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Photo TR: Chuck Returns to Japan with TPR--Again


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The Day that Almost Wasn’t: Misaki Park & Adventure World

 

June 2018 marked my third trip to Japan with Theme Park Review. Past outings to the Land of the Rising Sun exposed me to a number of new experiences, such as bullet trains, katsu curry, Pokari Sweat, Green Tea Kit Kats, and even a typhoon. But June 18, 2018 was my first, bona fide Japanese earthquake.

 

I grew up in Central California and attended Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, so I’ve felt the ground shake a number of times; however, the Japan quake was the biggest one I’d ever experienced (and the closest I’d ever been to a quake’s epicenter). We were standing on a train platform in Osaka, and it first felt like Godzilla had kicked the side of the building. Then the shaking began, and keeping on one’s feet was a bit of a struggle. For my part, I heroically clung to a handy vending machine.

 

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The quake caused five confirmed deaths and hundreds of injuries in the area (from what I’ve read since the quake), as well as a fair amount ot property damage; it also shut down train service for a few hours. Measurements of the event’s force ranged from 5.9 to 6.2.

 

The group decided to stick it out at the sation for a while. Eventually, we were able to take a local (which made a lot of stops) to MIsaki, the first "official" park of the trip--a zoo and amusement park with three coasters: Jet Coaster (yes, this is a popular name for “big" coasters in Japan); the New Wild Mouse (the only such ride ever built by Hopkins, who gave us the Dragon at Adventureland in Iowa); and Child Coaster (self-explanatory).

 

Misaki was a bit rough around the edges, but the staff was very friendly and seemed quite pleased that anyone had come to visit that day. But would we push on to the second park of the day? Stay tuned.

 

We’ll start with a look at Osaka the night before, then move on to Misaki Park.

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The best rump is an aging rump.

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The official trip-opening dinner: All the meat you can cook and eat for 90 minutes! Although this was not the place that touted their “aging rump," what rump they offered was delicious.

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It is, indeed.

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Some of us decided to explore Osaka a bit. Kind of busy that night.

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Seizure-inducing lights!

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Why, thank you, Osaka.

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We were hoping to ride this bizarre "rectangular" Ferris Wheel, which had reopened after being shut down for years . . .

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. . . oh, well.

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What is wrong with this picture?

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An octopus strikes a come-hither Deadpool pose.

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Dan tracked down this barcade he’d read about online.

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It wasn’t very big . . .

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. . . but I got a beer and a round of Burger Time, so there’s that.

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The barcade may have been located in a neighborhood of somewhat questionable morality.

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Need a hotel room for just a few hours? This place has you covered.

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Wow--even the train station is a bit kinky. On to Misaki Park before we become hopelessly corrput!

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OK, has everybody got off . . . the train? If so, let's check out Misaki Park.

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Little did these souls know how interesting the day was about to become.

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Time to play the post-quake waiting game.

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This appeared to be the extent of the damage in our train station. I was impressed with how calm the Japanese remained and how quickly they got the trains going again.

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Misaki’s train station seemed intact. I’m not sure they even felt the quake.

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No flags, MORE FUN!

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We were in the area circled in red.

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This reminds me of the fountain at New Town in Williamsburg--it hasn’t worked for a few years, either.

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Yes, the park is open, and it appears to have its very own lighthouse.

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“Free us, and all these cookies will be yours!”

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Angry children love Misaki Park.

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Behold the splendor of the only wild mouse ever to be built by Hopkins. Somehow, it ended up in a zoo in Japan--go figure.

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The trains look like they cut a longer, full-size coaster train into two-car units. They were a bit cramped, too.

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The coaster looks painful, but it wasn’t that bad. Not a great ride, certainly, but a unique one.

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Yes . . .

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. . . this happened.

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At least if you could ride sidesaddle.

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It was a bit of a hike to the Jet Coaster.

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I presume this is Japanese for “Jet Coaster,” even though it looks more like a mine train.

