Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, & Gojira!

Part 9: Nagashima Spa Land - is Hakugei Japan's best?
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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby Condor » Tue Dec 10, 2019 6:03 pm

Thanks for the info, Robb. That's very interesting, although I too would think there'd be some way to get an exemption for it. But I'm sure if there was, they would have done so.

Canobie Coaster wrote:Great report! The kindness of the Japanese people is incredible. No one would have done something like that in Boston.

I'm in the camp that I love Tokyo Disneyland. It has the ride quantity of Disneyland, wider pathways like Magic Kingdom, and some unique rides like Pooh and Monsters.


I actually forgot all about Monsters. Seems I didn't take any pictures of it. That was a very good ride too.

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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby Condor » Tue Dec 10, 2019 8:27 pm

Part 4: Yomiuriland + Tokyo Dome City

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The honor of my first home-grown Japanese park went to Yomiuriland, an eclectic sort of park situated on the outskirts of Tokyo, about a 35-minute train and gondola ride from our base in Shinjuku. When I first started scheduling this trip, Yomiuriland wasn’t even part of the plan. I thought Bandit looked like the weakest of the three big Tokyo-area Togo coasters (Fujiyama and Surf Coaster Leviathan being the others) and I perceived it as a park for kids with a handful of obsolete coasters.

But I soon came across several recent and highly critical reviews of Tobu Zoo maligning the atmosphere and operations and then news broke that the park’s massive wooden coaster, Regina, would permanently shut down ahead of my visit. Was the megalite, Kawasemi, alone worth the trip? I’m sure many of you would say yes, but I just wasn’t feeling it. Then I learned that Sea Paradise’s star attractions, Surf Coaster and Blue Fall, were closed indefinitely, so I decided to give Yomiuriland another look.

I’m so glad I did. The more I learned about the park, the more interested I was to visit. Yomiuriland pursues a very different business model to peer parks like Fuji-Q or Nagashima. They don’t follow industry trends and look for a big, flashy thrill ride investment every three-five years. They’re content to let Bandit carry that mantle alone, 31 years after it was built. Instead they seem to focus on innovative themed experiences and quality family rides that still provide a level of thrills.

I’m no certified Yomiuriland historian, but it doesn’t look like this was always the park’s identity and they did go for bigger thrill rides in the past. Its recent history is quite interesting. Their last “big” coaster investment was 1994’s White Canyon, one of those near-clones of the Coney Island Cyclone that were all the rage in the nineties. This wooden coaster was designed and built by the all-benchwarmer team of Togo, RCCA, and John Pierce (of Rattler and Twister II fame!), so getting rid of it was probably a great idea. White Canyon ran until 2013 and the park has never received a proper replacement.

RCDB shows that they operated a compact, inverting steel coaster named Twist Coaster Robin for a period of possibly less than a month in 2014. Wikipedia describes this as an El Loco model that suffered a collision on opening day, then went SBNO for a while before its unceremonious removal. There was also once a jet coaster known as SL Coaster situated in Bandit’s infield that ran until 2011. Since those three coasters were removed, the only new coaster installed at Yomiuriland was the Gerstlauer spinner, Spin Runway in 2016. Spin Runway is a nice indoor coaster with a unique theme, but an extreme ride it is not. Somewhere along the line it looks like the ownership decided to go in a different direction.

What best exemplifies the current Yomiuriland is probably the new(ish) “Good Job Attractions”, a self-contained area with three big dark rides themed to different… occupations that are good. We have Car Factory/Custom Garage (automotive engineering), Food Factory/Splash UFO (yakisoba noodles), and Fashion Factory/Spin Runway (clothes-making). It’s the most Japanese thing ever and demonstrates that the park (and the three rides’ sponsors) is willing to make big investments in new attractions even if they aren’t the kind of rides some of us might like to see.

We spent part of a morning and afternoon there, but in the future I’d like to visit at night. Yomiuriland is open until 9:00pm on some nights in the fall and winter, several hours later than other Japanese parks, and does a spectacular-looking Christmas lights display across the park they call “Jewellumination.”

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From Keio-Yomiuriland Station (not on the JR Pass) you take a gondola up the mountain to Yomiuriland-proper.

