Taylor's Japan Adventures 2018

Days 19 and 20: Goodbye Tokyo Disney and Japan!
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Taylor's Japan Adventures 2018

Postby Taylor Finn » Mon Jan 28, 2019 12:54 pm

Hello all! I have done a couple trip reports here and there, but never anything quite like this, so you'l have to bear with me. I don't think I have the same knack for incorporating humor into reports as others, so you may not get that here, but I do hope to convey just how incredible a time I had in Japan traveling with TPR for three weeks. Also, the photo quality isn't great. I personally value just capturing things even if it's not done... perfectly.

Just a bit of a backstory here on my time with TPR. I joined in 2010 and believe my first post was asking how feasible it would be for me to go on a TPR trip after my senior year in high school. I was a sophomore at the time and wasn't sure if it would actually happen, but it was in the back of my head. Fast forward to my senior year and my parents both put me into college prep overdrive, offering me a bribe to study harder for the SAT/ACT. They were hopeful that if I did very well it would translate into some scholarships. The bribe was an all-expense ticket on the New Hotness 2012 tour. It was an unreal experience and one I am so grateful for. I did not post a report from that trip, unfortunately.

Fast forward a couple more years and I am reading all sorts of trip reports from Japan trips of years past. I especially remember showing friends, family reports from Tokyo Disney Sea, because of just how amazing the park looked. It was a few years ago that TPR announced the end of public trips as we know them. Folks told lots of stories about some of the questionable behavior on trips, others sang praise for Robb and Elissa for the incredible planning and patience/tolerance. I chimed in and ended up reaching out to express interest in future trips, specifically Scandinavia and Japan. Elissa reached out to me one day with information on an extensive trip, covering some of their favorite smaller parks, as well as the major heavy-hitters. I knew right away I was going to do what I could to tag along.

Fortunately, my job at the time was a field position where it wasn't uncommon for us to work 14 12 hour shifts in a row to make up for vacations we would take, etc. So I talked to my boss about 10 months out and he gave me the go ahead. Trip time rolled around and that brings us to June 2018. Hope you enjoy following along. I know I am really enjoying revisiting the trip a few months removed.

Days 1-3: Arrival, Yokohama Cosmoworld/Sea Paradise, and Tokyo Sightseeing

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As all good trips must start... Chik-fil-A

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My itinerary was a bit goofy, traveling to Toronto and Montreal en route to Narita. I left around 7 AM and arrived the following day around mid-afternoon.

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Here we are after the first quick jaunt (of which I actually slept during).

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This guy.

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Yeah, I opted for Tim Hortons. Very much the cheaper option

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Really quality in-flight games kept me occupied the entire time (not).

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Yeah, it's a bit of a long trip. I flew Air Canada and did not upgrade my seat at all. I'm tall at 6'3" but I really can't sleep on planes regardless of the space I am given.

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First of three meals on the trip was actually pretty decent. Some orange chicken and couscous, plus a cold corn salad and a dessert.

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Had a nondescript sandwich for second meal, and then got a little breakfast as well.

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So, I did try to make the sleep thing happen. I brought along some Emergenzzz and bought a fancy new travel pillow. Also, had three little bottles of complementary wine.

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Almost there, it seems.

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And we've arrived. I did notice in retrospect the flight seeming very quiet and relaxing.

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So, upon landing I had a few things I had to do. First, I went to acquire some money from a 7 Eleven atm. As became a recurring theme on the trip, my bank card gave me a bit of a hard time (did alert them in advance of travel). After three tries, I did get some money. Then I was off to a travel desk at the airport to get my JR Rail Pass all set up. For those of you who don't know, Japan offers tourists the option of purchasing a rail pass that allows them access to most bullet train (Shinkansen) routes, as well as all JR local lines. As the report goes on, I'll try to shed a bit more light on how it all works. But basically, Elissa handled purchasing our passes, giving us the option to get a 2 week or 3 week pass (depending on our specific trip plans). I set mine up to activate the day we were scheduled to take our first bullet train and then had to go downstairs to a shinkansen office to make my seat reservation for the trip (guaranteeing you a seat).

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Then, I made a bus reservation from Narita to the Shinegawa Prince Hotel, which was honestly very affordable and (unsurprisingly) efficient. There is a desk right in the airport that shows departure times and you can book a round trip at that time if you want to save a few dollars.

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Also, discovered and utilized Japanese vending machines for the first time Milk Tea became my drink of choice and is something I desperately miss to this day (have found some similar products at home, none quite as good).

