Nasu Highland The first major park of the trip was Nasu Highland, an hour's bullet train ride north of Tokyo. Set on the side of a mountain with great views of rural Japan, with an intriguing mess of coaster track at the bottom end of the park. Nasu Highland was heavy on credits, with nine all up, but also featured an eclectic selection of dark rides, flat rides and other "activities". To be honest, none of the coasters were anything special (although a couple were unique), but there were quite a few interesting diversions that made for a great day.
The group rose early for the first bullet train ride of the trip. I was quite excited for this, you don't really appreciate how fast they are until one flies past you at full speed!
This train featured a Skymall-like in-seat catalogue. Among the many items on offer was this dog ramp, to help Frou-Frou get up onto the couch.
Another selection from the catalogue. Apparently this device helps to strengthen the facial muscles. Mm-hmm.
After only an hour we arrived at Nasushiobara station and loaded into a convoy of taxis to get to the park. Note the decorative seat covers, a feature of all Japanese taxis.
Great weather for our day at Nasu Highland!
The park mascot's name is Woopy Bird. No idea why his bow-tie is made out of an American flag though.
Mandatory enormous ferris wheel. This one had a "romantic" car, complete with privacy curtains. Bow chicka bow wow.
Woopy gets his own powered coaster. Sadly the wild mouse behind this was closed for our visit.
Our group started with a Space Jet ride around the park. A few Japanese parks had these little single-car monorail rides, they were fun as long as you didn't smack your head on the canopy.
Jeff enjoyed "driving" the car.
Nasu Highland is well landscaped, and even the smaller flats have some themeing.
The Space Jets moved along at a very leisurely pace, and the track was surprisingly long.
This stunning mess of track sits at the bottom of the park. None of these rides were particularly good, but they did look pretty great.
Viking Hell-themed walkthrough. Spooky.
The staff had seen better days. This attraction was suitably quirky and weird enough to be entertaining, like a lot of similar ones we encountered in Japan.
F2 Fright Flight is the park's invert. It was pretty much your standard SLC.
With one notable exception. These seats had more padding than I'd ever seen on a ride! They even had little padded vests for smaller riders. Most of our group had sufficiently large frames that these weren't needed.
Shinpi was a bit of a surprise. I was expecting a kiddie coaster, but this had some indoor show scenes as well, based on what I assume is a Japanese fairytale.
The Space Shot was a fairly standard model, but offered great views of the landscape.
These giant wooden mazes featured in a few parks we visited. They give you a little card and then you have to go find five stamps in the maze, to "complete" your card. I don't think I managed to complete a single one of these, they weren't easy and a couple of times I accidentally exited prematurely via the "chicken" door.
The lower part of the park was themed to 1950s USA, an obvious choice for an amusement park in rural Japan.
If you ride Spin Turn more than once, you'll need to go to this store.
At this point Jeff got eaten by a plastic lion, so I had a room to myself for the rest of the trip.
Camel Coaster, aka "the red one".
See? Red. It's pretty big, four thousand feet long.
Please do not toss your possessions from the ride.
Some happy people in the queue.
Like most of the big Japanese jet coasters, Camel Coaster was nice to look at but pretty tame.
Big OTSRs didn't add much to the ride experience either.
I guess there were one or two good moments but mostly I remember this one for not doing much at all.
They are on a log flume, they are on a log flume...
20-foot high gas station attendant = themeing.
This was probably the most interesting coaster in the park, a Caripro "bat flyer". I'd never seen one of these before, so was kind of intrigued by it. It's basically a swinging, inverted mouse, with a vertical lift.
This is a real sign. We didn't just make it up to be funny.
Steve braves the lift. These cars were a pretty snug fit, not a lot of height or legroom to speak of.
The bat flyer was fun but short, with three brake runs to give the gentlemen grief.
It was also Jeff's 500th coaster! Sadly nobody was not handing out prizes for this...
Next up we tried Spin Turn, the park's spinning coaster.
This was quite long, and also kind of painful. The seats were basically level with the floor of the car, and the restraints made sure your ears got smacked around a bit.
It did both spin and turn however, so thumbs up for that.
Big Boom was a sort of looping dive coaster.
The initial drop was pretty steep, then you go through the loop and up a second hill. After which you go down again into the brake run, in the style of YOLOcoaster.
At this point the weather went south, so we sought refuge in American Graffiti land.
We found an arcade to pass the time. Here's Thad demonstrating the drum game.
The rain passed, an the group decided to brave this impressive carousel. Not the angled photo for artistic effect.