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In clear weather the gondola offers panoramic views of Tokyo. More to come.

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Bandit beckons from atop the hill. What a great way to make a first impression.



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Bandit is a true terrain coaster. It’s been said it was Cedar Point’s inspiration for Magnum XL-200. It reminds me of a cross between Magnum and another Ohio coaster legend—The Beast!

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Yomiuriland is marketed as Tokyo’s largest amusement park, though I don’t know how they arrive at that claim. It must be by quantity of rides, as it certainly doesn’t cover more land than either of the Disney parks.

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I thought the park atmosphere was the nicest in Japan outside of Disney and Universal. Yomiuriland is clean, well landscaped, has friendly and efficient staff, and a picturesque setting. Bandit is visible from almost anywhere in the park.

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There was a TV crew following this group of selfie-ready girls around the park as they took turns going on various rides. I have no idea who they are, but teenage girls around the park flocked to them. My guess is Instagram models or reality show stars.

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And then there was this fellow who we decided to call “Buttface.”

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Apparently the character’s name is actually Butt Detective! And his head is exactly what you think it is. He has a series of kids’ books and an anime.

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Bandit has a frustrating loading procedure that unfortunately seems common around Japan. Two train operation, but they will only load a train after the one before it completes the course and all riders have exited. For a country that can efficiently run one of the busiest and most complicated rail networks in the world down to the second, I simply do not understand why regulations or policies like this exist at its amusement parks.

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I also encountered a problem that recurred several more times throughout the trip where I almost couldn’t fit in the cars of a major roller coaster, but fit just fine in the neighboring kiddie coaster in the same park. I’m 6’2” so by no means huge, but taller than the average Japanese rider. Bandit’s trains had inadequate legroom for me to ride in the second row of any car and I had to cross my legs to squeeze into the slightly roomier front seats. Wan-Wan Coaster Wandit, however, was no problem.

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Bandit:
This isn’t exactly the highest honor in coasterdom, but it occurred to me that Bandit is probably the best coaster from my birth year, 1988. I think it comfortably beats out Ninja at SFMM, Shockwave at SFGAm, Wolverine Wildcat, and Raging Wolf Bobs, though Jetline at Gröna Lund probably gives it a run for its money.

Even by today’s standards, Bandit is still really good! Its long, forceful, terrain layout makes it one of the best coasters in Japan. The first drop offers no airtime, but it gets you up to speed to blaze through the big, upward helix two elements later. This helix maintains a constant radius and pulls strong g’s to the end, so you really feel them piling on as soon as you enter it following a gradual bank, then a sudden lunge to the right.

From there you enter a swooping right turn that leads into the Magnum-meets-Beast section. These hills hug the terrain and deliver nice airtime in the back and serious airtime in the front! There are a pair of awkwardly-profiled right turns between terrain dives and one of them made me sock my jaw into the OTSR pretty hard, but I was able to avoid it on subsequent laps. Bandit has plenty of that typical Togo shaping, but it’s not terrible. Certainly not Manhattan Express terrible.

Up to this point, Bandit was the second best coaster on the trip and I’m glad we went to Yomiuriland to ride it after I foolishly dismissed it. 8.5/10

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I have to hand it to Yomiuriland. Trash cans were easier to find here than anywhere else in Japan.

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If Bandit’s trains are economy class, Wan-Wan Coaster Wandit’s trains are premium economy!

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The Disk-O never opened, but we did both the Space Shot and Turbo Drop S&S towers.

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TV crew means the Instagram/reality show/model/influencer girls are about to ride, but where are they?

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The Suntory CC Lemon drink on the bottom row became one of my favorites and I bought it or a similar one from Kirin every chance I got. It’s probably sugary as all hell, but I’m told it doesn’t count if you can’t read the nutrition label!

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This truck struck me as insanely funny, but that’s probably because I’ve never had hot wine and have no idea what it is. And it just looks so random and out of place sitting there by itself in the water park.

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Only the standup train was running on Momonga—the world’s #1 rated flying squirrel roller coaster.

