Oh Japan! I don’t even know where to begin to talk about this amazing place. I just got back from a 2.5 week trip to the Land of the Rising Sun and I’ll still trying to pick my jaw up off the ground. Robb and Elissa arranged another spectacular trip and it was a pleasure meeting everyone. I guess the only place to begin is the first park I visited- Yokohama Cosmoworld.
I have an affinity for theme parks in a bustling downtown metropolis. Yokohama Cosmoworld certainly fit the bill. The park is right in the heart of downtown Yokohama surrounded by massive skyscrapers, a beautiful river, and the Cup of Noodles Museum (yes that's a thing). I'm really glad I visited in the evening since the background combined with the park’s light packages was breathtaking. Since I missed the pre-trip, I visited this park unofficially with a few other TPR members.
Unfortunately Cosmoworld doesn't offer a pay-one-price option. Really that's my lone gripe with the park, especially since they had so many quirky dark rides and walkthroughs I wanted to try. But ultimately I had the mindset “when in Japan.”
Since it was an overcast day and I was advised many Japanese parks have a rain policy that'd make Cedar Point proud, we took no chances and hit Dive Coaster: Vanish first. This would be my first encounter with a jet coaster and this one definitely looked intriguing as it wrapped around the park and eventually underwater in that picturesque drop you've probably all seen.
Because of slow one train operations, we waited 20 minutes for our first ride. There's no choice seating, but luckily we were assigned the back car. I was immediately stunned how cramped the ride vehicles were. I'm 5’10” and was pretty low on space. But the real shocker was the clearance for your head on the OSTR. I actually had to remove my glasses for it to clear my ears, which is definitely a first for me. The several inches of padding also makes it nearly impossible to turn your head during the ride. I just prayed it'd be smooth. Then right before we dispatched, I heard a telephone ring.
“Please don't close the ride due to rain. Please don't close the ride due to rain.”
It was drizzling, but we were off. I later found out that’s a common buzzer sound used when a Japanese train departs. The first two drops maybe had a tiny pop of air and then that's followed by the signature underwater plunge. Again it had small pop of air and the resulting tunnel was far briefer than expected. It lasted probably only a second. But it's a blur since there are flashing multi-colored lights combined with a bad bit of headbanging (only rough part of the ride). There's then one more drop followed by a surprisingly forceful downward helix. It's length and compactness leads to some solid sustained Gs.
Dive Coaster gives a high speed tour of Cosmoworld. It's not a thrill machine by any stretch of the imagination, but it does have some decent drops and that nice helix at the end. And that's all combined with the incredible backdrop or Yokohama and Cosmoworld. 6 out of 10
The other “major” coaster was the creatively named Spinning Coaster. It was closed for the day (not sure if it was because of the rain or other reasons), but I wasn't too bummed since I've been on several of these Reverchon/Zamperla spinners lately. I think the most unique thing about this one was how it was perched atop a building, so its max height was a good 100 feet off the ground.
In the center of the park, there's a huge building with 4 levels of arcades, stores, and dark rides. Therst dark ride we encountered was their shooter, Cave of Ekidona. The vehicles are a bit odd as you ride facing outwards like a splash battle. We were given 3D glasses so I expected a screen based shooter like the Midway Mania or the Triotech installations. Instead I was stunned to see primarily physical sets.
I have zero clue what the plot was (if there even was one), but there were dragons and huge birds to shoot. All the targets were constantly moving, an advantage over the cardboard cutout ones out there. The targets were colossal (at least 2-3 times the size of others) and combined with the laser aim, I think I had something close to 80% accuracy. Meanwhile I proudly finish in the 10-20% range on Midway Mania.
There were a few screens with multi-armed monsters dishing out attacks like those PG 3D movies marketed at kids, but we weren't getting any points for shooting them. This was probably the best of the park’s dark rides, but it was far from the oddest as I'd later find out. 7 out of 10
Next door was Journey of Fear, their ghost train where you legitimately ride in cages. The quirky part of this attraction was that you could pick your fear level from 1-3. So naturally we picked the max fear rating.
