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Taylor's Coaster (and Food) Adventures


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Nice report! Honestly the thing I was most upset about missing that day were the pandas.

Yeah, I was somewhat determined. I kind of hustled over to the Panda coaster because it was so low capacity, thinking it would give me a few odd minutes.

Taylor, I am having such fun "traveling with you!' You've really captured so many of the wonderful oddities that make Japan a one-of-a-kind nation and so very different from the "American experience." I couldn't even begin to compare the amazing ways we differ. Viva Japan! & Viva U.S!

 

Alice

I made it a bit of a goal of mine to jot down a lot of the events that 'defined' Japanese hospitality and random oddities. The cabbie not acting selfishly was certainly an example. I am so glad you're enjoying the report and thank you for the kind words!

 

Taylor awesome start to your report, missing that trip as I read through it. I took a ton of pictures but you captured pictures of a lot of things I didn't so it's awesome to see. Hope all is well with you.

Thanks Steve! I figured this would be a good way to re-live some of it and kill the off season. I am doing swell, hoping the same to you.

 

 

THANK YOU to everyone for the kind words. We have a ways to go yet and I am having a great time sharing the trip with you all.

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Day 7: Universal Studios Day 1

 

The night after the Earthquake we were scheduled to have our first day at Universal Studios. We had our tickets, our express passes and we were all ready to go.

 

We didn't see any of the coasters testing as we waited at the gate before park open, but we were optimistic that would change. Our luck didn't turn out for us, BUUUUT thanks to hard work by Robb and Elissa, we did eventually get on the coasters. Read on to find out a bit more.

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Here we are! Handsome bunch, I must say.

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Yeah, more Snoopy. Get used to it.

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I really didn't take too many pictures of the park that day, but our first stop was back that way toward Flying Dinosaur. Certainly a coaster I was really excited about. I do enjoy the B&M flying coasters a good bit. And was optimistic this would become my favorite.

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However it wasn't open. So we pressed on toward Space Odyssey (this time using standby and next time with our Express Pass).

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They were running a Final Fantasy VR overlay. This was my first VR experience and I feel this is the kind of coaster that thrives on VR; I did find it enjoyable though I was a bit nauseous when it was all said and done. They were only loading the front half of each car though which was really inefficient. They WERE, however, incredibly quick about securing the headsets on everyone. The headsets were clipped onto the cars, so the second time I rode it, I removed it and to my surprise, a large portion of the practical effects and lighting were actually on. I am a bit sad I couldn't experience the ride in its normal state. But this was fun too!

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A friend back home is really, really, really, really into Snoopy, so I have a couple more pictures here that I showed her. But yeah, Snoopy had a whole indoor land plus a restaurant and tons of merchandise.

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Off to Hogwarts. Our express pass included admission into the land (in the event there was a line), as well as a skip the line for Hippogriff and The Forbidden Journey. I have been to the Hogwarts land in Florida and this is practically identical with a few differences.

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I do enjoy the land and the immersion is really just insane. It doesn't take well to large crowds though and that can be a bit of a problem.

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Hippogriffs line looked to be longer than The Forbidden Journey, so the express passes were clutch. I enjoy the castle ride and the line itself is really awesome. Except for the long spider portion (I cover my eyes like a coward), I don't get too nauseous.

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The Black Lake is one feature that is unique to Japan. It does make for some nice photos.

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The park itself has a lot of stuff that feels a bit dated, but is still enjoyable. Backdraft and Terminator come to mind immediately. Terminator has a...LONG...pre-show. Backdraft is kind of one long pre-show plus a minute of action at the end. But, the king of all pre-shows goes to Despicable Me. Using the former Back to the Future ride system (I do wish I could've experienced that, I enjoy those movies more) works pretty well. But, there are like three separate pre-shows. Made a bit worse by the fact that they were in Japanese.

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Jurassic Park: The Ride is still really fun. Nothing beats a boat ride for me.

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One boat ride that was unfortunately down for refurbishment was Jaws.

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Snoopy. I don't have any pictures to prove it but we did go to the Waterworks stunt show, which was definitely the most enjoyable show I saw in Japan (excluding Disney). It was really well done and quite popular.

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Hello Kitty world...

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Yeah, so here are just a few photos I didn't take that I stole from our Facebook thread. Coasters. Closed. Still. Well, actually... it says Backdraft is open. So I am assuming this was taken on our second visit (just pretend its closed). They would't open that day. So Robb went and talked to the customer service folks (if you want to call them that). They were hesitant, but eventually agreed to refund the portion of our express passes that was the coasters. These passes are quite expensive (I believe our tickets and express passes totaled around $300). We each got 9000 yen back, which was good for another day's admission. The next day, we basically had the option to go into the park in the morning to get our credits in.

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Yeah, here is one of the Express Passes for your reference. Some of us left the park before close. I really had done everything I needed to do and didn't care about the parade (ended up being cancelled that night anyway), so we headed back to Dotonbori.

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If you have been following along, on my free day in Tokyo, I had attempted to get Ramen at a place called Ichiran in Shinjuku. However, the line was outrageous so I passed. The day before this, I walked past a place that looked quite popular and didn't think anything of it. During our day at Universal, I had decided I WOULD have Ichiran Ramen (found out they had a location in Dotonbori). Turns out the place that was popular from the night before was in fact this place. We waited outside in the drizzling rain for a bit (staff actually provided us with free umbrellas to borrow). Went inside and were greeted by these vending machines that looked a lot like lottery ticket machines in the US. You inserted your money and selected everything you wanted and then pressed a submit button. A little ticket printed out as well as your change and then a host took you to your seat.

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They had a little map of what seats were available.

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Basically, you had your own little cubby to eat in, complete with a faucet for water and an optional divider on each side. If you knew the folks to your left and right, you could drop the divider and enjoy their company. If not, solo dining was perfectly functional.

