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Taylor's Coaster (and Food) Adventures


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your TR continues to enthrall and amaze me.

 

*loving* the pics and "tour" of Nagashima SpaLand. . what a park! I think Elissa said above it's like a Japanese version of Cedar Point, and I agree. . but I see some Kenobel's quality classic rides there too!

 

looks like y'all had a gorgeous day to enjoy it too.

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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!?!

 

Oh! That’s a shame! I did get to ride what is likely now my favorite log flume (sans Disney/Universal) later on in the trip (foreshadowing).

 

And yeah... I really do agree. It’s probably my favorite park besides Disney in Japan!

 

 

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

 

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.

 

I’ll probably incorporate it into a report eventually! This comes with a tea pairing and I’m a big sucker for hot tea.

 

And yeah, it was probably one of the only American meals I had. And it was quite good. Just a rip off and ultimately none of it really stayed down anyway.

 

your TR continues to enthrall and amaze me.

 

*loving* the pics and "tour" of Nagashima SpaLand. . what a park! I think Elissa said above it's like a Japanese version of Cedar Point, and I agree. . but I see some Kenobel's quality classic rides there too!

 

looks like y'all had a gorgeous day to enjoy it too.

 

I’m glad you’re enjoying it so much, I love to hear the positive feedback! They did have a modern Looper, so I guess that’s similar to Knoebels.

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Awesome report so far Taylor, so many great memories! Here is a picture of the underwhelming Dinosaur Plate from the BBQ place! Very good but not a lot of food for 4 hungry Americans.

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Dinosaur Plate!

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Dinosaur Plate!

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Completely enjoying your Trip Report and your perspective on Japan! Japan is on my bucket list so it's always great to see it from other peoples perspectives.

 

Thanks for posting.

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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!?!

 

Does anyone understand this sentence?

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  • 4 weeks later...

Day 11: Parque Espana

 

Sorry for the long delay in reports! We are back.

 

So, I can honestly say I don't remember how we got there this day. I really feel like it was via rail and cab as usual. I can only remember bussing one day (Fuji Q). But, we arrived. And we were briefed in advance that the weather looked... horrible. I didn't attach the screenshot of the radar that Elissa sent us. But it was expected to be brutal. Fortunately, there was quite a bit to do at this park indoors, which was a welcome change.

 

I didn't take too many pictures because of the rain. And I also think I forgot to pack the poncho that we were given in our bag (believe I borrowed someone's or just suffered. It is all kind of blurry. What I do remember is really liking this park. I enjoyed the bizarre layout, Tron Butt was a strange, strange coaster that didn't do much of anything but I kind of love coasters like that. They had a nice collection of dark rides and walkthroughs and I show a bizarre show and had a yummy lunch.

 

Pyrenees was down for a while due to rain. But would we get to ride it? READ ON. Or skim through. Sorry I have a total of one coaster picture in the report. Of the kiddie coaster.

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More morning snacks, I assume.

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First up was the Nutcracker themed dark ride. Great picture taking here, I know. It was a pretty pretty ride and I am always a sucker for dark rides. One of the many things I loved about these parks.

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Next up was... what could this be?

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ALICE IN WONDERLAND WALKTHROUGH. This was a seriously screwed up experience. Clearly a rip off, but also so much fun I think I actually went through twice? Maybe? This day seems like more of a blur than the others in a way.

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I do remember that it had a maze component, a boss battle component, and also an interactive wand that you could point at certain things and they would interact.

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Like this one. Alice is 'interacting' with the 'wand.'

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See?

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So at some point we began down a path that honest to goodness felt like we were leaving the park. It was taking us pretty far out from the main drag of the park. There wasn't any rides as we went down the hill. But at the bottom we were greeted with a whole new area. I believe the ship wasn't really open for full exploration but was a nice touch. Little water play area.

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Here was a fun little dark ride a la Peter Pan! Also down in this area was a ride I was seriously looking forward to. Unfortunately, I was let down. It used to be a Pirates of the Caribbean rip off that started out in a little lake and then entered a huge show building before plunging down into the lake. As it turns out, they recently closed off the indoor portion of the ride and re-routed the ride back toward the station much quicker. On our way out, we talked to the rides manager who said they didn't have the money to repair the stuff in the show building. Sad to hear, but not terribly surprising.