Ultimately the props and scares were about on par with a well-maintained carnival dark ride. None of the characters stood out and for the most part, the scares consisted of a dark hallway where a creature was suddenly lit up. There were a few that grazed the vehicle so I understand the need for cages. I think the most unique gag was the air blasts from the vehicle themselves, but they weren't timed with another effect. If they coincided with the reveal of something like a mouse, it'd be pretty terrifying. But here, they just occurred randomly in the dark.
While the Journey of Fear wasn't all that scary, I do have to admit picking your fear level is an intriguing concept to allow a haunted house to be suitable for kids and adults. Just here, I think the max scare level won't really scare anyone but the littlest of kids. 3 out of 10
Then there was the Adventure Dark Ride. I definitely have never seen anything quite like it and am not sure I ever will again. Basically they gave riders a cell phone attached to a paddle. Using the phone's camera, we were supposed to move it around to find these evil cloud creatures and feverishly tap them until they pop and disappear.
The physical sets were colorful, but it was hard to focus on them when they seemingly had no bearing on where you find creatures. One thing I've never seen before on a dark ride like this is that you would lose points if you didn't kill a creature in time. It definitely made the ride more frantic. It was a unique idea and maybe what SeaWorld San Diego should have done to distract people from the nothingless on their Submarine Quest ride. I'll still take a normal shooter, but they already had that one floor above this ride. 5 out of 10
The park also boasted a VR dark ride. I personally didn't ride it due to the high price point and my personal disdain for VR, but a few in our group rode. And let me say this, it's probably the oddest VR dark ride I've seen. First, riders put on a paper mask, taking the momentary appearance of a geisha. Then they receive their headset. So it's a clever way to try and keep the headsets a little for sanitary.
The vehicle consisted of four open seats that would rumble and shake. The really odd part was that the vehicle was on a short track so it'd randomly move forwards and backwards to add an extra degree of freedom to the ride. In many ways, the ride vehicle reminded me of Gatlinburg’s Earthquake, which isn't exactly a comp rides want to have.
None of the dark rides made me scream, but the flume sure did. Flume: Cliff Drop (as they call it) has an odd twist where riders score points based on how loud they scream on the final plunge. This leaderboard is on full display so it was a great sense of pride on our end to get on the leaderboard. Unlike Whose Line, the points did matter to us.
I was pretty shocked to see lap bars on this flume, but I quickly discovered why. After each lift, there's a downward sloped bit of track that lets the log build up a considerable amount of speed. So much speed that a few of the turns even offer weak laterals. The end result is that you fly over the ride’s two drops. The first didn't offer any airtime, but the large second drop sure did. And it wasn't even a small pop either, it was some legitimate floater airtime that makes a lot of coasters out there jealous. Then to those who aren't a fan of water, you can rest assured. I don't think a single drop even hit me.
We scored a measly 350, but I think our screams were genuine. We were not expecting for our keisters to leave the seat on this flume. Besides the drops, the flume had a very interesting setting. This flume winds around attractions and over/under pathways. Without a doubt, this was my favorite attraction at Cosmoworld and it's one of the better flumes out there. 9 out of 10
One other odd thing to note about Cosmoworld is that the park is separated by the river. Most of the adult rides like the Ferris wheel, Dive Coaster, and flume are on one-side of the river. The area across the river has a majority of the park’s kiddie rides plus a few extra flats and walkthroughs. To get between these areas, you have to leave park boundaries and walk along the street a la Morey's Piers.
Of course the primary reason I crossed the river was for the oddly named Family Banana Coaster. I wouldn't quite call this a kiddie coaster. It was the next step up since it was a bit taller and even had on-board audio of (what I believe to be) monkeys giggling. It was a tight fit for a long legged American, but the coaster was smooth albeit uneventful. 3 out of 10
Returning to the uniquely Japan attractions, I knew I needed to experience Dr. Edgar's House of Terror. I was already planning on hitting it since I'm a fan of these walkthrough haunts, but it became an absolute must when I saw that you have to carry an electronic candle with you that measures your fear. I couldn't even make that up if I tried.