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“My bumper cars are ready, in case any of you want to ride them. Hello? Bumper cars over here! Hello? I’m so lonely.”

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This is as close as I got to getting a picture of the Jet Coaster in operation. It looks more like a mine train with a monkey on it.

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After riding the Jet Coaster, it was decision time again. Our next park, Adventure World, closed at 5:00 pm and wouldn’t admit guests after 4:00. We had just enough time to reach it via train--that is, if the earthquake hadn’t completely screwed up the schedule (or the park). Would the coasters be open if we got there in time? Should we push on, or head back to Osaka?

 

At this point, the group split up. Elissa took a contingent back to Osaka. Robb led the rest to Adventure World, which turned out to be a good move. There was one hitch: While we arrived in time to be admitted, we were told that while the park didn’t close until 5:00, the rides shutdown at 4:30.

 

That left us 30 minutes, which was OK. One of the big rides, Dolphin Coaster, was closed (not due to the earthquake, but for regular maintenance), but the remaining three were running:

 

Big Adventure Coaster--a big “Jet Coaster” with very cramped trains. Seriously, I didn’t quite fit in the seat, but was still able to ride it (somewhat uncomfortably).

 

Pandafull Coaster--an adorable “wild panda” coaster with more adult-friendly trains. And it was, indeed, full of pandas.

 

Tropical Coaster--an indoor powered coaster that was themed to bees. Er, OK.

 

Adventure World looked pretty nice (much better than Misaki), and it might be fun to go back one day and check out its animal attractions (such as the safari ride).

 

All in all, an eventful, successful day, thanks to the leadership of Robb and Elissa. Some of us even had an adventurous cab ride from the train station back to the hotel in Osaka. We'd just pulled out when a truck cut off our cab. The cabby had three choices:

 

1. Slam on the brakes and hope for the best.

2. Crash into the rear of the truck.

3. Step on the gas, swerve to the left, and run a red light.

 

The cabby went with number three, which made this the second most exciting ride of the day next to the earthquake. Hey, we're still alive!

 

Here’s a look at Adventure World.

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I have no idea what’s going on here. Can one really compare eels to oranges?

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A much nicer entrance than Misaki Park’s.

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Aw, you’re welcome, pandas.

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A covered “Main Street”--shades of Tokyo Disneyland.

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It looks much more extensive than Misaki Park.

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We have no time for doggies! We must hurry to . . .

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. . . no, not the Ferris Wheel, but to . . .

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. . . Big Adventure Coaster!

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These trains were definitely designed for Japanese butts, as opposed to big western butts.

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Kind of big and clunky; in other words, a Japanese “Jet Coaster.”

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We were grown men who had braved an earthquake to ride pandas.

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O, we happy few . . .

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Ah, but to ride the hindquarters of the wild bee! Such a challenge is truly worth braving an earthquake and a goofy park schedule!

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It’s definitely better to ride in a bee’s head. To be the bee, to understand, to grok, the bee, as it were . . . oh, who are we kidding?

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We're grown men who ride pandas and bees.

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We may as well own it.

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Hippo burgers? Do they taste like horse meat?

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Here’s a “never in the U.S.” thing--a pool for penguins without a railing or barricade of any kind, smack in the middle of the park’s covered entry plaza.

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We were late getting back, so certain sacrifices had to be made. This panda sacrificed his face for my dinner.

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Nice scenery on the train ride back, but the cab ride was more exciting. Next stop: Universal Japan.

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Wow, what a great start to the trip, Chuck!

 

Earthquake and eating a Panda's face!

 

 

Um, does Elissa know that you ate a Panda's face?

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^What's really funny about this photo is that when I was walking over to the coaster, one of the park staff came up and moved me into a better spot for taking pictures. Like I said, they were very nice.

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^What's really funny about this photo is that when I was walking over to the coaster, one of the park staff came up and moved me into a better spot for taking pictures. Like I said, they were very nice.