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Now, this was something I knew existed and was aware of once I signed up for the trip thanks to previous TPR trip reports. But the Escalator Ride was a bizarre but welcome way back up to the top of the park. A/C was nice, too!

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There were also two main concourses in the park that had additional shops, rides, and food. The whole park didn't really feel like most other parks in Japan and was super well themed.

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We have arrived! Like many other parks in Japan, this one also had a nicely covered main street to shop and eat.

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Went here for lunch and I had... I forget. See a trend. But it was tasty and not your typical park food.

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After lunch, we decided to stay indoors some more and take in a show. What was this show about, you ask?

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It was a show (in Japanese) that went through each letter of the alphabet detailing an item significant to

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Went around and explored the area of the park that had most of the flat rides. They also had a weird train crossing thingy.

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A credit!

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Please open.

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Flume was a lot of fun though! Mine train was also closed due to rain and the two interact with each other a bit!

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They say no.

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It is looking bettttttttter!

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Long story short, Robb had been working with the Rides Manager all day trying to get an idea if the coaster would open so he could tape. It was looking like if Pyrenees didn't open, we would get some Tron Butt ERT, which, though it sounded nice... didn't sound... THAT nice. Fortunately, the park pulled through and said we could ride if we wore ponchos because of the oil and grease that would likely be dripping down onto us (coaster hadn't really cycled all day). It was well worth it, as this was 100% my favorite coaster of the trip and possibly my favorite Invert. Hard to say, really because you never ride them back to back. But it was forceful and relentless.

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Wait! Are we taking a picture outside of the closed coaster? Or... did it open?

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Now for some pictures of me.

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This one is great

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Left after that and did some exploring around Nagoya. I had found a few bars I wanted to check out. This was not one of them.

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Neither was this. But very appropriate.

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This guy was also walking around. Not my kind of look. But a look, nonetheless.

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I found this fascinating. Loads of cars parked in here.

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First stop. Downstairs.

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Sadness.

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I know gaming bars like this are a bit gimmicky but I dunno! It sounded fun.

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Second option. Monk Bar.

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Down this sketchy hall. Also closed as the owner was away from work for a few days.

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I'll leave you with this high quality shot of some building in Nagoya that fascinated me. This wasn't my best effort as far as reports go! But, there will be better to come. I believe we got some Legos in the next report, so that'll be good. Thanks as always for reading!

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Edited by Taylor Finn
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Day 12: Legoland Japan, Higashiyama Zoo, Culture, and Heavy Metal Showcase

 

PHEW! This was a busy, busy day. But one of my favorites of the trip by far.

 

I believe we re-organized days on the trip because the original day for Nagashima Spa Land looked rainy. We swapped that park with the Legoland day (less important for good weather). But the weather turned out perfect both days. Honestly, we had great weather for most of the trip.

 

Legoland Japan

 

We took a quick subway trip up to Legoland (it does have its own station so it is easy to access) and arrived before opening. There is a nice little outdoor shopping district that you walk through as you approach the park entrance. If there is one thing that became immediately clear, it was that the park as a whole was packed into a tight footprint, especially when you looked at how close the hotel was to the gate.

 

Either way, this was my first Legoland experience and it was definitely fun! The park absolutely needs to expand a bit before I would consider it a good value (that has been one of the main complaints). But what they do have is fun fun! It was quite crowded compared to other parks we went to on the trip, but we made the most of the 4 or 5 hours we spent there.

 

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I think I walked past this McDonald's in the morning en route to an ATM (I had many a problem this trip getting money out as certain 7-Eleven ATMs worked and others didn't for my debit card. But I was fascinated by the separate area to pour liquids. Seems smart.

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Also, these 'seats' are clearly designed to get people in and out quickly. I've already mentioned but it is worth repeating. McDonald's in Japan is actually quite nice. Service is super speedy and Shaka Shaka Chicken is great!

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Here was our hotel entrance.

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I found this to be a nice way to beautify a parking garage.

