Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, & Gojira!

Part 9: Nagashima Spa Land - is Hakugei Japan's best?
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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby Taylor Finn » Mon Dec 23, 2019 6:30 am

Great pictures! I only got around to visiting Fushimi-Inari and it was an incredible experience. One detail I will always remember is that there were vending machines on the way up the trail and the cost of a drink kept increasing as we continued. Also, there were no garbage cans, but also no trash anywhere. And this spot is mostly visited by tourists, so it is just an example of folks adapting to the culture they're immersed in. I know it is the most touristy of the options in Kyoto, but I only had a half day to spend. I am super grateful to have spent any time at all there.

I really loved Kyoto Station as well and it was certainly my favorite station. There will always be something memorable about some of the large stations in Tokyo and Osaka and how absolutely massive they are on the inside. I never really felt lost in them, but it was impressive how much walking you might need to do to transfer lines or just exit where you intend.

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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby Canobie Coaster » Mon Dec 23, 2019 7:58 am

Great report! I really need to check out Kyoto when I return to Japan.
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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby Condor » Wed Dec 25, 2019 3:05 pm

Nrthwnd wrote:I was going to comment on the lady taking your food photo. It happened to me in DisneySea, back in 2011.

I was taking a rest, sitting in the front of one of those "Main Street vehicles." They stay in place, but you can climb on or in them and just relax. This one was opposite Big Band Beat. A minute or so later, this little old woman climbs up next to me. She points to her and me - then to her friend taking the photo. Huh, I thought.

I oblige. Photo is taken. THEN she motions to me to STAY THERE. And so, every one of her FIVE friends got an indi-photo with me, LOL! I had a big smile on my face afterwards, and sort of when 'huh' at the cultural moment shared with them.


Wow that's the kind of thing that would be quite awkward if the Japanese weren't so genuine and friendly!

Taylor Finn wrote:Great pictures! I only got around to visiting Fushimi-Inari and it was an incredible experience. One detail I will always remember is that there were vending machines on the way up the trail and the cost of a drink kept increasing as we continued. Also, there were no garbage cans, but also no trash anywhere. And this spot is mostly visited by tourists, so it is just an example of folks adapting to the culture they're immersed in. I know it is the most touristy of the options in Kyoto, but I only had a half day to spend. I am super grateful to have spent any time at all there.


I think Fushimi Inari was the right choice if you only had time for one thing. It's the most popular spot, but for good reason!

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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby Condor » Wed Dec 25, 2019 4:09 pm

Part 9: Nagashima Spa Land

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When you plan a long vacation like this one, it seems incomprehensible that’ll you’ll one day arrive at the end of it, yet here we were at the last park of our trip. This was actually the day before Kyoto and we started the morning by boarding a Shinkansen from Tokyo bound for Nagoya. From Nagoya Station we then took a bus direct to Nagashima Spa Land. Unlike the Fuji-Q bus, the Meitetsu bus we took did not require reservations. They leave for the park at regular intervals.

Nagashima doesn’t carry the bad rap that Fuji-Q Highland does so I was curious to see how they compared after enjoying Fuji-Q so much more than expected. Park grounds were immaculate and all but one of the coasters and most of the flat rides were operating. The only coaster not running was the jet coaster. Not that this was a credit I had been salivating over or anything, but none of the other parks we visited had a jet coaster so I was looking forward to experiencing at least one example of the type here.

Like Fuji-Q, Nagashima seemed smaller than equivalent parks in the U.S. As the pictures show, it’s far from a concrete wasteland, but rather than the park following a loop or a hub-and-spoke layout, it’s more of a free-for-all with coasters and flats plunked down wherever they fit with paths filling the gaps. It’s a park with a distinctly RCT feel to it.

The most surprising fault I found was the operations. Call me crazy, but from what I saw, Fuji-Q’s guest service and dispatches were better. Nagashima’s staff weren’t awful, but they were less courteous and professional than their Fuji-Q counterparts. I found it interesting that Fuji-Q’s slowness was not due to poor training or service, but instead the fault of their hyper-cautious policies and procedures. The Nagashima employees were more like what I expected Fuji-Q’s to be. Ride ops were quiet, withdrawn, and sometimes appeared to not be paying attention. They also made little-to-no effort to fill in empty seats with single riders, something both Fuji-Q and Yomiuriland did relatively well.