The same thing happened to me

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^&^^ And they kept trying to talk to me while you guys were riding suggesting all of these other shows and things we should go do! It was hard (not because of the language but because of how nice they were) explaining that we were only there for like 30 min for the coasters since we were delayed from the Earthquake!

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Great start to your trip, Chuck! Where did you fly out from and how long did it take to get to Japan? The penguin pool in the middle of the promenade is fantastic and definitely something I've never seen, and never will see, anywhere in the US!

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Thanks for:  1) your up close and personal memories of the earthquake. VERY chilling. Kinda like virtual reality withOUT the glasses.  (When NYC had its "huge" quake in the 80's, I recall that my parakeet screamed like a jungle beast, AND most apt dwellers - me included - were said to have feared that their "boiler rooms had exploded!"  But it was 6AM, so most went back to sleep.)  Anyhow, thanks for bringing that TPR trip moment to life!

 

Thanks for:  2) your captions on your pix. So droll....

Special note to:

 

* An octopus strikes a come-hither Deadpool pose.

 

* Angry children love Misaki Park.

 

Great report, as always!

 

Alice

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Oh, Universal . . .

 

For years, Universal Japan was the gem of the Universal Studios parks, at least to me--possibly because Universal itself didn’t actually run the place. I’ve enjoyed past visits there; for example, in 2013, they gave TPR an interesting, honest presentation about the park’s development, along with a walking tour of the Adventures of Spider-man ride, which was in some ways cooler than actually riding it.

 

Well, Universal now has control over the park (but not City Walk) and is bringing more of an “Orlando” management style to the place. This is not entirely a good thing.

 

For example, Robb had to endure the tortures of the damned just to pick up our group’s tickets and Express Passes. He can tell the story much better than I can, but here’s a summary:

 

1. Two hours in a Guest Services line, which Robb had to wait in three times because the staff couldn’t find our stuff and kept sending him back to the end.

 

2. Stuff obtained--in a big envelope labeled “Theme Park Review (go figure)--only to discover that they’d given us the wrong Express Passes, thus requiring Robb to endure the Queue of Lost Souls yet again.

 

3. The Osaka earthquake closed Flying Dinosaurs and Hollywood Dream, the park’s two big coasters, although the fact that they were closed was left off the “Closed Attractions” board. Robb negotiated a refund on the passes, which allowed us to buy another admission for a second park day (both rides did eventually open later that week). Robb, thanks again!

 

I know I’m leaving out a lot a details here, but the whole Universal visit is a bit of a blur.

 

So, what about Universal Japan itself, administrative issues aside? Well, the park is still a nice set of “Universal’s Greatest Hits" (with its very own version of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey), and staff working the shops and attractions are very nice and helpful. Flying Dinosaur is a very good B&M flying coaster--on par with SeaWorld Orlando’s Manta--and Hollywood Dream is still fun.

 

Jaws was down for a big rehab (we knew this going in). Is this a good sign that Bruce the Shark will be scaring guests for years to come? I hope so, as Jaws is a unique attraction, and it looks like they’re doing some pretty extensive work on it. But, as Robb pointed out, Orlando’s version went down for rehab, reopened, then was shut down for removal to make room for Diagon Alley mere months later. Who knows what’s in store for Japanese Jaws? It’s proximity to Japan Harry Potterland does raise my eyebrows a bit.

 

The VR craze has hit Universal Japan, too. Those who ride The Coaster Formally Known as Space Fantasy (which was a lot of fun) now have to don helmets to experience Final Fantasy. I believe the whole VR coaster craze must die, and Final Fantasy did nothing to change my opinion. But I give the park credit for having a fairly efficient method of handling it. You sit in the train, an attendant tethers your helmet to it, then you just slip the helmet on. One odd thing: When you return, an attendant removes your helmet, gives it back to you, then instructs you to give it to another attendant near the exit.