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We have arrived! The hotel is pretty neat looking, but as mentioned, it all feels realllllly cramped at the entrance.

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The beautiful lego structures begin.

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One thing I'll mention. They let us through with our tickets before park officially opened and we all hung out on the little main street area before the park broke off in different directions. Around 3 minutes before park open, the staff member actually pulled the rope back and told everyone to patiently wait until he signaled. Everyone did as they were told and then he gestured the go-ahead at 10:00 and then we went ahead. I feel like this would've been a real challenge in the states.

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NEMO!

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This is not an ideal picture. Not at all.

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All ready to roll.

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I did appreciate all the little touches throughout the park.

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We went off to the left toward the Dragon Coaster and Dragon's Apprentice. Because... coasters!

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This was a fun little coaster. The little dark ride up front is nice but I wish it was like twice as long (how I feel about Seven Dwarfs Mine Train as well).

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Blurry shot of Submarine Adventure. Quite a fun little ride. Loads of real and Lego Fish populated the water. As with everything at the park, though, it felt short. If everything was just 30-50% longer, I think I would have been more content. Seems like a budget/space issue, but I don't know.

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When you got off the ride, they had some little fish exhibits. Important to note, there was nothing stopping guests from reaching right into the water. But that is a okay in Japan, because people are more aware that they are being given a special privilege and they shouldn't muck it up for everyone.

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This guy.

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The Adventure themed shooting dark ride was also fun but shortish!

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One thing I found really nice was that they had little Lego boards in line where kids could play while in line.

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We had lunch at the Pizza and Pasta buffet and it was pretty solid. gets you four or five different types of pizza, three types of pasta, salad, breadsticks, and a drink. I would recommend!

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The driving school was adorable and something I know I would've loved as a kid. Everyone made an actual effort to drive somewhat responsibly which was impressive for how young the kids were.

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I really love the Sax.

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And the direwolf.

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MINILAND.

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Umeda Sky Building, which I explored earlier on in the trip.

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This area was beautiful. I could've spent forever exploring the little details that I am sure the designers are hoping folks catch.

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I was especially struck by this area.

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Actually made me want to visit which is why I took this picture for future reference.

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Tokyo Skytree was definitely the biggest structure. Look at the folks next to it for scale. I think it was more than a million pieces for this building alone.

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Tokyo Stadium. They even had these buttons that would make the pieces interactive. For this one, a guy ran around the bases after hitting a home run.

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Dotonbori. I like the play on the Glico Running Man.

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The closest I got to seeing all of Mt. Fuji.

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We then hopped on the observation tower after considering the brick tour but deciding we didn't have enough time. This gives you the lay of the land up front and some perspective on how close everything is together.

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Some more aerial shots of Miniland and the park.

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So we headed out from Legoland maybe around 1:30-2. Some folks were headed to the SCMAGLEV and Railway Park, which is a pretty new (2011) museum that has loads of old and new trains and even a Shinkansen simulator. They randomly select a few guests each day to try the simulator. It is if selected (I assume just to weed through people who don't care as much) and it sounded really neat. I could see myself visiting on a future trip. But....

 

 

Higashiyama Zoo

 

We decided instead to visit this Zoo. Animals > Trains.

 

...or is that really why we decided to visit? The zoo actually has a little amusement park with a powered coaster, a small jet coaster, and a slope coaster. Yeah, a slope coaster (not my name for it). We arrived around 3 and had two hours. Admission is really cheap ($6-8 or so) and rides are sold separate ($2-3 each). We made our way up steps (surprise, surprise) and got enough tickets to ride the three coasters.

 

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This park also had a convenient subway station, which factored into us deciding to go. I remember seeing some sort of plaque that indicated this zoo was partners or somehow affiliated with either the San Diego or LA zoos. Cannot find it on the internet, but yeah... it is a big zoo (second most visited behind Ueno Zoo in Tokyo.

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Our map.

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We bought our tickets from a lady behind a counter before seeing you could purchase from this machine instead. Oh well!

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Well, here we are.

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This funky looking ride, that we did not ride.

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This was kind of sad...

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Some goofy swings.