This is not to say we disliked Nagashima. We had another great day here, we loved the rides, and would both gladly go back. But if Fuji-Q greatly exceeded our expectations, Nagashima at best met them.

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On the bus from Nagoya Station I saw a pair of hotels that, as an enthusiast, made me chuckle.

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I’m genuinely curious how the name ‘Luna Park’ came up in Japan.

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In the distance, is that—yes I see it—the lift hill of the world’s most gradually sloping giga coaster!

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The ride up to the park sure did build up our anticipation.

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“Hey look! A whale!”

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The entrance the bus dropped us off at was certainly not busy.

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This should give you an idea of how close together many of Nagashima’s attractions are.

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Carlos hit his 400th credit on a coaster slightly grander than my 400th.

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Steel Dragon 2000 might not be the park’s alpha anymore, but it’s still a landmark, bucket list coaster that my younger self never imagined I’d get to ride one day.

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The first drop has exactly the same amount of airtime you get on Morgan’s hyper coasters… None!

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Despite notices about a maximum height limit I was right on the verge of, no one questioned me and I boarded without issue. The coaster itself is obviously massive. It spans the entire length of the park from Hakugei on one end to the water park on the other.

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But unlike Morgan’s hypers where you still don’t get any airtime on the return bunny hills, on Steel Dragon 2000 you do!

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I wonder how much the ride experience changed when it replaced the Morgan trains with B&M.

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The MCBR is usually the airtime death knell on Steel Force or Mamba, but not on this!

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This is an over 8,000 foot long coaster with a slow lift and only 2 trains. Even then, the wait never exceeded 45 minutes. The park wasn’t busy enough for massive queues on anything but Hakugei.

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The tunnels are very effective, just like those on Magnum.

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I had flashbacks to hitting my hand on Blue Fire’s first tunnel at Europa Park and with the fact that SD2000 has a height limit in mind, I kept my hands down in the tunnels.

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From some angles SD doesn’t necessarily look like a giga coaster. Without the steeper lifts and drops of the others, it doesn’t have the same awe-factor when looking at it in profile.

Steel Dragon 2000
I rate this coaster somewhere between Steel Force/Mamba on the low end and Superman: El Ultimo Escape on the high end, but closer to the latter. The three big hills feel just like what you’d get on Mamba. There’s no airtime or strong positive g’s so it’s all about speed and appreciating the views and scale. The first incline spiral is also a bit tame and has a slight vibration. Things improve starting with the second spiral. The B&M trains look like they ride slightly higher than the original Morgan ones and it made me wonder if it puts the rider’s heartline above where it would have been placed during the design process. I thought about this because the second spiral pulls some surprising laterals that just felt different somehow, though I can’t explain why. These mix with positives that mount first, then subside as the turn radius widens. It feels completely different than the first spiral.

The MCBR trims off a little speed but doesn’t grab you the way the two similar hypers do. This means you get good, strong, floater on every one of the bunny hills back to the station. They had a similar feel to the ending hills on Goliath at SFOG. You start to float as you crest, then get yanked down the descent. Steel Dragon is a very good coaster that would be great if the first half matched the tone of the second. Superman at Six Flags Mexico takes the good qualities of Steel Dragon and makes a full ride out of them. If we’re comparing Japanese coasters I also like Fujiyama and Bandit better, but the gap between them is not wide. 8/10

As for the gigas I’ve done:
1. Fury 325
2. Intimidator 305
3. Millennium Force
4. Steel Dragon 2000

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Arashi
I have not been impressed with the S&S Free Spin coasters Six Flags has built. Batman at SFFT gave me one good lap out of two and I found all of the Jokers to be pretty lackluster. Arashi is a different animal entirely. I could not believe how many inversions it pulls. The spinning on it is just so intense. However Nagashima calibrated or placed the magnets on Arashi is a model every other park who builds one should follow. I usually have to force myself to ride free spins for the credit when I see them while I thought Arashi was one of the most fun coasters in Japan. 8/10

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Hey buddy, hurry up and wait, will ya?