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Standing & Loop Coaster Momonga:
Momonga is not exactly the most dynamic coaster out there and its layout is absurdly basic. It's just drop, loop, helix, turn, brakes. This almost certainly a good thing because it’s Togo’s oldest standup coaster, opening in 1979 and receiving a standup train to augment the sitdown train in 1982. The only other Togo standup I’ve ridden was Shockwave at Kings Dominion and Momonga is much smoother, perhaps because its simple layout offers less opportunity for anything to go wrong. What it has is fine. It’s a fun, midsize coaster and the entry into the loop was intense enough to buckle my knees on our first ride.

I would have liked to ride the sitdown train as well and see the in-station transfer track at work, but missing out on it wasn’t a big deal. I think Yomiuriland should push the concept as far as they can. Just imagine… the world’s first quintuple-position roller coaster… They can expand the transfer track to include a backwards train, then one with spinning cars, and finally one with a set of Vekoma Flying Dutchman trains! Yomiuriland would never need to build a new coaster again. They can just keep adding new seating positions to Momonga. 6/10

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Found them! Now, back to Momonga, just think about it—Standing & Spinning & Backwards & Flying & VR & Loop Coaster Momonga… And they already have the perfect group of girl influencers to market it.

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I had no idea what kind of experience Car Factory/Custom Garage was. I assumed at most that you digitally spec’d out a car similar to Test Track and that there may or may not have been a ride component afterward.

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It turns out you get to physically “build” the car by using “power tools” to attach your choice of grill, hood, headlights, and taillights to your car before driving it around a multi-level course.

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While cool, I don’t understand the connection between the ride and this Transformers-style robot at the entrance.

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Spin Runway:
Fashion Factory houses Spin Runway, a coaster I was curious about but felt was underwhelming. The theme is that of a sewing factory. There’s an interactive game played on the lift hill where you do something to dress an animated character, though I don’t remember how it worked. I like Gerstaluer as a manufacturer, but I’ve always found their spinning coasters to be the weakest of their kind and Spin Runway was no different. Compared to Space Fantasy, we hardly spun at all. Overall it was a very tame ride with a short track length. 5/10

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Splash UFO was more exciting. I’ve never done an indoor rapids before and part of me now wonders if this isn’t a better format for these assuming a suitable theme. They’re ideally suited to tight, compact layouts and being limited to a confined space forces the designer’s hand a little in using steeper drops and tighter corners to up the thrill quotient.

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Whatever this guy is up to, it looks to me like a case for Butt Detective.

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In hindsight, taking a few more hours at Yomiuriland to hit more attractions and see the park illuminated at night would have been a good idea. Overall I came away impressed with it.

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It’s definitely time for them to add a large-scale, modern coaster. I don’t want to see this place become Nagashima Spa Land with a coaster seemingly every few feet, but something like a Mack Big Dipper could work very well here.

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The area around Bandit has such great terrain, it’s a shame to not see the park build more rides utilizing it.

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It was time to head back to Tokyo, which meant another trip in the gondolas.

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You can see all of Tokyo from up here. Shinjuku is the large cluster of skyscrapers on the left side above the river. The baseball stadium is the training facility for the Yomiuri Giants. Their games are played at Tokyo Dome, which is also our next destination.

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The smaller rail companies like Keio don’t operate the big, flashy trains like JR’s Shinkansen. They’re in the major cities too, but they also serve many outlying areas where JR has less of a presence.

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Noted.

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I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer to be style-free.

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Mmmmmm… digestive biscuit… *insert Homer Simpson gurgling sound*

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The Tokyo Dome Hotel greets you when crossing from Suidobashi Station to Tokyo Dome City.

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Tokyo Dome City feels a lot like L.A. Live in Downtown Los Angeles, only larger and with rides. I bet it will be PACKED during the Olympics.

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Thunder Dolphin, the Intamin that some say rides like a B&M.

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It has a 3/4 Millennium Force first drop followed by a couple of steep hills over the LaQua roof, a single overbank through the Big O, and a series of bunny hops and s-curves.

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The queue wasn’t too bad considering it was a busy Saturday night. We waited about twenty minutes for a pair of rides, once in the middle and once in the back.

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The best thing Thunder Dolphin has going for it are the spectacular city visuals. Somehow I neglected to take the classic “through the building” photo.