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The jet coaster and ferris wheel.

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THE MAIN REASON WE ARE HERE.

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The one of a kind slope coaster. I had seen videos of this and truly had no idea it was in Japan until the day of or the day before this visit. It was absolutely one of those unexpected highlights for me.

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We actually waited a good 30 minutes because they had 2 or 3 cars running total and they only fit 1 or 2 people each. But the ride itself was super unique and actually really fun. In a way, I would definitely enjoy having one of these in the states. It is by no means thrilling but it is super unique and good fun.

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You were kindly escorted from the station to the lift where you would usually wait 10-15 seconds before a mechanism would latch onto your car to pull you up the lift. If you haven't seen the video, I highly recommend you youtube Slope Coaster and look for TPR's video.

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After riding, we had 50 or so minutes left to explore the zoo in rapid fashion. One thing I will say is that the zoo exhibits were generally less than ideal in size and upkeep. I wouldn't mind paying twice the $$ to give these animals better homes.

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World's largest bird of prey, I guess.

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How cute!

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Koalas! This was a nice surprise

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I think this guy had one of the nicer exhibits. The zoo was honestly really large and a bit hard to navigate at points. But I would say definitely worth a couple hour visit if you are nearby. For the price, especially. An opportunity to see something you may be used to seeing in your home country, but in a different light.

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Feel like this was the Kawahara Shrine upon trying to google shrines that were close to the zoo. But at any rate, we spent some time here exploring. Believe there was a ceremony going on which was interesting to hear a bit of as we meandered around.

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Big Buddah big buddah.

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There was a cemetery as well which we briefly explored.

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From there, I decided something I wanted to check off my bucket list in Japan was to see a concert. I love going to shows. I'm probably good for 10-15 concerts a year and usually a festival. So I hopped off the subway and found myself outside of Club Zion. Before I went in, I needed dinner. So I went to 7-Eleven and grabbed some chicken and onigiri plus a tea. I loved this little dog parking sign..

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This was the show I had found. Definitely not a big thing. But I am a bit of a metal head and so it sounded like a neat opportunity to go to a showcase of sorts.

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The flier. I tracked this down on the internet today.

 

Funny story about the show, though... I paid with a 5000 yen billl for a 2900 yen show. I ended up receiving like 6400 yen back in change. I tried hard to explain to the guy at the front that this was incorrect. The language barrier made this difficult. I got my ticket and was handed a drink ticket and was on my way. Got paid to see four bands play. It was honestly a great time and I am so glad I went.

 

That night, we got back and met up with others for Karaoke right by our hotel. Probably one of the Joy Joy franchises you see everywhere in Japan. I didn't necessarily know what to expect, but will give my thoughts here.

 

Pricing wise, it was confusing. I am not sure if we misinterpreted or were misled accidentally, but we were basically told that it would be 900 yen a person/hour even if the 8 of us shared a room. It would actually be the same price per person apparently if we each requested our own room (which would be no fun). This didn't seem quite right to me. But you do get unlimited non alcoholic beverages, so I understand the need for some fixed cost/person.

 

We had a nice hour of fun, and I am glad to say I did it because it certainly is a unique Japanese thing. I also noticed quite a few people who DID rent out a room just to sing alone. Maybe a good way to blow off some steam! That's all I got for now. Thanks for reading!

Edited by Taylor Finn
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  • 2 weeks later...

Day 13: Hamanako Pal Pal and Lagunasia

 

Hello again! Sorry for the delay. So, today was a nice day. In fact, I think it was a day I completely forgot about as the trip progressed. To try to justify to myself that the trip wasn't winding down, I kept running by the cool things we had left in the trip. And this just slipped my mind. So it was kind of a surprise bonus day.

 

I ended up liking both of these parks for different reasons. Honestly, that was what made this trip so great. Every park had something totally WTF and/or something totally awesome. And all of them had incredibly friendly folks and no crowds. So can't beat that.

 

Hamanako Pal Pal

 

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This was a common trend. Smoke rooms on the subway platforms. I can appreciate it!

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A sign! Maybe intended to help if I wanted to return.

