," we're going to have trouble, my friend.

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The consensus seems to be that no park in America would have the stones to build a Mega-Lite and let it run wild, certainly not a corporate chain park that needs a lot of capacity and/or a "big number" ride for marketing purposes. I don't know... an independent, family-owned park, a park that has already shown a proclivity to build very intense roller coasters... there's gotta be some park like that in the U.S. where a Mega-Lite could find a good home.

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And if not, dadgumit, let's just pool our resources, do a Kickstarter or something, and build that park ourselves. WHO'S WITH ME?!

Edited by RoCo
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Continuing:

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Or maybe it's better to have to travel great distances to experience something as wondrous as a Mega-Lite. Keeps them special, makes the devotional pilgrimage a real event.

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No, screw that. I want a Mega-Lite down the block from my house.

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Kawasemi, baby, you rocked my world.

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Right to the very end.

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Who do I have to bribe/kill/sleep with to get a Mega-Lite into California?! TELL ME AND I'LL DO IT, JUST TELL ME ALREADY.

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Look at these expressions; THAT'S a trainload of satisfied customers. Alan, front row on the left, is clearly having a moment.

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Ready for another ride, doods? HECK YEAH!!!

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Anth also recommends... whatever this is.

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Thanks, Intamin and Tobu Zoo, for revving this trip right up!

 

On the way back to Tokyo that afternoon, Steve told me I really should grab the Galaxy Express 999 credit at Aqua Stadium, which I'd totally forgotten was in there. Derp.

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We did have a little free time before catching a bullet train (!!!) to Nagoya that evening, so I ran over to Aqua Stadium and hopped on.

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Going in, I knew very little about the GE999 mythos, except that it is super-popular in Japan, has been developed into TV series and movies and other media, and features a train that travels through space. And stars some kid, and a tall, wan, depressed-looking blonde, and a little floating character in a train conductor's outfit, which I presume is the train conductor.

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Fortunately, you are forced into watching a ten-minute pre-show that totally brings you up to speed on the story, as long as you understand Japanese. Those are ten minutes of my life I can't ever get back.

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I kid, but it is awesome that they put so much effort into theming this indoor, launched looping roller coaster, which was actually kind of rad, if pretty shaky. Had there been time, I'd have gone back around for another run. Maybe.

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Steve and I literally ran by a couple of other Aqua Stadium attractions on our way back to the hotel. This sea-critter carousel appears to be Disney-quality; gorgeous.

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Returning to Aqua Stadium is required.

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And holy mackerel, look at their indoor swinging boat ride, WOW!

 

To be continued.

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Robert, Great report of the Tobu day. Kawasemi is such an amazing ride and never gets old no matter how many times you ride. The heartful farm area was extremely well done and it's a shame that the zoo is not up to those standards. I personally think Tobu should scrap the zoo and focus on the amusement park.

 

Great to see what you guys did before we met up, Neil.

 

This is Robert's report, not mine. My reports are nowhere near as good as this one. My journalism skills just aren't up there but I try.

 

Neil "Needs to ride Piraten" Tonge

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^You say to give up on the Zoo, but that's where they're making the bulk of their money and getting their guests through the doors. Would you believe that park saw 30k visitors in ONE day about a month before our visit? All due to those adorable tiger cubs we saw in the zoo. The zoo also was a LOT nicer than it used to be. Didn't seem nearly as terrible tiny typical Asian Zoo. The petting areas were nicely done and you could even go in the cage with lemurs! I'll gladly take the zoo if it means they'll put in a kickass ride like Kawasemi every 10 years!

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The heartful farm area was extremely well done and it's a shame that the zoo is not up to those standards. I personally think Tobu should scrap the zoo and focus on the amusement park.

 

 

Then they would have to change the name to "Tobu Notazoo."

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^You say to give up on the Zoo, but that's where they're making the bulk of their money and getting their guests through the doors. Would you believe that park saw 30k visitors in ONE day about a month before our visit? All due to those adorable tiger cubs we saw in the zoo. The zoo also was a LOT nicer than it used to be. Didn't seem nearly as terrible tiny typical Asian Zoo. The petting areas were nicely done and you could even go in the cage with lemurs! I'll gladly take the zoo if it means they'll put in a kickass ride like Kawasemi every 10 years!