 

They also have a fairly elaborate nighttime parade with an oddly mundane name: Universal Spectacle Night Parade. Why not go all out and use the name “Super Happy Fun Time Sparkly Dancing Wizards, Robots, Dinosaurs, and Minions Parade”? All kidding aside, it’s a good parade, but be careful of where you watch it. We were at the beginning, and we missed out on much of the cool building projections they were doing down the street.

 

Oh, and one other thing.

 

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Minions. Get ready for lots of Minions.

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The view from our room. I could’ve sworn that Godzilla, or maybe Gamera, destroyed this facility in a movie. But one port industrial site looks much like another.

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This is always good advice.

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The Universal Port Hotel was very nice, and not actually run by Universal.

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I’m pretty sure this place is run by Universal. Call it . . . a hunch.

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Let’s see, Disney already uses “Early Entry” and “Extra Magic Hours.” I guess “Early Park In” will do.

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Sigh. This makes me sad.

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But life goes on, even without the beguiling goofiness of Space Fantasy. But why put VR on an indoor coaster that was already a unique experience?

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This makes me a bit happier. Always a great ride, whether in English or Japanese.

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J. Jonah Jameson: A pioneer in the use of fake news to smear a public figure.

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“You got photos of me doing WHAT with WHOM? Fake news, all of it . . . well, it was a party, I was a bit drunk, and I coulda swore Loki was the Scarlet Witch, OK?”

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Universal Japan always has cool merchandise. I particularly like the Jaws shirt.

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Then again, there is this.

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Deadpool probably owns a dozen pairs of these.

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Fill this spot up with some people wearing cheap plastic masks and carrying baseball bats, and you’d think it was Halloween Horror Night in Orlando.

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Hard to tell where the park ends and the city begins.

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Hmm--some activity over at Flying Dinosaur.

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I hope the water-filled dummies are having fun and don't die horrible, water-splattering deaths.

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This is Japan, so people put mats on the ground and wait patiently for this show to begin.

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OK, it’s noon. Dumbledork, or whatever his name is, says we can enter Hogsmeade now. (Yes, the rather complicated Express Passes give you a time to enter Hogemeade, then later to ride Forbidden Journey.)

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OK, you think a wizard could conjure up a tow truck.

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We’ve made it all the way back to Orlando. It’s magic, I tell you!

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Or are we in Hollywood?

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All kidding aside, Universal has done a good job with Hogwarts. However, I wish they'd improved upon the chaos that is their loose-article storage area. That's a mess in Orlando, too.

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Hah! Notice how I managed to avoid saying "lockers" in my last caption . . . damn it!

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Dan can’t tell you how happy he is to see Ralph’s. Really, he can’t.

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“Ooo, you work for Ralph’s? Come here, you sexy thang!”

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Lucy will not be denied.

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Bet you didn’t know that Universal Japan had a “Hitchcock’s The Birds” ride, did you? More to come!

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Sorry, but....boo on Space Fantasy VR Overlay. Final Fantasy? How DARE they!

 

That's all I got. Great report on the "not-one-of-the-best" day at Universal, Chuck.

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Next, a look at Jaws and more about Minions that you can shake a stick at. Believe me, you'll want to take a stick to them.

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But first, it’s time to visit that place where Hello Kitty, Sesame Street, and Peanuts celebrate Easter all year long.

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Dan is deeply moved and filled with love.

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Yes, it’s Snoopy making sweet love to a hot dog. You’re welcome.

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The way is closed. It was built by the shark, and the shark keeps it. The way is closed.

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Come on, Bruce--I didn’t close the ride!

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At least this is just for a rehab--we hope.

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This salty old sailor is watching you closely, Universal!

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The lagoon was dry, and there was a fair amount of activity down there.

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But the old Jaws shop has been replaced by a cart. They still have some cool stuff.

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Hello Kitty will be sad if Jaws ever closes for good.

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Be careful with what you say today, or it may come back to bite you in the butt.

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Support Jaws by buying Bruce’s favorite snack.

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Yes, I’m holding on to some hope . . .

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. . . but the proximity of Jaws to You Know Where is a bit disturbing.