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What a great warning. I was constantly on the look out for weird stuff like that.

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We have arrived! This was Mega Coaster. Looks a bit like that Togo over in Vegas, but man... it rides a lot better. It was actually a wonky, fun little ride. Each element seemed completely disconnected from the rest, but I enjoyed it.

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Obligatory map. Another hilly park, but not too bad, really.

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I think I actually enjoyed this guy. Much like lemonade but not quite as sweet, which I can appreciate.

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Our next credit was this guy. A nice little wild mouse, I guess.

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Super convenient supports, let me tell you.

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Odd antique cars.

 

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A nice informative diagram. I remember the ride op on this one too his job a bit more seriously than usual. He had a hard hat on and honestly seemed to check the restraints two or three times and asked for our approval as he stapled us in. Strangely remember these details.

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A log flume and this ride. I dunno if this picture does it justice.

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A bit better. It was like a paratrooper meets enterprise meets free rotation. The ride cycle was bizarre and I don't usually enjoy flats but this one was hilarious. It had me laughing during the cycle. I would love for more parks to have this model. Is there a video anywhere of it?

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Yeah, so in addition to that other mouse, they had this one.

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Dunno, this might have been the Toy Story Midway Mania type game. It was like four people in one car competing at little mini games themed to like physical things like swimming and running. Just lots of button tapping. But fun, nonetheless.

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Had to ride the big wheel naturally!

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As always, the park was set in a beautiful area along the coast.

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So there was a shooting dark ride that we unfortunately did not get around to riding but this was the translation of the back story behind the ride.

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Here I am!

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So we had some time in the subway station to eat lunch and I strayed from the usual 7-Eleven because there was a nice little group of restaurants. The menu at this lunch spot was entirely in Japanese and the waitress had some trouble translating but I ended up with this delicious fried chicken with two sauces, salad, soup, and rice for like . Holy wow.

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Had to get a McFlurry for dessert. This was the typical size and was like . Really nice amount.

 

Lagunasia

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So one of the really cool things was that between the two parks we were at a station where bullet trains would fly through. Important to note that there are three tiers of bullet trains. The fastest makes the least stops and the slowest stops more. So some bullet trains DO stop here, others fly through. And it was alarming to say the least to see how fast these really move. I took a video and in 8 seconds the entire train went past me (the train itself is about 0.5 mile long). Do the math.

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Here we are at park two for the day.

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The ferris wheel was not part of normal park admission I don't think, but you could buy separate tickets for it.

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A really nice little place. Lacks a bit in quantity of attractions but most everything I rode was GREAT.

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Our offerings.

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Aqua Wind was super fun. Honestly, if every park had this instead of the typical mouse, they'd be better off.

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The family coaster had a nice little soundtrack that played during the ride. Odd, but nice.

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Not a clue what this was. But the park did have another coaster. It was a super wonky train with incredibly abrupt and unfortunate transitions. But was fun, since it was well themed. And there was a 4D option, so I did both.

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The suspended shooting dark ride was really awesome. It was neat because you had all sorts of different vantage points.

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Magical Powder! This was a trip.

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The premise was that you could take this magical powder and it would have different effects. And I believe the plot of the ride was basically that the characters really needed it and were super depressed until they got some. I can't honestly do it justice.

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Yeah, here we are. Campbell's Soup cans full of drugs, I assume.

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Look carefully.

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A full list of your options.

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A couple scenes. Just check out Robb's video.

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The log flume was also incredible. Honest to goodness, my favorite non-Disney/Universal log flume.

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Believe I thought about buying a container of this for the trip home.

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Thanks for a lovely day!

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That night in Nagoya we took Robb's suggestion and went to Lockup, a weird bizarre, only in Japan type experience.

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Yeah, this place was weird. Gimmicky, and if I'm being totally honest, not for me, kind of place. But it was worth experiencing I guess. Food was decent, drinks were sugary but super creative.

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No pictures from inside, but you can check out Robb's report from Nagashima (maybe) and he goes into much more detail about the experience. Thanks for reading! Another day closer to Disney!

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Great report!

 

The op on the Mega Coaster was awesome. After telling us to remove all loose articles on one ride, he asked if we wanted our photo taken.