Thunder Dolphin:
So is this ride as tame as its reputation? Unfortunately, I think it is. There may be no coaster out there with a greater disparity between the perception of intensity inferred from its appearance, and the experience the ride actually delivers. It's about as mild-mannered as Takashi Shimura in The Seven Samurai. Thunder Dolphin is by no means a bad coaster. I still liked it and Carlos really liked it, but you should go in expecting something more along the lines of Incredicoaster than other Intamin hypers you may have ridden.

It’s always great to climb aboard those first-gen Intamin megacoaster trains with T-bars and no extraneous modifications. They’re still the ideal airtime vehicle if you ask me. Thunder Dolphin just doesn’t give them much to work with after the first drop. And the drop is very good with enough airtime in the back car that you might get away with calling it ejector. After that part’s over, the best thing to do is just relax and enjoy the visuals. It’s kind of like a 21st Century super scenic railway. There are several small cammelbacks that look primed to deliver airtime, but you take some too slowly or maybe the profiling on others is too gentle. This is a cool, one-of-a-kind coaster, but not necessarily a great one. 7/10

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I was always a little unclear on the Tokyo Dome City/LaQua distinction. As I understand it now, LaQua is a shopping, dining, and spa complex containing Thunder Dolphin and Big O that is one part of the greater Tokyo Dome City which includes LaQua, the hotel, the dome itself, and other rides such as Panic Coaster Back Daaan and the parachute drop.

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Back!? Daaan is not the kind of coaster you can really photograph. I took a few shots inside the station, but there was something on the lens so this picture of a wall will have to suffice.

Panic Coaster Back!? Daaan:
I avoided watching POVs of this indoor Gerstlauer launcher so I could be surprised by whatever I found. Best case scenario, I hoped for something like a much shorter version of Dollywood’s FireChaser Express. In reality, it’s more like a forward and backward launched Vekoma roller skater. The ride starts out with a video sequence of an animated, bouncing bomb on the walls of the station followed by the forwards launch into a series of slow-ish turns. You pass through a switch-track at some point and re-enter the station facing the opposite direction. You see the bomb again, launch backwards, and follow the same course again, this time surrounded by glowing light orbs, cross the switch-track another time, and finally end back in the station facing the direction you started.

Panic Coaster has a shorter track length than I realized at only 767 feet—doubled for the total forwards/backwards ride length—a figure which plants it squarely in junior coaster territory. It’s worth paying up for one ride, but FireChaser this is not. 5/10

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Our next day in Tokyo was theme park-free. November 3rd is the birthday of two of Japan’s most important historical figures: Emperor Meiji (11/3/1852) and Godzilla (11/3/1954)!

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We started out at Yoyogi Park, home to the Meiji-Jingu Shrine, the setting of the annual Meiji Festival. Emperor Meiji (Mutsuhito) was the grandfather of Emperor Showa (Hirohito), the Emperor during World War II.

Meiji’s reign is important because it marked the overthrow of rule by the Shoguns and their policy of near-total isolationism. Beginning with Meiji, Japan opened up to the world and began to embrace modern ideas and technology that it had once shut its doors to. Like his grandson, how much power over national affairs Emperor Meiji actually wielded is up for debate.

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A wall lined with decorative sake barrels is just beyond the big, wooden torii gate.

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I think Tokyo’s homeless population would like Yoyogi Park a whole lot more if the sake barrels were actually full!

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The park is densely forested, with long paths leading to the main shrine.

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It’s a sign of respect to rinse your hands and mouth with water from the ceremonial fountain before entering the shrine.

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The Mejii Festival is a big deal that spans three days. Crowds steadily grew over the course of an hour before the main event began… horseback archery!

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There’s a strict no-photos policy in the main shrine building. Members of the government or Imperial court were conducting a ceremony with gongs and taiko drums in it.

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They eventually left the main shrine to begin the walk to the archery grounds.

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I have no idea who any of these people are, but they look important.

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The archers were all Shinto priests. They led us deeper into the park to watch the archery display.

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Tokyo’s Yurakucho district is home to offices of Toho Co., the largest Japanese film studio and the one behind the Godzilla series.

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This statue is modeled after the design from 2016’s Shin Godzilla, the most recent live-action Godzilla film produced in Japan.