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Hakugei has presence just like Steel Vengeance does. But where Steel Vengeance is all about intimidation, Hakugei’s presence is majestic.

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It is truly the nicest of the RMC hybrids aesthetically.

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Footers remain from the old helixes. My dream version of Hakugei would have retained one helix out of the two White Cyclone had and would have included some insane outward banking.

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The 90+ degree drops RMC is doing are great, but don’t think the on-ride result is any better than an 80 degree drop like Hakugei’s. Once you get past 80-85 I don’t think the difference is even noticeable unless you do a B&M dive or Gerstlauer style profile with a holding brake.

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This section felt like an improved and enlarged version of the turnaround on the green side of Twisted Colossus.

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My favorite airtime moment on the ride.

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You don’t feel like you slow down over these hills at all as we’ve come to expect from RMC.

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Hakugei has my favorite stall out of the RMCs I’ve ridden.

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We got to the park slightly too late to beat the rush to Hakugei at opening, but we still got three rides on it with fast passes. The line was a consistent 60-90 minutes all day.

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The Hakugei crew’s dispatches were dreadfully slow to the point where I gave up waiting on trains for photos. It only broke down once that I was aware of, which is kind of impressive given my RMC experiences elsewhere.

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The track banks slightly past 90 degrees here. Another great moment on a ride full of them.

Hakugei
This is a really, really good coaster that surprised a lot of us this year, including me. During construction I recall posting that it looked like RMC was trying to reach a median between New Texas Giant and Steel Vengeance with it. The first reviews immediately put that idea to bed and I think most people have put it in the very top rung of RMCs. So do I. The only ones that I feel confident I prefer are Steel Vengeance and Medusa Steel Coaster. By the way, Medusa is Carlos’s home RMC, so he’d have as much pride in it as anyone and he actually liked Hakugei better.

This one isn’t the kind of blitzkrieg that SV or Twisted Timbers are. Hakugei has more measured pacing, but only slightly. You’re already going at a good clip when you plunge down the first drop, so you fly with more ejector airtime than Isoroku Yamamoto in ’43. From that point on, the next two-thirds of the layout reminded me of a grander, more finetuned Twisted Colossus. Every airtime moment hits with perfection. Even the section of track with the semi-wave turn in place of White Cyclone’s second helix manages ejector and that was a section many of us thought would be unexciting.

Only after the first barrel roll did it feel like Hakugei let its foot off the gas a little. There’s one more good airtime hill, then a pair of left turns that don’t really do anything, two good but not great airtime pops, and a second barrel roll which felt slower than the first. I am not saying Hakugei has a lackluster ending. It’s good from start to finish. It just goes from being all-out insane to a half-step below crazy. This may not be a trending opinion, but as great as Hakugei is, I don’t think it’s the best coaster in Japan. It slightly misses eclipsing Flying Dinosaur and Eejanaika for me. 9/10

My updated RMC list:
1. Steel Vengeance
2. Medusa Steel Coaster
3. Hakugei
4. Twisted Timbers
5. Wicked Cyclone
6. Outlaw Run
7. Railblazer
8. Twisted Colossus
9. Iron Rattler
10. New Texas Giant
11. Twisted Cyclone
12. Joker
13. Goliath

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It’s not often that a clone gets the kind of deluxe theming/landscaping job Acrobat did.

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Manta’s setting at Sea World Orlando is nicer, but this is great for a park like Nagashima that normally doesn’t flesh-out the areas around its coasters like this at all.

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It has a very Bahamas feel to it.

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I like Manta and Acrobat, but they aren’t in the same league as Flying Dinosaur.

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Nagashima has a very good big 3 with Acrobat, Hakugei, and Steel Dragon.

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If you ride in the front two cars you get the same surprise burst of airtime entering the pretzel that you do on Manta, something I haven’t found on Flying Dino, Tatsu, or the Supermen.