 

 

Wow, I did not know about that insane attendance figure. I take my comment back but do think that the zoo could do with an overhaul and maybe some more keepers as a lot of the animals didn't look too healthy.

 

Tobu Notazoo seems to roll off the tongue nicely!

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Great TR so far!

 

I'm glad to see them running Kawasemi without a full train. I wonder if they were mainly doing it because you guys and/or the Intamin rep were there?

 

On my visit last Fall, they wouldn't run it without a full train. Since the park was very slow, that often meant waiting for 10-20 minutes. Luckily, there was one period where there were a bunch of people riding a few times each, so I got a bunch of rides during that time, plus a few other scattered rides. But I'd have definitely ridden a bunch more times, if it hadn't meant sitting there for so much longer.

 

Luckily, there were still two more Mega-Lites on that trip with TPR in China, with filming sessions on each, so we could get a bunch of rides!

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Hey, everyone, thanks again so much for the very kind comments!

 

Great report. Making me think I should try and write my own.

 

PLEASE DO! We all did and saw different things (per Elissa's comments above, now I'm definitely going to see Tobu's zoo the next time I'm there) and I am personally addicted to TPR photos and stories from Japan.

 

I for one am on board with the intamin mega lite kickstarter fund and will happily donate whatever is necessary to make on of these a reality in the u.s.

 

A mighty oak grows from the smallest acorn. WE CAN DO IT!

 

Luckily, there were still two more Mega-Lites on that trip with TPR in China, with filming sessions on each, so we could get a bunch of rides!

 

I had forgotten that there are at least two Mega-Lites in China!

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^You say to give up on the Zoo, but that's where they're making the bulk of their money and getting their guests through the doors. Would you believe that park saw 30k visitors in ONE day about a month before our visit? All due to those adorable tiger cubs we saw in the zoo. The zoo also was a LOT nicer than it used to be. Didn't seem nearly as terrible tiny typical Asian Zoo. The petting areas were nicely done and you could even go in the cage with lemurs! I'll gladly take the zoo if it means they'll put in a kickass ride like Kawasemi every 10 years!

 

Seriously. If any and every zoo could just put a clone of this ride in, I'd be eternally grateful.

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I still think if Drayton Manor invest heavily, a Mega-Lite would be a fantastic addition and would really draw in the crowds. The issue seems to be that parks want rides they can easily market along worlds first and unique things but Mega-Lite do not really provide that. But what Mega-Lites provide in bucket loads, parks do not really seem to understand.

 

Any, that was a bit off topic. Really looking forward to the next part of the report when we take the bullet train down south.

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I still think if Drayton Manor invest heavily, a Mega-Lite would be a fantastic addition and would really draw in the crowds. The issue seems to be that parks want rides they can easily market along worlds first and unique things but Mega-Lite do not really provide that. But what Mega-Lites provide in bucket loads, parks do not really seem to understand.

 

Any, that was a bit off topic. Really looking forward to the next part of the report when we take the bullet train down south.

 

I agree that a Mega Lite would be perfect for Drayton; then again, I think a Mega Lite would be perfect for just about any park anywhere.

 

Looking forward to your take on Hirakata, Robert--now that was a wacky place.

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Great to see what you guys did before we met up, Robert.

 

Fixed - and - silly me.

 

No worries at all, my friend! Neil and I have talked about swapping identities for awhile now.

 

I think a Mega Lite would be perfect for just about any park anywhere.

 

QFT. They are like chocolate and bacon funnel cakes; EVERY park should have them.

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By the way, are the MLs (Mega-Lites) more intense than Maverick? That is the closest analogue I'm familiar with - I've been on trimmed I305, but that was a few years ago. I'm mainly focusing on the airtime - is the "first" airtime hill (not the twisty one) similar to Maverick's first (awesome) hill, and are the final hops similar to Maverick's final hop?

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