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Drove past Disney on the way to the hotel.

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One of many big wheels.

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After checking in and picking up my room key from Elissa, opted (upon recommendation) to keep it simple for dinner and order some American food. There was a vending machine to order from and prices were decent!

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To appease the American tourists, a classic option: Bacon and french fry pizza.

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I decided on this, though and it did not disappoint.

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Checked into my room that night and can remember being a bit surprised by the room size (though I had been prepared for it). Honestly, I would rather have a small, clean room and pay less as a result. Woke up and stopped at the 7 Eleven for the first (of many) meals from there. Teriyaki chicken and egg sandwich for breakfast was a great option.

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We gathered in the lobby and then headed toward Shinegawa Station, one of the busier hubs and one of only a few places in Japan where Shinkansen stop. Really a convenient hotel option (tons of places to eat and a two minute walk to the station).

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We arrived at the Yokohama station and were greeted with some huge skyscrapers and a very "friendly" lady who enjoyed following us around. Robb kindly explained it was a private group and we carried on to my first park of the trip (I joined the group for the final of three add-on days of the trip).

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Not before I snapped a picture of the station in case I ended up lost.

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And we're off! Yokohama was a really beautiful area from what I saw and in the distance is the second big wheel of the trip so far.

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The bridge offered great views all around and was a cool way to approach the park.

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We were greeted at the park entrance by a representative from Senyo Rides (for whatever reason, that doesn't sound correct, but google told me that) who Robb has worked with in the past. I can say his name in my head but don't want to screw up the spelling. He escorted us over to Diving Coaster: Vanish! to get some early morning rides (before the rain was supposed to hit).

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The first of many great signs we saw during the trip. I talked to some folks who visited this park later on in the trip on a free day (they didn't join the pre-trip) and they mentioned they were checking everyone with a breathalyzer.

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I made it a bit of a quest to try a bunch of different drinks from the vending machines. Unlike America, vending machines are everywhere, found in large quantities together, and have significantly more variety. This was kind of a lemony soda water. Not for me.

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Diving Coaster was decently fun. Roughest part was the tunnel after the dive and the cars were set up such that the back row was significantly smaller (leg room was at a premium).

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The other ride we rode before park open was the Log Flume, which had a strange coaster feeling in the sections between the lift and the drop. This gave some pretty solid air time.

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But! They also had this here scoreboard. The louder the screams, the higher the score. A nice little idea for some interactivity.

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Oddly enough, did not take a spin on the giant wheel, despite it probably offering some great views.

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This became a common trend (and one I appreciated). A large portion of restaurants had displays of the food available. Buying things without knowing what they look like can be annoying, so this comes in handy!

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This was one of the only parks we visited that operated on a ticket basis. Robb and Elissa provided us enough tickets to do some of the other dark rides and flats. This was an odd little dark ride where you had a device that functioned like a touch screen. You would look at the screen which would show what you were aiming at and then you would need to tap the screen aggressively to destroy stuff that would pop up on the screens. Really not the best description, I know.

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This was I think a more traditional shooter. But, I don't seem to have a picture of it, but the park also had a motion simulator. I don't know where the picture of me with the paper mask on my face went. But yeah, we had to be weighed and then wear a mask for contamination reasons. The ride was pretty fun, actually! The park had quite a few dark rides.

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Then came this haunted dark ride. A bit odd, but you could select the level of scare (1-3). We selected very scary and were... less than scared. But we WERE riding in a cage , which was odd.

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First of many capsule machines.

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First ice house of the trip. This one was in less than ideal conditions. By now, it had started to rain and so we really wanted nothing to do with this, but we figured why not. It was actually the nicest of the trip (not in size but in intricacy).

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Upon leaving, my waterproof rain jacket had ice drops (if that's a thing) all over it.

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The park is separated into two areas. This side has the flat rides and the kiddie coaster plus some more shops.

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The Family Banana (Stand) Coaster. Best kiddie coaster that I rode that day.

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Another shot of the ice house.

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Our friend from Senyo gave us these very nice sushi/yakatori keychains. Still haven't found a great use for them, but still! They were all individually wrapped. The first of many instances of how amazing Japanese folks treat tourists.

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In case you want to know, I am front right. I learned a bit as the trip went on, that a nice smile worked a bit better.

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Really started the trip off with some authentic food. Explored Queen's Square for a bit (a very large mall that was the first of many indications that retail was alive and well in Japan) trying to search for a friend who was already at Shake Shack. I will say, it was good, but wow is beef expensive. I believe a SmokeShack, fries, and little shake was around $20.