 

That Google Translate is priceless. Slutty Morgan.

 

Pictures do not do the Lockup justice. It was so messed up and I'm glad to have experienced it.

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Mmmmmm Magic Powder.

 

Miss it. And Aqua Wind.

 

And the Paratrooper from the Gawds!

 

Great ongoing TR. Looking forward to more.

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TPR 2007 Japan Tour. Only visited the park once,

but I got four rides and (several flip-overs) on Paratrooper. (o:

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Day 14: Transfer to Tokyo, Free Day

 

So, today was totally on us. Elissa gave us some possible bullet trains time to get us from Nagoya back to Tokyo (quick hour trip). Adam and I decided to take an earlier bullet train to get into the city a bit earlier. Today was definitely one of my favorites. Exploring Tokyo for the very first time was so incredible, because every experience, every sight, EVERYTHING was brand new. I tried to visit totally different areas today than my first free day and I think I succeeded. Read on to see what I did!

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Our bullet train dropped us at Tokyo Station, at which point we needed to transfer to a local train to get to our first location. But first, we wanted to take a look at the grandeur of it. I cannot overstate how incredibly large many stations are. It never felt confusing, but wow. It puts NYC to shame in scale.

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Yeah, it's a beaut. In some pictures, you can see a little black pack sneaking out from under my shirt. Yeah, I wore a fanny pack of sorts. Needing to carry my passport, JR Rail Pass, Battery Pack, Mofi Wifi charger, cash, it was just easier this way.

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If I haven't already explained, I pre-purchased a mobile wifi hot spot. Think I paid about 0 for 20 or so days, which I felt was more than fair. Going through Verizon would have cost me more and this worked for both my work and personal phone (DOUBLE THE BATTERY). It came with it's own portable charging block as well which was nice for these long free days where I was looking stuff up. The device got shipped right to my first hotel and was super easy to pick up and return (included an envelope with instructions and labels and I dropped it off at the airport) Also, this is a man cleaning.

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We have arrived at Tokyo Dome City!

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LaQua is the shopping and Amusement Park area, I believe. So that was our next stop!

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Another thing that is on my definite must do when I return (there just wasn't enough time) is to see a Japanese baseball game. Huge baseball fan. Gives me another reason to return.

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Thunder Dolphin in the distance.

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And the fancy wheel.

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Thunder Dolphin was fun. The 'trick track' was pointless, but cute. It seems like a bit of a short ride, likely because not too much of it is at high, high speeds. But it's an Intamin and is worth checking out if it means a lot to you.

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You can just buy individual tickets for it and pick the row you want (nobody was riding when we got there).

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Adam and I split up and did our own thing from here on out. But first, I needed a little snack en route to my next stop.

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Post shaka shaka.

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En route to Ginza for some general exploration, saw that this place was a thing. Figured I would check it out!

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This is also a thing. Did not check out.

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Ginza is a very upscale shopping district.

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Here we are! The store was about four floors, each one separated by a theme of sorts. I know one floor was entirely stuffed animals (mostly bears). Many of which were SUPER expensive. But they did look nice.

 

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A whole bunch of these wooden structures you could build. The ferris wheel did move.

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On the top floor, they had this race track that was pretty sweet. I didn't partake, but did see a few folks flying around the tracks.

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So, I left there and just started exploring some alleys. As was common and maybe I've mentioned... very often, small businesses would buy out just one floor (small room) of a building for their business. In a way, wouldn't it be nice if in Times Square, there was 4x the number of businesses and some of them were smaller? Reduces the cost of entry for folks wanting to make a buck.

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My girlfriend is a creative type, and I discovered that there was an arts supply store that had been open for 101 years and was opened by husband and wife poets. They sold loads of stationary and proprietary paints, pencils, etc. It was neat to stop in and grab a few things. Think there was a gallery and cafe in the basement.

 

Next up, I visited the Hamarikyu Gardens. Not going to pretend to know the historical significance of the place. But if you are interested... it was originally built as a tidal duck hunting ground when part of it was reclaimed by the Shogun to build an estate in 1654. It was passed down from generation to generation and in 1871, the Japanese Imperial family took ownership of the land until it finally opened to the public in 1946. I had been very interested in visiting a classic Tokyo Garden and this one did not disappoint.