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They actually opened up an American outpost of Ichiran in Brooklyn (prices are 2.5x higher). This toilet paper thing struck me as odd, but I saw pictures of the Brookyln one and they had the same setup.

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Here is the final product. I dunno if you can see it in the corner of the picture, but there is a little block they give you that had an orange and a green side. There was also a little marked area on the table where you were instructed to place the block if you wanted more food (orange side up), or were ready for your dessert (if you ordered any, green side up). Let me just say that this was the best ramen I've had. It is without a doubt the food item I miss the most. Just so, so complex and tasty. I also had a Matcha Pudding for dessert that was solid.

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Strolling through the Namba district. Tons of shops as I mentioned last time.

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Tsutenkaku Tower looms in the distance. I will say, this was a misfire. Not much was open and not much to really see or do, unfortunately. Oh well!

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Did see one of those places where you fish your own dinner.

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And Spa World. Not the Spa we were interested in on this trip (foreshadowing).

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You bring your ticket with you and are handed a little sheet to complete about your ramen preferences.

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I'll leave you with this. It was a very high tech racing simulator. It was quite pricey, I think. But it struck me in the moment that in cities like Osaka and Tokyo, there is a market for anything. Down this random side street there was apparently a market for a little business with two or three of these simulators. Next time, we visit two parks. One of which was absolutely the most sketchy of the trip.

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Some delicious Matcha pudding with lovely lovely sauce.

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Decided to check out Shinsekai that night. Had heard it was an odd hybrid of Paris (northern half) and Coney Island (southern half).

Edited by Taylor Finn
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Reading, but quick note;

Also, it was interesting that in Tokyo, it was customary to stand on the left side of the escalator if you were not in a hurry. In Osaka, it was the opposite. Either way, this was a really nice cultural tick. Impossible for something like that to be implemented in America, I would assume.

 

I'm proud to say this is standard in Chicago and there are actually signs to promote the practice.

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Leave it to Chicago to stand out in the midwest and tell people escalators are not for being lazy.

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Reading, but quick note;
Also, it was interesting that in Tokyo, it was customary to stand on the left side of the escalator if you were not in a hurry. In Osaka, it was the opposite. Either way, this was a really nice cultural tick. Impossible for something like that to be implemented in America, I would assume.

 

I'm proud to say this is standard in Chicago and there are actually signs to promote the practice.

This is also normal on the DC metro. Apparently people get pissed if you stand on the wrong side, but I haven't experienced that myself since I don't live close enough to the DC subway system.

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Reading, but quick note;
Also, it was interesting that in Tokyo, it was customary to stand on the left side of the escalator if you were not in a hurry. In Osaka, it was the opposite. Either way, this was a really nice cultural tick. Impossible for something like that to be implemented in America, I would assume.

 

I'm proud to say this is standard in Chicago and there are actually signs to promote the practice.

This is also normal on the DC metro. Apparently people get pissed if you stand on the wrong side, but I haven't experienced that myself since I don't live close enough to the DC subway system.

 

Oh! Well, I visited Chicago this year and did take a few subways. I didn't notice signage, but maybe the stations I went in weren't all that busy so it wasn't super important. Certainly in Japan, it is super helpful at busy stations for people who need to get somewhere.

 

I haven't really been on the DC metro too much. My friend takes it daily, though. So I'll have to check with her.

 

Nice report! It's a shame the park's customer service was so poor because I thought this Universal had the best ride collection of them all.

 

Fair, fair. I don't know what it is for me, but Universal just doesn't do it for me. Like I really enjoyed Flying Dino, Spiderman, Space Fantasy, and Jurassic Park... but I felt ready to head out before the night even ended. I'm sure if there were limited lines on everything, I would ride stuff again. But I felt content to get one re-ride on a couple of the big rides and be done with it. I'm just a Disney guy at heart, I guess.

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I think it's really cool now that Universal Parks are implementing Hello Kitty into their parks such as obviously Japan, California, and Florida. It would be really cool if they, especially Japan, maybe built a Hello Kitty/Sanrio ride or two. I really want to go to Universal Studios Japan though, Hollywood Dream and Flying Dinosaur look really fun.

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Fair, fair. I don't know what it is for me, but Universal just doesn't do it for me. Like I really enjoyed Flying Dino, Spiderman, Space Fantasy, and Jurassic Park... but I felt ready to head out before the night even ended. I'm sure if there were limited lines on everything, I would ride stuff again. But I felt content to get one re-ride on a couple of the big rides and be done with it. I'm just a Disney guy at heart, I guess.

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That's how I have felt, every visit I have done to the place, with TPR Tours. Once each attraction is ridden, it's rare I wanted to re-ride anything. Except (then) Space Fantasy, and I would use the single rider queue, avoiding all the pre-show, lol.

 

And Jaws. Yeah, I would re-ride that just to hear a new "driver" of our tour boat.

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Day 8: Washuzan Highland, New Reoma World, and a Speakeasy

 

Well, today was another two park day. And honestly turned out to be another surprise great day, even with rain coming down most of the day (only one of a couple days the whole trip with rain).

 

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Off we go from the Universal Studios station.

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Between this trip and the longish one to Washuzan, I stopped at some shops. Picked up some sweets.

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Not from there, though. 7 Eleven, of course. As would be a recurring theme, when we took bullet trains, I opted for a different beer and a random snack or two. Etiquette in Japan is very important (as Kristen informed us early on), but it IS acceptable to eat and drink on the Shinkansen, but not on normal local Subways. Reason being, you have a lot more room to yourself and are usually on them for much longer. They actually have carts that come through as well as vending machines on the train. Always stock up beforehand, though. Better prices and variety.

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WE HAVE ARRIVED. I have seen pictures of this station on previous trip reports to this park. Kojima is the Holy Land of Jeans, as it is home to many textile mills and denim manufactures. They really embrace denim here. Without this information, this station would be bizarre. Even with that information now, I am really confused at the lengths they have gone.

