Part Five: Cosmo World and Hakkeijima Sea Paradise
The first Friday of the trip served up not one, but two considerably wicked amusement parks, both in Yokohama (Japan's second most populous city and a part of the Greater Tokyo Area). It was a choice pairing because Cosmo World and Hakkeijima Sea Paradise together are a terrific way to fill a very full day; there are gobs of unique rides and attractions between them. And – for those of us who pay too much attention to such things – both parks have taken royal beat-downs by my homeslice, The Notorious G.
Sea Paradise gets stomped into rubble during Godzilla's kick-ass resurfacing out of Tokyo Bay in 2002's Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (Gojira tai Mekagojira). It's a brief sequence, but there's lots of the classic running and screaming and popcorn-dropping and pointing and weeping, and the park's major aquarium structure is kicked aside like so much balsa wood.
Cosmo World is the arena for the final rumble between Godzilla, Mothra and Battra (sort of "Evil Mothra" until the end when – SPOILER ALERT – Mothra and Battra team up to defeat Godzilla and we learn that Battra was really here to protect the planet from a huge meteor so, despite all outward appearances, was actually not evil) in 1992's Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth (Gojira tai Mosura). The park's massive Ferris wheel gets ripped off its moorings and used as a blunt-force weapon; it's pretty sweet.
(Here's a fact I just learned: King Kong vs. Godzilla, from 1962, is still the most financially successful of Toho's Godzilla franchise, which kind of blows my mind, like, really? Anyway.)
Under grey skies, we started the day at Cosmo World.
There it is, the legendary Cosmo Clock 21! When built for the YES '89 Yokohama Exposition, it was the world's tallest Ferris wheel (since upstaged) and the world's largest clock (a record that still stands, apparently). Those buildings in front of the wheel, shrouded in miles of blue tarp, would be the major 2014 park expansion rendered in the billboard concept art below.
This is all new retail space, if I remember correctly, and should be open by now.
Cosmo World does not have a ton of real estate to exploit, but they pack and stack a lot of goodies into the main area, called "Wonder Amuse Zone," including the two major credits, the yellow Spinning Coaster and the pink Diving Coaster: Vanish.
The major wing of the park is across the water from Yokohama's Landmark Tower, famous for its Godzilla-kablooie cameo in 2001's Godzilla, Mothra & King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (Gojira, Mosura, Kingu Gidora: Daikaiju sokogeki). (Let me tell you, THAT movie is freaking awesome. One of the best.)
Mr. Kitagawa, of Senyo Kogyo Co., Ltd. (the ride manufacturer that also owns and operates Cosmo World), was our amazing host and guide for the day. We arrived before the park opened to the public and the staff walked us through just about all the major attractions, one by one, total red-carpet treatment. They put us on this stock Reverchon spinner first, which was fun, but rather ordinary compared to everything else at Cosmo World, so I'm glad we knocked that out right away.
That said, it was a lot of fun. Spinning mice, when they really spin, are such a blast.
Here's Nozzy and Sean coming off the upper level zig-zags. All glory to the pink hypnotoad.
Steve and Priss, both having a great time, even if Priss looks a little less excited than Steve does.
Right after Spinning Coaster, we all jumped onto Cosmo World's honked-up flume ride, seen here gliding past Dive Coaster: Vanish's signature "splashdown." I missed out on that scenic treat, and the rest of the slow meander around Cosmo World's other rides is nothing special.
What IS special are the bits after the two lift hills. Once you're elevated, the logs no longer flow on water. Instead, they roll along on flat rails, gradually picking up speed. So by the time you hit the peak of each major drop, you're already chugging along. This doesn't have much consequence for the first, smaller hill. For the second and final plunge, though, which has a longer, twistier approach, the running start makes a real difference.
If you want to call this a "water coaster," you'll have no push-back from me.
And when you make that zippy final descent, be sure to scream your lungs out; they measure the decibels and rank your log's output on this leaderboard.
Despite my best attempts at girlish, ear-piercing shrieks, none of my crews ever reached the top spot hashtag Hangs Head In Shame.
It's a crime that there aren't a lot more like this mofo elsewhere.