 

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A little map and some more history, probably.

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This pine tree is actually 300 years old, which was pretty neat!

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What really sealed the deal for me was how quiet it was. At points, I would look all around me and see no one. In the largest metropolitan area of the world, it was remarkable to have moments to yourself.

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I walked around for a good while. There are parts of Central Park in NYC that are beautiful, but this park serves a different purpose it seems.

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They were actively rebuilding structures that would've been in the gardens back in the day to try which was neat. These guys went inside the building ahead to appreciate their work. Gotta have hard hats, though.

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This bridge was originally built by the sixth shogun in 1707 and is the main focal point of the park. It is about the length of a football field and winds across the lake and the reflection of the bridge and the teahouse on the lake was stunning. Had a really nice day too, which helped.

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I cannot put into words the beauty of the bridge.

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You can get an idea of how the bridge kind of zig zags.

 

Nakajima Teahouse was my next stop. I knew I wanted to have an 'authentic' Japanese afternoon tea ceremony and this seemed like a great place to do it. The original teahouse was built the same year as the bridge but burned down before being rebuilt in 1788. It burned down again in an air raid during WWII, but was rebuilt again in 1983. I paid about $7 for the experience and was given a cup of matcha and a confection. As you'll see in a bit, there is a specific way to partake, which I tried to adhere to. The tea house had a beautiful patio attached which really gave you a great view of the surrounding gardens and Ginza.

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Some history.

 

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Your instructions.

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It wasn't much, but the matcha was very tasty. A bit different creamy and a different texture than tea typically is.

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The confection was also nice, not super sweet.

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I really appreciated having these free days. I ultimately think I would've felt a bit unfulfilled if I had taken this trip without these days. And also, it was nice to not have them just at the beginning or end of the trip. Broke up the parks, a bit.

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Got on some higher ground for a moment.

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The Gardens run along Tokyo Bay so I walked along for a while.

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Just a little bitty vehicle traveling through. There were a bunch of folks situated throughout the park painting, which if I had any talent, would be a cool thing to do..

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By this point, I was rather thirsty. I was practically always carrying a drink of some kind around. It was a neat, cheap way for me to experience something new all the time. This is the flagship sports drink in Japan. I am a big fan of it, because it isn't terribly sweet or overpowering in flavor, but it serves the same purpose as a Powerade. A slight grapefruit flavor to it. Just needs a new name.

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A unique little gas station, maintenance bay. Real estate is at a premium. Saw VERY few gas stations in big parts of the city. Which I guess is fairly typical.

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Did a bit more exploration of Ginza afterwards. Did intend to visit a store called Tokyu Hands while here, as they sell LOADS of things. Lots of good souvenir opportunities. But, time did not really allow as it was a bit of a walk.

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Tons of unique building and very narrow, tall stores.

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Visited another high end department store. Largely for the food basement, but also just to see. I am fascinated by the retail scene in Japan. It seems entirely justified for a store like this to exist.

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Just look at this directory.

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On my quest for lunch/dinner now. Will this be the place?

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WILL THIS BE THE PLACE? In fact, the alley I walked down and stumbled upon this... the restaurants all seemed to close for about an hour between 3 and 4 PM. Customers who were inside by then would still be able to eat, but no folks could come in.

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It was around 3:40 when I stumbled upon this Gyoza joint. Walked in and was politely informed they would re-open at 4:00. I felt a bit weird waiting it out, but I did have an engagement later in the evening and I really wanted gyoza. So I walked around a bit and returned around 4:00.

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Tell me this doesn't look delicious.

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Oh wow.

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More.

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I ended up initially ordering chicken and mozzarella, curry, and standard pork gyozas. Probably got about 12-16 to start. They were fairly small, but holy cow, delicious. I had some gyoza at Universal City Walk which was also pretty solid (and super cheap). But this was on another level. Ended up ordering some more and had a Whiskey Highball to boot. Probably paid about total, which was legit.