Steve does his best Japanese schoolgirl impression.
Next up was this delightful "my first poaching trip" ride.
No kidding, you shoot at animals and natives from the back of a safari truck. Political correctness be damned!
Here is Priscilla helping rid the world of another terrifying elephant.
This baby rhino didn't even see me coming.
Jeff takes out an evil giraffe. The world is safe again.
The paratrooper rides are quite popular in Japan, most big parks seemed to have one.
Nasu Highland also has a Lover's Sanctuary, for Lovers to Love.
Which dark ride will you choose, terrifying fairytales or tranquil swamp monsters?
Dark Castle was tucked away in a back corner of the park, and was actually surprisingly good! As the name implies, it was a journey through a haunted castle.
Featuring this guy and his friends. We were all relatively impressed by this one.
But Marchen World beckoned. This was, well, awful.
Thad is super excited for the kiddie dark ride.
Basically it was five minutes of this. There was no story to speak of, just static scenes from fairytales.
I think this might the worst dark ride I've been on to date. Garfield's Nightmare is now in second place.
Jeff and Jon were really happy to get the end.
The park also had a rollercoaster science exhibit, which was a fun diversion. The idea was to drop balls down different types of curves to see which was the most effective.
Jon demonstrates the correct starting position. If only the park had applied some of these concepts to their actual coasters!
We finished the day in the park's Scandinavian Garden. I couldn't figure out what it had to do with Scandinavia but it was nice enough.
Jeff tried out the hot springs, quite soothing apparently. That's all from Nasu Highland, next up we see some things that aren't theme parks in Tokyo, and visit Space World!
I loved Nasu Highland Park, when it was our last park on the TPR 2011 Japan Tour.
It still looks great, with all the colours of the coasters, the theming, the monorail! Damn that thing was TILTing side-to-side at spots along the rail! Did it happen to any of you? Freeky and exciting at the same time, heh.
Great TR AND photos, Aaron! Looking forward to more.
One of my favourite photos, from the TPR 2011 Japan Tour. It shows how you can mesh coasters together, and make it all look even more awesome with the right paint/colours/etc. (o: The park in the foreground looks amazing too! One of my Fave Parks in Japan. Easy.
Tokyo Sights With Nasu Highland behind us it was time to actually see some of the city. There's a lot to see in Tokyo, and fortunately the city is very tourist-friendly. There are plenty of signs in English so it's easy to find where you're going, and nothing is ever too far from a train station. Our first round of sightseeing took us to Sensoji Temple, the Imperial Palace, and downtown Shibuya.
Space World The next stage of the trip started with a Shinkansen ride to the south-western city of Fukuoka. About an hour out of Fukuoka is Space World, a very cool park where everything was (unsurprisingly) themed to space exploration. On these trips you always just have to hope for the best with the weather, and Space World would be our only real "washout" of the trip. The day started encouragingly and thanks to some early filming time we got most of the major rides in, but this is definitely a park I'd like to return to one day, with better weather.
All that said, our group still had a pretty good day. There were plenty of indoor attractions to keep us entertained, including a simulator dome that was kind of Mission Space meets Minion Mayhem. Space World had a couple of the better coasters of the trip, including a very long Space Mountain-type indoor coaster and a fun Arrow hyper. This was topped off by a very memorable lunch in the park's restaurant, where some of us even made new friends...
Our evening started at Shinagawa station. Did I mention the trains in Tokyo were fantastic?
Shibuya junction. Yes, from Lost in Translation. Bill Murray was here, and now I am too.
It's basically Times Square without off-model Elmos posing for pictures.
I'm almost certain this "Shibuya Information Center" is a porn shop.
Wandering around looking for somewhere to eat, we stumbled across Japan's only Taco Bell in a side alley. Fortunately Doug spotted something a little more "authentic" two doors down, which turned out to be excellent.
The staff were kind enough to give us an English menu but I was still left wondering what most of these dishes actually were.
In any case, it felt decidedly un-touristy. And the food was pretty good.
A partially consumed plate of octopus balls. This was our "exotic" menu choice among a selection of mostly safe dishes. The octopus was suspended in some kind of liquid that guaranteed a burnt tongue for the unsuspecting diner.
So the hole-in-the-wall gamble turned out pretty well. We ended up trying out the Taco Bell afterward too. We don't have Taco Bell in Australia so I have no idea what it's supposed to taste like, but I imagine the Japanese version was pretty close.