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Across from the statue is Tokyo Midtown Hibiya, a mixed-use skyscraper with a Toho Cinemas movie theater on the fourth floor.

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I didn’t watch a movie there, but I did visit this Godzilla statue from 1995. It once stood where the newer, larger statue stands now.

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That evening we visited Tokyo Tower in the historic Minato Ward. It has two observation decks, one at 492 feet and another at 820 feet.

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Tokyo Tower was erected in 1958 as a communications mast for the entire Kanto region of which Tokyo is a part. It’s 29 feet taller than the Eiffel Tower that inspired it.

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View of Tokyo to the southeast from the upper observatory. You can see the Rainbow Bridge and beyond it, the manmade island of Odaiba, home to The Decks and Tokyo Joypolis among other things.

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View to the north. The building with the jagged roof on the left is Toranomon Hills, the tallest proper building in Tokyo. In the distance is Skytree (technically a free-standing tower and not a “building”).

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Don’t worry, Godzilla has destroyed Tokyo Tower too. I just didn’t feel like burdening you with a gif this time.

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Back in Kabukicho, we sought out Hotel Gracery and its life-size Godzilla head atop a different Toho Cinema.

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The lobby of Hotel Gracery has a wall showcasing Godzilla’s entire filmography. He has more movies than James Bond or the MCU, though Marvel tops him if you include other series like X-Men, the earlier SpiderMan films, and Blade.

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The life-size head is modeled on his 1990s appearance.

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Godzilla stood 100 meters (328 feet) tall in this era.

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Remember this for later.

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This one too!

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After my latest Godzilla pilgrimage, we settled down in Yona Yona Beer Works. The craft beer scene is starting to grow in Japan and while the styles here were all slightly blander than what we have in the US, it was still pretty good and the vibe and service at Yona Yona made it a great place to drink.

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More Japanese chicken. Perfection yet again!

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After Yona Yona we stumbled across a Kabukicho nightclub called Warp. I used to be a security guard for the Palms nightclubs in Vegas, so I was game to check this one out.

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Warp has an outer space theme that is sometimes evident, sometimes not.

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I’m not sure if Warp is considered one of Tokyo’s top clubs or not. I just know that it felt tame compared to those in Vegas or LA and the music seemed about 10-15 years behind.


Party paper better not just be confetti…


Goddammit.

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But I already received the scout act five times this week!!! And hey, I might occasionally stamp someone, I mean who hasn’t? But I promise it was never persistent!!!

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Ordering at the bar here is a lot more convenient than at any American club I’ve been to. These digital POS menus on the bar counter made it fast and simple. And the prices are fantastic! Try getting a mixed drink for $6.00 at any halfway decent club in LA. Will never, ever happen.

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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby Condor » Thu Dec 12, 2019 10:15 pm

Part 5: Yokohama Cosmoworld + Tokyo Joypolis

Another park that was not on my radar at first was Yokohama Cosmoworld. The original plan for this day didn’t involve a theme park at all. We were going to take a day trip to Hakone, a resort town south of Mt. Fuji that is a popular getaway for Tokyo residents for its hot springs, lakes, and mountains. But Typhoon Hagibis struck a couple of weeks prior and Hakone got pummeled with rain, causing landslides that damaged train tracks and raising the Lake Ashinoko water level so high that a sightseeing cruise we planned on taking could not operate.

But I also wanted to see the Yokohama waterfront and Cosmoworld had a few credits for us to grab, so it was a suitable Plan B. Yokohama is about 30-40 minutes south of Tokyo by rail and is Japan’s second largest city by population. However the greater Tokyo Metropolitan Area is so vast that when looking at it from satellite, you can’t tell where Tokyo ends and Yokohama begins. And the city of Kawasaki is even sandwiched in between them somewhere!

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Off the train at Sakuragicho Station, it’s a quick walk past some hotels and skyscrapers to Cosmoworld, Yokohama’s small, seaside amusement park.

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The vibe I got from the crowds around the Yokohama waterfront is that it’s a trendy area for locals surrounded by one of Japan’s largest seaports with lots of tourist sites thrown in as well. This ship, the Nippon Maru, is significant for reasons I don’t care to look up on Wikipedia right now.