Next up was DC:V, another ride that's been high on my bucket list for so long. First, behold this train. It is aggressively, magificently wrong. Second, I love coasters that go over and tunnel beneath water, like King's Dominion's Anaconda. Third, Japan. Fourth, would you look at that glorious train-wreck of train, what the hell?!
There's not a whole lot to Diving Coaster: Vanish, but it's enjoyable and does have a couple of stand-out moments.
The first couple of drops are respectable warm-ups before the coaster's trademark element.
Here it is beneath the Cosmo Clock 21, about to dive and vanish.
I really appreciate coasters that are designed to be nearly as entertaining for bystanders as they are for riders. Well done, Cosmo World!
And they went the extra mile inside the subaquatic passageway, too, with a few colored lights. Nothing grandiose, but you get a bit of a visual thrill in there.
And after the big dive-and-splash-and-vanish, there's this fairly intense helix, a very cool surprise.
Round and round, the g-forces pile on. Thumbs up!
After ticking off the three major thrill rides in the main section of the park, we moved on to an adjunct wing, the "Burano Street Zone," where there are some flat rides, one more credit, and three walk-throughs, one of them nice and scary, Woo-Hoo!
Note that Cosmo World has a very rare Giant Enterprise/Skylab, pictured above. I used to love Enterprises. The SE wasn't open for us; it was just testing when I snapped that shot. But it was great to see that they are keeping it alive as only a handful are left.
Here's Robb and Mr. Kitagawa welcoming us to the BSZ. Check out the expression on Robb's face... does he know something we don't? Sure looks that way. I wonder what it could be...
The Family Banana Coaster (!!!) is clearly not designed for full-sized adults, so it was one per car, with the tallest among us forced to ride side-saddle.
A super-cute ride with the vivid colors, the banana tree, the monkey face on the lead car, I'm glad they let us shoehorn our desperate asses in. And that name, come on.
FAMILY BANANA COASTER!
Right next door is a Disk-O, fast becoming one of my favorite flat rides.
Then we were led over to Cosmo World's ice house, clearly a more elaborate affair than the one at Hirakata. We're informed right on the entrance sign that the minimum temperature is -30 degrees Celsius, or -22 degrees Murican, damn chilly however you measure it.
This deep-freeze walkabout is remarkable, with some nifty ice carvings...
...and beautifully lit environments, like this frozen bar...
...and it's always Christmas in the ice house!
Yeah, we had a grand old time in the ice house, until reaching the end when there appeared to be a bottleneck of some sort. The crowd just came to a stop. Waiting, waiting... Standing still, that's when the cold really gets under your skin... It slowly dawned on us towards the back that the exit door was not opening.
I was seconds away from gutting someone like a Tauntaun when we were released. Turns out Robb and Mr. Kitagawa had planned this little prank for some extended ice house ERT! (That's "EIHERT," pronounced "I hurt.") Had there been any remaining doubt that Mr. Kitagawa was our kind of people, that was gone.
Warming up outside, most everyone had one of these mini teddy bear snack cake deals, which were righteous.
After the ice house escapade, we were set loose to explore the rest of Cosmo World on our own, and a good number of us went right for this haunted walk-through, Dr. Edgar's House of Fear. The story had something to do with this "doctor" (I saw no accreditative documentation) measuring how much fear we could stand, is that right? And we carried a "candle" with us. Anyway, there were live actors and it was competently eerie.
The two mutant bat monsters out front are boss.
Right next door is Cosmo Panic, a sci-fi flavored maze, and it was diverting enough, if not really a source of panic, as promised.
There are a bunch of shops and arcade games in this area, but with more dark rides and such back across the bridge, our group hightailed it back to the Wonder Amuse Zone.
Walking through the park, we reconnected with Mr. Kitagawa who recommended that we ride the Ferris wheel. He graciously led us over and made sure that we rode in one of the "see-thru" floor cars, instead those with opaque bases (the majority of them), like the green one pictured above.
We had a great chat with him while waiting to board, which helped distract me from the fact that we'd be going well beyond 300 feet in the air inside a little compartment with a clear view straight down below our feet.
