After Hirakata Park, four of us made the trip up to Kyoto. Kyoto was only like a half hour northeast of where we were, so the choice seemed obvious.
Kyoto was the capital of Japan for centuries before Tokyo (its name literally means "capital city"). As such, it's loaded with history and tradition.
One of the biggest draws to Kyoto is Fushimi Inari, a massive, 1300-year-old Shinto shrine that sprawls out over the side of Mt. Inari, with a vertical of over 600 ft. from base to peak.
This was the first of many, many torii we'd be seeing over the next few hours. There were lots of vendors on this path to the shrine.
And that makes two
And here's where our journey really begins!
As seen on the right in this photo, you could find some people dressed in kimonos walking about.
The bells (called Suzu) in Shinto shrines are said to call good spirits while warding off bad ones
You can see the Suzu more clearly here
By far the most famous thing about this shrine is its paths up the mountain which are lined with a huge amount of torii; however, the large amount of people posing for pics near the bottom means mobility can easily get restricted in these tunnels.
There are around a thousand of these torii enclosing the main path alone!
The path isn't just torii, though; there are many uncovered sections that let you view the beautiful surroundings.
Take this little creek for example!
Along the way, there are these open areas with smaller shrines and a metric crapton of little torii scattered throughout.
These are cool detours if you get tired of walking the main path.
They leave out food for all the kitties here!
Y'ever tried to steer a pond?
About halfway up, there's a clearing that lets you get a great view of the city!
At this point, the path forks into a loop that goes to the peak and back. We ended up taking what I believe to be the less direct way up. With how exhausting this climb was, we probably should've gone the other way!
The sun was starting to sink, so we had to get a move on!
It wasn't exactly cool out, and the trees blocked any breezes from coming in, so I felt like I was in a sauna!
I love all the nooks and crannies of these things!
This path really snakes up and down the mountainside
There were a few really long staircases that absolutely killed me
Photo via Taylor But after over an hour of climbing, we finally made it to the top!
"I am so close to just collapsing dead on the ground"
There are more mini-torii up on the peak
Yep, we're in Japan.
The walk down was a lot more direct than the walk up, which came as a relief.
One of the best things about making it this far is that the tunnels up here are a lot less congested, especially this late in the day.
At the aforementioned midway point, there's another staircase that leads you to one of the best views of Kyoto available! The others were not too keen on climbing any more stairs, but I hadn't punished myself enough that day, so I trekked it alone just in time to catch the sun sinking behind the ridge! (Keep in mind, it was 7:00 on the summer solstice! That's way earlier than I'm used to!)
What a fantastic view!
Just the most stunni— …oh.
As twilight neared, even the lower portions of Fushimi Inari cleared out.
Wandering the shrine is much better when the crowds have left
Look at this hairy child
Dunno what this is; looks nice, though!
The shrine kinda connects to a neighborhood. What a place to live!
"Hello, I'm a tree. Pay attention to me."
We made our way through the neighborhood to get back to the front of the shrine
The shrine's even more impressive at night!
We had a great time at Fushimi Inari, but it was time for us to move on….
Now THAT'S a fan fit for a train!
I'm so happy to see Gudetama getting some love!
You may be wondering what's so special about a train station. Well, this isn't just some bare-bones station; it's a multi-story engineering marvel! (Plus it's featured in a Tony Hawk game).
Just look at this thing! It's like a mall on steroids!
If you're a fan of escalators, then boy do I have a place for you!
About halfway up, there's this huge staircase with animated lights on it!
There's Kyoto Tower!
I'm still amazed by the kaleidoscopic twists and turns of this building!
There's a green space on the roof
Kyoto may not be as glitzy and glamorous as other Japanese cities, but it's beautiful all the same!
It may look like the stage down there is at the bottom, but it's actually about halfway up! This place is just humongous!
After all that, it was time to head back to the hotel for our last night in Osaka. There are other things I would've liked to have done, like going to the Golden Pavilion or feeding macaques at Iwatayama Monkey Park, but I guess those are just more reasons to come back!
Next up: Nagashima Spa Land!
—Nick Z. Like a nun with a gun, I'm wonderful fun.
Great tour of Fushimi Inari-taisha and Kyoto Station! And so - many - toriis there at that shrine! I've always wanted to see that particular shrine, because of those toriis, etc. Glad you took so many photo of them.
Looking forward to your take on Nagashime Spaland!
After several days in Osaka, it was time to head east to Nagoya.
Nagoya's about halfway between Osaka and Tokyo, so we took the Shinkansen there.
I really got addicted to taking pictures on the trains during this trip.