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Acrobat
I have always been a big fan of Manta at Sea World Orlando. I had it ranked neck-and-neck with Tatsu for years. But Flying Dinosaur may have changed B&M flying coasters for me. Tatsu still has the size and terrain to remain its own thing, but Manta’s clone, Acrobat, just did not excite me after riding its superior neighbor just a few hours west. It’s a good, comfortable, enjoyable coaster I simply had no real desire to ride again after getting the credit. Granted if it was a one-off and not a clone, I probably would have gone for a second spin, but for this visit I was content. This layout was designed in the middle of B&M’s “tame period” and despite this, it still manages to bring some unique qualities to the table. I’ll always enjoy it and its Florida brother for that. 7.5/10

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A quality Schwarzkopf is always good for a few laps, especially since they rarely build up queues these days. Looping Star was our go-to coaster once Hakugei and Steel Dragon’s queues closed 45 minutes early.

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It felt like a slightly bigger and faster version of Scorpion at Busch Gardens Tampa.

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I’m pretty sure Nagashima Spa Land has the only two operating Schwarzkopfs in Japan.

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Trees and shrubbery have grown in nicely around it. It’s like a quick, afternoon jog through a public park.

Looping Star
I was impressed with this. It’s not the most intense Schwarzkopf but it still pulls all of those weird, idiosyncratic g-forces that only Anton could design. There are some pretty tight clearances with supports that startled me on the first lap. Nagashima is lucky to have this and I hope they keep it for years to come. 7.5/10

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Shuttle Loop… Looping Star… Corkscrew… Wild Mouse… Jet Coaster… Ultra Twister… I guess Nagashima just went with catalogue names for all their coasters before White Cyclone.

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This was my third shuttle loop after Montezooma’s Revenge and Cascabel.

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Shuttle Loop runs alongside the park’s main entrance. This one is the “real” front gate. The bus dropped us off at what we now knew was a side entrance.

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Know how to tell if a shuttle loop is traveling forwards or backwards in a photo?

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Neither do I but tell me if you know.

Shuttle Loop
Hmmmm……… 7/10

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Sheriff Nagashima! The second time John Wayne has played an Asian!

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The Hakugei sign is so cool. I can’t wait to buy a t-shirt, mug, or shot glass with that logo on it. Oh, wait, this is a Japanese park not named Fuji-Q, so that’s definitely not going to exist! (there’s a polo with a microscopic whale logo near the bottom no one will ever notice, but I’m not counting that)

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Jet Coaster was closed for refurbishment ahead of expected high ridership coinciding with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Okay, I lied. It’s not.

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Nagashima has a great selection of family rides. We rode one of the bigger swinging ships rather than this regular-size model. It was surprisingly dull with less “air” than the smaller ones.

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Children Coaster. It’s a coaster for children.

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Arrow corkscrew models usually make great photos at the very least. This one wasn’t too bad. There are certainly rougher Arrows out there. The original at Silverwood remains the smoothest.


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Corkscrew
Uhhhhh……… 5/10

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For some reason this is the only shot I took of Ultra Twister. It deserves better.

Ultra Twister
Some people really love this ride. I kind of get it. It has a breed of unique, clunky airtime and intensity you can’t duplicate on a conventional coaster. The steep first drop off the vertical lift has a nice, sudden pullover and the hill that follows is so much shorter it can’t help but deliver a crazy burst of airtime. The rate of rotation on the heartline rolls is as fast as I’ve seen on any coaster. You get a couple of serious jolts when the car brakes at the end of the forwards run though its easy to brace for them once you know they’re coming. It’s a good fun ride, but still chiefly a novelty for me. 7/10

Wild Mouse (no photos apparently)
So……… 5/10

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For our next installment of ‘Never in America’ we go back to the Nagoya Station bus that picked us up from the park. Once every seat was filled, they folded down additional seats that took up all the aisle space. I'm genuinely curious what an evac procedure is on one of these.

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Spirit Airlines and Ryanair should look into this!

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My only glimpse of Nagoya at night came from the Shinkansen platform back at the station.

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Our bullet-chariot to Kyoto awaits.