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The Landmark Tower however, I might know some stuff about. It was the tallest building in Japan from 1993-2014, had the world’s fastest elevator when it opened, and was destroyed in two Godzilla movies!

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I assume this area next to the Landmark Tower used to be a dry dock for ships back in the day.

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Cosmoworld is an odd little park. It spans two sides of the waterfront connected by a footbridge. The side near the hotels primarily has kiddie rides and what may have been simulators or VR attractions I didn’t bother to take pictures of. Then across the bridge is a manmade island home to Diving Coaster Vanish, the big Ferris Wheel, a spinning coaster, and a log flume all accessed through a multi-story entertainment complex.

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Our first ride of the day was one I didn’t even know existed, Family Banana Coaster, which I fit on much more comfortably than the legroom-challenged Diving Coaster Vanish.

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A look at the kiddie rides area from across the bridge. What I’ll call the “Scandinavian village” on the right houses food stands and the VR/simulator style rides.

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As soon as we got to the Vanish side of the park, both it and the spinning coaster went down for what was apparently a daily one hour inspection break. This gave us ample time to ponder an existential question—is Diving Coaster Vanish the Yukon Striker of Japan—or the Anaconda of Japan?

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Cosmoworld operates on a ticketed, pay-per-ride system and nothing besides the coasters really spoke to us, especially a log flume on a cold, November evening.

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The 4D King??? (bottom right of photo) I thought that was supposed to be Eejanaika!

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Yokohama is such a nice area. I can see why filmmakers like to destroy it.

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Godzilla channeling Edward Norton in Fight Club—“I felt like destroying something beautiful…”

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Eventually, Vanish did in fact reopen.

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Diving Coaster Vanish:
This is a visually iconic coaster that has historically received middling reviews. It was built by Senyo Kogyo, an unheralded Japanese firm who built family coasters and awkward-looking loopers mainly in Japan, South Korea, and China. They also built the very cool-looking and also very defunct Delphis at Festival Gate in Osaka (Whatever happened to that place? Osaka could use another park).

I wasn’t familiar with Senyo Kogyo, so I wasn’t sure which end of the Togo spectrum a coaster like Vanish would fall on if you put Manhattan Express on one end and say… Fujiyama on the other. After riding Vanish, I’d say it’s somewhere in the middle. While it was a tight squeeze for me, it’s not an uncomfortable ride and it doesn’t beat you up, but neither does it offer anything positive, like airtime or an interesting layout. As with Thunder Dolphin, this is one you have to appreciate for the visuals. The 720-degree helix pulled some nice g’s at the end and that’s really the only dynamically interesting part of the ride. I’m glad I rode it, but I doubt I’ll be back next time I’m in Japan. 6/10

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Spinning Coaster. It’s a coaster that spins. I won’t do a full review of it, but it’s one of those Reverchon spinning mice that behaves like a standard wild mouse for the first 2/3 of the course until the spinning mechanism is released. From that point on it actually spun a lot more than I expected. It’s a fun one-and-done for the credit.

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Somehow we did an amusement park tour of Japan without riding a single Ferris wheel. I think both of us probably felt, “Nah, we’ll ride the next one,” at every park we visited.

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But if we had, this one or LaQua’s Big O would have been the top picks. You know, now that I think about it, Battra did throw this wheel into Godzilla once. I really should have had my priorities straight…

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The dispatches on Vanish were to put it delicately, atrocious, so waiting on a train to come by for photos was a thankless task.

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My daytrip to Yokohama would not be complete without a ride to the top of the Landmark Tower.

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You knew it was coming. In 2001’s Godzilla-Mothra-King Ghidorah, we see Mothra lift off from the roof of the Landmark Tower to the alarm of the soldiers inside and dive toward Godzilla.

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A moment later, Godzilla tries to blast Mothra out of the sky and the Landmark takes the brunt of it.

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One of the world’s fastest elevators, or Japanese hotel room?

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View of the Yokohama waterfront from the bar and lounge atop the building.

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Passing the Nippon Maru again on the way back to the train station and eventually Tokyo.

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Shinjuku Station… The world’s busiest train station has a superb location, but finding your way through it is a challenge even for someone like me who’s typically very good with directions.