Can ya blame me, though?
Just look at that water tower! How brutalist! Anyway, here are some more photos I took on the train:
So, as I'm sure you're aware, Nagashima Spa Land is one of the biggest amusement parks in Japan, located just west of Nagoya, and is known as the "Cedar Point of Japan," with its numerous large rides and waterside setting.
Unsurprisingly, most of the group immediately flocked to the park's giga coaster Steel Dragon 2000, which is currently the longest coaster (by track length) in the world!
Steel Dragon is pretty much what you'd expect of a scaled-up Morgan hyper. While it rattles a bit in a few spots, it offers some very good airtime and is just a blast to ride!
One of the surprises for me was the park's Bobkart! It's basically an electric alpine slide, and it's just good fun! I wish they had these in the States!
Nagashima's newest coaster at the time was Arashi, an S&S 4D Free Spin coaster. This was actually my first 4D coaster ever, and it was absolutely insane! Just as you leave the lift, you're already tumbling head-over-heels, not knowing which way is up or down. This thing is a bit of a ball-buster, though, with how much it throws you around, so watch yourselves, fellas!
To aid in the CP comparisons, Nagashima has its own Corkscrew! This is just the classic double-corkscrew layout—nothing spectacular.
They also have not one, but TWO mirrored Mack wild mice here. The right side was closed today, but whatever; a mouse is a mouse.
In the middle of the park is Looping Star, a classic Schwarzkopf looper. As you'd expect, this thing is super fun and very rerideable!
Remember how the Ultra Twister at Washuzan Highland was closed? Well, when we got to Nagashima, theirs was also down! But as it turns out, it was just undergoing an inspection, and it opened an hour or two later. Togo Ultra Twisters are weird beasts, as you can see in the video, but they aren't too bad, really! (Also, listen to that music. Nagashima has a playlist of maybe 40-50 songs, and I swear a quarter of them are about the park itself.)
"No Crocs! Have some self-respect, people!"
One of the newer additions to the park is Acrobat, a clone of Manta at SeaWorld. I tell ya, after the Flying Dinosaur, this seemed tame by comparison. But still, nothing beats a good B&M flyer!
The park has a haunted walkthrough complete with crucifixion! (Actually, a lot of these things seemed to feature crucifixion…). Sarah wasn't a fan.
Nagashima also has what would end up being my first Schwarzkopf shuttle loop! Pretty good!
Today was a hot one, so I took a ride on the splash boat. This one does get you drenched, but honestly, that was pretty welcome! You can also see what was White Cyclone sitting in the background there; it was, of course, undergoing RMC-ification into the then-unnamed Hakugei. Gonna have to come back one of these days!
After getting my kiddie credit, I just mucked about for while. Unfortunately, Jet Coaster never opened :c But after park closing, we did some filming on Steel Dragon, Arashi, and Acrobat!
Photo via Robb, of course Arashi really is one of the few rides that can make me scream my head off. I should have ridden it more!
And so our day came to an end. It should go without saying that Nagashima Spa Land is an absolute MUST for any coaster enthusiast in Japan. I will note, however, that operations there tended to be on the slow side, but that shouldn't discourage you from visiting this place!
We got some beautiful views of the sunset on our way to the hotel!
And here we are: downtown Nagoya! You see that building on the right with all the logos on it? That's where we'll be staying the next few nights!
The Nagoya metro area is the third most populous in Japan, but despite this, someone in our group found an article calling Nagoya the "most boring city in Japan" while looking for things to do there. If that's the case, then Japan must be even more exciting than I thought!
Of the four hotels we stayed in on this trip, Nagoya's certainly had the best nighttime view!
Up next: Parque España!
—Nick Z. Like a nun with a gun, I'm wonderful fun.
I always get questioned by Japanese people when I tell them we really like Nagoya. It's known as a boring business/industrial city, but again, if that's the worst place in Japan it's still probably better than 99% of cities in other countries!
Today was another single-park day, and we were heading down south to Parque España!
We've found him, boys.
The train took us a long ways down through Mie Prefecture, past lovely scenes of misty mountains and towns.
You know how I feel about these small towns…
One would hope that a park called "Parque España" would be themed to Spain, and so it is! It's not quite as odd a choice as Brazil, but you still wouldn't necessarily expect a park like this in Japan.
We had actually planned to go to Nagashima this day, but the forecast, as it turned out, said today was going to be a washout. This wasn't too bad, however, as Parque España's got many indoor rides. (Chuck took my "The rain in Spain falls mainly on Japan" joke, but I won't hold it against him too much.)