With all of our Japanese parks for this trip complete, here’s my Japan top 10:
1. Flying Dinosaur
2. Eejanaika
3. Hakugei
4. Fujiyama
5. Takabisha
6. Bandit
7. Steel Dragon 2000
8. Do-Dodonpa
9. Hollywood Dream/Backdrop
10. Arashi

And using my CoasterPoll list, here’s my overall top 20 and how other Japanese coasters rank:
1. Skyrush – Hersheypark
2. Steel Vengeance – Cedar Point
3. Voyage – Holiday World
4. Expedition GeForce – Holiday Park
5. Maverick – Cedar Point
6. El Toro – Six Flags Great Adventure
7. Medusa Steel Coaster – Six Flags Mexico
8. Fury 325 – Carowinds
9. Flying Dinosaur – Universal Studios Japan
10. Superman the Ride – Six Flags New England
11. Eejanaika – Fuji-Q Highland
12. Intimidator 305 – Kings Dominion
13. Millennium Force – Cedar Point
14. Kumba – Busch Gardens Tampa
15. Goliath – Six Flags Over Georgia
16. Boulder Dash – Lake Compounce
17. Hakugei – Nagashima Spa Land
18. Twisted Timbers – Kings Dominion
19. Wicked Cyclone – Six Flags New England
20. Outlaw Run – Silver Dollar City
(31). Fujiyama – Fuji-Q Highland
(58). Takabisha – Fuji-Q Highland
(61). Bandit – Yomiuriland
(62). Steel Dragon 2000 – Nagashima Spa Land
(77). Do-Dodonpa – Fuji-Q Highland
(93). Hollywood Dream/Backdrop – Universal Studios Japan



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Now I’ll jump ahead past Kyoto to my departure day. My flight home from Kansai was not until 5:45pm, so I had plenty of time to take a final Shinkansen trip west from Kyoto to the city of Himeji to visit Japan’s greatest surviving castle. Exiting the train station, you are greeted with the sight of Himeji Castle at the end of the main road.

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Unlike Osaka Castle, Himeji Castle is not a concrete reproduction. This is the real thing. The structure is built entirely of wood and has been maintained over the centuries using authentic 17th Century construction techniques.

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Much of the Himeji Castle complex was built in the 1530s and the main keep seen here was completed in 1609.

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Himeji Castle was a must-see for me. I was worried there wouldn’t be time since our schedule was packed and Himeji is further west than we needed to be for anything else. My flight was just late enough that I had the perfect block of time to make the trip and do the two-hour English guided tour.

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There was another castle from the 1300s, which our guide referred to as the “Black Castle” on the same site that predated the current castle. Much of its materials were reused including repurposing its roofing tiles into drainage gutters.

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The lower half of the stone foundation has received 400 years of rain and weathering the upper half was shielded from.

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After missing out on being able to enter Osaka Castle, I was glad to tour the interior of Himeji.

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Himeji Castle was used as an armory. The wall-mounted racks are for swords and muskets.

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This load-bearing pillar is one of two that extend from the foundation all the way to the top floor. It is made from a single tree.

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You may know Himeji Castle from the Bond film, You Only Live Twice… or—if you want to try to impress people who travel in pretentious filmgoer circles, Akira Kurosawa’s Ran!

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View from the top floor back down the main road to the train station.

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Himeji Castle goes through a full restoration every 50 years to keep knowledge of its construction techniques alive. Something tells me this beam might not be here after the next one!

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A wooden scale model of the structure used to aid in the 1960s restoration.

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Mothra sighting!

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A few lower portions of the structure are still undergoing work right now.

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Every Edo Period Japanese castle needs a hero.

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The grounds around Himeji Castle are vast. I only had time to see a small portion of them.

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I would visit Himeji Castle and take the tour again. Definitely another one of the highlights of the trip.

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Boeing 787-10 credit!

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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby robbalvey » Wed Dec 25, 2019 4:58 pm

Condor wrote:But if Fuji-Q greatly exceeded our expectations, Nagashima at best met them.

The polar opposite of every single visit we've had to both of these parks over the past 16 years, but hey, parks are allowed to have their best days and their worst days. So maybe you just got lucky and experienced both of these in the opposite form of what we are used to.

I still stand by Fuji-Q having the worst most ridiculous policies like that time they made me taking something off my wrist, put it in a fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo, and then handed me a key to the fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo to put around my wrist.