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Stairs.

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And a group picture, of course.

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Even the vending machines were denim themed.

 

Washuzan Highland:

 

After a short cab ride (we often had to take cabs once we hopped off the subway), we arrived. Before talking about the park...some notes about cabs in Japan: Generally, at the stations we needed them at, they were already lined up waiting for us in a very orderly fashion. Also, cabs are quite expensive (gas and cars are way pricier here). Just something to keep in mind. I believe I took a picture at some point for this report of the pricing that was on the back of the seat. But most taxi trips we took were 3000-5000 yen ($30-50) each way from the Subway. Something to factor in if you plan to visit. We split up into taxi groups of 3-4, which really helps to trim the cost.

 

Now, as far as Washuzan Highland goes..probably one of the least impressive of the parks we went to, but still had two great attractions we all enjoyed and the overall WTF feeling I had walking through the park makes this visit more than memorable. It is themed to Brazil (though I can't say how effectively). The park (as with most others) is built on a NOT flat plot of land. Tons of stairs everywhere and literally not a single guest in the entire park except for us. I'm sure the rain contributed, but from what someone told me on the trip, Japan doesn't really 'do' part-time employment. So the park stays open most of the year, even during the dead season to support the employees. They have 3 coasters in the park, though I'm not sure if the Jet Coaster or Ultra Twister are still operational at this point (they were both closed on our visit). The third is a Togo looper that has two trains (one stand-up and one backwards-facing). On busier days, they will run both at different times during the day. They were only operating the backwards train on our visit). The other noteworthy attraction is the sky-cycle, which as you will see is a harrowing, wobbly, insane, only-in-Japan kind of experience. Really, my two laps on this made the visit to the park worth it as it resulted in my second favorite picture of myself on the trip.

 

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Oh! There is the SBNO Ultra Twister. I was really hype to ride it, but I would get my fix later on in the trip.

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BUSY BUSY DAY.

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Most of the parks we visited were on the coast and offered incredible views all around (hence the Ferris Wheels).

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Whatever this means! Happy rain, indeed.

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We were greeted with a map and this coupon book. I was very intrigued by Brazilian Bingo. The lady at the front office put x's on the rides that WOULD be open (a bit confusing but alas). They only had about 6 or so rides open for us, though the park did appear to have maybe a half dozen or so more, including two others coasters. No matter!

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Did not get to play, however.

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They were kind enough to hand us ponchos for free due to the rain (we returned them, but still a nice gesture).

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Highly themed steps of doom. Seriously, there were A LOT of steps. Way too many steps, really. Fortunately, I only went up and down them once.

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Quick shot of the star of the show. Star Jet, that is.

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Observation tower and drop tower, both closed.

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This guy is authentic.

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What a horrifying contraption. What could it be.

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Is it a coaster?

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Nope, but it WAS absolutely insane. The supports noticeably shook when we turned this corner (later on, there were 6 or so of these lined up one after another turning this corner). I truly don't think this ride had experienced that big of a rush of people in years (though it seems based on reviews I read that these parks do get crowded other times during the year, which would be interesting to see).

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Just a really neat picture and a super awesome experience. To be able to stop around that turn with that view was just breathtaking (and a bit spooky because we were very far off the ground).

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The cafe/bar up top had a very interesting design for the canvas. I never ate in these smaller parks that were empty, because we usually were in and out in a couple hours and how fresh could this food be?

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Time to ride the Wheel. Like I said, a gorgeous view from the top.

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Now, to ride this death trap. I am not really a fan of coasters that go backwards (I get a weird sensation in my stomach on Expedition Everest where it feels like we go upside down). But I was here, so I would at least give it a shot.

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Ride operator (there was 1 guy) had to make an announcement, leave his post, check our restraints, return to his post, make some more announcements and then dispatch. It's weird. Slow operations in the US can be frustrating, but here you get this weird sensation that they are slow because they are taking precaution. And so it is totally just excusable. More often than not, operations were a okay, still.

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There is our stand up car. I actually found this ride quite fun. I only did it once, but it was pretty smooth, considering the rust. I am just very confused how the Togos I have ridden in the US have turned out so, so poorly while the ones I rode in Japan were all quite fun.

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We got animals here, too! Well taken care of.

 

Story time. When I got off Star Jet, I heard some music coming from the bottom of the steps. I walked down to find a Samba group performing. There was a few instrumentalists and two dancers (from Brazil, I believe). They likely started performing before anyone from TPR (or anyone at all) was down there to watch/listen. The whole thing was bizarre to think about. If we hadn't been there, I truly got the impression that they would have still performed to no one. After the show (which was honestly really fun), the two instrumentalists hustled off stage and brought out an easel of sorts and started flipping through a history lesson on Brazil (presented in Japanese, naturally). They tried to get us to participate and had people attempt to pronounce certain words, and the whole thing was just amazing and bizarre. I truly felt horrible leaving before the show was over (but the entertainment was continuous throughout the day, it seemed). They didn't mind, though and were so grateful we were there. It warms my heart.

 

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Here they are!

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They were really enthusiastic and just lovely.

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And we're off. I do remember this train trip being one of my favorites of the trip. One of the best parts about these three weeks was honestly just relaxing in the bullet trains taking in the country. I know that you can't REALLY take it in at these speeds, but knowing how much of the country side we did traverse is just awesome to me. Definitely would not be possible without the JR pass. Also, different beer and different snack. These I remember liking a lot.

 

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Some views from the train ride. Like I said, all these parks seemed to be built on the coast (where civilization tends to reside, I guess).

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They had these long escalators down to the parking lot below. We got dropped off out front. I remember (it was either this day or a different one) that someone forgot their phone in the cab and a minute or two later, the driver came running out with it to give to the person. Another example of Japanese people NOT taking advantage of tourists and just being sensible and kind.