Take, for instance, Iron Bull (or "Tron Butt", as it was known in our group)…. This was a very strange indoor coaster that had recently been re-themed to a steampunk aesthetic. The ride was a bit janky, and it's paced really weirdly. Imagine if the Backlot Stunt Coasters had lift hills right after their helicopter shootout sections; that's basically what happens here.
Photo by Robb Luckily for us, their family coaster runs in the rain. I think Taylor's and my faces really encapsulate the sheer whorishness of the whole ordeal.
Photo by Chuck "God help me, for I am a filthy whore!"
As I said, there's a number of nice indoor rides at Parque España, including a nice shooting dark ride, but arguably the most eccentric of these was their walkthrough themed to Alice in Wonderland….
Hahah! Move over, Don Quixote; there's a new Spanish classic in town! Yeah, if you thought an English-themed attraction in a Spanish-themed park was weird enough, wait 'til you actually see the whole thing! Just the pre-show's enough to draw confused laughter from us!
First they give you a wand which you will use on various things throughout the attraction. This is the handle, and it has… y'know… a certain shape….
You first need to follow this farting rabbit into the woods—the woods, of course, being one of those disorienting mirror mazes that we had grown accustomed to by this point.
These wands are actually pretty cool, if a bit finicky. Here you have to light all three candles up at the same time.
Look, I'm no Alice expert, but isn't the Cheshire Cat's smile supposed to remain visible?
This dude represents all our feelings right now
I found it hilarious just how violently these ghosts explode!
Boss fight! Get ready to frantically waggle your wands with reckless abandon!
Curiously, the boss fight isn't at the end; you've still got a couple more sections to go before you leave.
I don't even know what's happening anymore…
Finally, after slaying ghosts and other monsters in cold blood, Alice says the only way out is to wave the wand at her! I really don't know what to make of this attraction, but I'm so glad I did this.
Back outside, it was still raining. The park doesn't look half bad in the rain, though!
There's a bunch of stuff at the foot of the hill, too. There's a relaxing raft ride and a dark ride similar to the balloon ride at New Reoma World.
In keeping with the Spanish theme, this attraction accurately recreates the experience of taking a mysterious pill given to you by some freaky dude on a beach in Ibiza.
And, of course, after you're done at the bottom, you can take the famous "Escalator Ride" back to the top! This is truly the best ride in the park; it's got killer music, it runs in the rain, and, as Mitch Hedberg said, escalators don't break; they only become stairs.
It was around this time that we got some lunch. Among some other things, I got a bunch of little sausages that were so juicy that biting into one of them caused it to squirt all the way onto Adam's shirt! (Make your own innuendo).
This is the square where they publicly execute all the people who dare insult the Escalator Ride
The rain was beginning to lighten up somewhat, but it was still a ways away from stopping completely. While searching for things to do, I stumbled upon a bunch of the others waiting for Dulcinea's Fantasy World, which is a bizarre 360-degree 3D movie. I don't remember much from it other than there being a strong aquatic theme. The best(?) part was at the end when Poseidon emerges from the depths and bursts into a mass of dolphins, whales, and various other cetaceans.
Back at the bottom, they have this cool pirate ship you can walk through. It's rather short, but it's nice.
A few of us caught the end of this show
I got in a ride on their log flume that snakes around the mountain shared by Gran Montserrat. The radar showed that the rain was about to finally subside, but it was nearing closing time, and it would take about an hour for the rides to dry off enough to run. However…
…it turns out the park was willing to run Pyrenees for us! They did warn us, however, that we would likely get some grease falling from the ride. Most of the group wore their ponchos, but I went a different route…. As it turns out, the park sold plain white T-shirts in my size! Now, the grease probably wouldn't have shown on the shirt I was already wearing, but I wasn't going to pass up this opportunity to get a one-of-kind souvenir!
Photo by Robb I'm really thankful that they let us on this ride, 'cause it is damn good! It's very similar in overall experience to Raptor, except I'd say it runs a little smoother. (And yes, I did get a few grease spots on my shirt).
After getting our fill, it was time to leave. Parque España may be a little out of the way, but it's definitely one of the most legit parks in Japan!
Adiós, Parque España….
The surrounding city of Shima is as quaint as any other town in Japan
And so began the long journey back to Nagoya…
Y'know, even though I was thousands of miles from home, I never felt too out of place. Scenes like this reminded me ever so slightly of Ohio. Maybe I've just been exposed to Japanese stuff so much that even the more "extreme" things seemed somehow familiar.