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After lunch, we had a bit more time before meeting back up, so I went off on my own to the Cup Noodles Museum. I wouldn't go out of the way for it, but if you are going to be in the area, it is worth stopping at. If you can figure out how to do it, reserving a time slot in the lab would make the trip more worth it.

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As it stands, admission is 500 yen. The museum is multiple floors, but only one of them is really the museum. The bottom is the lobby and gift shop, and then there is the lab, and a restaurant floor.

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This was a cool room with all sorts of different pre-packed noodle options.

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Yeah, the lab area was insanity. I think you get to make your own 'recipe' of sorts and design your own container design. I remember it being really affordable and there was multiple huge school groups there when I went.

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A neat little photo-op.

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On the way back to the station, finally passed the proper entrance.

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Neat little tid bit. This bridge was built by the New York Bridge Company. Really doing their best to hide that fact.

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Always the cleaning type. But yeah, this cute little truck was on the bridge.

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There was also this ship you could tour.

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We departed for Sea Paradise, home of Blue Fall, the pitfall famous for its hesitation at the top.

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Yeah, it was still raining a bit, but we were going to make the most of it.

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I loved, loved, loved seeing all the English translations throughout the trip. Often, they were rather funny.

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Just parking em halfway up.

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Some big birds.

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Surf Coaster was actually really fun. A nice, wonky Togo. Got a few trips on it. There were multiple sections where a huge fountain of water would spray up (depending where you were sitting, you would get a bit wet).

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Yeah, just take it all in.

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Didn't spend too much time in the park, but did make time to stop at the Booze Cafe for some.. booze.

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Surf Coaster.

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That evening, a few of us visited Sensojii Temple, something that was already on my list of must-sees.

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Pros of visiting at night: The Temple looked beautiful at night and the crowds were minimal.
Con: The shops and street food vendors were all shut down for the day. This is apparently a great place for that kind of thing.

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This guy.

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I do remember dropping $1 into a bin at one of the buildings off to the right and shaking a cylindrical container that had a bunch of wooden rods inside with Hiragana written on them. You shook the container until a rod slid out of a small slot and then matched the characters to a drawer that had a bunch of fortunes inside. Fortunately, the fortunes were written in English as well. If the fortune was good, you were to keep it. If the fortunate was not so good, you were supposed to wrap it up on a rack. CULTURE!

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Believe this is Tokyo Skytree. Did not get to visit.

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The area is also home to Hanayashiki, a little amusement park with the oldest coaster in Japan. Not open for our visit. Alas, another time. Would make for a nice little afternoon between the temples, shops, and amusement park.

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For dinner, we visited Sometaro, an Okonomiyaki restaurant. This is the menu.

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Basically, okonomiyaki is a savory pancake that can contain a variety of fillings. This variant contained egg, cabbage, some other stuff, and your choice of a filling. We opted for three between the four of us, plus a noddle dish. Got a kimchi one, a cuttlefish one, and then a more traditional pork belly one.

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This place was a bit different than the okonomiyaki I had later in the trip. We actually prepared it ourselves. We were given a bowl with our ingredients unmixed and after we mixed them, we poured them onto our flattop and formed them into one big pancake.

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After about 5 minutes, you flip and let finish. We didn't know at the time what toppings were generally used, so we just cut it up into 8 slices and served. The waiter came over and politely explained that we had forgotten the 'barbecue sauce' and Japanese mayo. He re-formed our pieces into a circle and properly finished the dish. If you look up a few pictures, at the top of the menu it does clearly say, "Paste the sause, and if you don't mind, sprinkle the green cavel. Then you can eat it." So, in retrospect, it was really quite clear what we were supposed to do. But, alas.

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Here is a bit of a better look at one of them properly prepared. It was honestly really tasty and as you can see from the menu, super affordable. I am sure there are tastier spots, but if you are in the area, it is definitely a good touristy option. An experience that is hard to forget.

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The outside was real neat.

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Strolling back to the train station, stumbled upon some interesting things. Love hotels are common in Japan and can be rented for a few hours or a night. They aren't your typical sketchy prostitute type motels in the States, but they can have some odd 'features' to them, like dungeons, etc.

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Also, didn't go to a Denny's, but have heard some interesting stories about them.

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Stumbled upon a place serving up Fugu, the deadly blowfish made a bit more famous via the Simpsons episode.