:lmao: :lol: :lmao:
Last edited by robbalvey on Wed Dec 25, 2019 5:00 pm.

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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby bert425 » Wed Dec 25, 2019 6:25 pm

Great pics, and so happy you got to go to Himeji Castle (our tickets included the gardens too. . but we didnt' have a lot of time and so I bypassed the gardens to spend more time going all the way to the top of the Castle).

as to Nagashima Spaland- we actually had a fantastic day there, with some great ops on everything.

I agree with a lot of what you say (tho I got to ride Jet Coaster, but missed out on Shuttle Loop that was closed for maintenance on the day we were there. . ya didn't miss much, tho the gigantic fish in the pond under Jet coaster were amazing to watch when you dropped food to them. . think I grabbed some pics of that feeding frenzy).

I loved Hakugei, and rank it easily as my top RMC. while I really liked every element you listed (the double up, that incredible stall). . my favorite is something you also got a picture of: the overbank outwards after the double-up. . . I came *thisclose* to orgasm at that element on every ride. yeah, it's THAT good.

Steel Dragon 2000? I felt the same way you do about it - during the daytime rides.
Riding at night? kicked it up a few notches, and I would put it slightly above most other Gigas I've been on.

if we consider the night rides? my list would be:
Millennium Force
Steel Dragon 2000
Fury 325 (close to a tie with night rides on SD2K. . .but at night that's SLIGHTLY better)
I305
large gap. . . Steel Force (LOL)

Arashi was amazing. . I loved it so much, I bought an Arashi shirt! (like the Hakugei one, the logo is only on the lower portion of the shirt. . but couldn't pass it up, as I loved the coaster so much).

I did NOT like Acrobat (which is strange, as I love Manta). . it may just be where we were placed? but I only rode it once, even with skip the line passes, I didn't go back, as it almost made me pass out in the Dive loop.. .I seriously felt the Gs and did not like it.

if you get a chance to go back, the Haunted House walkthru, and the Shooting Dark ride were both incredible.

thanks for sharing the pics, and glad you had such a great trip!
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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby Canobie Coaster » Wed Dec 25, 2019 7:00 pm

Great report! I found Nagashima's staff friendly on my lone visit, but I do agree dispatches were slow mostly due to the loose article policy.

I actually found the first half of Steel Dragon to have some floater (I find most Morgans do). But I agree wholeheartedly it's the airtime of the second half that makes the ride.
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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby Taylor Finn » Thu Dec 26, 2019 6:53 am

I find myself on the opposite end of folks on Arashi. I got a bit ball-busted on my ride and it was a one and done despite having the opportunity for some more rides.

I ended up really loving Nagashima. The bobkarts were a blast, loved getting on an Ultra Twister finally, the two Schwarzkopfs were solid as ever, and the place had a better vibe than Fuji Q. I would say that Fuji Q had a real solid day when we were there, but the place just stressed me out a bit. Announcements over the loud speaker about rain and wind shutting rides down, announcements warning people they may not get to ride things even if they are in line. BUT. They had Auntie Anne's at Fuji Q. Which was neat. And it was cheaper than any of the ones in the states.

I loved seeing all your pictures and am glad to see you got to experience a good bit of culture mixed in with the parks. When I return, I would likely only visit Disney plus maybe a first time visit to Yomimuriland and maybe a return to Hirakata or Nagashima (whichever made more sense for us). My girlfriend likes her amusement parks, but ultimately, going and visiting parks was the ultimate thing for me to do once. Now I feel like I could easily go back and spend multiple full days just taking in the culture a bit more.

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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby Nrthwnd » Thu Dec 26, 2019 6:57 pm

Now that's a Japanese sign, to be sure. So polite it is. :)
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By the way, GREAT ONGOING REPORT! Love the non-Disney stuff of Japan. I love Japan.
Talk is Cheap :idea: Action is Pricele$$

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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby jedimaster1227 » Mon Dec 30, 2019 9:17 am

Hakugei looks fantastic and Nagashima Spaland really seems like an excellent park to experience. I'll try to make my way out there at some point. Thanks for sharing!
Change the scheme, Alter the mood! Electrify the boys and girls if you would be so kind!

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