When I could finally hold the camera steady, I took the shot above. My fellow passengers were happy to remind me that Sea Paradise's Blue Fall drop tower, which we'd get to that afternoon, was nearly as tall as this wheel. They all had quite a chuckle over my Tourette-style cursing during some of this experience, the heartless bastards.
Here's a shot of the Burano Street Zone, the shorebound piece of Cosmo World.
Back on the terra firma, I needed something to calm my nerves, so SCARY DARK RIDE! Dig the crazy cage cars!
Details of the ride are hazy now, but I remember enjoying it, despite the chicken coop conveyances. Lots of love for the exterior decor.
There's this wacky character who lunges down at you from above...
...and this spooky babe who lunges towards you from behind a door. Nice!
Just down the way from the scary dark ride is a 3D shooter that's a close relative to the Return of the Garg attraction at Hirakata, with the same ride system and alternating galleries of real and digital monsters to pump full of laser lead.
As monsters go, these little fellas are pretty cute.
Nozzy, Priss and Anth, deadly marksmen all, destroyed. Good job, guys!
And what's this, just a little further down? Another scary walk-through! Why is it called The Judge? Why are there knights standing guard outside? Why do fools fall in love? These are questions I can't answer. Doesn't matter; The Judge was also good for a few solid jolts and I'm trying to think of another place where you can find a scary dark ride, a shooter dark ride and a scary walt-through in such close proximity. That is significantly awesome.
On the outer walls of The Judge are a couple of little shows, seen through a "window" and a "door." Be sure to stop and watch.
Especially when skittish young Japanese women get too close. Yeah, it's okay to touch the door, go ahead... PSYCH!
This demon would appear to be The Judge, with the robes and all, or maybe he's just a deputy clerk, or a court interpreter, whatever, he's rad.
And here's a second mirror maze! (Not really exclamation-point-worthy, to be honest, but it's okay.) So if you count the ice house, that SEVEN dark attractions. Cosmo World, for that alone, you rock my world.
And don't forget that Cosmo World has no gate admission. If you just want to hang out for a couple of hours, ride a few rides, play some games, have a meal, this is your destination. I'm going to return and spend an evening after dark there, to see the Cosmo Clock 21's fantastic light show, some day.
Thanks so much again to Mr. Kitagawa and everyone at the park for being such five-star hosts!
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With a few hours still left in the late afternoon, we convoyed over to Hakkeijima Sea Paradise, which, according to the just-released TEA/AECOM 2013 Theme Index Report, was the 25th most attended theme/amusement park in the world last year, with 4,149,000 admissions.
This park is primarily an aquarium, but also includes a resort hotel, a marina, lots of gardens (like the very serene area pictured above), and some rides. I love aquariums and regret that our group didn't see any of the live fishies while we were there, so I'll be back to Sea Paradise for sure.
The park sits on a beautiful spot at the edge of Yokohama Bay. In the photo above, you can see the observation tower and the park's only roller coaster, the Surf Coaster (Now "Surf Coaster Leviathan," apparently), which is a Togo product hashtag Would Rather Jump Into The Barracuda Tank.
The park's most infamous attraction, though, is Blue Fall, the Intamin Giant Drop that sends you plummeting down from 328 feet up... unless you ride on one of the "false drop" tracks, which release you, then catch you a few feet down, then release you again, because just dropping straight down from 328 feet isn't thrilling enough for some people, who are clearly very sick in the head.
I had hoped that Blue Fall would be closed by the time we got to Sea Paradise hashtag Praying To The Wrong Gods.
Here comes the Sea Train!
Choo-Choo! And shouldn't that be Olde Tyme Riding Horses? You know, to make it more olde tymey? Anyway, Sea Paradise has a merry-go-round, if that is important to you.
Need to know what other rides are at Sea Paradise? Look for the Sea Train.
It may not be listed on the Sea Train, but Sea Paradise has a full-on, not-for-little-kids scary walk-through! I should more properly say that it did have one in 2013; given that it looked like a temporary structure, I can't assume it's going to be there for too terribly long. Which is a shame.
This was an upcharge attraction and Steve and I had it all to ourselves. I went in first, and Steve waited behind awhile to make sure we would never run into each other. There was a bit of a task to be accomplished in here, and that made for a swell little finale. I yelped a few times, at least.
