Central Park31st August 2005
Regular readers of my diaries may come away with the impression that I never have anything positive to say about parks. This couldn't be further from the truth; I really try my utmost to find something to like about every park I visit, even one small thing. Sometimes, however, I fail completely, and I'm sorry to say that Central Park falls into that category.
The first major sin was the cost of entry; a ticket purchased at the bus station included park admission and round trip bus fare for ¥3350, which seemed relatively reasonable. It was only after entry that we discovered that this price did not in fact include any attractions. If we wanted to actually ride anything in that park we would have to pay more. In this case an unlimited ride wristband was almost as much again, another ¥3200. That idea was quickly abandoned.
A check of the ride roster indicated four coasters, only one of which would likely be worth reriding. There was also a first generation Intamin Giant Drop, but for ¥700 it seemed like a poor use of funds. Nothing else particularly caught our eye. For this reason, we decided to go for the individual tickets to save money. Nevertheless, it was still necessary to purchase ¥2000 worth of these each, making the park (in which we would only do four rides) the most expensive of the trip so far.
The miniscule number of people in the park showed the sheer insanity of this pricing policy, and indeed given the number of staff present it seems highly probable that the park was losing money during our visit. It begs the question of how they were able to open at all, as the coasters alone would have been at least twenty million euro to install initially, and that doesn't take account of the other attractions in the park. The first of these, Jet Coaster (#572), actually travelled across the open area in front of the park gate with the trademark gentle slopiing hills not unlike those two days earlier at Harmonyland. It wasn't a terribly interesting ride, and we had just paid a lot of money for it. Next up was Imorinth (#573), a Pinfari Big Apple. This was the cheapest coaster of the day, thankfully, but it was still a fair bit of money; are you sensing a pattern here?
To get to the other coasters required a two minute walk up a rather steep hill. The owners clearly foresaw the issues this might present during hot and humid weather, and installed a moving walkway in partial solution. Never a group of people to pass up a money making opportunity, taking this involves the expenditure of ¥50. A staff member waits at the top all day for your money. Needless to say, we walked.
The Laybrinth (#574) was the first coaster of the day which it would have been nice to reride. It had a wild mouse layout but took advantage of the terrain to make things a bit more interesting. The operator did not have a problem with me taking pictures on board, although my camera decided it did; only two of my rapid fire photographs were in focus.
The only remaining ride for us was Diavlo (#575), a rather good B&M inverted coaster with a layout better known as Batman the Ride in the Six Flags parks. The close proximity of trees to the first drop made that portion of the ride more interesting than in the other seven models I have been on, but some very odd vibration slowed down the train and weakened the forces that layout normally delivers. One interesting thing did come from this ride though; I can say with complete honesty that I have never before ridden a B&M ride with only two passengers in the train. I have also never spent ¥700 for a single ride on one coaster before.
Rather than spend any more money in a park we were not enjoying we decided to move on to our next destination. We had the bus back to the train station entirely to ourselves.
Tegarayama Yuen31st August 2005
We had been advised ahead of time that the best way to get to Tegarayama Yuen was to take a Taxi from the local train station. The driver understood the first part of our request and brought us to Tegarayama hill. Fortunately, I had a picture of a roller coaster in my bag which I could point at. Light dawned, and we were brought half way up the hill to where the park was located. In sharp contrast to the previous park, admission here was free as we did not want to use the water park. All we would need would be ride tickets for the coasters and anything else we wanted to try.
Wasting no time, we boarded Slope Car (#576), an extremely unusual coaster that could be considered as an ancestor of more recent bobsled designs. The cars were free to roll through a trough, gently bumping off each side as we rounded corners. The whole layout followed a zig zag course from the top of the lift down to the station, lined with brakes in places presumably to stop the cars getting to fast. The design would not allow a lot of latitude in that situation, and it is probably better to have braking then cars which go over the side of the track. If nothing else, this would probably reduce the number of repeat riders.