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Where to, next? This is near Shinegawa Station, where our first Tokyo Hotel was at...

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Wait? Now I am in Odaiab? How did that happen? I don't have a car?

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There are a couple of these around the world I think, but was neat to see!

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This was in fact just a large mall.

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There's a bridge? Did I cross that bridge to get here? With a car? Via rail?

So. Some information here. One of my college friends visited Japan and when I asked him about things I oughta do, the suggestion he made that I was 1000% sold on was MariCAR. Basically, for a fee you can take a 1, 2, or 3 hour trip all over Tokyo (or Osaka). They depart from various hubs around the city and follow similar itineraries. If you are interested in doing this, some things you oughta know. It's about $100 for 3 hours, and $60 for 1 hour. Just do the 3 hour trip. It is worth it. The difference between the 2 and 3 hour trip departing from Shinegawa was the inclusion of Rainbow Bridge (I KNOW!) and Odaiba. Basically, we left from the hub and traveled to the bridge, crossed at around 50 mph, flew up an empty garage, parked, explored (in costume) and then went on our way. Also, if you want to participate, you need to get an international driver's license. I was able to get one from AAA for around $20. Seems a bit stupid since there was nothing to it except getting some photos taken and signing some forms. But yeah. I would highly, highly recommend it. I'm not super passionate about Mario Kart or anything, but I love go karts. And these fly. One more note: I didn't do this because I thought it was like a cultural experience. Clearly, this thing is catered to tourists who think a certain way about Japan. But, I just did it because it was fun. I do worry about people abusing the privilege of this experience. This would never happen anywhere else. So I hope folks don't blow it by speeding or getting in accidents (seems to be starting to happen). With that, some pictures!

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A really neat place, for sure. Back on the road. Where to, now?

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I would not suggest Yoshi. The hood (my head) was super top heavy and enjoyed falling down which was annoying. But, alas.

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We departed in a group of 6. Everyone was clearly tourists from all over.

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You might cringe a bit at this all. But honestly, it was a blast and I have no regrets at all. Definitely a top 5 experience on the trip.

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Here is the gang! Some in our group purposely grew out a mustache to play as Mario, so I felt an obligation to go a different way.

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A common trend during the experience was that locals were fascinated by us, on and off the road. Took some pictures to appease them.

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The really nice thing was that at every light we would line up in rows of 2 (unless it was a narrow alley, he would call for 1's and he would hop out of his kart and take pictures of all of us. Throughout the trip, you'll see our order change around. Which he purposely did, so everyone got a chance in the front.

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We drove single file, right alongside traffic and honestly, I never felt unsafe at all. There were seat belts, but they did not recommend wearing them. If the kart flips, it likely wouldn't be good to be locked in like that anyway.

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Cars were quite respectful of us and folks were constantly greeting us. At one red light, a man walked out with a tripod and took our picture, which was funny. We visited Tokyo Tower and got SUPER close to it which was neat as I didn't get around to visiting this area by foot.

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We also visited Shibuya (where the busiest pedestrian crossing is located). We actually approached this intersection three times (did some looping around) intentionally so that the guide could have a better chance of getting us stopped right AT the light to get the perfect shot.

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The trip had a great mixture of scenic driving and intentionally took us down some narrow alleys and hairpin turns to give everyone a chance to really handle the karts.

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It was a perfectly created experience. We got back to the depot when we were done, changed out of our costumes (went straight into a cleaning basket), and then our guide air dropped all of our pictures to our phones right then and there. Super convenient.

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Thanks for reading along and dealing with all these pictures. Wanted to give ya'll an idea of how this all worked in case you ever find yourself in Japan. It is well worth the $$ and is something I'll never forget. Plan to do the Osaka version when I return to get a different experience.

Edited by Taylor Finn
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^I have added that Gyoza place to my list of places to try next time! Thanks for that!

 

Remember next time you do the MariCar, you won't be able to dress up in Nintendo clothes but other random outfits instead.

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Another great report! Thanks so much for sharing.

 

I'd seen pictures of the MariCar thing before but had no idea how it worked or that it was so very well organized. Thanks for those pictures as well.

 

David

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