 

New Reoma World

 

An Italian Theme Park. This place had loads of charm, a really kind of surprisingly good haunted walk-through, one of my favorite dark rides of the trip, some fun coasters (including a forceful mine train coaster, and a Space Mountain Knockoff), and really friendly staff (as would be a theme). I really enjoyed it here and was easily able to fill the time we had in the park with stuff. It is definitely out of the way, but it is a fun little park.

 

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They look kind of lonely.

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We have arrived. As with many other parks, they had a covered 'main street' with shops and places to eat. It rains a lot in Japan, so this makes a lot of sense.

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Much better!

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This park seemed a bit more successful than the last. They had a hotel on property and seemed well maintained.

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Here is our first stop, Vivace. A really fun little ride. Smooth and forceful.

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They had the obligatory shooter. Most every park had one of these and they were varying levels of good. I remember this one falling in the middle of the pack. Will never pass one up, though.

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OH BOY. This ride was just a trip. An incredibly long, incredibly detailed, incredibly confusing (until I rode a second time and began to follow) dark ride. If I remember, it was about two competing groups. The first group of animals/people liked to turn other animals into mechanical things (be it a plane, car, etc.) for their own personal use. The other group was attempting to remove all the color from the world. Neither were especially noble or good. But in the end, they all got along. This doesn't really do the ride justice. Find Robb's POV. Probably my favorite or second favorite dark ride not at Disney or Universal.

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Space Mountain: elevator edition. We walked over from the dark ride and found a large group of TPR folk waiting to be let in. I dunno if the ride runs at intervals. I think it was because they had to go over the safety info to everyone or something. Then you went through a pretty thorough line before taking an elevator up. Following the line a bit more, you arrived at the coaster which kind of meandered around inside the building but was still pretty fun! You got off and then the car went up the lift hill (a la Pirates in Florida).

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Excellent.

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Nothing to see here. For what it's worth, adults seemed to pretty much always ride kiddie coasters here (dunno if I've mentioned that already). So I never felt AS bad. Also, I had company.

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Might be hard to see, but the ferris wheel had two carriages that were different from the rest and had your feet dangling. No thanks.

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They had some sort of train exhibit set up in the park. Wanted to escape the rain for a moment.

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They had a dino maze I believe. I dunno if it wasn't open or if I just didn't get around to it. I feel like it wasn't open.

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They had this goofy little lady bug coaster. It was actually quite fun. Like a more spread out wild mouse with a great setting. No shame here.

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Vivace. They had lights strung all over the car and the park, but unfortunately park close was a bit early to witness. Most parks closed around 5 PM that we went to, including bigger ones (not Universal and Disney).

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Okay, so that does it for New Reoma World. We traveled back and I had some plans for the night. We probably just traveled back to Osaka Station via the bullet train and then I split off with a few others. We decided to explore the station a bit first.

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So as far as these major stations go, they often had mini shopping malls built into them and this one I believe had a few big department stores attached. But our mission had been to find a cool fountain. I didn't know anything about it, but yeah. Here it is. Very neat!

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From there, we went to a different Okonomiyaki place. This one we didn't cook it ourselves, but it was equally yummy. Had a bit of sake as well. I had found a bar that seemed neat and I convinced a few people to join me. It happened to be pretty close to Dotonbori (where our dinner was at), so we went on our way, not really knowing what to expect.

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Just walking around.

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Please read this. It will bring you joy. And with that, I'll leave you for now!

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And were greeted by this nondescript door. I honestly felt like I was about to enter someone's apartment. But that little logo is here.

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We took the fire escape up to the 5th floor.

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We went the area that Google Maps directed us to, knowing the place was not going to be clearly marked. We found a sign that indicated what was on all the floors for a building nearby. One of the signs looked a bit suspicious.

 

 

Upon approaching this smaller door, we were greeted by this sign. We walked in and the bar itself was really small. There were maybe 8 seats at the bar and a few tables, with a narrow walkway in the middle. If there were no seats, the bartender told new guests they would have to wait outside or move along. We took a seat and were told he did not have a cocktail menu (he apologized). He informed us that we would tell him what kind of flavors we liked and that he would make us a drink accordingly. I told him for my first drink that I wanted something sweet and also bitter. I think he asked me for my spirit of choice and gave me a few general flavor options. What came out was a glorious, glorious cocktail that I'll remember to this day. We hung around for a while and then ordered a second round. This time, I wanted something that had a 'tea-like' flavor to it (they had no tea). He worked some magic and out came another very different, very tasty drink. I tried everyone else's drink in my group and loved them, as well. The place was incredibly fascinating. The bartender spoke great English, aimed to please and even took a small swig of each drink in the shaker glass before serving (for science)! One time, he did that and actually did modify the drink. It seems like every cocktail is an adventure for him, making something a bit different to suit the taste of the guest. Cocktails ran 1400 yen (no tip), which I felt very fair for Osaka, given the experience we had. I can honestly put this experience in the top 5 for the trip, easily.

 

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5th Floor, 7 Nights a week, Wouldn't you like to know... hmm. I wonder what that could be. So...

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We first turned left and opened another door. Turned out to be the bathroom. This door seemed normal enough so we thought we had turned the right way, because the door to our right was... rather small. I dunno if this picture does it justice.

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Edited by Taylor Finn
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Excellent report! I agree Washuzan was one of the weaker parks on the trip but the Brazilian show was quite interesting...especially since I was solicited into performing.

 

That whole experience was just perfectly strange in the best way.

 

Once again, great TR! Really love reliving the trip through your eyes...wait did that sound creepy?!?!

 

Naw! I'm glad you''re enjoying my long-winded approach to writing these. I am a detail guy and this is partly for me to remember the trip for when I return.

 

Ah, so THAT'S the park with the pedal-powered tracked ride that's always in clickbait videos and articles great trip report though, fun read as always.