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After returning from Yokohama, we went to another pocket of pre-war Tokyo right beside Shinjuku Station known as Omoide Yokocho. It translates to Memory Lane, but the little district has another name too, and that name is Piss Alley.

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The alleys are full of tiny izakayas, a style of Japanese pub that serves usually yakitori or sushi along with beer or sake. The really old izakayas like these ones can only seat a handful of people and were built without toilets, so what people did decades ago was get stumble-home drunk and then piss it all out in the narrow street.

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There are scattered restrooms in Omoide Yokocho today, but for better or worse, the Piss Alley name stuck. Now it’s an area for both locals and tourists who want an authentic old Japan experience.

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The one we found had seating for just seven customers and the Japanese people inside were actually really excited to see us eating there and enthusiastically took photos with us.

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This looks like it could be food for seven, right? Well, it’s actually all mine. See, this izakaya happened to have an English menu and I ordered what was listed as “Select Five Skewers.” So I pointed to it on the menu, held up five fingers to the kitchen worker, and listed off which five meats I wanted a skewer of. So chicken, beef, pork, squid, scallops… But then I get my plate and it’s all scallops. Then another and it’s all beef. Then all squid. And so on and so forth.

No one inside spoke more than the most rudimentary English, but what they helped me figure out was that “Select Five Skewers” meant five skewers of meat that the restaurant chooses for you. So I was served a plate of whatever that was plus full plates of all five of the meats I named. Altogether it cost 7,000 yen (about $69.00), which doesn’t put me in the red or anything, but is a ton of money for a place like this. So one of two things happened. Either it was an honest miscommunication between the employee and I with a language barrier, or he knew that I didn’t know what I was ordering and saw an opportunity to fleece a clueless tourist. I still don’t really know.

And to top it off, no one (Carlos…) would help me finish the food! If I wasn’t already three Sapporos deep I might have felt embarrassed. And except for the scallops, the food was pretty good!

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The next day it was time to switch hotels from Shinjukju to Ginza. I had to snap a picture of one of my favorite Tokyo buildings, the Cocoon Tower, on the way to the train station.

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Lobby of the Hyatt Centric Ginza. Ginza is a very upscale, trendy area of Tokyo akin to something like Beverly Hills (remember, most of my nights were employee comps) and the hotel is fit to match its surroundings.

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This is one of Hyatt’s newer properties and it shows in the design and layout of the guestroom. There’s a sink and kitchen area in the center with several sliding doors that can section it off from the bedroom or bathroom as needed.

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And we had a Japanese-style bathroom/shower again!

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The streets of Ginza are lined with the most expensive shops in the city and I went into exactly zero of them. Ginza also doesn’t have any of the high rise buildings you see elsewhere in Tokyo. It’s supposed to keep the character and exclusivity of the area.

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On our way to Odaiba to check out Joypolis and The Decks, we stopped in the nearby Koto ward to visit an important, historical boat I actually do know something about. This is the exhibition hall for the Daigo Fukuryu Maru (Lucky Dragon 5), a fishing boat that was exposed to radioactive fallout from the American Castle Bravo nuclear test on Bikini Atoll in 1954. Unfortunately, the exhibit hall was closed, as the previous day was a national holiday and places like this are apparently closed the day following holidays as well.

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Through the window (sorry for the glare) is the preserved hull of the Daigo Fukuryu Maru. Castle Bravo was the most powerful nuclear explosion ever conducted by the United States. At 15 megatons it was 1,200 times larger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The U.S. government issued a warning to all vessels operating in the area and outlined an exclusion zone around the expected range of fallout, outside of which was theoretically safe.

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The crew of the Daigo Fukuryu Maru stayed outside the exclusion zone, but Castle Bravo turned out to be significantly more powerful than expected and the fishing boat was contaminated by fallout in the form of radioactive ash. The fishermen all developed radiation sickness, but only one died. It caused a national scare because the contaminated tuna they brought back still made it to market. The incident is one of several that inspired filmmakers at Toho to produce the original Godzilla film.

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The engine from the “Lucky Dragon.”

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Odaiba is a short, five minute train ride from Koto. This was more of a chill day for us as we took our time sleeping in and switching hotels, so we didn’t explore as much of Joypolis, The Decks, or Aqua City as I’ve seen in other trip reports.

