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Not surprisingly, their Miniland was just incredible. I’ve been to most of the Legoland’s out there and while this one was quite small it made up for it with just amazing displays.

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Day 13.1: Hamanako Pal Pal

 

Today was yet another two-park day, and we were heading east to Hamanako Pal Pal, which is about halfway between Nagoya and Shizuoka. For that, we took a short trip on the Shinkansen….

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Fun fact: The smallest escalator in the world is in a department store in Kawasaki, between Tokyo and Yokohama!

 

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Photo by Colin, obviously.

The cab ride to the park was a bit "intimate"

 

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Hamanako Pal Pal is situated in a beautiful resort area surrounded by water

 

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At the entrance of the park looms one of the great mysteries of the modern world: Mega Coaster

 

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It has the trains and heartline roll of SFGAd's old Viper and the dive loop of Big Apple Coaster, so, by all stretches of the imagination, this ride should be completely awful. Nevertheless, it's actually perfectly fine! Sure, it's not butter smooth by any means, but it won't kill ya.

 

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Photo by Chuck

The ride's pretty damn forceful; the helix at the end was enough to make me gray out!

 

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The ride op was very, very enthusiastic about his job. When I took a ride by myself, he asked me if I wanted the "fast version." Sure enough, the chain lift did speed up a bit! I don't know how much of a difference it made, but the whole experience was pretty amusing!

 

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Right next to Mega Coaster is Mini Coaster. It's trying so hard to be a wild mouse, but it's not quite there.

 

So, Hamanako Pal Pal is actually split into two halves that are separated by an arcade building….

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The northern side has a big hill from which you can get a nice overview of Mega Coaster

 

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This is also where the park's Ferris wheel is located

 

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As you can see, there are dozens of hotels that ring the shores of the eponymous Lake Hamana.

 

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Here's most of the park. It's not huge, but it's great for a resort town.

 

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♫Hamana boat! (Hamana boat!)

Hamana boat! (Hamana boat!)

Everybody look at me 'cause I'm sailing on a boat!♫

 

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Hamanako Pal Pal seriously had one of the best settings of all the parks on the tour!

 

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Oh yeah, there's another credit here!

 

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You can take a gondola up this mountain

 

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This looks like a really lovely place for Japanese families to spend their vacations

 

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The last coaster here is one of those old-school wild mice without a restraint. Sure, they're a little janky, but that's part of the charm!

 

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This park is one of only a few to have one of these weird Togo flat rides. Looking at it, I thought I would be retching afterward, but it actually ended up being super fun!

 

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Right next to that is the park's log flume. Oddly enough, it has a splash guard….

 

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The park has a very "summery" vibe to it

 

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It was almost time for us to head out, so I headed back to the other side to ride Mega Coaster one more time.

 

Overall, I love the atmosphere of Hamanako Pal Pal, and I was surprised by the variety of attractions they have here!

 

Next up: Lagunasia!

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Elissa: Everyone form your taxi groups carefully and don't put three big guys in the back seat, split up with smaller people!

Taxi Group:

 

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Photo by Colin, obviously.

The cab ride to the park was a bit "intimate"

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  • 3 weeks later...

Day 13.2: Lagunasia

 

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After Hamanako, it was time to head back west to go to our next park, Lagunasia.

 

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It was Shinkansen time again, and we got to see a few trains fly past the station!

 

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You'd never guess you're traveling faster than TTD!

 

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In the blink of an eye, we were at the front gates!

 

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Photo via Robb

In Japan, you're not truly a park unless you have at least four mascots. In fact, I think it's a law of nature that everything in Japan must have a mascot….

 

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The park entrance seems like it's goin' for a DisneySea-esque vibe. The middle of the park is actually filled with a bunch of water attractions, but they didn't seem to be open that day.

 

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Photo by Robb

Some of us decided to get the family cred out of the way first. It's not completely embarrassing, but it's not my proudest credit either.

 

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Nearby is Pirates' Blast, which is this really janky Senyo coaster. Most of it is indoors, so bracing yourself can be a bit of a challenge!