I'm pretty sure the candle measures your fear by how much it shakes, so I deliberately tried to hold it straight. But at each turn, it felt like a weight was wobbling inside the candle which is why I think I scored a 6/10. The haunt mostly consisted of tricks more likely to be found on a tacky carnival dark ride, but they were more effective since I was walking by them as opposed to riding by them. Oh and there was one “scare” actor for good measure. I use scare lightly since the woman wasn't dressed up and just ran down a hallway screaming with her hands up
If you want a well done haunt, go to Knott's or Universal. If you want something that's so odd and tacky that it's fun, Dr. Edgar is for you. 6 out of 10
While thrill seekers are more likely to be lured in by Dive Coaster and the Flume, I think the park’s main draw is their colossal Ferris wheel, Cosmo Clock 21. The wheel itself is almost 350 feet tall and since it's located on top of a 4 story building, this has to be almost 400 feet above the water. It’s sheer size makes it a sight to behold in day, but it's truly breathtaking at night thanks to its expansive light package. That in itself is an attraction. Plus this ride is aptly named as it actually has a humongous digital clock on its face.
There were two queues to pick from. Thinking they were the same, I picked the one on the right. At first I thought we chose poorly since the other line loaded 9 vehicles to our queue's 1 vehicle, but I soon realized we waited for an all-clear car. That's certainly a frightening proposition on a wheel this large. Unfortunately due to the rain it wasn't quite crystal clear. It was more akin to a light fog. To improve the sightlines, the park did provide towels at least. That's something I don't think I'd ever see in America.
The sightlines were as impressive as expected. Beyond the aerial shots of the park (a few of which I've already attached), I was really able to appreciate how beautiful Yokohama is. Having that many glistening skyscrapers set along the water really is like something straight out of a dream. We got a single rotation, but on a wheel this large, that meant a 15 minute ride. 10 out of 10
I took a brief break from the rides, which is probably something I wouldn't have done if a pay-one-price were offered. This resulted in me finding two interesting arcade games. The first was a pogo stick racing game. The second was a horse racing game, which taught me I'd be a very abusive jockey. I accidentally pushed my horse too hard at the start so he eventually started whining. I kept pushing him harder with the finish line in sight and he ran out of gas like an angry taxi driver in New York City. I thought nice guys were supposed to finish last, not animal abusers?
Before leaving, I wanted rerides on Dive Coaster and the Flume. Earlier in the day, I noticed signs in the queue outlawing beer. What I didn't realize was the extent they'd go to in order to enforce this rule. Prior to boarding, every rider had to take and pass a breathalyzer. The operators literally handed us a yellow stick and instructed us to blow. I was wondering what the limit on this thing was, but apparently it was low enough that the two ahead of us in line failed. To our benefit, that got us the front row. The improved sightlines were welcome at night, but I definitely thought the coaster was a bit wilder in back.
Last but not least, I stretched my vocal cords and prepared for another go on the Flume. Instead of giving a masculine scream, I decided to hone a teenage girl's high-pitched shriek. As they'd say in Pokemon, it was super effective! We rocketed up to second place on the leaderboard with an impressive 717. All it cost was 700 yen, some of my dignity, and my voice for the next few days.
Yokohama Cosmoworld really was a unique park. The setting alone makes it noteworthy, but when you add in the mix of unique rides and attractions, it definitely warrants a stop if you're in the Tokyo area. I just wish they had a pay-one-price since the tickets rack up quickly if you experience all the dark rides and walkthroughs. But as I said on this trip, “when in Japan.”
I’m also going to work in the culture bits as I churn through these reports. A short train ride away from our first hotel was Shibuya, basically Tokyo’s equivalent of Times Square. It was one of those places that was nice to see, but not somewhere I need to rush back to.