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Odaiba is a big tourism hub and provides some great views of the Tokyo skyline across the bay.

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The iconic Fuji TV Building with the Aqua City mall in front.

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What a view. The Tokyo skyline and the Rainbow Bridge are spectacular in person.

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Odaiba even has a beachfront park. I bet it’s a great place to hang out in the summer.

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I didn’t know what to expect from the Geki-On Live Coaster. I just knew it was a Gerstlauer spinner with an interactive video game thrown in.

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Since the actual coaster portion of the track is so brief, Geki-On Live is a tough coaster to review, but it’s a lot of fun. After dispatching, you move to levels of increasing complexity where you play a game to synchronize hitting buttons in front of you with a video screen in front (my description doesn’t do it justice). Afterward, you get a nice, sudden launch around a curve and through a zero-g-roll back into the station. A good ride I wish was slightly longer.

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The star attraction for me was Halfpipe. If you and your riding partner can synchronize your steps properly, you can get this thing to really spin.

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It’s a type of ride I’d like to see more of if a higher capacity version has or can be developed.

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The views of Tokyo get even better after dusk.

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Instead of the train, we took a boat back across Tokyo Bay to Hinode Pier.

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Looking back at the Fuji TV Building and a couple of Odaiba hotels.

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Passing under the Rainbow Bridge.

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For something called the Rainbow Bridge, it wasn’t illuminated that way for very long.

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Across from Ginza is Yurakucho, one stop away from Tokyo Station on the trains. The big, reflective building on the left is the Yurakucho Center Building, which I knew from…

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The Return of Godzilla from 1984! I tried to recreate the shot but didn’t get the angle quite right to show the curved side of the building. I should have gone further back another block.

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The scene climaxes with Godzilla stopping and picking up an old, 0-Series Shinkansen, the original type.

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The same scene is depicted in the carving under the big Godzilla head in Shinjuku.

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Now back in Ginza, we find one of Tokyo’s most famous landmarks, the Wako Building.

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Godzilla destroyed it in his first film in 1954. He was a little smaller back then!

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It was destroyed again in 2016’s Shin Godzilla.


Next up… a surprisingly awesome day at Fuji-Q Highland!

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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby bert425 » Thu Dec 12, 2019 10:29 pm

what an awesome report. . love seeing the slightly different takes on many of the same places I saw.

Tho we're on the same page a lot! I loved Half-Pipe at Joypolis too! it was so much fun.

how wonderful to see the tiny pubs/restaurants/alleys. . that's such a great experience to have in Japan.

keep it coming!

hehe. . we're gonna have double the Fuji-Q up in here (as I'm hoping to have my parts 2 & 3 of our surprisingly awesome day there as well (!) up this weekend too).
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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby Canobie Coaster » Thu Dec 12, 2019 11:11 pm

Great report!

The flume at Yokohama Cosmoworld was actually my favorite ride there. It had some airtime on the drop and you come off completely dry. Plus you can scream for a score. It's something to look forward to if you make it back.
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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby SharkTums » Fri Dec 13, 2019 6:37 am

Great TR! Love all of the Godzilla stuff and I think you did a pretty good job recreating that one photo.

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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby PKI Jizzman » Fri Dec 13, 2019 10:03 am

Stunning photos! I don't know anything about Godzilla or the movies so all of the added details make it super easy to see where it was filmed, that's so cool.
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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby ObeyTheShihTzu! » Sat Dec 14, 2019 8:50 am

What an amazing job you've done on these Reports! I feel like I'm at a photo exhibition! (And ooh la la, I think I'm falling in love with Godzilla! He's bringing out the beast in me!) :lmao:

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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby Condor » Tue Dec 17, 2019 8:56 pm

Thanks everyone! Glad you like the photos and I'm glad the Godzilla stuff is at least a little bit interesting!

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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby Nrthwnd » Tue Dec 17, 2019 9:40 pm

I think the use of the Godzilla vids is a very cool way to show Tokyo and Japan off, in your TRs.
Certainly made me look more closely at all the buildings and areas you know "where Godzilla was".
Great TR. Thanks for sharing all this. :smile:
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