 

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Photo by Robb

Oh, and you get the choice to wear VR goggles and headphones! Not the most obvious choice for VR, but at least it's optional.

 

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The last credit here is Aqua Wind, or "Wet Fart," as the cool kids call it.

 

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It's a standard Gerstlauer Bobsled, which is in no way a bad thing! Just look how quickly it whizzes around its course!

 

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The park's log flume is one of the best I've ever been on! Most of it's extremely well themed, although there is a point a little before the lift where they clearly ran out of money and just resorted to using Christmas lights for theming. I'm not sure whether or not I want them to finish it….

 

Anyway, that's Lagunasia! There were a couple other things there, but it was time to get back to Nagoya for one last night.

 

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Robb had recommended we check out this place called "The Lock-Up," so we headed out for a night on the town.

 

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This thing is usually a creepy mannequin, but here it's a creepy Chewie instead!

 

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This building is positively ~radiant~

 

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As you might have guessed, the Lock-Up is prison-themed, but this is more of a madhouse than an Alcatraz.

 

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Before being seated at your table, someone from the group is chosen to be handcuffed while being led to the cell. Me being the naughty boy I am, I was the one picked for the walk of shame. Now, in most other institutions, this kind of treatment would normally lead to some real fun times, but this isn't Shinjuku, so I was stuck with a dinner instead.

 

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I wanna say Matt took this picture, but I'm not sure.

Once every hour or so, the lights would go out, and there would then be a quick but intense rave put on by the workers, who all don scary masks. It's all quite disorienting. As you might expect, the food and drinks (especially the drinks) at the Lock-Up are pretty gimmicky, with drinks being served in blood bags, flasks, etc. Truth be told, the food was nothing special, but the Lock-Up's more about the overall experience than it is the cuisine.

 

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After eating, it was time to retire to the hotel for the big transfer tomorrow.

 

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Up next: We travel back to Tokyo for the final leg of the trip! I'll be hitting Tokyo Dome City, the Skytree, the Imperial Palace, and Odaiba!

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  • 4 months later...

It's been a while. Sorry for the hiatus!

 

Day 14: Tokyo free day no. 2

 

The past week+ had been fantastic, but it was time to bring it all back home to Tokyo for the final leg of the trip.

 

On the bullet train from Nagoya, I caught another glimpse of Mt. Fuji peaking up above the clouds. When the man next to me saw me trying to get a better look, he just smiled and showed me a photo he'd taken of Fuji unobscured by pesky clouds. It was neat how, even without exchanging any words, we could share that appreciation of such an awesome volcano!

 

But today wasn't just for traveling; there was still a lot of stuff we wanted to do in Tokyo. For most of us, the number one thing on that list was…

 

Tokyo Dome City

 

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Did you really think we were gonna miss out on this??

 

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The dome itself is cool and all…

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…but we had other priorities!

 

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Thunder Dolphin has to have one of the best settings of any coaster in the world! We had actually planned on doing this day 1, but it was down that week. Thankfully, it was up and running again today!

 

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As others have said, it's not the most exciting ride in the world, but its surroundings more than make up for that.

 

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Wow! Japan is so futuristic!

 

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Honestly, it's hard to fault the ride for being so middle-of-the-road when it's in such a restrictive location. Still, I feel this is a ride you've got to ride at night to get the best experience.

 

Anyway, after getting our ride in (and stopping at Taco Bell!), a bunch of us decided to move on. (There's actually another coaster there that I wasn't aware of. Hey, there's always next time!) Our next stop was the…

 

Tokyo Skytree

 

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In case you haven't noticed, there's a lot of escalators in Japan….

 

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"Yes, we'd like a garden, but we really like Picasso…."

 

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And here's the main attraction! It really doesn't look like it in this measly gif, but this thing's over 2000 feet tall! That makes it shorter than only the Burj Khalifa!

 

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The Skytree is pricier than Tokyo Tower, especially if you want to go to the upper levels.

 

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The lower "node" of the Skytree is about halfway up. The elevator up is crazy fast, and you can feel your ears popping! The views here are pretty crazy, but the the air was a little hazier than one might hope.