 

Yeah, I remember Robb discussing how viral the ride went. And that there were people traveling there to experience it... I would say for the average person, it would not be worth going there for it. Going with a large group like TPR, the whole experience was bumped up a notch. Plus, we are crazy.

 

I love love LOVEd your cocktail experience! (edit, ADVENTURE!) What an awesome place to find!

 

I miss Japan so much.

 

Yeah, it was truly amazing. I love finding places like that. I went to a Speakeasy in Brooklyn that was hidden in the back of a normal functioning laundromat. This place, though, had the mystique and also delivered the goods.

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Thanks for the shout-out, Taylor. It was truly an incredible trip! I'm usually the compulsive planner, when it comes time to travel. It was so great not having to worry about all that on this trip. Robb and Elissa had all of the parks, travel, and accommodations planned out perfectly, and even had contingency plans for when mother nature disagreed with the originals. In the evenings, it was awesome being able to tack onto your plans. The food and bar choices were top notch!

 

P.S. It appears that the back of my head has been very well-documented.

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^That's what I so love about the way we've been doing Japan trips lately! Everyone goes to parks together and doesn't have to worry about anything. Then there's free time to explore and do other stuff and share what you've found with friends! Ugh, I love Japan!!!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Day 9: Hirakata Park, and Kyoto

 

So today was our do over day at Universal. By now, we were hopeful that the coasters would be open again after the Earthquake. We had been given 9000 yen and had the option to put that toward a new ticket. I figured I was there and it wasn't really any more money than I had already paid, so I went into the park that morning. I was looking for pictures and didn't take any from the park. I realize now that was because my one contact bugged out on me and so I was walking around with incredibly blurred vision. However, the coasters DID open up for us. So I got a couple spins each on Flying Dinosaur, Hollywood Dream, and Backdraft. I dunno if I hit anything else that morning. But I feel like I didn't, because my eyes were so irritated. Either way, it was really great to get a second shot at the park. A smaller trip like this with folks who are very flexible means plans can change much easier.

 

So I left the park around noon maybe and went back to the hotel, switched contacts, and we were on our way to Hirakata (which we had originally planned to be at around 10 at park open). Instead, we got there around 1, 1:30 and had three hours there. As you'll see in my pictures (look for people that aren't clearly from our group, you'll see very few), that was enough time to do most ALL of what they had to offer, which was a lot. I would really say if you are traveling to Japan and want to seamlessly blend amusement parks and culture, Hirakata makes a lot of sense, as it falls kind of en route to Kyoto from Osaka and is right outside the train station.

 

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NOT MY PICTURE. But yeah, we did go back to the park to ride this beauty. Honestly, has to be my favorite flyer. It was wicked intense, especially in the back. So much so, that two rides did me in plenty.

 

Hirakata Park

This park has so much to offer. Has a good number of credits for a Japanese park if that's what you're into. But they are quality. Elf was a fun little Junior Woodie (also, the only wooden coaster of the trip for me). Red Falcon was definitely my favorite jet coaster for sheer WTF factor. It was just a mess of track in the worst way. And then there was Fantastic Coaster Rowdy which was absolutely unpleasant, but again, a blast in its own way. A really nice assortment of flats, dark rides, and an overall super clean and great place.

 

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We have arrived. There weren't all that many parks that were right off the train station, this was one of them though.

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Park was hilly, but not quite as much so as some other places we went. The mountain in the middle was not JUST for show. In a bit, I'll talk about it some more.

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Elf wasn't like a TOP 10 CRAZY WOODEN COASTER. But it was nice and had a few pops of air depending on where you sat. It was nice to get my woodie fix.

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The gang!

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Don't think I rode this one, but that was only because there was so much else to do.

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This park had a huge theater space. As well as some switchbacks for the coasters. I could definitely see the place getting quite crowded in the busy months.

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She's a beaut. Not really, but it was a blast in its own way. Just riding for the first time without any real idea what weird sh*t it is going to throw at you was fun.

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KIDDIE.

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I kind of forget what this walk through was like. But I do appreciate the option I guess.

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It was a really nice park, and I definitely took a lot of pictures, because it was bigger than a lot of the other places we went.

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On the wild mouse, they had these little carts you would put your stuff in that they would move shuffle in and out as people entered and exited the ride. It actually worked really well.

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They had these little ice cream cones in vending machines for like 14.20. That is another thing I really liked about Japan. Vending machine prices did not really vary all that much. Parks sold bottled drinks for comparable prices for the most part.

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Another screaming log flume. Closed, unfortunately.

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Great sign, really.

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This ice house was ABSOLUTELY needed. It felt so refreshing to step in and I wish this was a thing in the States (and was just included in park admission). It is these little attractions that gave Japanese parks so much charm.

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A goofy little flat ride. I dunno what these are called, but you like turn around once or twice during the ride.

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Nicely themed.

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A strange little ride.

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Another strange little ride. The park was just FULL of rides.

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Including one of those baby baby flume rides, with this great promo photo. I dunno exactly what they were going for... but...

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One of the odd park mascots insisted on getting a picture with us in the little gardens they had in one of the corners of the park.

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A bunch of us recreated the pose and I am having a little too much fun with it.

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They had this weird outdoor shooting ride. Again, no need to have a ride like this. Not a huge draw. But man, is it fun to just walk around a new park in Japan and stumble upon weird stuff like this (and just walk right on).

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Nice train ride around a big chunk of the park. I think this one had like a really fake sounding whistle that he could and DID play a lot.

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The little scenic boat ride thingy. I dunno how to describe it, exactly. I was of the mindset to just do it all. This does not look like a hugely exciting ride, obviously. But I would honestly say that I am more into the overall park than coasters. There were certainly people on the trip who were different than me in that sense. But I am interested in pretty much any ride or attraction that is unique in any way (any tracked or custom ride, really).