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Any luck with Flying Dinosaur?

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Not yet. (We rode it on another day, though.)

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May as well check out Minions Super Happy Overkill Land.

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Make sure your banana cabana keeps your little Minions from dangling.

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There’s nothing sillier than cold, dark space death.

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Always a name you can trust.

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I’m not a fan of Minion Mayhem (or the Minions), but I do think the Back to the Future ride system works better for it than the old Jimmy Neutron system in Orlando.

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Three clippings. Good for you, Gru! (Always liked Gru more than the Minions.)

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“Please have a seat. Gru will be with you in a moment.”

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The queue looks pretty good.

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These folks are already Minions. They just don’t realize it. One more set of photos to go.

Edited by cfc
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Does the Bank of Evil upcharge a HUGE "service fee" for it's ATM useage?

 

And I forgot how really big that JAWS harbor is! Great shot of it, Chuck.

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We'll finish up with a look at how they handle loose objects on Flying Dinosaur and Hollywood Dream, then visit the park after dark for the parade. Ready?

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Yes, those are actual people on Flying Dinosaur.

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They provide you with a handy basket for your stuff, . . .

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. . . which you place in one of these boxes in the station. Good system. Works pretty well--much better than the mess at Forbidden Journey. Universal could also learn a thing or two from the system Europa Park uses on Arthur.

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Jurassic Park is Hello Kitty approved.

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Again, pretty good (if somewhat frightening) merch at this park.

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We got on Hollywood Dream that day.

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They wand you TSA style before you get on board.

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We didn’t see this 4D movie, but this is for all you Sailor Moon pervs out there. You know who you are.

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We did catch Terminator, though. Not sure how much longer this will be around, as there's a lot of work being done on the park's "Nintendo land" nearby. I could live without Terminator, though.

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At least they still turn on the Jaws sign after dark.

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Hmm--I hope all these people aren’t waiting for shakes and fries.

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Even Spidey is extra excited after dark--not to mention sparkly.

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The beginning of the “Super Happy Fun Time Sparkly Dancing Wizards, Robots, Dinosaurs, and Minions Parade.” (I like this name better.)

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I pity the driver of the Hogwarts Express float. The damn thing is huge.

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Just two guys riding and rubbing broomsticks between their legs. Quidditch is a very suggestive game.

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Jurassic World had the best bit. Raptors would “escape” their cages and run around the audience before being “herded.”

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“If that Megatron clown was here, I’d tear him limb from limb! I’d pull off his arms and shove them up his . . .

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. . . and he’s right behind me, isn’t he? Crap!”

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This ride would be better than Minion Mayhem.

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Yes, the Minions have pretty much taken over Universal Japan.

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They did a good job with these projections--if you’re in the right place to see them. That’s all for Universal Japan!

Edited by cfc
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I really don't know what surprises me more about this place now...

 

Getting "wanded down" before you ride Hollywood Dream?

 

Hello Kitty (the mini plushes) slowly being "eaten" by everything else that's IP there?

 

Space/Fantasy/Final (enough said 'bout that)

 

The "luxury-sized" baskets for your non-riding treasures. Nice cap, btw.

 

Parade looked interesting, too. Thanks for all of what you saw and enjoyed, etc. etc. Chuck.

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I love everything that is Universal Orlando, mainly because I've always had great guest service interactions there and for some reason, I feel like they're still motivated to keep me happy or something. That, and they actually do still have a slow season, unlike WDW. So the TPR experience with Universal Japan really makes me angry because I know they can and should be able to figure that crap out! I can't imagine how frustrating it was to deal with that runaround of epically stupid proportions.

 

That said, the parade looks pretty impressive, and I'm totally jealous of their ride selection, especially the coasters. I'll admit that the metal detector procedure looks like just as much of a headache as it is in Orlando even though the storage setup appears like a much better deal.

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The storage procedure on Flying Dinosaur is much like what Europa Park uses on Blue Fire, which works really well.

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