 

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Hey, that's where we just were!

 

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Of course, they've got one of these things. Actually, they've got two: a free one and one where you can pay to get your picture taken without jockeying for room. It's not obvious in this photo, but there's another layer of glass some 6 ft. below the one I'm standing on, so it's a little less nerve-racking than the ones at Tokyo Tower.

 

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This was the best thing in the whole tower

 

After about 45 minutes, we felt that we'd gotten our fill of the Skytree. None of us were too keen on forking over the extra cash to go to the upper levels, so we decided to leave. One thing I haven't yet mentioned is how utterly packed it was in there! So I was certainly ready to move on; even though the Skytree's very cool, I don't feel it had quite the charm that Tokyo Tower did.

 

Anyway, after the Skytree, I split off from the rest of group to go to…

 

The Imperial Palace

 

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In my time scouting out our itinerary on Google Earth, I couldn't help but notice the huge mass of green right in the heart of Tokyo. I was down for some greenery in the middle of this metropolis, so I moseyed my way on over to the Palace.

 

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The complex is nearly 300 acres in total and contains many important buildings, including the one in which the Emperor himself lives.

 

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It feels like there should be guards watching over this gate

 

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The Palace is now under the watchful eye of The Skink

 

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There's a lot of old-looking buildings here

 

 

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I don't know what their functions are exactly, but they look cool!

 

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Up a little hill is this big field

 

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Oh yeah, there were a LOT of crows here….

 

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This looks like the entrance to some Mayan tomb

 

I was eager to explore more of this place, but unfortunately, the Palace closes early, so I had to go on my way to my next spot,

 

Odaiba

 

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On the way, I made a transfer at the famous Tokyo Station!

 

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This place is huge, so if you're gonna get even slightly lost at any train station in Japan, it's gonna be this one!

 

 

A short jaunt over the Rainbow Bridge, and I was on Odaiba!

 

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Odaiba's a man-made island with a ton of cool stuff on it! One of the main attractions here is DECKS, which is a shopping mall and much, much more!

 

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I've heard this described as the best place in Tokyo to view a sunset, and I might have to agree with that!

 

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This may look like a tribute to the U.S., but it's actually a symbol of friendship between Japan and France.

 

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This completely normal building is the HQ of Fuji TV

 

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Odaiba seriously has some of the coolest architecture in a country already filled with cool architecture!

 

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Another shot of the wholly unremarkable Fuji TV Building

 

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The most famous sight on Odaiba is almost surely its life-sized Gundam statue! (The man in front had a heart attack after seeing such amazingness. RIP.)

 

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o boi he THICC

 

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Here it is: the Great Golden Toothpick of Edo.

 

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The Fuji TV Building is utterly average in every conceivable manner. There is nothing unique or otherwise noteworthy about it whatsoever.

 

The real reason I was here, however, was to head to Tokyo Joypolis. The Joypolis franchise is, at its core, an arcade chain. But it's got quite a few tricks up its sleeve….

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Take their spinning coaster for example—the first to ever invert! Now, being that this is an arcade, even the coaster has a game mechanic to it. The ride starts of with a "dark ride" section, in which screens are placed in front of you. The projections are of a rhythm game that you control by pressing buttons on your restraint. The game itself is themed to Sonic and Joypolis's own mascot. After that, you launch out into the section you see in the video, and then you head into a psycho rave before finally finishing. This entire place is a fever dream, but this ride is doubly so.

 

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They also have this messed-up half-pipe… thing. You're supposed to stomp down at the bottom, and that makes your "board" spin.

 

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Joypolis also has plenty of other cool things, including an attraction themed to Initial D, but I decided to head out at this point.

 

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Merry Christmas

 

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Oh yeah, there was this too….

 

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Honestly, one of the best views in all of Tokyo.

 

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Wait, is it actually Christmas??

 

Getting back took me to the other side of the bay. When I got there, I was greeted with the most exciting sight…

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That's right: a monorail!!!

 

Next up: Fuji-Q Highland!

Maybe it won't take me four months this time…

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