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I'll leave you with this! Stay tuned for more detail-oriented, but not especially humorous captions in the next installment. Thank you so much if you even made it this far!
Last edited by Taylor Finn on Tue Jun 25, 2019 11:42 am.

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Re: Taylor's Japan Adventures 2018

Postby SharkTums » Mon Jan 28, 2019 1:06 pm

Great start! Love reading others peoples takes on the trips. Keep it up!

Oh, and thanks, now I miss Japan more than normal.

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Re: Taylor's Japan Adventures 2018

Postby bert425 » Mon Jan 28, 2019 1:58 pm

commenting as I'm reading thru. . .

Was so excited to see another report on the Japanese parks, and the trip in general.. since I've never been overseas, so always dying of curiosity on how things work.

-- Fantastic Start, but can you elaborate on the room you 1st checked into? you said you were surprised but prepared for it. Was it smaller than you were expecting? larger? just curious. I'm assuming from context it was a smallish room, but clean, so you were pleased?

-- also wondering about your comments regarding using the ATMs. Did you not bring along much cash and then convert at the Airport? or did you just find it easier to use the ATMs? Glad it got worked out so you didn't have to keep fighting with the machines.

-- Fantastic pictures of the park (and Diving Coaster Vanish), and super smart of you to take a picture of the Train Station (reminds me of one of my friends who 1st thing upon getting on a cruise is to take a picture of his Cabin Number, so he won't get lost in the wee hours when heading back to the room).

I always knew Japan is super efficient from reading Robb/Elissa's official Trip Reports (or Chucks),but how cool is that display of what the food looks like before you order!

-- ahahaha. . love the Cup Noodles museum! I always go to World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, so this would be right up my alley. Looks like you had a fun time there.

-- Blue Fall and Booze cafe! that's a whole lot of win right there. and the visit to the temple at night looks gorgeous.

-- great call on trying the smaller local place (over Denny's). . . I too likely would have prepared it "wrong", but I love that the menu is in English too (with a picture!), and that the waiter was so polite to explain how to correctly do it.
That must be major culture shock for those from the USA (tho the Canadian folks I know are always very polite, so y'all are likely used to politeness) :p

GREAT start.. can't wait to continue reading along.
Last edited by bert425 on Mon Jan 28, 2019 2:24 pm.
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Re: Taylor's Japan Adventures 2018

Postby MayTheGForceBeWithYou » Mon Jan 28, 2019 2:16 pm

[Japan missing intensifies]
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Re: Taylor's Japan Adventures 2018

Postby jlp94 » Mon Jan 28, 2019 3:21 pm

Amazing report so far! I'm excited to see it unfold
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Re: Taylor's Japan Adventures 2018

Postby Canobie Coaster » Mon Jan 28, 2019 5:23 pm

Fantastic report!

The breathalyzer was one of the weirdest things I've seen on a coaster. We were handed this yellow rod, which I thought was a magic wand or something. Then we were told to blow into it. But it worked to our advantage since the group ahead of us failed, giving us the front. :lol:

I can't imagine how cramped you were on Surf Coaster. I had a whale of a time fitting in that coaster and you're quite a bit taller than me.
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Re: Taylor's Japan Adventures 2018

Postby i305isdaddy » Mon Jan 28, 2019 7:17 pm

Is breathalyzing common at Japanese theme parks / attractions? As someone that likes a stiff drink that scares me a bit about our trip coming up in September :p.

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Re: Taylor's Japan Adventures 2018

Postby ThemeParkJunkie51290 » Mon Jan 28, 2019 8:52 pm

Great report so far! =) =) =) I'm really enjoying it!
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Re: Taylor's Japan Adventures 2018

Postby Canobie Coaster » Mon Jan 28, 2019 8:58 pm

i305isdaddy wrote:Is breathalyzing common at Japanese theme parks / attractions? As someone that likes a stiff drink that scares me a bit about our trip coming up in September :p.


Diving Coaster Vanish is the only one I recall seeing a breathalyzer one, but a lot of rides (including here in the US) have signs discouraging drunks. Oktoberfest meanwhile... :lol:
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Re: Taylor's Japan Adventures 2018

Postby i305isdaddy » Tue Jan 29, 2019 12:12 am

I don't intend to go riding any sort of ride (outside of Oktoberfest) while drunk, but it would be sad if a non 0.0 breath test resulted in me missing a notable coaster during my honeymoon. I'll be on my best behavior for Dive Coaster!

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