After the excitement of Shibuya we slowed the pace down with a visit to Sensoji temple. This is Tokyo's oldest temple and is lit up beautifully at night.
The five-story pagoda was quite impressive.
The temple itself, with the Tokyo Skytree in the background. Juxtaposition = art.
We had some free time the next day too, so more exploring was planned.
Some good advice from Japan Rail.
Jeff was excited to see these fountains on our way to the Imperial Palace. They make for a nice city park, I guess.
Part of the Imperial Palace. Not pictured: the busloads of tourists also taking this exact same photo.
More palace. You were allowed to wander around parts of the grounds, although some of it is still off limits to the public.
Inside the palace walls was this enormous garden. Definitely a world away from the city outside.
Sadly Jeff was wearing the wrong outfit so he was not allowed to join the tour group.
Inside Tokyo's art museum. Nolan decided to become part of this installation.
We did some shopping at a very cool department store called Tokyu Hands. They sell pretty much everything, with a focus on creative pursuits. Here is the DIY meth lab department.
And even something for the skull enthusiast, or beginner goth.
Fast forward a couple of days and we made it to Space World!
The park manager was excited to see us. I think our group might have doubled his attendance on this very wet day.
The park mascots were on hand to greet us!
Another park mascot. Please note AJ's appropriately themed shirt.
Seeing this photo triggers the park's catchy theme song in my head... "Go. To. Space. Go. To. The Space World."
It's a Japanese theme park, so there's the giant ferris wheel!
Titan MAX is an Arrow hyper that has recently added new S&S-style trains. The trains have onboard audio and with just a lapbar, I imagine the ride is much improved compared to a standard OTSR.
If you don't have a partner, please join the "loser with no friends" line.
Space World was the first park we encountered that was particularly strict about loose articles. Everything, even watches, had to go in the cubby hole.
Steve is ready for Titan MAX!
I quite liked this ride. It was big, fast and relatively smooth, save for a weird figure-eight thing in the middle.
Titan MAX might not make anyone's top ten list, but it's still a pretty good coaster, made better by the new trains.
The next filming stop was Zaturn, an Intamin accelerator.
Zaturn is kind of shrunk-down Kingda Ka. Big launch, top hat, camelback, brakerun.
I never get tired of these launches. Always fun.
As tends to be the case with these coasters, the best action is in the back row.
Anyone up for Churritos? I assume this is a burrito-flavoured churro. Or possibly the other way around.
The rain was holding out for a little longer, so we checked out the delightfully named Boogie-Woogie Space Coaster.
Excitingly the rear two cars faced backwards. But that was about the best part of this ride, otherwise it was mostly lift hill and some helixes.
Venus GP is a Maurer looping coaster with an impressive spaceship in the middle.
Even the safety instructions are space themed!
The ride had been closed due to rain, but like good coaster nerds we waited patiently to get the credit.
Even in the wet, this one looked pretty good.
The coaster opened and the park nervously sent one half-full train out to make sure it wouldn't overshoot the brakes. Sadly the rain started bucketing down almost right after, and the ride didn't reopen. So I have a reason to go back, at least.
Wet wet wet. Time to escape to some indoor attractions.
So into the Space Dome we went.
Entrance is through a forest. Your guess is as good as mine.
Hey we found the coaster! Black Hole Scramble is like a longer, darker version of Space Mountain. It was actually pretty good, and we rode a few times.
Inside the Space Dome were a few other attractions, including a simulator ride where you went to Mars. It was OK, if a little dated.
Lunch at the park's restaurant was interrupted by the mascots. Since we were the only customers, we got a lot of attention. They were particularly taken with Thad, but then again, who isn't?
Thad and his new friends.
The bouncy pillows would be fun on a drier day.
Space World even had a scare maze - Alien Panic Evolution.
The maze started with ten minutes of instructions delivered in perfect Japanese. None of us understood, but we still smiled and nodded politely.
Surprisingly the park aren't cool with drunks stumbling around their alien walkthrough.
I remember this being pretty good, if a little confusing. There were no actors, but a few solid jump-scares throughout.
Because Space World.
Even in the wet, the park's flume ride was too cool to pass up. Such rockwork!
The attendants were nice enough to squeegee out the boats between each ride.
This was definitely one of the more elaborate flumes I've been on, there was even a mid-ride helix inside one of the "mountains".
Some of us wore ponchos. Some of us got soaked and had to dry off before we could train it back to the hotel. All up, a fun but wet day at Space World. Next up is Mitsui Greenland!
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