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Another odd mascot.

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This kid is horrified.

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There is that octopus ride again.

This experience deserves some explanation. Basically, we approached the entrance and the lady gestured that it would be a couple minutes. It seemed like quite a bit of time, so I assumed it wasn't just like a normal walk through attraction where they were trying to just space you out. I was correct there, but I never could've known what was in store. Basically, she escorted us into a room that had sarcophagi lining the walls. They were all open and she instructed us to sit inside them on a chair and gave us a pair of headphones. The door was then shut and our hands were placed through some openings so that they were on the outside of the sarcophagus. It was dark inside the space, except for a small TV screen that began to play some weird creepy clips and sounds. At one point, something kind of slapped my hands but it was so cheesy I didn't really flinch. None of it really 'scared' me, but it was just bizarre in the best way. When we were done, the employee came out after a minute with print outs for each of us. I can't really say for sure what was said on the print out, except that it seemed to be some kind of measure of how frightened you were during the whole ordeal. Just great stuff.

 

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What a ride.

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This gives you a pretty good idea of it all. Sorry, Adam.

Okay, so the last thing we decided to do on our way out of the park was find out what was in this mysterious mountain. To our surprise, it was a bit of a scavenger hunt. We kind of kept walking around the initial room clueless after being given a map of sorts. Eventually, someone came over and was super enthusiastic about helping us along. I can't really recall all the details, but I can remember at one point like doing things like "find the odd one out" and other things like that. You would sort of punch out the answers to the various questions throughout the hunt and then at the end you would insert the map back into a machine which would check to see that the right answers had been punched out. Think we got a little trading card at the end. But the best part was the boss battle. It was some kind of lava monster thing. And there was a room we entered with a little mini volcano type thing in the middle and four touch screens at each corner. The object was simple for this boss battle. Well, not really. We had to do two things.

 

1. Frantically destroy these lava things on the screen by tapping them quickly.

 

2. Throw these blue 'ball pit' balls into the center of the volcano. They would dispense into a little pond of sorts in each corner and as you would throw them into the center, the lava would also subside on the screen. You were fighting with water, I guess. I remember getting SO into it and I think we maybe won? After, I felt bad because there were a bunch of the balls all over the ground. We started to help clean up, but they insisted we leave and let them take care of it.

 

Sorry that none of this really amounts to much for readers who didn't visit this park. Just thought I ought to at least try to explain for my own recollection later on.

 

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So yeah, this was a blast. And also a really nice day at the park, overall. Where to next?

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We headed off from there to Kyoto. Fushimi Inari Taisha, more precisely. We probably left Hirakata around 4, 4:30 and took a really quick 35 minute train to the shrine (has a dedicated subway station). Here is a map you see upon entering that gives you an idea of the whole complex. It is quite expansive with most of the larger structures residing at the bottom.

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Here is what you see from the bottom.

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Inari is the God of Rice (thanks wikipedia).

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I really did take a lot of pictures here and I cannot say I totally grasp or understand what I was seeing, so I will do my best just to explain what it was like exploring the complex.

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This was the beginning of the loop trail that goes up the mountain. The whole loop takes about two hours to do and your journey up includes tons of mini shrines and also thousands of these torii gates.

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I think on the way down I asked my group how many they thought there were in the complex. Forget how close anyone got to the closest actual estimates (around 10,000).

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It was one of the few places I had known about prior to visiting from a friend who visited.

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Coming up on another set of the gates. Most all of the trail was under these gates with occasional breaks for little shrines.

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It is so very difficult to fully paint a picture of what this experience was like because there was just so much to see everywhere.

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This was an odd little area where there seemed to be loads of cats hanging around.

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Another interesting tid bit. There were vending machines throughout the loop (thank goodness), but as you went up, they got more expensive (more difficult to stock). So, I would bring some water and snacks with you, but don't expect to see a single garbage can. You carry your trash with you a lot in Japan (it is not typical to eat and walk, so there isn't as much of a need for trash cans). There was also not a single piece of litter along this whole trail which was just crazy.

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Some beautiful views as we climb up the mountain.

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More good views of the city of Kyoto.

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Well, this was an endless off shoot of the main trail that I think was described simply as "Nice View." I did not take this trail.

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We would catch this very view again on our way down once the sun began to set. This is marker 6 on the map you'll see in just a few pictures. It is the part of trail that you pass through on your way up and down.

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Gives you a bit more perspective on the whole vibe.

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This was the summit of the whole trail and by this point we were fairly pooped. It is quite a few steps up.

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Look how proud we are.

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Map!

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And here we are! I will say it didn't seem like the map that was at the bottom was super accurate in terms of scale, just kind of count on 2-2.5 hours up and down if you walk at a decent clip.

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So there was a little capsule machine to dispense fortunes. If the fortune is bad, as I mentioned earlier in the trip, you are to fold it up and sort of tie it up on a post of sorts. If it is good, you take it with you.

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What would my fortune be?!

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I DON'T KNOW HOW TO READ THIS. Part of me expected an English translation since this was largely a touristy area. Alas, I think I tied it up just in case.

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We head down. And it is starting to get close to that time!

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A really beautiful place to watch a sunset.

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The trip down is quite a bit quicker than up, it seems.

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Back to where we started.

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Any time something passed you on the belt, you could grab it. There was different prices associated with each color plate and you got a check handed to you by staff after they checked your finished plates. I think I liked my sushi in Tokyo better, but this place was fun!

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It was quite a popular place, but we didn't wait too long since we agreed to split up into two groups of two.

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So Kyoto Station is impossible to describe. But there is this enormous staircase that gets lit up and animates. Off to the sides are tall buildings that are connected to the station area kind of.

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If you go all the way up the steps, there is a little garden and some viewing areas for the city. This tower was a popular attraction but we did not partake.