There were several gardeners tending the flowers beneath the trough as we passed, and they all waved to us in sequence. The pattern was precise enough that they might well have been animatronics, if rather good ones! Waving seems to be the national sport in this country, performed with both hands simultaneously and at a rate to induce Repetitive Strain Injury in those practicing the act.
After a quick spin on Mad Mouse (#577) we made our way over to the interesting looking Jet Coaster (#578). The layout was simply a circuit of the water park area. The first half of the course included some good hills, although the second half was simply a slightly inclined descent back to the station; presumably the coaster would not have had enough energy to get back otherwise. Naturally I would have preferred a slightly higher lift hill rather than a dead spot at the end, but at least things were slightly better than the ride at Harmonyland.
Getting back to the train station was a potential issue which we had foreseen, as the park is not the sort of place taxi drivers congregate. In the end we walked into a museum next door where one of the staff was able to phone for the requisite vehicle, which arrived in a positively scary time of ninety seconds from the call. Either the rank must be right next door or he was already half way up the hill. Whatever the case, the efficiency was much appreciated by us both, with two more parks to visit before the end of the day.
Kobe Portopialand31st August 2005
Portopialand is one of a small number of parks that I have wanted to visit since I first heard about it. Initially there were only three reasons, namely two classic Schwarzkopf coasters and a Mack Bobsled. By the time of this trip, however, a fourth had hit the radar; the park was to close permanently at the end of the year. As such, it was now or never.
We began our visit with the bobsled, Munich Autobahn (#579). I'd really been looking forward to this, and this is possibly why the whole thing seemed a bit underwhelming; it wasn't a bad ride by any means, but it was definitely the weakest of the six operating models in the world (and yes, I've now ridden them all!). Perhaps I'd have enjoyed it more were it not for the fact that my car was shuddering constantly; it felt almost as if there was a loose bearing somewhere.
A quick detour into the Sea Side Thriller House dark ride brought us to the smaller of the two remaining coasters. Double Loop (#580) does exactly what it says on the tin; it has a lift hill, two loops, and a brake run. It's almost heresy to use the word pointless to describe a Schwarzkopf ride, but to be frank it really did apply here. Once was enough simply to avoid unnecessary boredom.
Fortunately the other coaster was in a totally different league, and it neatly rescued the day. BMRX (#581), a partially enclosed ride, featured a positively insane mid course drop that was unbelievably good, especially towards the back of the train. Though the layout would have stood fine on its own, special effects with lighting and dry ice were utilised in the latter half of the course, enhancing what was already a upper echelon coaster. We rode four times, and might have ridden more had we not been hungry. This ride was thankfully rescued after the demise of Portopialand, and opened in late 2007 in England).
Before eating I decided we should have another try at Munich Autobahn to see if our previous impressions had just caught it on a bad run. This time we were sitting towards the back of the train, and the vibration was much less noticable, though still present. While a definite improvement on earlier, I have to stick with my assessment that it was the weakest of all the bobsled coasters.
Food proved to be an unusual experience. One was expected to decide on a selection from a pictorial menu, as seen just about everywhere in this country. Rather than order from a waitress, however, it was necessary to make this selection on a vending machine, which would then print out a ticket which you handed in at the counter. In due course, your number would be called and you could collect your food. Our lack of Japanese made this a potential challenge, though the staff took pity on us and delivered our choices to our table. It is times like this that I feel sorry there is no such thing as tipping in this country, as such good service deserves recognition. Oh well.
Mosaic Garden31st August 2005
I had previously asked Martin if it was worth making the effort to attend Mosaic Garden, and he remarked only if you're a real credit whore. Nevertheless, it was not a major diversion and it was open until late. With time to kill we decided to try to locate it, and following some difficulty we were successful. Martin had been right about the Mini-jet Coaster (#582); it wasn't much of a ride, but it was another coaster in my lead up to number 600, expected in a few days time.