The last several days had been packed with long train rides, but today we were staying local. This basically doubled as our Nagoya free day in a sense, but the main event was the newly-opened…
Yes, Nagoya had just opened up their own Legoland a year before!
Photo by Robb This was a new park for all of us, and I was certainly excited, because the last time I'd been to a Legoland was when I was but a wee lad.
Wow, I can't believe they made a Roblox-themed park.
Thanks for the encouragement
Legoland has a modest two coasters, both of which can be found at other Legolands.
The main draw for us was Dragon Coaster. This is just like the ones at most other Legoland parks, with a short dark ride portion before climbing the lift hill.
But, of course, the main attraction at any Legoland park is its impressive array of Lego sculptures. So get ready for…
The Great Tour of Lego Japan
Let us first make a stop at the harbor
Here's Itsukushima Shrine, located near Hiroshima.
Not sure where this is, but it looks cool.
They've even got little gondolas!
Good idea pulling out the covers; it was a hot one!
The Car Carrier carries cars
This building in Nagoya is called the "Mode Gakuen Spiral Towers," which is strange, 'cause it's only one tower….
Also in Nagoya is Oasis 21, a cool shopping center thing. I wanted to go here but never got around to it :c
There's also this spiral thingy in the middle of downtown Nagoya. I'll show you that later….
It's frog o'clock!
Heh heh heh heh hehhhhh…
This is the Nagoya City Science Museum, but it looks more to me like the Death Star got plopped right onto some unsuspecting buildings.
Throughout Miniland, you get to interact with many things, like this Osaka-style crab sign for instance!
Where's the jet coaster??
Here's Himeji Castle, the largest and one of the oldest intact castles in Japan.
Big Brother is watching you
This is one of the shrines in Tokyo
Here's the crossing in Shibuya plus Tokyo Tower!
This is the Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo, which we'll see later!
Across the Rainbow Bridge is Odaiba, which is famous for having a life-size Gundam!
Also on Odaiba is the futuristic Fuji TV headquarters building
Of course, no miniature model of Japan would be complete without a 30-foot-tall replica of the Tokyo Skytree!
Who's up for a little bēsubōru?
Hello again, Dōtombori!
They've got the Glico dude! There are even people doing the pose on the bridge!
Here's a little bit o' Kyoto
Well, wouldja lookit that…
Fushimi Inari is, of course, known for its wonderful views of Mount Fuji
Here's a better view of it all
Here's the Golden Pavilion
Obligatory artsy shot
Getting memories of my taiko days…
Look how happy those bears are to see us!
Way up in Hokkaido is Sapporo
Sapporo is known for its proximity to many great ski resorts (and for the eponymous beer, of course).
Hokkaido gets an absolutely staggering amount of snow every winter
Mount Fuji is so huge that it stretches all the way from Kobe to Hokkaido
Speaking of Kobe, here's Kobe!
See? I told you it had only been a year!
More of Himeji Castle
Ah yes, and here is the #1 tallest Lego recreation of the Umeda Sky Building I've ever seen!
ducc ducc ducc ducc
The Osaka Ferris… oval thing… wasn't moving. But then again, the real one wasn't running for us either.
Anyway, after all that, I was feeling a bit peckish, so I decided give this a try. 0/5 — not actually plastic.
The observation tower gives a good overview of Miniland
So that's Legoland! Obviously, for the coaster enthusiast in a hurry, Nagashima is going to take precedence over Legoland, but for the Lego lover, there are some great replicas!
While some people checked out the local train museum after Legoland, we went on to Higashiyama Zoo, which actually had some rides for us!
If you love stairs, Japan is your Mecca.
Doesn't look like much of a competition…
The only unambiguous credit here is Jet Coaster, which very much lives up to its name.
The most well-known attraction at Higashiyama is Slope Shooter, which is this weird side-friction "coaster" thing. For some reason, I had it in my mind that this ride was in, like, China or something; this seemed too weird even for Japan! But lo and behold!
I think Matt took this one I am way too excited for this
And yes, Higashiyama Zoo is a zoo, but, like Tobu Zoo, their cages do tend toward the smaller side….
I headed back to the hotel to settle down a bit before going back out. Here's that spiral structure we saw at Legoland!
So, that night, a bunch of us decided it would be good to partake in some karaoke action while we were in Japan. We rented out a room for an hour, and sadness ensued….
Jason looks on in disappointment.
Anyway, while it was a good time, the rate was a bit steep in many people's eyes, so we decided to head out after one hour. But karaoke is a must when you're in Japan!
Next up: Hamanako Pal Pal!
—Nick Z. Like a nun with a gun, I'm wonderful fun.
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