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The view looking down from pretty high up the staircase. I swear, it was escalator after escalator. Probably about 8 of them to get from the bottom to the top. Nothing quite like it.

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I'll leave you with another view of Kyoto. I know those pictures didn't do the station justice, but look it up for yourself. It really is worth visiting if you are going to go to Kyoto. Thanks for reading!

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From there, we took a quick train ride to Kyoto Station, which would ultimately be our way home; but the station itself is an attraction unto itself. We agreed to go to a Conveyor Belt Sushi place (seemed like a rite of passage). This place was pretty good actually!

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Great report!

 

That Legend of Luxor sarcophagus ride was so messed up in the best way possible. I thought the employee was kidding when she told us to enter the sarcophagus and I honestly thought the 1980s quality graphics made it creepier.

 

I think the printout was a measure of how pure your heart is as it's based upon the story whether or not your heart is heavier or lighter than a feather.

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Day 10: Nagashima Spa Land

 

Welcome back! So, today we headed out from Osaka to Nagoya. Nagoya actually falls between Tokyo and Osaka on the map. We had a couple great parks planned for this region and I was looking forward especially to Nagashima Spa Land since I joined the trip. Steel Dragon is certainly one of the coasters that I knew of long before I became an 'enthusiast,' along with The Beast, Volcano, and probably some others. Also, I was desperately hoping I would finally get my Ultra Twister fix. Read on to find out!

 

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It was certainly sad to leave Universal property. The hotel was really nice, we enjoyed the breakfast a lot, and yeah. But, I believe this was another day where we did a luggage transfer. Really nice to have this set up, so we could just be on our merry way for the day and then just have our luggage waiting for us at the hotel.

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And we're off! I think a trip into Nagoya proper we would have probably only been looking at a 45 minute trip. But I think we took the train straight to the station near the park, so maybe a bit closer to 1.5-2 hours. Either way, not too shabby!

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Not before grabbing my snack and beer. Unfortunately, I didn't splurge to try this. I was a bit horrified honestly.

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I did get this, though. Always trying a different delicious drink.

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I believe this could possibly have been Nagoya station? I'm not certain.

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My snack for the travels. Very yum. I actually just signed up for Bokksu, which is a subscription box filled with Japanese snacks. Gonna give it a shot. Need a little fix.

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Ah! If you've been following along, I mentioned having a picture of the pricing schemes for cabs. So about minimum fare for first 1.5 km (roughly 1 mile). From there, about /km or roughly /mile. Definitely pricier than in the States, anyway.

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Some GREAT pictures from the cab.

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Our cab driver actually took us to the 'old entrance' or something. We hustled through an outdoor shopping mall that is attached to the property and ended up at the main gate before others (similar problem it seems).

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There she is! Steel Dragon was certainly one of the coasters I was most looking forward to.

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Main entrance area was massive and impressive.

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I want you to tell me if at any point you are reminded a bit of... a certain other amusement park.. that might be located in the United States... might also have a similar map style... might also have a RMC conversion of a sprawling, oppressive wooden caoster...

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This slide complex was absolutely nuts. Impossible to even get a good count on how many slides are up there.

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This little cycle monorail thing was adorable. Dunno if it was pedal powered or what. It seemed automatic.

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The first of two Schwarzkopf's at the park. Never been on one of these guys and honestly, they were a lot of fun. I can't do lots of backwards. But this was just the right amount and the launch was, of course, forceful and enjoyable.

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Here is Looping Star. The other.

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This park has their fair share of flats. Really, the most flats of any park in Japan that we went to.

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First time on a 1st gen Intamin drop tower, too. And yeah, it was horrifying but absolutely thrilling.

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Big, big wheel. We will be coming back for you.

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I know there are tons of pictures now of the completed layout of the Hakugei, so the timing seemed ripe for me to post this report, because I took a bunch of pictures of what it looked like back in late June.

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Our first stop of the day was Steel Dragon. Robb wanted to make sure we all got on this and Acrobat before he left us to ourselves. If the lines were bad, he planned to buy us fast passes. I will tell you that the line was NOT bad. But the operations for this ride were pretty rough. I guess there was an incident in 2003 with the trains and it shut down for 3 years after that. Maybe that contributes to the 1 train operations they generally always run or the way they load and dispatch trains. But it did seem awfully slow. No worries! We would be back after park close for some filming.

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Looming in the distance is the prize jewel of the park (for me, anyway).

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This picture is out of order in that its from our filming session at the end of the day. But yeah, I ain't moving it. I'm really in love with this shot Robb's rider cam caught of me! Never really had a cool 'on ride photo' before this.

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Not my picture, (sorry Elissa) but I needed to at least explain the Bobkarts here a bit better. Basically, as with most things in the park, it was built for capacity. There were two separate tracks. You hop into the kart and I believe you have a lever or something to control the speed. And you move pretty quickly around the steel trough and it is really really just a fun couple minutes. I would LOVE if other parks had these.

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Does this look familiar to anyone?

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Another shot of Demon Drop.

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So earlier, it was not open. We stopped back over after we saw it cycling and...

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It was open!

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Ever since playing Roller Coaster Tycoon (obsessively), I had a fascination with this ride. In retrospect, I kind of hate that RCT made the stats for this ride unreasonably bad (impossible to get a decent excitement), because they're not half bad at all. The mechanics of it are kind of ridiculous and imperfect, but it is almost charming in a way (same with the 1st gen Intamin drop towers, in that it is clear they have discovered better ways to get you up the tower).

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We explored the pretty screwed up haunted walk thru. It was ridiculous as ever. This was kind of the only dark ride type thing at the park (at least that I know of). A bit unusual for a Japanese park. But again, this place felt pretty different in not a bad way..

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Lunch was some more Katsu Curry. It was like for this and it came with a salad. In a park. And it was tasty!

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Here is where you go to eat at this park. Don't mess this up.