For emphasis: there was a haunted house in an aquarium park. Japan, man.
Next door to the haunted house was Sea Paradise's own ice house, but after the epic EIHERT we had at Cosmo World, this seemed totally unnecessary.
This is Sea Paradise's monumental fish showroom, the one Godzilla smooshed. The next time I'm at this park, my focus will be here.
Sea Paradise is not littered with rides, but the park does have a few flats here and there, like this classic Drunken Barrel teacup variant. (Remember when Magic Mountain had one of these?) I don't get the "Courage" tie-in, unless he hits the bottle a lot? Haven't ever watched.
A swinging boat makes perfect sense at Sea Paradise...
...as does this very nicely themed Octopus.
I took a breather while the others got their mollusk on. Steve: "Hey, man, you're missing out, these rides are great! Here we go!" Priss: "Yeah, they rock! Wheee!" Anth: "If you post this picture on the Internet, Ima kill you."
Sea Paradise's Aqua Ride II is a whitewater raft attraction and it loses points for its terribly unimaginative name.
But then earns those points back, and more, for being pirate themed! Hooray!
And then loses a few points again for being not all that exciting. It's fine, though, especially when it's a walk-on, as it was for us. I'd like to see more pirate-themed rapids rides.
So we love to kid the late, lamented Togo for their breathtaking portfolio of pain delivery systems. On this trip, however, I regained an appreciation for Togo; they did get it right once in a while.
Surf Coaster is not the best Togo we rode on this trip (not by long shot, hoo boy). But it was – dare I say it – agreeable.
You can see from any angle that this attraction was designed to be a family-friendly ride. The lift hill takes you up a good 144 feet, but there are no drops close to that height. And a sizable portion of the layout is dedicated to a pair of ginormous helices (neither of which are as forceful as Diving Coaster: Vanish's final spin.) So it never tries to play very rough.
One look at these trains may give you nightmarish flashbacks.
But riding over comparatively mild hills and spirals, they're largely inoffensive.
I wouldn't go so far as to say that I'm a helix fetishist, but I do enjoy them a lot, perhaps more than the average coaster enthusiast. So when you throw 900 degrees of helix at me, I'm a happy camper.
I like the way they look and I like the way they ride. Can't really explain it, I just do. Maybe it's their geometric elegance.
Or some deep-seated sexual thing. Which I won't dwell on any further.
After a quick sprint away from that first sensuous, wanton twirl of steel, you head right into the second multi-level spiral, which is "only" 540 degrees, spinning in the opposite direction. All together, that is a ton of hot, sweaty helix action for one coaster. Good times.
Had our schedule allowed, I would have gone back for a second run. And that is something I haven't said about a Togo coaster in years.
The only thing at Sea Paradise I did ride twice was Blue Fall. Going in, that was not a definite plan. But with some peer pressure, I managed to find the backbone and we did the "false drop" option first, just to get it the eff over with.
Now, whether you ride Blue Fall or go up in the observation tower, I do recommend getting an elevated view of the bay and its surroundings. It's pretty. And there's nothing else very tall anywhere nearby, so you can see for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles and miles.
Over the years, I really have chipped away most of my fear of heights. But Blue Fall is so skyscrapingly mammoth (the whole tower tops off above 350 feet), I couldn't be sure it wasn't going to bitch-slap me right back into acrophobic submission.
Climbing, and climbing, and climbing and finally, it stops. And then it's Whoosh!OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGODWHOOOOOOOOSH!
Sick in the head, I admit it: SUPER. FREAKING. MEGA. AWESOME.
We got right back on and did the plain vanilla drop, which was also SUPER. FREAKING. MEGA. AWESOME.
Is the false drop that much kinkier than the "missionary position" experience? For me, not really. I think I actually prefer foot-off-the-brakes all the way down. But let's not split hairs: it is totally hellacious either way.
Sea Paradise was not on the original itinerary for the Japan 2013 trip; in hindsight, I am so glad circumstances brought us here. Blue Fall is on my Top Ten thrill rides list, where it will probably remain until I die.
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