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Now for something TOTALLY different. They have two enormous viking ships at the park that duel.

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A THRILLING POWERED COASTER. Gotta at least ride it to say we did, I guess.

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They had one of these odd bouncy house type things, but it looked way more fun. However, once the group inside was done, the lady informed us we were too old. That's okay..... I can totally respect that we don't belong on this.

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But this. This was a must ride, I felt. Unfortunately, my group disagreed.

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Another little free play area to ride little vehicles around.

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Stopped in a gift shop. They did have quite a bit of merchandise that was specific to the park, which up to this point (except Universal) was pretty uncommon. You'd be lucky most places to find a single item that was specifically branded to the park (e.g. a keychain). Largely, they just sold... stuff. But yeah, this is a great shirt.

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Another shot that isn't great, but it gives some scale to the Viking Ship as sits next to the 'kiddie' pirate ship (normal full size).

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Yeah, this is just insanity.

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Here is the thing with Nagashima. Every ride pretty much you get a stretchy band with a key for the locker to put your stuff in. This ride was clearly retrofitted with the lockers, because the way they load it is a bit crazy. Instead of people exiting into the middle area between the two ships and then the gate opening at each row to let in new guests, they have to exit people out the way they came in. In other words, guests in line wait to pick a row until after everyone leaves. Seems to kind of detract form the decision to install two 160 person pirate ships. But alas. I rode (in the middle because I hate these things). It was very... tame... the hype and the scale of it is just kind of hype.

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Think I was on the powered monorail cute thing from before.

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An actually good picture!

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Jet Coaster was slated to be down for the day for maintenance. There were certainly other coasters that could've been down, so this was sad but no big deal. The maintenance crew did cycle trains and they rode 1 per row with hard hats on. Which was amusing.

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A little resting area set up in the park. Folks just sleeping.

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Think there now a ton of pictures here from the Ferris Wheel, so I hope they are decent.

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Huge huge Pittsburg Plunge ride (yeah I actually call these rides that no matter where they are).

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Another park set on the water.

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They had a power tower, too!

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Oh! There is Mr. Looping Star.

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The park has such a ridiculous set of high capacity rides. And when they aren't, they make them high capacity. Two wild mouses, two viking ships, two Turnpike rides (again, Kennywood). Also, the Turknpike ride hauled. It was more like a go kart on a controlled track.

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Some more photos of what is sure to be a great addition to the park. If I had it my way, I would've enjoyed riding White Cyclone OR this new beast while I was there. Unfortunately, I must return. What a tragedy.

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After the Ferris Wheel, I used the remaining little meal coupon I think we got for some ice cream. It was really good, as expected. I love me some matcha.

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More flats!

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Well played.

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A beauty.

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After close, we did some filming on Acrobat, Steel Dragon, and this. Arashi.

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I had been on Green Lantern at SFMM and I really did not care for that. For me, this thing was awful. A couple other tall people agreed. It busted my balls like crazy and it just was a bit too much. I can totally see how folks could enjoy it. But this was a one and done for Taylor.

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My last picture from the park is of a vending machine. I dunno if you can see the prices, but yeah. Affordable.

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Here was our hotel. In fact, it was actually just a couple floors at the top of the building. The first bit was an electronics store.

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The hotel was super convenient to Nagoya Station.

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That night, we set out for dinner at a place called Midtown BBQ. It looked solid. Couldn't find any pricing but it ended up being good but super pricey (as was this whole area by Nagoya Station). Four of us split the Dinosaur Platter which came with chicken, pork, sausage, ribs, cole slaw, and chili fries. I did not take a picture of it. But it was roughly 0 and was very underwhelming in portion size. Just about everything that they described came out in a smaller portion than we anticipated. But it was an American style bbq place and I guess meat just isn't consumed on that kind of scale usually. Also, a liter of Sapporo was like . I did not partake in beer here. BUT.

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We stumbled upon Kirin City. Which had much more affordable options. They did have frozen drafts, but I did not try.

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My beer came to me... well-poured. It was actually pretty solid.

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I will leave you with a great anecdote about how the only time I truly got sick in Japan from food was from American style BBQ. I felt a okay until the middle of the night and yeah. Not good. But everything else I ate... no problems. So with that, thanks for reading and following along! We got some really good parks still to come. Disney is getting closer!

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Just getting caught up...

 

The log flume was closed at Hirakata because it actually had damage from the earthquake a few days prior! Props to the rest of the park for getting everything open and running when Hirakata was VERY close to the epicenter of the strong quake.

 

Nagashima is a ridiculous Japanese version of CP and getting the RMC just makes it even funnier!

 

The vending machine prices annoy me so much!!! How is it just fine and it works awesome in Japan, but in the US Six Flags and Cedar Fair will charge me $5 for a medium soda with mostly ice!?!

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I actually just signed up for Bokksu, which is a subscription box filled with Japanese snacks. Gonna give it a shot. Need a little fix.

 

Let us know how that is. I hadn't heard of that box before but I just signed up for six months of Tokyo Treat's premium boxes which include a drink as well as snacks and candy. I compared the past Tokyo Treat and Japan Crate boxes that were sent out and Tokyo Treat looked like it had the better drink choices overall and Japan Crate looked like it was sending out a lot of snacks that I could get at Asian grocery stores in the LA or Bay Area so I went with Tokyo Treat.

 

I will leave you with a great anecdote about how the only time I truly got sick in Japan from food was from American style BBQ.

I didn't miss American food at all when I was in Japan and stuck mostly to Japanese and other Asian cuisines or whatever foods Japanese in general were good at (they do French pastries really well). If I went to an American fast food chain like McDs or KFC (which I did a few times) I only got the menu items I couldn't get at their US locations. With yakitori and the various forms of Japanese BBQ I have no desire to try American style BBQ in Japan but it looks like you learned your lesson. Great report by the way.

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